This has always been one of my favourite Heyers, probably because of its play with writing and writers - its metafictional gestures. It's also exquisi...moreThis has always been one of my favourite Heyers, probably because of its play with writing and writers - its metafictional gestures. It's also exquisitely funny, at least once you're primed to understand the vocabulary by reading less satirical Heyers. I think there's something kind of magical in this novel because though I can never pin down the whys and whens of how Phoebe and Sylvester fall for each other, I can sense the progression of them falling in love, battling with it, and achieving it, and it's deliciously intense. Possibly this has mostly to do with that amazing ballroom scene - but more likely it's the intended effect of Heyer's always understated but supremely expressive style. She creates the love story in your head more than on the page, and for me at least, that happens more thoroughly and viscerally in this novel than most of her others.
If you can get your hands on the audio version narrated by Richard Armitage, do! It's abridged and cuts out some of my absolute favourite conversations and plot details, as well as being a bit choppy in its streamlining of the story, but Armitage voicing Sylvester helps bring the story to life in a special way. It's also fun to hear his voices for the ladies, for the contrast if nothing else :) 13 March/12
Here are some visual aids for the leads of this novel!
Sylvester - Richard Armitage (of course) (just imagine the eyebrows more dramatically): "...though not above medium height he was well-proportioned, with good shoulders, a pair of shapely legs, and a countenance sufficiently pleasing to make the epithet handsome, frequently bestowed on it, not altogether ridiculous. In a lesser man the oddity of eyes set with the suspicion of a slant under flying black brows might have been accounted a blemish; in the Duke of Salford they were naturally held to lend distinction"
Or in period (though not Regency) costume as Mr. John Thornton in North & South:
Phoebe - Keira Knightley (imagine grey eyes and less glam and darker brown hair to go with the nickname "sparrow") - "Phoebe...needed to overcome the disadvantages of a thin, wiry figure, a brown complexion, and no more beauty than could be found in a pair of clear grey eyes, which could certainly twinkle with mischief, but which more frequently held a look of scared apprehension"
Or in period costume as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice - and with a book, which would've been Phoebe's favourite thing until she met Sylvester ;)
These aren't casting suggestions, just visual aids. But if only they'd film that scene at the Castlereagh's ball...! ;)
Mostly about the intelligent and mettlesome heroine asserting her place in the world after being too-long bound by family duties, but there's also a r...moreMostly about the intelligent and mettlesome heroine asserting her place in the world after being too-long bound by family duties, but there's also a rich, understated romance with a broody yet good-hearted man of the world. Also a terrible-but-awesome subplot with a shrewish mushroom in the form of the heroine's brother's mother-in-law. Very much a character-driven story, but with dramatic incident judiciously placed to move things along. The present action covers the course of one summer that flows into autumn, and the book has a corresponding mood that feels especially though ineffably lovely. Five stars for a perfect read.
For fun, here are some visual aids for the leads:
Damerel - Hugh Jackman - "...he was dark, his countenance lean and rather swarthy, marked with lines of dissipation. A smile was curling his lips, but Venetia thought she had never seen eyes so cynically bored."
Venetia - Rebecca Romijn - None would have denied that Venetia was a fine-looking girl; most would not have hesitated to call her beautiful. ...It was not only the size and brilliance of her eyes which excited admiration, or the glory of her shining guinea-gold hair, or even the enchanting arch of her pretty mouth: there was something very taking in her face which owed nothing to the excellence of her features: an expression of sweetness, a sparkle of irrepressible fun, an unusually open look, quite devoid of self consciousness.
...And later there's some business about a negligee resembling a "foam of lace and gauze", but I'll follow Heyer's example and leave that to your imagination ;)
So, the thing is, the main characters in this book are all incredibly immature as well as being self-absorbed to various degrees. It's sort of terrify...moreSo, the thing is, the main characters in this book are all incredibly immature as well as being self-absorbed to various degrees. It's sort of terrifying if you think of it from a distance. Despite being of age in their context, they behave as you might expect emotionally blinkered, pampered teenagers to behave when left to the management of their own affairs. And yet they are appealing, endearing, and sympathetic. Heyer's skill with humor and plot makes this book a romp that just keeps on giving, while at its core still lies an exquisitely cathartic vein of tender emotion. It'll grow on you if you give it half a chance. Unless, of course, you can't empathise even a jot with emotionally blinkered, pampered, not-quite-teenagers*. In which case, go away and find something humorless and modern to read. And please excuse my inability to be objective about my most truly and enduringly favourite book :)
(*Yes, technically in terms of age Hero is a teenager. Quite possibly Isabella too. But neither they nor Heyer quite belong to a culture that includes 'teenager' as a category of being in the way of, say, contemporary reality tv) 21 July/13
It's hard to remember that I found this book disappointing after I first read it, when I was about 16. It's now one of my absolute favourite books, so it's a stretch to remember, let alone believe, that what I disliked most was that the characters are so incredibly immature. Trying to be objective, I can still understand why some might be put off by this book's general frivolity and its rather unromantic and unidealised protagonists. But, now I find that it's those very characteristics that keep me coming back to this book for a guaranteed round of emotional catharsis, a delicious journey complete with many provocations to helpless laughter (aloud) and a few passages so heart-wrenching that they almost make me cry. I think you have to be sympathetic to the heroine's and hero's immaturity to enter into the spirit of this book. Remembering that she's barely 17 and he's a rather pampered 23 may help you look indulgently on some of their ridiculous behaviour - they are essentially children. By the end, they have grown just enough that you can see the glimmer of adulthood in their future; the delight of this book lies in accompanying them en route to a better footing for marriage. Nov 7/11 (less)
I find this book just beautiful. The hero and heroine are unconventional both in terms of the romance genre and in terms of the world they inhabit. Th...moreI find this book just beautiful. The hero and heroine are unconventional both in terms of the romance genre and in terms of the world they inhabit. Their story, with its bitter past and complicated strands of emotional development, is not really light fare. I suppose another way of putting it is that you have to be willing to enter into the angst in order to enjoy this book. I suspect there are some flaws in terms of structure and tone, but it's beyond me to say what they are because I get utterly, happily lost in Thomas' delicious prose style. This is not light reading - and yet it is ultimately uplifting, because it affirms the possibility of love even in unlikely circumstances. (Rating upgraded from 4 to 5 - I suppose it's a book that improves on re-reading, once the complexities of the backstory have already settled in your mind.) Nov 3/11(less)
When I realized I was nearing the end of this book, I made myself slow down and parcel it out to last longer because I really didn't want it to end; I...moreWhen I realized I was nearing the end of this book, I made myself slow down and parcel it out to last longer because I really didn't want it to end; I didn't want to leave the world of the story, or more accurately, to no longer have it as my downtime escape from the real world. It's that engrossing and entertaining a read, combining delicious historical politics with just enough enchantment to keep things adventurous and fresh. Gellis and Lackey create an immersive experience for the reader, making this a really good read indeed. (Caveat: if you like this sort of thing, ie history and/or fantasy and especially their being blended! ;P)(less)