After the darkness of Deadhouse Gates, I needed something a bit lighter. Many of my much trusted and admired fellow Cannonballers enjoy romance novels, and this review of Heyer’s Twin Swap seemed to suggest this author would fit the bill. There were only a few Heyer books at the library, so randomly picked Black Sheep. It took me a few minutes to get into the style and language, but once I was used to it, it was just the thing.
This Regency romance focuses on Miss Abigail Wendover, a charming and intelligent young woman who seems largely content with her life, looking after her orphaned niece and needy sister, fending off the suits of several rather boring men, and taking part in the polite circles of the gentry in Bath. There are several subplots, including one where her niece is enamoured of a handsome but immoral fortune hunter, but all of these serve to set Abby on a collision course with Miles Caverleigh. Miles is the titular black sheep, the long lost uncle of the aforementioned fortune hunter returned from banishment to India, with his indifferent manners and careless dress. Miles is great fun to read about – not particularly handsome, but possessing great wit and a deep but disdainful understanding of society:
He did not defy convention: when it did not interfere with whatever line of conduct he meant to pursue he conformed to it; and when it did he ignored it, affably conceding to his critics their right to censure him, if they felt so inclined, and caring neither for their praise nor their blame.
He banters with Abby, who is equally as as bright and witty, but much more conscious of societal mores and tied to a certain extent to her love to family. Their romance is great, not because she seems irresistibly drawn to him, but because they are unable to resist each other.
‘Do I seem odiously missish?’
‘Yes, but I wasn’t going to say so,’ he assured her.
The laughter sprang into her eyes. ‘Obnoxious creature! If only you didn’t always make me laugh! Sometimes I wonder if you have any proper feelings at all!’
‘Almost none, I fear. Would you marry me if I had?’
In some passages, I could barely understand what some of the phrases meant, but it all made sense in terms of tone. I would normally have stopped to look up the references, but I was always reading pretty quickly to see what would happen next. In any breaks I took in reading, I daydreamed about who I would dreamcast if they made this into one of the period romances that were so common in the 90s. Here is my list, confined to actors from England/Ireland/Scotland etc, but their ages don’t have to align with the character age. If anyone else has suggestions, I am happy to see them:
Mrs. Clapham: Kelly McDonald
Abigail Wendover: Hayley Atwell
Fanny Wendover: Holliday Grainger
Miles Caverleigh: James D’Arcy
Oliver Grayshott: Domnhall Gleeson
Stacey Caverleigh: Tom Hiddleston
Lavinia Grayshott: Lily James
James Wendover: Hugh Bonneville
Selina Wendover: Jane Horrocks