2 Jan 2012
Review: "Lady of Quality" by Georgette Heyer
It has almost become a bit of Christmas tradition for me, going to bed with a Georgette Heyer Regency novel and not turning off the light until the last page is turned. A bad habit actually and one that I cannot recommend as it means reading until the early hours (unless you go to bed early, which I never do...) and missing the morning more or less entirely. However, it is also incredibly satisfying. I feel so safe and comfortable and essentially book-happy when I lie there, snuggled under the duvets in the room where I was a girl and read what is (again) essentially safe and comfortable books. One of the great things about Georgette Heyer's Regency novel (in my opinion) is that there are no surprises. Well maybe a few but none that really matter. From the first page you know who the heroine is, who the stiff-upper-lip types are and who the heroine will end up marrying. For love. Though he is usually very well-to-do and very well-dressed. What's not to like? This is as comforting as a large glass of red wine in front of a cosy fire on a rainy night, people.
Anyway, I was in bed sans the red wine but very much avec the Georgette Heyer novel this Christmas - the novel of choice being "Lady of Quality". This was the last Regency novel by the highly productive Heyer and it was published in 1972 but the Regency feeling is all there. From the horses to the boots to the drinks and food. It is pure historical bliss. Not that I am a historian, mind you, but I have read a fair few regency novels...
The heroine is Annis Wychwood who at the ripe old age of 26 has accepted her spinsterhood fate. I know. Crazy to think that you were officially off the shelf at 26 but quite lucky for the dear Annis as this means she is considered old and matronly enough to run her own household. This may sound like a lot of work but it definitely beats living with her stuffy older brother and his lovely but slightly dim wife. So off she has gone to Bath, Annis, to set up home - and having a considerable fortune, this is not a problem. With her, she has taken a chaperone, a rather annoying creature who by the virtue of being her cousin has secured the difficult position of keeping Annis on the straight and narrow road of propriety.
All the propriety and sensibility begins to unravel when Annis takes it upon herself to save a young and very dramatic young heiress who is fleeing a meddling family. However, soon in the footsteps of the heiress follow her uncle, the infamous rake Oliver Carleton. Oh yes, a rake has arrived on the scene and I have to say that the battle of words between these two (lasting for several pages) is pure, enjoyable Heyer. They argue so skillfully that it made me want to join a class - imagine being able to fight so masterfully with one elegant repartee after another?!
The rest of the story, you will have to read for yourself but trust me when I say that it is great. Pure Regency classic.
Read it if: You like you heroines opinionated and your heroes rakish. You prefer Ratafia wine to a normal "house red" and always carry smelling-salts in your purse.