It’s been a while since I read anything by Georgette Heyer and I still have a lot of her books to get through, so I had a nice surprise a few weeks ago when I found two on the library shelf that I hadn’t read yet: Regency Buck and Black Sheep. Neither of these were near the top of my list of Heyer novels to look out for, but I was still pleased to have the opportunity to read them – and I’m even more pleased to say that I enjoyed both.
Published in 1935, Regency Buck was the first of Heyer’s many novels to be set in the Regency period. It follows the adventures of Judith Taverner and her younger brother, Sir Peregrine (Perry), who have recently been orphaned and, under the terms of their father’s will, have been left under the guardianship of his friend, the fourth Earl of Worth. Leaving their home in Yorkshire, the brother and sister set off for London to meet the Earl. It proves to be a more eventful journey than they expected when they have an unpleasant encounter with an arrogant nobleman on the road. Imagine their horror when they discover that this nobleman is none other than Julian St John Audley, who has inherited the title of Earl of Worth from his father and is therefore their new guardian!
Judith is a strong, independent young woman who is used to doing as she pleases; on arriving in London she sets about making a name for herself by refusing to conform to the conventions of society, but Worth has other ideas as to how she should behave. Unable to see eye to eye with her guardian, Judith is grateful for the friendship and support of her cousin Bernard, with whom she has just become acquainted for the first time. Soon, though, Judith has more important things to worry about. It seems that someone is trying to murder Perry – but who can it be?
Although I had my suspicions as to Worth’s true motives, Heyer misleads us so much that we can’t be completely sure whether he is the hero or the villain. I would usually like this type of character, but Worth just never endeared himself to me; I found him unnecessarily patronising and I really felt for Judith and Perry every time they were forced into yet another humiliating conversation with him. I did like Judith – she’s an intelligent, outspoken and rebellious heroine – and I thought Perry was amusing, with all his youthful enthusiasms! As usual, Heyer’s recreation of the Regency period is vivid and immersive and although the main characters are fictional, there are also some real historical figures who make an appearance in the story. I loved the portrayal of the famous dandy Beau Brummell, particularly in the scene where Judith meets him for the first time – a case of mistaken identity!
Regency Buck is set in London and Brighton, which gives it a slightly different feel from the second of the two books I read, Black Sheep, which is set in Bath…
At twenty-eight and still single, it is looking unlikely that Abby Wendover will ever marry. Instead, she is concerning herself with the love affairs of her seventeen-year-old niece, Fanny, whose romance with the handsome, dashing Mr Stacy Calverleigh has become the talk of Bath. Although Fanny’s other aunt, Selina, has been taken in by Stacy’s charms, Abby is convinced he is nothing more than a fortune hunter and determines to free Fanny from his clutches. However, when Stacy’s uncle, Miles Calverleigh – the ‘black sheep’ of the family – also arrives in Bath, Abby finds herself drawn into a relationship which is considered even more unsuitable than Fanny’s!
Black Sheep, published in 1966, is a later Heyer novel. It’s one of my favourites so far and that is largely because of its wonderful hero and heroine. I loved both Abby and Miles and found myself looking forward to every scene they were in together. They feel like two people who really would have liked and understood each other, rather than characters who are just being forced together for the sake of the plot – there’s a genuine chemistry between them and the dialogue really sparkles! I liked the fact that Abby is a little bit older than the average Heyer heroine (she reminded me in some ways of Anne Elliot in Persuasion); she’s a sensible, mature woman whose romance with Miles is of a very different nature than Fanny’s with Stacy.
As I said at the start of this post, I enjoyed reading both of these novels. I was particularly relieved to find that I liked Regency Buck as it doesn’t seem to be a very popular book with Heyer fans! I probably wouldn’t recommend that one to readers new to Heyer, though; of these two, I think Black Sheep would be a much better place to start.
Have you read either of these? What are your favourite Heyer novels?