4.5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
This is probably one of my favorite Heyer works… it’s got the sensible, older female lead who isn’t looking for romance and roses, as well as a wordly-wise hero (one of those men whom all the women are after). There’s plenty of banter, an amusing cast of side characters, and a very believable journey between two consenting adults who just… get each other. They just seem to have an understanding, a comfort level, with each other. It’s highly enjoyable, and though the ending “conflict” was a little more contrived than usual, it’s a wonderfully entertaining read overall (probably my third or fourth favorite Heyer novel).
Ancilla Trent is a well-paid governess who’s actually good at her job and likes earning her keep. She doesn’t have any traumatic back story, she doesn’t hate her job, she could (theoretically) have depended upon relatives, but she enjoys her independence, and she’s good at her job. She’s managing, for sure, but she’s also thoroughly likeable. She schemes sometimes, but mostly on behalf of her wards; it’s the type of manipulation any good teacher or parent might resort to, when they have unruly children to tend.
And Sir Waldo (the Nonesuch himself!) is similarly logical, likeable, and completely without the overly-dramatic backstory that clogs up so many “modern” historical romances.
The main thrust of the drama is provided by the beautiful, spoilt Tiffany Wield, who is determined that any and all eligible men must fall in love with her. She’s out to beguile Sir Waldo’s impressionable young cousin, and even the Nonesuch if she can manage it. She’s cunning and temperamental, and requires a bit of quick-minded handling by both our hero and heroine. She provides plenty of drama with her tantrums and various contretemps, and provides the setting for which our sensible protagonists gradually fall in love.
So, yes… the ending is a little rushed and forced, and the drama is a little on the lighter side. Still, I think that’s a nice change of pace compared to the too-much-backstory romances that seem to be flooding the markets. This is a light, enjoyable read; it won’t change your life, or even alter your understanding of the historical romance genre, but it’s super fun escapist fiction.
Comparison 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. If you’re interested in works by Heyer that I would recommend, try out Arabella or Frederica.