by Georgette Heyer
An altogether unsatisfactory arrangement...
After their father's death, Miss Judith Taverner and her brother Peregrine travel to London to meet their guardian, Lord Worth, expecting an elderly gentleman. To their surprise and utter disgust, their guardian is not much older than they are, doesn't want the office of guardian any more than they want him, and is determined to thwart all their interests and return them to the country.
With altogether too many complications...
But when Miss Taverner and Peregrine begin to move in the highest social circles, Lord Worth cannot help but entangle himself with his adventuresome wards...
Overall? Enjoyable enough and a decent escape from modern reality.
If you look back over recent entries, you may have noticed that I'm on something of a Georgette Heyer kick. I've read a handful of her mysteries, so far, and found them very good for "that type of book"-- i.e. more entertainment, less "Literature". She writes with an ease that puts the reader also at ease. I do appreciate an author who has sufficient skill to make you forget everything else, for a while, and Heyer does that for me.
This was my first foray into Heyer's Regency romances, for which she is chiefly known (if I'm not mistaken). I believe this was also only the second Regency romance (by any author) I've ever read. The first was something I found in the high school library, I think... some library, at least. I can't remember the plot, but thanks to Bing-- and my memory of the name "Agatha" and a purple cover-- I think I've identified it. The heroine gave the book its title, so Agatha it is! Seems to be out of print... By an author named Edna Mae (or Maye) Manley. Probably a thoroughly run-of-the-mill RegRom. (What? Doesn't everything get an abbreviation these days?) Anyway, I seem to remember that I enjoyed the book-- but that's it. All this to say that I am not exactly an expert in the genre, so I didn't know what to expect.
However-- While I have not read many "Regency romances", I'm quite familiar with Jane Austen-- the Regency-period author of comedies of manners/romances-- and several times during this book I was reminded of her works or her style. This was obviously intentional, as Heyer even has her heroine reading a little of Sense and Sensibility! I wouldn't go so far as to say that the book rivaled Austen in quality, but to say that it was even reminiscent of her work is compliment enough.
So, even though I didn't know what to expect, I guess I still had expectations-- and there was less romance than I would have predicted. I've grown used to that in Heyer's mysteries-- which are very sparing with the romance-- but I supposed a Regency romance would have more focus on... romance.
Ah, well, I could go through a list of nitpicks (and don't worry-- I will, further down the page), but on the whole, my reaction was favorable. I'll try another of Heyer's romances, sometime. Probably sometime not too far in the future, even.
More Specific Comments (with Spoilers):
-- The book could have benefited from more "screen-time" for Judith and Lord Worth, to help us understand why-- or believe that-- they're in love. Seriously, though, I would so gladly have traded in the scenes describing boxing, cockfighting, and the questionable beauty of the Pavilion for more interaction between hero and heroine.
-- Yes, you read that right. There was a boxing match and a cockfight. Oh, and a little curricle-racing between brother and sister. (*snore*) Not what I was expecting.
-- There were plenty of details regarding characters' clothes. I guess that's what people want from historical romances-- or at least a certain percentage want it. A little is ok... I was amazed at the description of a driving-coat that "bore no less than fifteen capes". I can't even picture such a thing.
-- I feel certain that there are tons of Regency-period details (and probably inside jokes) that are mostly wasted on me. I recognized few of the historical figures who made appearances in the book, for instance.
-- "tiger" = groom? Or some sort of male servant...
-- "an enormous turnip watch". Just a large watch, apparently.
-- "She folded her lips"-- Pretty sure that's not a Regency thing, but just an odd expression I don't remember seeing before.
-- All the description of their outfitting for a life in the fashionable classes of London? Blah. Such a waste of money and effort!
-- I had a hard time liking Judith, at times. So vain! Taking snuff, collecting snuff-boxes-- and wanting her own blend, even-- just to set herself apart from other ladies. I'd put her driving herself around the park into the same category, except that she seemed to do that at least partially because she truly enjoyed it, whereas she didn't like snuff at all. It seems odd in a heroine... I wondered if she would eventually have an epiphany and turn from such vanity-- but no! Not really.
-- "She did indeed suggest that his golden locks were in considerable disorder, but upon being informed that this was intentional, and had taken him half and hour to achieve, she said no more." HA! Reminds me a great deal of the current "bed-head" look. Funny how things go in and out of style...
-- "farouche"-- That's a new one on me... Shy, sullen... Socially inept... Why, it's me, to a T! ;o)
-- "quizzing-glass"-- A monocle.
-- I can't picture a "spangled coat" for men... and so far, I can't find a good illustration or photo of one on the Internet. I'm sure it's out there, though.
-- Judith spends the morning in a botanical garden just so that she won't be home when Lord Worth calls-- only to discover upon her return that he never came to call. She then spends some time "thinking indignantly of a whole morning wasted amongst plants". Ha ha! I'm the sort that wouldn't consider it a waste of time, as plants are more interesting than a good many people-- not to mention more beautiful-- but still, I had to laugh.
-- "'I like a man to be a man, and not a mask of fashion.'" Well, finally, a voice of reason.
-- "'No Bath-miss airs with me, child, I implore you!'" I have no idea what that means (and now I don't even remember the context)... What is a "Bath-miss", beyond a young woman in Bath?
-- "morganatic marriages"
-- "Miss Taverner was gazing at a milliner's window on the opposite side of the road, apparently rapt in admiration of a yellow satin bonnet embossed with orange leopard-spots, and bound with a green figured ribbon." Well, who could blame her, surely?!
-- Judith's use of snuff, at a time when it was uncommon to see a woman partake, reminded me a little of the fad (in the 1990s) of women smoking cigars. Yuck. Neither seem very attractive habits-- for women or men.
-- "Pocket Venus" -- petite, voluptuous woman. Apparently.
-- "'You are not to be thinking this is cream-pot love, as they say...'" Cream-pot love?
-- Someone's IOU is referred to as his "vowels". Ha! Priceless!
-- "Cow-handed"? No idea.
-- "Having no very clear idea, but woman-like, having merely used the most wounding phrases she could think of..." Ouch. And this from a fellow woman! But, yes, it might be true of at least some of us...
-- The time spent in Brighton was an education. I'd heard it mentioned in Pride and Prejudice, of course, but I knew nothing of it. The descriptions of the Pavilion eventually drove me to skimming, but I looked it up online, and wow... no wonder she wanted to describe it in such detail. It's crazy-looking!
-- Asked if he'd ever proposed to a lady, Mr. Brummell (whom, rightly or wrongly, I keep picturing looking/sounding like the man who plays Lord Baelish on Game of Thrones) replies ("in a voice of gentle melancholy") that he did, once... "'But it came to nothing. I discovered that she actually ate cabbage, so what could I do but cut the connection?"
-- That Mr. Brummell is a piece of work! Later on, when he's trying to remember how many years he's known Lord Worth, Worth tells him it's been eighteen years. Brummell can't believe it's been so long, but Worth begins to give evidence... "'I remember that,' admitted Brummell. 'But how very shocking! I must be thirty-four or five!' 'Thirty-four,' said the Earl. 'My dear Julian, I beg you won't mention it to anyone!' said Brummell earnestly." . . . I am also thirty-four. (But I beg you won't mention it to anyone!)
-- Oh, and P.S. There's a mystery in the book. It's really just as much a mystery as it is a romance... and the solution to the mystery is so very very VERY obvious, despite some sneaky attempts to make us suspect the hero. But that's ok. It's also very obvious from the start who Judith will end up with-- as in most romances-- and we don't let that ruin the fun, do we?
ETA: Ah, so Mr. Brummell was a real person! I knew that some of the other characters were based on real people-- and using their names-- but I didn't realize he was among that group. Quite a few of the names of characters that float around the periphery of the story seem to belong to real people... It would make a greater impression, of course, on someone more familiar with the time and place than I am.