24 April 2008

Book Review: Arabella by Georgette Heyer

Eponymous Challenge #1

Arabella Arabella Tallant is the eldest of four sisters in a family of eight children and modest means. As such she knows it is her duty to marry as well as she can, in order to assist her younger siblings. With her godmother’s offer of a Season in London and her family’s contrivances to get her finely arrayed on a budget her chances look good. Then her uncle’s carriage breaks down, obliging her and her chaperone to seek shelter at the home of the fabulously wealthy Mr. Beaumaris. There she overhears a comment revealing that he thinks her a gold-digger and her ‘carriage accident’ a mere ruse. Impulse gets the better of her and she pretends to be an heiress travelling to London in order to conceal her wealth and be courted for herself alone - before giving him a firm set-down. Not liking such treatment, Mr. Beaumaris decides to have word of the mythical Tallant fortune spread all over town, and to pay Arabella enough attention to make her the most popular girl of the Season.

Sure enough, Arabella is beset by suitors, and when she realises what Mr. Beaumaris’s gossipy friend Lord Fleetwood has done she’s in a quandary. She must marry; but how can she accept a proposal when to do so means revealing that she has no fortune - and the origin of the story that she does? She also finds it hard to keep up the pretence of being a fine lady; as a vicar’s well-brought-up daughter she can’t help rushing to the aid of creatures in need - even mongrel dogs and climbing boys. Mr. Beaumaris is disconcerted to discover that instead of being just a harmless bit of amusement, he actually likes her - and can’t say no when she needs a home for one of her rescued unfortunates. It takes the calamitous London career of Arabella’s incognito brother Bertram to sort things out - after making them vastly more complicated.

It’s about time I posted a review in my own challenge! (But, well, reading slump, blogging slump, whole-life slump ... my mother is currently making better headway through my TBR box than I am.) This book I finished ... er, a while ago, so it wasn’t part of the aforementioned slump - quite the opposite, in fact. While reading it I frequently had a broad smile on my face - especially if Ulysses was on the page. The little dog had a marked personality and simply adored his new owner, leaving many gentlemen comically confused as to whether having a dog following one everywhere was a new fashion they should all be adopting. (Except for Mr. Frederick Byng, who I’ve recently discovered was a real figure, and who took drives in the park with a perfectly coiffed and clipped poodle.) I liked Mr. Beaumaris’s willingness to poke fun at the slavish followers of fashion even though they were following him; but my favourite of the two was Arabella. She was kindhearted, able to hold her own in repartee with all the city people, and prone to getting into scrapes by not thinking about the likely outcome of her good intentions. Her agonising about how to extricate herself can’t have been much fun for her, but certainly is for the reader.

I just wish I could have seen the oh-so-fashionable Mr. Beaumaris happily pottering about the parsonage with all Arabella’s relatives; or her first meeting with his dragonish grandmother. (Somehow I think Arabella and the Dowager Duchess would have liked each other immensely.) And a glossary of Regency slang terms wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Rating: B+


Lisa said...

I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't read any Heyer, but this sounds really good. Thanks for the great review.

Anonymous said...

Lovely review. And I completely agree. I just finished reading the book and went online looking for more.
I did find the bits about Betram a little tedious to read though.

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