Heyer, Georgette. Charity Girl.

NY: Dutton, 1970.

This is one of the author’s later Regency romances (her next-to-last one, in fact) and while it’s not nearly her best, it’s not bad at all. It could also practically be titled “Regency Road Trip.” Charity Steane (but who prefers to be called “Cherry”) has the misfortune to be the daughter of a con man and wastrel who essentially abandoned her to a private school when she was small — and then neglected to pay the bills.

Charity was eventually packed off to the country home of her aunt, who saw her as a source of free household labor and treated her abominably. Having taken all she can stand, Charity packs her old portmanteau and sets out on foot for London, to seek assistance from her grandfather, who had cut all ties with her father. However, though she’s nineteen, Charity looks and acts much younger and has almost no experience at all of the world. Cut to young Viscount Desford who has been visiting his parents and is also on his way back to London. He sees Cherry trudging along the road and, being both a gentleman and a Good Person, picks her up for her own safety, promising to escort her to wherever she’s going. When Granddad (who wasn’t expecting company) is discovered to have gone off to the country himself, Des is stuck with the bewildered and panicky girl, for whom he now considers himself responsible. What is he to do with her while he tries to locate the old man? He can’t take her to his own home — people would talk. So he conveys her quickly to the home, not far from his parents’ place, of his very old friend, Henrietta Silverdale. Nearly ten years before, Des and Hetta had been the subjects of a parental conspiracy to get them married off, which they had successfully resisted, but they’ve remained very close friends and have frequently come to each other’s rescue. So Hetta will look after young Charity while Des pursues his quest for her relief.

That’s the set-up, somewhat reminiscent of a Hollywood-style romantic comedy, and it works very well. The supporting characters are equally well-drawn and the action is more pall-mall than usual in Heyer’s work, as Desford, playing the gallant knight errant, hares off to Harrowgate and Bath, interviewing reluctant servants and dealing with rebellion on the part of his own butler and groom, whose sense of the social niceties are more rigid than his. The pattern you would expect, from experience in reading Heyer’s books would be for Des and Charity to discover their feelings for each other in the last chapter, but — well, I won’t give the ending away. But it’s an enjoyable weekend’s read.

Published in: on 5 October 2011 at 11:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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