Heyer, Georgette. Sprig Muslin.

NY: Putnam, 1956.

Heyer is usually categorized automatically as a writer of “romances,” and so she was, but she was also quite capable of producing laugh-out-loud comedy. It’s around 1810 (by internal evidence) and the long-suffering protagonist this time is Sir Gareth Ludlow, a very eligible and gentlemanly bachelor in his mid-thirties who is well-liked by practically everyone.He suffered a tragedy seven years before with the loss in a carriage accident of his beautiful fiancée (it was her own fault), but in the knowledge that he’s the last of his line and therefore must produce an heir, he sighs and goes off at last to propose to Lady Hester Theale, whom he has known and respected all his life. But he’s not in love with her and she knows it, and so she regretfully rejects his suit. Meanwhile, however, Gary has “rescued” against her will a very beautiful and very young lady calling herself Amanda Smith, who has run away from her grandfather’s home in an attempt to blackmail him into allowing her to marry a young and upcoming officer home on leave from Spain. She’s afraid that if her soldier returns to the front without her, she may never see him again — and, as the daughter of another (late) officer, she’s perfectly willing to “follow the drum,” even if it means dressing wounds and wringing chickens’ necks. Meanwhile, she naively reckons she can find work as a lady’s maid at an inn, or a milkmaid on a farm, or something, and so hide out until resistance to her demands is overcome. Sir Gareth drags her off with him, for her own good, and seeks Hester’s assistance as a duena until he can arrange to return Amanda to her home — if he can discover where that is. The girl is appalling resourceful, however, recruiting other people, using them to her own advantage and then slipping away from them, and strewing her path with highly inventive stories, mostly taken from the novels she has read. Now that he has assumed responsibility for her, Gary has his hands full trying to locate her, hanging onto her after he has found her, and trying (unsuccessfully) to keep from being shot by the romantic young man who is her latest conquest. And the rather wooly-minded Hester — who is not one of Heyer’s most convincing or sympathetic characters, frankly — is dragged along in the wake of the action. There’s a lot of fun stuff here, but also some missteps, and I would put this yarn right smack in the middle of the quality scale among the author’s work.

Published in: on 12 May 2012 at 4:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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