Saturday, April 7, 2012
From the back of the book:
She wasn't looking for love..Her beauty rivaled only by her sensibility, Venetia Lanyon is nearly resigned to spinsterhood, thanks to the enormous amount of responsibility she inherited with a Yorkshire estate, an invalid brother and the lackluster efforts of two wearisomely persistent suitors. Then she meets her neighbor, the infamous lord Damerel, a charming rake shunned by polite society--exactly the type of man that a woman of quality should stay away from.
He wasn't looking for redemption...Though his scandalous past and deepest secrets give Venetia every reason to mistrust him, a rogue always gets what he wants....
Georgette Heyer writes really fine Regency Romances. Her books have it all: witty dialogue, the life and doings of the ton, creditable characters that are some sometimes a bit larger-than-life (but not too, too much larger), a great concern with social standing which always, always puts a twist on the romance in question. Venetia has all that and more....a frank sexuality that runs through every encounter between Venetia and her rake. Note the word frank, which is entirely different from blatant. For blatant, Heyer is not. There is nothing beyond kissing going on here and the scenes between Venetia and Lord Damerel fairly smoulder with the unspoken. And she does represent the mores of the time quite openly--and makes clear what kind of position a young woman who has made herself appear fast or, dare we say it, wonton may find herself in. Reputation is the coin of the realm when it comes to being marriageable--which of course is a girl's primary concern.
Venetia Lanyon is viewed as an innocent by her acquaintances (I can't really call them friends, because none of them seem to know her very well). She is a young woman of twenty-five who has been kept secluded in the country, never brought out into society, and only the company of a scholarly, invalid brother and two very dull suitors and various martronly women to "brighten" her days. Everything she knows about life she had learned from the books she has read and one would think her very naive and unworldy as a consequence. But, when meeting Lord Damerel, her family's neighbor and a notorious rake, for the first time she seems well aware of what and with whom she is dealing. In fact, Venetia is the most self-possessed and assured character in the book.
Venetia is a very complex character and may seem to be a bit too self-possessed for the time period. But Heyer gives us a very plausible back-story to give truth to her situation. She has, it is true, been buried in the country by a father who apparently wanted to be alone with his grief after her mother's death. But, once her father died and her elder brother took off with the army, Venetia is left to manage the estate and oversee the care of her younger brother. This allows her to be far more independent than most young women of the time. What is astonishing is not so much that she is independent and independently-minded, but that those who have supposedly known her from birth don't really understand her character.
Naturally, the course of true love cannot run straight (lest we not have a story) and everyone, including the rake himself, throws stumbling blocks of conventionality in the path. But Venetia is having none of that. When plans go awry, she simply comes up with better ones. Because, contrary to what the back of the book says...an intelligent and determined woman always gets what she wants.
Heyer, as always, has done her research well and writes the period like she was born then. Her characterizations are superb--you love Venetia and her rake as well as her touchy younger brother and her devoted Nurse. You will also love to hate Conway's (Venetia's elder brother) horrible mother-in-law and will be just as exasperated with Venetia's lackluster suitor's as she is. And that's because Heyer makes her characters real. A very enjoyable Regency Romance--picked up primarily for the Getting Lost in a Comfortable Book Challenge, but fulfilling several others as well. Four stars.