by Georgette Heyer
Arabella Tallant is the eldest daughter of a Yorkshire clergyman. She loves her lively family though sometimes her siblings argue and Papa's moralizing is a bit too strong. When her rich godmother invites Arabella to a Season in London, Arabella's feelings are torn. She doesn't want to leave her family or put her father to such expense, but she does sort of want to see London. With her father's blessing, some careful saving on her mother's part, and a an ancient traveling carriage provided by her uncle, the Squire, Arabella and a chaperon are on their way to London. When the carriage breaks down, the ladies are forced to take shelter at the hunting box of Robert Beaumaris, pink of the ton. Mr. Beaumaris reveals privately to his friend that he thinks the accident was manufactured in order to snare him. Overhearing the conversation, Arabella's pride wounded, she declares she's a secret heiress sought after my fortune hunters in her native Yorkshire. She reveals she doesn't want anyone to know her secret. The gentlemen promise to keep mum but Lord Fleetwood, a sad rattle, spreads the word throughout the ton. Beaumaris aids his friend just for his own amusement to see what might happen next. He could never expect to have to rescue all manner of wretches and he certainly never thought the joke would be on him. Arabella enjoys the attention of Mr. Beaumaris but she knows he's only trifling with her and she is determined to play the game. She never expected to fall in love. How can she ever marry someone who believes a falsehood about her? How can she marry above her station? She feels pressured to choose someone to help her family, but whom can she choose who will please her and is not a fortune hunter?
This is Georgette Heyer's Pride and Prejudice. Some of the phrases are even borrowed from Jane Austen. The story is unique enouugh to be one of Heyer's best on it's own. The level of period correct detail is astounding. It's all woven seamlessly into the story to make the reader experienc evverything with the characters. Modern readers can even check her facts and read the same issue of Ladies' Monthly Museum that Arabella's sisters were reading in the opening chapter. Pretty amazing for a book written in 1949!
The plot moves pretty quickly and though it's predictable, you can't help reading with anticipation to see how things are worked out. I love Arabella's compassion for others and only Heyer can make a tragic situation into a comic scene. Bertram's subplot is a bit tedious. She used that plot device one too many times. It drags the love story out but brings it about to it's conclusion at that same time. I didn't like the ending very much. I wish Arabella had trusted Beaumaris sooner and come to her senses before things got that far. It wasn't very amusing for Arabella.
The characters are first rate. Arabella is young and a bit impetuous, but not silly like most of Heyer's other young heroines. She never loses sight of who she really is and the morals her father has given her. She's a kind, compassionate young woman and a realistic one. Arabella is very good and sometimes selfless but she also has her faults and that's what makes her enjoyable. I'm not sure what to make of Beaumaris. One chapter he's cynical and rude, and in others he shows his kinder, softer side. He's a complicated character which makes him realistic and three-dimensional.
My favorite character is Ulysses, the mongrel dog. He's so funny and steals every scene he's in. Mr. Scunthorpe is also a favorite. He's not very bright buthe's a good friend. Jemmy the climbing boy is also a fabulous character.