This Georgette Heyer book kept me wholly entertained and engrossed. Full marks to Georgette Heyer to have put in a book that kept a reader hooked onto it without much effort with a great deal of humour and intrigue and an ardent desire to know the next event in the story. I had kept postponing the reading of this book for a leisurely period of time for me to enjoy it, and very honestly the postponement paid off and I did enjoy myself a lot!
The story is about Arabella, who is a Country Parson’s daughter, and whose only hope for a respectable and comfortable life, for herself and her siblings, is by forming an eligible attachment through marriage. Through circumstances, she is led into hoaxing herself as an heiress and is then led into the repercussions of that one lie. The instigator to the lie, Mr Beaumaris, gets himself involved into Arabella’s affairs, initially purposefully, and later on circumstantially and though is the reason for her pretence, also turns out to be the best and true sympathiser and friend Arabella could have. How they eventually fall in love and lead the other to understand the ways and thinking’s of their parts of the world forms the story of the book.
Beginning with the protagonist, Arabella Tallant. A country bred Parson’s daughter, grown under the strictest proprieties and labouring under the intense desire for a good London Season to make an eligible match, just to please her mother, though very naive is also no one’s fool. She knows and acknowledges her position in society (much to the surprise of Lady Bridlington), but at the same time blends spotlessly into the role of an heiress and a woman of fashion. But for all the pretence, she is pretty conscientious (though at one point she is ready to feed the conscience laudanum just for the sake of her brother) and is very clear on what her duty to her family is and what she actually desires. She is a righteous female and had sometimes kept me thinking for her raising her voice against inhumanities and cruelty to animals that she was a Twenty First century soul of a girl trapped in a body born in and belonging to the nineteenth century and carried there through a time machine. A strong character for a heroine and very understandable and relatable.
What I felt was instead of Arabella, the book was primarily dedicated and most flourishing towards Mr. Robert Beaumaris. I may be wrong, but this is my perception because it is he who invariably comes out as the most catching, holding and retaining part of the book. Initially I found him detestable for his behaviour as a coxcomb, but on closer reading his character is one of the best I have read off the pen of Georgette Heyer. Enigmatic and elegant, enamoured with the impeccable signature GH hero witty dialogues, Mr Beaumaris offers us a hero who though a pink of the ton and an arbiter of fashion and leader of Society, can love and care for a parson’s family as his own just for the sake of the girl he loves. He is not only led into considering his ways as fickle but also the sympathiser in him is awakened leading him into adopting a chimney boy and a stray cur, again just for the sake of Arabella. And the best part about him and the book? his monologues or rather ‘conversations’ with Ulysses! They kept me hooked to the book they were so entertaining! It can be seen that for all his supposed haughtiness and gravity by people, he is in fact turned into a very likeable person after he is treated indifferently by Arabella, and not withstanding that, there is also some inherent goodness in him. For one, he never fell dupe to Arabella’s hoax of being an heiress and knows that she is almost penniless or rather not an heiress from the beginning of their acquaintance, so money was never a concern for him and he loves her for herself. Secondly, when he does acknowledge his feelings for her he leaves no stone unturned just to ease her life. And thirdly, he respects and feels Arabella as his equal (can be witnessed in the last scene, when Arabella kisses his hand and he warns her never to dare do such a thing again!) These features of his character make him much endearing to the reader and one that shall have a distinct image in the reader’s mind even after the last pages have been turned.
The secondary characters, chiefly Lady Bridlington and Bertram Tallant have characteristics similar to many GH secondary characters, but all the same, they add a flavour to the book which keeps the story moving on parallel lines, more so in Bertram’s case. As always tertiary and common characters created by Georgette Heyer in her Regency world make cameos through Arabella as well.
Overall the story is fascinating and likeable and a must read especially for the the build up it has through to the end and for the witty cynicisms and odd circumstances very interestingly portrayed by GH.