Heyer, Georgette. Regency Buck.

London: Heinemann, 1935.

Not all of Heyer’s humorous romances set in Regency England follow the same pattern — there are notably original exceptions like Grand Sophy — but, like any successful franchise, most of them do adhere to a more or less predictable underlying formula. The most common aspect of this is that whatever irritating and unpleasantly egotistical male the heroine first runs into is going to end up being her Prince Charming. In some of her books, including this one, that outcome is decidedly less convincing than in others.

The set-up here is that Miss Judith Taverner and her slightly younger brother, Sir Peregrine (a newly minted baronet following their father’s recent death), both being minors — and both being extremely wealthy — are traveling by chaise from their provincial home in Yorkshire to London to meet with their guardian, Julian Audley, Earl of Worth. (They’ve never before visited the capital, which I think unlikely, given their automatic social position based on their wealth, even though their father was a recluse.) There they find that their father, being rather sloppy about such things, has screwed up his will, putting them in the care and under the authority of his old friend’s son, not the father — a guardian not much older than they are. And that they already are acquainted with Lord Worth, having had an unpleasant couple of encounters with him on the way to town. Worth, as the male lead seems to be in nearly all these books, is fierce, grim, cold, and sardonic, and Judith, being of an independent turn of mind, bridles at being told exactly how to live her life and not being allowed to make her own decisions even in personal matters. She has a cousin, though, the son of her uncle, the Admiral, who takes her part in the continuing tension-filled relationship with her guardian, and so she comes to lean on him. Peregrine comes up against their guardian’s uncompromising will a few times, too, but he’s much more willing to go along — as long as he can acquire a typical wealthy young man’s playthings, and as long as he is allowed to pursue the girl who has taken his fancy. The thing is, if young Peregrine should die without an heir, most of his share of the inheritance will go to his sister. And when she marries, control of the entire fortune would be in her husband’s hands – a situation which someone else appears to be aware of, as well, because attempts begin to be made on his life. Worth has as much as told Judith that he intends to make use of his authority to marry her himself; could he be the one trying to bump off her brother? There really aren’t that many viable suspects and most readers will have figured out who the villain is long before the last chapter — but it isn’t the semi-mystery that matters here, of course, it’s the romance. If you can call it that, because it’s difficult to see how Miss Tavener could ever undergo her very abrupt change of heart with regard to her guardian.

Another small difference with this story in comparison to most of her others is the number of real people Heyer brings in as active participants in the plot, including George “Beau” Brummel, who undertakes to advise Judith on her entrance into Society, and the Duke of Clarence, younger brother of the Prince Regent. Clarence, in fact, pursues Judith with the object of matrimony (his ten bastard children by Mrs. Fitzherbert notwithstanding), and reassures her that there are several people ahead of him in the succession and that she therefore needn’t be concerned about the future — though, of course, he later became king as William IV, so one supposes there could have been a “Queen Judith.” (All the major characters in this book, by the way, became featured players in An Infamous Army, Heyer’s later, more serious historical novel about the Battle of Waterloo.)

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Published in: on 27 September 2011 at 10:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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