One of the best things about Heyer’s novels is the way that she was extremely skilled at conveying the hullabaloo, fun and regimented chaos of upper class Regency life, despite the fact that one gets the impression that she rather disliked children in general unless they happened to be a particular sort of very lively boy.
One fine example of her novels of ‘family life’ is The Grand Sophy, which is one of her masterpieces. In it the lovely, wilful heiress Sophy Stanton-Lacy is sent home from the continent by her sophisticated diplomat father and takes up residence in the household of her adorable aunt, Lady Ombersley. Here she proceeds to lock horns with her cousin, Charles who thanks to a timely inheritance has assumed the role of Master of the house and with his awful fiancée Eugenia.
To be honest, I have read this novel so many times now that I probably know it all by heart but I can never resist the bits where Sophy is pitted against the vile Eugenia as they are excellent demonstrations of Heyer’s wit and humour.
The finest of her books about her family life is probably Frederica, which concentrates on the impoverished Merriville family, headed by Frederica and her beautiful but somewhat dim witted sister Charis and their attempts to become established in society under the aegis of a distant connection, the selfish and spoiled Marquis of Alverstoke.
The romance between Frederica and the Marquis is beautifully conveyed as her freshness, intelligence and honest lack of complication first intrigue and then bewitch him. It is utterly convincing and however many times I read it (which is often), I still have to sigh with contentment during the scene at Hampton Court when he first realises just how much she has come to mean to him.
The true high point of the novel, however is not the romance but the characters of the two youngest Merriville boys – Felix and Jessamy, whose mischief and iniquity create much of the plot and add a comedic touch to the proceedings. Felix, in fact stole the show so thoroughly that I named my own son after him, with his middle name coming from the lovely Gideon in The Foundling.
Don’t forget, the Faye L Booth competition ends this weekend so enter now if you want to be in with the chance of a free copy of her latest book – Trades of the Flesh!