Monday, November 4, 2013

ESCAPE TO THE PAST WITH: Venetia by Georgette Heyer

Lately, when I’m looking for something diverting and fun to read, I’ve been turning to Georgette Heyer. Her books are predictable, sure, but her characters are so nicely drawn and the witty banter is always entertaining. I decided I deserved a treat, so I plucked Venetia from my pile of library books and dove in.

Venetia is a beautiful, charming, and frank-minded young woman of good family who has reached the unfortunate of age of twenty-five still unmarried. She lives a secluded life in the country since her father was a selfish recluse who refused to tolerate company after the death of his much-loved wife. (Venetia was young when her mother died and barely remembers her.) Venetia has an older brother, Conway, who escaped first to the university and then to the army. She also has a younger brother, seventeen-year-old Aubrey. Aubrey is extremely intelligent and scholarly but has "a weak hip" and a pronounced limp. The upshot of all this is that upon the death of her father, Venetia was left running the family estate and caring for her brother until such time as Conway saw fit to return to his responsibilities. In three years, Conway has not seen fit to return.

This leaves Venetia in an awkward situation with regards to her future. Her father had never allowed her to venture out into company and he received almost no visitors. He did not let her go to her aunt’s home in London for her coming-out season. So, Venetia remained at her manor (Undershaw) to be courted now by the only two eligible men in the town: a rather ridiculous boy several years her junior who fancies himself a romantic hero and a pompous, self-righteous friend of the family named Edward Yardley, who considers her his property already.

Venetia’s only other alternative is to wait for Conway’s return and then set up housekeeping for herself somewhere with Aubrey. This is actually what Venetia, who is shockingly independent, prefers, though no one can believe it.

And then, one day, while out picking blackberries on her ever-absent neighbor’s property (The Priory), she stumbles across the neighbor who–embarrassingly--isn’t absent. Lord Damerel is a rake with a terrible reputation. At their first meeting, he demonstrates what a true scoundrel he is by grabbing her and kissing her. (He thinks she’s one of his tenants–as if that is an excuse. But apparently it is.) Venetia is scandalized, but she’s a lot more open-minded than her neighbors and what she has seen intrigues her rather than putting her off. Damerel is more than intrigued by Venetia and resolves to prolong his stay in the country.

A few days later, Aubrey suffers a riding accident and Damerel happens to rescue him. This provides the opening for Venetia to visit the man who is shunned by everyone of her acquaintance. In a short while, she and Damerel and Aubrey are fast friends.

The reader can see where this will eventually lead. Damerel will be reformed by the innocent Venetia without losing any of his rakish appeal. Venetia will grow wiser in the ways of the world without losing any of her innocent charm. And this is Heyer, so while illicit liaisons are alluded to in the broader world, the romance between the hero and heroine does not move to the bedroom. Despite knowing in advance how everything will end, the pleasure of reading the book is seeing how it gets where it is going. Venetia has a delightful cast of characters. I enjoyed whiling away the hours following the twists and turns of the relationship between the not-so-jaded-as-he-imagined-himself-to-be Lord Damerel and the not-so-green-as-everyone-thinks-she-is Venetia.

I'll add this to my historical fiction challenge list. The challenge is hosted by Historical Tapestry.