by Georgette Heyer
Daughter of a modest country clergyman, Arabella Tallant is on her way to London when her carriage breaks down outside the hunting lodge of the wealthy Mr. Robert Beaumaris. Her pride stung when she overhears a remark of her host's, Arabella pretends to be an heiress, a pretense that deeply amuses the jaded Nonpareil. To counter her white lie, Beaumaris launches her into high society and thereby subjects her to all kinds of fortune hunters and other embarrassments-- but it may turn out that the joke is on him...
I do believe this is my favorite of the Heyer Regency romances I've read, so far! I enjoyed it immensely and would wholeheartedly recommend it to fans of clean, witty historical romance.
The romantic leads are charming together-- and they are together on page after page, which is so much more entertaining than those romances where the hero and heroine seem to barely see one another, much less converse!
Another positive is that the cast of characters includes a cute mutt. (If it weren't already a five-star read, an extra star would be merited, just on the basis of the dog.) Though there is a slightly less interesting section where we follow the heroine's brother's doings a little too closely for my liking, at least it's relevant to the story-- not as potentially annoying as the rambunctious much-younger brothers that sometimes crop up in Heyer's romances.
What more is there to say? This is a light, happy, delightful read that demonstrates just how good the genre can be, in the hands of a talented author.
One of the joys of Heyer's Regency novels is puzzling over the amusing, sometimes obscure slang/language of the period. (Someone who reads more "Regencies" than I do may not be as dumbfounded as I sometimes am!)
Here follows a sampling from Arabella:
-- cestus (an ancient battle glove-- though in the book, it was an ornament/item of jewelry)
-- Job's comforter (one who aggravates distress under the guise of giving comfort)
-- mumchance (not speaking/unable to speak)
-- loo-mask (half-mask worn during 18th-century masquerades)
-- tiffany (thin, transparent gauze of silk or cotton muslin)
-- lustring sack (an item of clothing more easily image-searched than described)
-- Paphians (...prostitutes?)
-- honey-fall (an unexpected piece of good luck)
-- gull-groper (a money-lender)
-- the Florida Gardens (Cromwell's gardens?-- I just thought they sounded interesting...)
-- Pandean pipes (pan flute)
-- Blue Ruin (gin of inferior quality)
The whole conversation between Arabella and Mr. Scunthorpe (regarding Bertram's whereabouts) is hilarious and filled with slang-fueled misunderstanding.