My Rating: 5 stars Read: 1/29/2017
- My Lifetime Challenge (1965)
- My Romance Challenge
TIP: Get this right now on KU and you can listen to the fantastic audiobook for free!
I’m doing a lifetime reading challenge, and I chose this book for my 1965 book because it was also on a number of “best ever romance novels” lists.
My Lord, I just finished and I feel like I’m in a little bit of shock. This book is so impressive, and so far above any romances I’ve read for a long time, that I’m rather floored. This is my first Georgette Heyer book, though I’ve seen them around. One of the reasons I’ve never read one is because the covers are old-fashioned and fusty. And though I’ve always enjoyed regency romance, I tend towards the lighter, fluffier, sexier reads. It’s my loss that I haven’t read Heyer before! Talk about a cut above the rest.
The level of regency detail and the language in this book is so immersive. Heyer wrote many regency romances, and she clearly knew her stuff like no other author I’ve read. I’ve never felt so transported back to the era. In this book there’s a family with young boys and two young ladies of marriageable age, a dashing Marquis, older society ladies, servants–in sum a wide variety of classes and ages, and the dialogue of every single person was utterly brilliant! Not only was it terrific natural dialogue, but it always rang true to the era, from the childish lingo the boys used to the subtle cuts of the Marquis. That’s hugely impressive. It felt a bit like a history lesson, in the best possible way.
I listened to the audiobook which is over 13 hours long! It’s also on sale on Audible for $3.99 right now, which is a great price. The narrator isbrilliant and he really helps pull you into that immersive experience of being in that era. He made all the voices sound unique, which is a trick given how many there are in the book.
As for the story, this is a slow, slow, slow burn romance with lots going on besides the main romance. The basic story is that a confirmed bachelor Marquis–rich, fashionable, spoiled, bored, and a womanizer–gets sucked into the life of a lively family. The family head, due to her parents’ death, is 24-year-old Frederica. She brings the family to London in hopes of launching her stunningly beautiful 19-year-old sister, Charis, into Society. There’s a brother away at school and two boys in their teens who live with Frederica. Frederica considers herself quite an old maid and is completely caught up in seeing to her sister and brothers and has time left to be concerned for herself.
Frederica’s family are cousins to the Marquis Alverstoke, and Frederica applies to him to help her introduce Charis into Society. The Marquis would normally toss off such poor relations, but when he meets them he’s charmed despite himself and impressed by the gorgeous young Charis. He decides to do it to basically get back at his own horrid sisters, who have been trying to coerce him to bring out theirdaughters and pay all the expenses thereto. He plots to bring all the girls out together at a ball he’ll host, sure that Charis will so outshine his nieces that it will teach his sisters a lesson.
There’s lots of family dynamics in this story, which I find very appealing when well done and this is exceptionally done. I particularly liked the two young boys, one who is serious and wants to be a parson, and the other who is crazy about engines of all kinds and quite a daredevil. Although the Marquis believes he has zero interest in children, the boys keep sucking him into schemes and rescues and he grows quite fond of them.
As I said, it’s a slow burn as the Marquis, over a period of time, grows closer to the family and starts to realize that he’d falling in love with the selfless and enterprising Frederica. Their dialogue when they’re together is quite fun and sparkling and witty. For her part, Frederica has no remote idea of marrying a Marquis, or even marrying at all with all her family obligations, and is clueless about his interest until the very end. She keeps wondering why he is troubling himself on their account, but since she really is in over her head, she can never quite afford to refuse his help.
This is very much a “sweet” romance. There is no sex or even a kiss on page. There’s not a lot either in the way of sexual tension because neither character sits around having lustful thoughts about the other. I found that actually quite realistic, and I honestly did not miss it–the book is just so good.
I kept thinking, listening to this, that it reminds me of Agatha Christie. Of course, it’s not a murder mystery, but I got that same sense of being in a very authentic historic English setting, being surrounded by perfectly drawn British characters that come to life on the page. The writing style also has a similar toned, sharp, and subtly witty vibe. That’s a high complement!
There’s a lot of dry wit in this, and plenty of passages made me smile or even laugh out loud. More importantly, I was really hooked. I had a hard time stopping the audiobook. I listened to all 13.5 hours in one day! I loved the ending and the last line.
I’m glad there are so many Heyer regencies for me to explore. Currently a few of them are on KU and also on sale on Audible.