5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
Unforgettable characters, witty dialogue, and a series of lightly entertaining adventures and misadventures make this a wonderfully engaging read. It’s one of my favorites by Heyer and one of my favorites in historical romance genre. If you’ve never read Heyer, this is the place to start. If you’ve never read historical romance (and don’t mind the lack of sex, which some people require, as well as a slightly slower pacing, which I don’t mind) this is the place to start.
Arabella Tallant is one of the most memorable historical romance heroines I’ve ever come across. She’s beautiful and poor, and is sent by her family (with some limited funds) to make an eligible match (which will in turn help the rest of her family make eligible matches).
She’s the daughter of a reverent, and has been raised to tell the truth, but a chance meeting with Mr. Robert Beaumaris (a leader in London social circles, wealthier than Midas and much pursued by the ladies) makes her decide, rather hastily, to masquerade her true background. Basically: Beaumaris thinks Arabella is a goldhunter who arranged their meeting, and Arabella, hearing this, proclaims herself to be a great heiress.
Beaumaris knows she’s lying, but decides that it would be great fun to tell everyone about the Tallant fortune and see if he can’t make Arabella the toast of the town (also inadvertently subjecting her to a host of fortune hunters).
Of course they fall for each other, this is a historical romance. But their journey is actually wickedly funny and kind of sweet — she’s spunky and a bit hasty in her decision making, but also kind of adorable, always trying to save stray puppies (literally!) and dirty chimney sweep boys. Beaumaris is jaded, much too sure of himself, and though he sees himself gradually falling for Arabella, he can’t help it (and can’t help teasing and tormenting her either).
To me, this is (chaste) historical fiction at its best: pure escapist gold.
Comparisons to Other Authors:
Heyer is to historical romance as Austen is to, well, literary historical romance. These were women who wrote unforgettable heroines with lots of tongue-in-cheek humor. It’s hard to think of a historical romance author today who hasn’t stolen something from Heyer (like Julia Quinn and Julie Anne Long, to name just a couple who have) or hasn’t benefited from reading her work. It’s not sensual, and there’s barely even kissing, so if you’re looking for that, go more modern. Otherwise, she is one of the most published and praised historical romance authors for a reason.