5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
This is one of my favorite romances to read and reread. You’ve got the beautiful younger sister who’s not the main character, a pair of younger brothers who get into all sort of hijinks, a mongrel of a dog, and Frederica, the managing older sister who oversees everything and everyone. She is slightly more than passably pretty, and definitely not the type of person you’d expect the Marquis of Alverstoke to fall for… but it all just works. This has an amazing, memorable cast of side characters, some of the funniest scenes and pairings I can think of, and probably is the seed of at least half of the tropes out there in the historical romance genre today. See where it all began!
Though there are other Heyer romances that I like almost as much, this is probably the one with the most memorable cast of characters:
1. Charis, the beauty, is acknowledged as one of loveliest women ever to grace a ballroom. She’s sweet, but fairly dimwitted… something that Frederica is sure won’t have the least impact on her making a good marriage!
2. Jessamy, the more serious of the younger brothers, who’s always trying to do the right thing, thinks that he’s destined for a religious occupation and yet constantly struggles with the small sins of daily life and is kind of adorable.
3. Alverstoke’s sisters — one who is proud and managing, one who is grasping and conniving, one who married for love and is just along for the ride — are all memorable
4. Felix, the scamp who’s obsessed with scientific innovation of all kinds.
The list really, really goes on.
It’s amazing how fluidly drawn each of these side characters are… and, how, despite the fact that the central romance is not always front and center in the story, you really do believe their journey and it’s quite lovely (especially on Alverstoke’s part). It’s not romance-only the way more modern books are, and it’s definitely a slow-boil type of romance. Though that’s something I usually struggle with, there are just too many wonderful things happening in this book for it not to get a 5 out of 5 star review. It’s one of my favorites to reread, and I’m always delighted by the characters, their dialogue, and just how fully functional and real the world Heyer’s drawn here is.
Comparisons to Other Authors/Books:
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. Another favorite of mine would be Arabella.