by Georgette Heyer
Judith and Peregrine Taverner are heading to London from their estate in Yorkshire to find their guardian. Along the way they encounter an inn full of gentlemen, a prize fight, an old gig and one annoying gentlemen! When they arrive in London, they are shocked to see that their guardian is not the crotchety old man they expected, but rather a youngish man who is about as unexcited to be their guardian as the Taverners are to have him as their guardian. Lord Worth is determined to keep a strong hold on the purse strings and keep his wards from getting into trouble. This angers Judith, who is as stubborn and hot tempered as she is beautiful. The only one she can confide in is her newly discovered cousin Bernard. Though she enjoys the Season, Judith has a strong distaste for her guardian's dandy set and knows any suitors she has are after her fortune but that doesn't give Worth the right to prevent her from marrying before she comes of age! Perry, as a young gentleman, delights in the pleasures of London, but before long he finds himself turning to his guardian. Once again, Worth will not let go of the purse strings and Perry feels himself badly used. When Worth hears of some of Perry's misadventures, he's gravely concerned. There's a mystery afoot and he's determined to get to the bottom of it and keep his wards safe.
This is not my favorite Heyer though I enjoyed it more the second time around. I really identify with Judith. I can see myself acting just like her. I learned long ago to pick and choose my battles and she hasn't yet. Worth takes advantage of Judith in the beginning when she can't get away and is forever teasing her when he knows she doesn't like it/can't take it. He knows she's independent and headstrong and knows how to push her buttons. She reacts to his behavior in a childish manner, it's true, but if he loosened up on her a bit she wouldn't be so set against him. I don't care for his carefully controlled anger. I'd rather they had it out in a shouting match and have done with it. He is her guardian and I don't find his behavior terribly high-handed but rather her reaction to it causes him to tease and also to come down hard. He also doesn't talk to her and confide in her. The moments when they're not fighting are nice but he's only showing her his surface.
Perry is not a very likable character. It's clear Judith got the brains in the family but Perry is young. He takes himself seriously but not so much as his sister. His plot ends up sweet and laugh out loud funny.
The plot is a bit slow in the first half but picks up in the second. I don't like the mystery because the reader knows just what's going on so there's not much mystery there. The prize fight in the beginning could have been shortened and less gory and the cock fighting scene should definitely have been alluded to rather than described. I absolutely can NOT stand cruelty to animals. At least the men have a choice. There is lots of Heyer's trademark humor here. I just love Brummel and Prinney and the Royal Dukes. They were all characters in their own right. I noticed that this book seems to be a take on Pride and Prejudice and borrows some of the language used in that book.
I liked the Uncle Admiral in spite of his drunkenness and anger. He doesn't strike me as a sinister character. Bernard also doesn't seem like a sinister character. He stays remarkable calm and composed and a good friend to Judith for most of the book but I found him boring. He lacks color and spark. There's no chemistry between him and Judith. It would never work out.
As always with Heyer, the historical details are incredible. They're absolutely spot-on and the characters act and talk like they did in real life. Incredible! (Not to mention funny). I saw This exhibit: Artist, Rebel, Dandy and it was so amazing to put faces to names: Brummel, Poodle Byng, etc. I was completely blown away by how much GH knew about the Regency period without access to the sources we have now. My blog post about the exhibit. Heyer's books are always full of references and allusions the average reader won't understand without looking them up. Her books are funny AND smart!
There are a couple of typos in the first U.S. hardcover edition.
Here is the Duke of Clarence, Mrs. Jordan and the little Fitzclarences by Gillray
(larger image Here
read more on their relationship here How sad for her!
King William IV (Duke of Clarence)
His brother, York