by Georgette Heyer
|Arthur Barbosa © Dutton, 1963|
Sir Waldo Hawkridge has just learned that his late, unlamented cousin has just left him an estate and a fortune, to increase his already large fortune. Waldo's aunt covets the fortune for her son Julian (who doesn't need it or want it) and his cousin Lawrence covets the fortune for his own selfish reasons. Cousin George just makes wry comments about Waldo's plans for the estate. He intends to build an orphanage! How shocking! Sir Waldo ignores everyone's comments and takes Julian with him north to Yorkshire to inspect Broom Hall. Intending to stay only a little while in a place where they know no one and no one knows them, they arrive to discover that Sir Waldo is something of a legend for being a noted Corinthian. All the local lads want to ape him. One local, however, strongly disapproves. Miss Ancilla Trent, governess/companion to Mrs. Underhill's daughter Charlotte and niece Tiffany Wield, is a well born woman of three-and-twenty who knows a thing or two about Corinthians - her cousin is one and she has no use for him and his idle set. Sir Waldo is shocked by her misconceptions and intrigued by the one lady who wants nothing to do with him. He sets out to correct that opinion! Meanwhile, his cousin Julian is bowled over by the beautiful Tiffany. Ancilla worries about what will happen when Julian discovers Tiffany may have the face of an angel but the disposition of a devil. Waldo worries what will happen if his aunt finds out his cousin is dangling after a merchant's heiress! Tiffany has her sights set on a higher prize but must make all the gentlemen adore her. Waldo has the perfect solution to Tiffany's scheme. Ancilla and Waldo find unexpected allies in each other as they go about chaperoning the young adults in the neighborhood. The young ladies and gentlemen find unexpected friendships and romance blossoms in this classic Georgette Heyer tale.
I only gave this one 4 stars because there are several problems that keep it from being a 5 star book. First, there's an excessive amount of cant. I love how Heyer works in the period language but this is too much. When the men talk to each other it's almost unintelligible. She does a much better job in other books. Next, the romance is secondary to Tiffany, as Tiffany would wish it to be. Tiffany is a horrid, spoiled brat who needs to be taken firmly in hand. Someone should have spanked her when she was a toddler. She dominates the whole book with her tantrums and gets the last word in the novel. I love the central romance and how Ancilla and Waldo fall in love. This is one of the most romantic of Heyer's novels. There's speaking glances, exchanged looks, shared jokes and two waltzes. There was great potential here but the last third of the plot fell off. Then there's the misunderstanding. On my first read years ago, I couldn't figure out why Ancilla believed what she did. I can see it better now. She was scared of her own feelings and scared of what she thought she knew about Corinthians in general and Sir Waldo. She let the neighborhood gossips get to her. I think she let them bother her on purpose because she was afraid of having her heart broken and afraid of going to London among Waldo's friends where she wouldn't fit in. I don't know how she figured out the truth. It seems like a quick jump. The conclusion to the romance is incredibly unsatisfactory!
The characters in this novel are fabulous as always. Tiffany is so incredibly horrid that readers just want to slap her. I empathized with her feelings in a few places but the way she acted was incredibly selfish and immature. She's young but she's old enough to know better. Ancilla is a great heroine when she's on page. She's not in the story a whole lot. She needed to be in it more. She's intelligent and strong, like most of Heyer's heroines. She has a sense of humor too and needs it to deal wit Tiffany. Sir Waldo is a dreamy hero. On my first reading, I fell in love with him right away. He's so witty and charming that I couldn't help myself. I love his sense of humor and the way he deals with Tiffany and his cousins. He's thoughtful and a philanthropist to boot. Not to mention his prowess at driving to an inch.
This still remains in my top 10 Heyer list despite the problems.