Once upon a time, back when I was in college, a friend recommended that I read Georgette Heyer’s novels. I picked up my first one, The Grand Sophy, and devoured it. Then I was on to Fredrica and Cotillion and Bath Tangle. My enjoyment of Heyer’s books left me feeling a little guilty at first. As I was growing up, my mother had always vehemently decried “romance” novels for putting foolish notions in young girls’ heads. And Heyer’s books are definitely romantic, all about innocent heiresses and dashing rakes being tugged together, against their will, into matrimony. Were these the “romance novels” I was supposed to stay away from? When I came home from college on break, I mentioned to my mom that I had read some of Heyer’s books. “Oh, The Grand Sophy?” she said. “That one’s my favorite. It’s been a long time since I’ve read those–I think that I need to check them all out from the library and read them again.” Apparently, these were not the romance novels that must be shunned.
When describing Georgette Heyer’s books to friends, I usually characterize them as “Jane Austen Lite.” They’re set during the same Regency time period with the same themes of love and marriage, but whereas Jane Austen uses her pen to make social and moral commentary, Georgette Heyer’s books are more about the glitz, the emotions, the drama. One thing that the two writers do have in common is the ability to write skillful repartee between the hero and the heroine–two people who dislike each other so much that you’re certain they’re going to get together.
Regency Buck is a novel that escaped my first whirlwind tour of the Georgette Heyer canon–perhaps the local library in the last city I lived didn’t carry it. Unlike most of Heyer’s books, which have many historical details but few actual historical characters, Regency Buck was loaded with people from the pages of history. The Prince of Wales and several of his brothers make an appearance as well as Beau Brummel, the fashion icon of the early 1800’s.
The story hinges around two rich orphans, a young lady named Judith Taverner and her brother Peregrine (Perry). Their father’s will places them in the guardianship of Lord Worth, a man whom neither of them are acquainted with. When their unknown guardian instructs them to continue living in seclusion in the country, they ignore his orders and journey to London to launch themselves into society. Lord Worth turns out to be a dashing young gentleman who is as aggravated as his wards are at being saddled with them. Despite the angry altercations between Judith and her guardian, rumors abound that he intends to fix his interest with her for the sake of her fortune. When several murderous mischances threaten Judith’s brother Perry, Judith’s adoring cousin, Bernard Taverner, speculates that Lord Worth might want to kill the brother to make the sister even wealthier. Torn between whom to trust, Judith is caught up into a world of snuff boxes, duels, concealment, abduction, and attraction. Those familiar with Georgette Heyer’s formula are certain of what’s afoot, but it’s a page turner nonetheless.