Heyer, Georgette. Black Sheep.

NY: Dutton, 1967.

This is one of the author’s last Regency romance novels and the plot is largely a warmed-over variation of one she has made use of on numerous occasions — but it works, which is a solid tribute to Heyer’s skill.

It’s around 1820 and Abigail Wendover, in her late twenties and still unmarried, has numerous admirers but has simply never met a man she actually wanted to marry. She lives with Selina, her much older spinster sister, in Bath, together with her seventeen-year-old niece, Fanny, whom the two women have pretty much raised, and spoiled. Their only surviving brother, the demanding and priggish James, is technically the girl’s guardian but he was relieved to fob her off on his sisters, who have tried to give her a much more humane upbringing than they received themselves. But now Fanny, a considerable heiress, is being pursued by Stacy Calverleigh, a gazetted fortune-hunter, and Abby is reaching her wit’s end in trying to fend him off and to convince the dazzled Fanny of his baser intentions. Then Stacy’s middle-aged uncle Miles appears on the scene. He was a rake in his youth and was packed off to India twenty years before for the family’s own good. Miles doesn’t care much about other people or the proprieties and generally does just as he pleases, and it isn’t long before the innately rebellious Abby is smitten. That’s the essence of the plot — Heyer, as I say, has used variations on it several times before — but the real enjoyment to the reader is in the characters of the players: Abby, Miles, Fanny, Stacy, Selina, and several of the supporting cast. The writing is sprightly, especially the dialogue, and it’s hard to believe none of Heyer’s novels ever made it to Hollywood or even to Masterpiece Theater.

Published in: on 22 March 2012 at 7:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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