Ya’ll made a huge mistake when you didn’t vote for this book for our first bookclub read. I voted for it because I already owned it and needed an excuse to finally get to reading it. How silly I was to wait!
This book was so good. SO. GOOD. I have heard Georgette Heyer referred to as the author whose style is closest to Jane Austen, and if this book is representative of her work, then that is definitely true. Every character is well defined. Some you want to befriend. Some are just utterly ridiculous. But they all feel REAL. And the banter is excellent.
This book was published in 1958. It is billed as a ‘clean’ romance. So, my delicate sensibilities were truly shocked when there was a passionate kiss. 😉 I usually prefer steamier romances, but it would have been inappropriate for this story and I loved every minute of it. Each and every sentence is one to be savored.
The story can be summed up in just a few sentences. Venetia Lanyon lives in the countryside with only her younger, disabled brother while she manages the estate for their other brother (who had fought in the Peninsular Wars and was dawdling coming home). Lord Jasper Damerel spends as little time at his Yorkshire estate as possible, but when he runs in to his beautiful neighbor out on a walk one day he decides to stay. A beautiful friendship ensues.
That’s it. That’s the story. The story doesn’t matter – what matters are the characters. Venetia is the well-known romance trope of the innocent, beautiful girl living in the country who has never encountered a rake and libertine of Damerel’s caliber. Or is she? From the first you can tell that she is not even if many of the people around her believe her to be. Venetia is incredibly smart (especially about understanding the character of others), unfailingly kind (without being sickly sweet), and has a sense of humor that favors the absurd. She is 25 and has her own money from an inheritance. She may be sheltered, but her common sense and ability to read people serve her well. She is a joy to read about. Possibly my favorite heroine ever. Damerel is the older (38), world-weary rake that we all know. He is much as he seems on the surface, and even he admits he didn’t know where the relationship was going when they met. They share a sense of humor, general good sense and love of quoting literature. I am in love with their friendship. (For anyone who has read and loved Julie Anne Long’s What I Did For a Duke, this relationship reminded me much of that one).
The (rather large) surrounding cast of characters are all fully realized people and it’s rather amazing to read. It made me feel like other authors are so lazy when they can’t be bothered to flesh out characters. I don’t want to get in to all of them because I think some of the best ones should come as a surprise as you read the book and explaining them would ruin it. One of the best things is that even the worst characters are not *bad* people. There are no villains. There are people who get in the way of Venetia’s happiness (and oh! HOW you want her to be happy!), but none of them are evil. They are people with motives – some better than others – that all come across as completely plausible and real, and you recognize all the people you have known in them.
If I wasn’t clear enough – RUN out and read this book. It is marvelous!