I have very strong feelings about Georgette Heyer’s books. The writing is always impeccable. I love her style, love her masterful use of the English language. Whenever I read her books, I’m so glad I can read them in the original English so nothing is lost in translation. However, the plot is where it becomes hit or miss for me. Some books focus entirely on the rescue of irritating waifs rather than the main couple, or the heroine is really, really immature. I was annoyed the entire time I read April Lady and I couldn’t really love Sprig Muslin. Luckily, Faro’s Daughter is my favorite sort of Heyer: a lovely, concentrated battle of wits between a man and a woman with sparkling results. This book is laugh-out-loud funny and the hero and heroine are both incredibly magnetic. The pages flew for me, and I was sorry to see it end so soon.
Max Ravenscar, one of the richest men in London and a confirmed bachelor, is called upon to save his young cousin, Lord Mablethorpe, from the clutches of a wench from a gaming house. Lord Mablethorpe has proposed marriage to this hussy, and it’s Ravenscar’s job to buy off this woman and save his cousin from a disastrous marriage. Miss Deborah Grantham, said wench, is actually a well-bred young lady who, along with her aunt, has fallen on hard times and must maintain the gaming house for income. She has absolutely no intention of marrying her foolish admirer until his overbearing relative arrives and flings his offensive money in her face. Completely insulted by Ravenscar’s preconceived ideas about her lifestyle and his nasty slurs on her honor, she throws all caution to the wind. Deborah declares that she will marry Lord Mablethorpe, and, playing the role of the scheming gold digger, tells Ravenscar that she plans to drain his cousin for every cent he has. Infuriated, Ravenscar is now convinced of her mercenary intentions and becomes determined to find out how much money she’s really holding out for. Meanwhile, Deborah gleefully gets into her role and dresses a little tackier, acts a little wilder in public, parading herself in front of Ravenscar on the arm of the unsuspecting Mablethorpe. Thus begins an engrossing and completely amusing battle of wills between two hard-headed people, each trying to call the other’s bluff while frantically ignoring the growing attraction between them.
I wish I could say more about the plot, except it’s such fun that I don’t want to ruin it for anyone. Suffice it to say, only Georgette Heyer could write an abduction scene with such mastery and make it believable and hilarious at the same time, while poking fun at the absurdity of the whole situation.
Writers should get a clue from Heyer when it comes to writing heroines. Deb is fiery and witty without being a harpy, and utterly charming and sweet without being a coquette. She has an unfortunate tendency to get herself into scrapes, often with the help of her two doting friends, and embroils herself into the most embarrassing situations. Yes, Deb Grantham is one beleaguered woman. Not only does she have to deal with a very silly aunt, but also an army of young people confused about love and desiring her guidance. She also is in charge of paying the bills for her aunt’s gaming-house, which leads to no end of stress. Fortunately, Deb has a great sense of humor, tempered with an overly-developed sense of pride. This pride is what gets her into the most trouble. Still, she is always kind and loyal to her friends, and her good nature always wins out in the end. I absolutely loved her.
Ravenscar is a true Heyer hero: wealthy, a little hardened by life, charismatic yet intensely arrogant. He is baffled by Deborah and the mass of contradictions she presents; he is certain that she’s only after his cousin’s title, but as he spends time spying on her, is forced to notice her true goodness and loving disposition. He has a great sense of humor lurking behind his stern exterior, and it is so enjoyable to watch him suppress his amusement in a potentially explosive situation. I think he is a little harsher than the average Heyer hero, especially in the way he bitterly vituperates Deborah after a misunderstanding – but I believe his disappointment is so very deep that he is entitled to those words. Of course, he more than makes up for his bad behavior at the end, and I closed the book with an irrepressible smile on my face. It’s hard not to love a self-assured, rigidly aloof man who becomes a big hothead over the woman of his dreams.
As many others have noted, there are only kisses in Georgette Heyer’s books, but this lack of explicit scenes does not in any way detract from the wonderful chemistry between the two protagonists. I hate using the phrase “sizzling chemistry,” but it fittingly describes Deborah and Ravenscar. They sizzle when they’re together, and it’s impossible not to enjoy every second of it.
If you’ve never read a Heyer, I urge you to go read this one now. Even the worst Heyer is so much better than many romances on the market these days, and this is one of her best. I have secondhand copies of her books, mostly scrounged from used book sales. Luckily for us, Sourcebooks Casablanca is reprinting many of Heyer’s books with gorgeous covers. I’m planning to buy every single one, maybe even duplicates of my favorites. That’s how good she is.
-- Emma Leigh
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