If you’re looking to read something unpredictable, Georgette Heyer books are not for you. Thirty-something-year-old former rake falls in love with young girl barely out of the schoolroom (or alternatively, with a spunky twenty-something-year-old “spinster”), and after many misunderstandings, much wearing of finery, probably some gambling over cards, perhaps a duel or two, and loads of witty banter, the two finally come to an understanding.
Which book is this the plot to? It could be almost any of the Heyer canon. Of course, there always are the subtle variations, such as the heroine being the first to fall in love with the hero or–egads!–the hero NOT being a former rake. But all in all, Heyer books have transparent plots with markedly similar storylines.
Do I mean this as a criticism? Absolutely not! I love picking up a Heyer book because I already know for a fact that I am going to like it (because, yes, I like that kind of plot). Even though I know what’s going to happen, it’s always a delight to experience the subtle plot variations and the new cast of characters along the way.
My two favorite Heyer novels, Cotillion and Friday’s Child, both have a plot where the protagonists fall in love with each other AFTER they are engaged/married. I adore how the hero and heroine grow to know each other, see the beauty of each other’s character, and eventually fall in love. I also love the emphasis on MARRIAGE in these books (and in all of Heyer’s books). Heyer, although turning an indulgent eye to youthful follies, is no friend to extramarital affairs. Whatever the hero might have done in his past life, true love comes when he finds it with his wife.
When I saw (while scanning Goodreads) that The Convenient Marriage has the same plot as the above mentioned books, how could I not rush to reserve it at the library? The setting of this book is earlier than most Heyer novels–in the Georgian period (the war in the Americas is mentioned a couple times)–so we have the added delight of powdered wigs and emerald-encrusted shoes.
When the wealthy Earl of Rule decides to marry the eldest Miss Elizabeth Winwood, she tearfully realizes she must accept. Her brother’s gambling has put the whole family on the brink of ruin, and a rich marriage is the only way to mend matters. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, she is already in love with Edward Heron–a fact she must learn to forget, it seems.
In order to save Elizabeth from becoming the Family Sacrifice, her youngest sister Horatia (Horry) Winwood takes matters into her own hands. Approaching the Earl with astonishing audacity, she suggests that he marry her instead. Even though she is not as pretty as her sister, she insists that the marriage will be more agreeable to him since it will be solely a marriage of convenience–which, after all, is what the earl is looking for. The smooth-spoken Rule is quite taken with this stammering, black-browed chit just out of the schoolroom. He agrees to her preposterous proposal and Horry, to the confusion of the watching world, takes her place as the new Countess of Rule.
Horry’s unorthodox behavior takes the society world by storm. She gains scores of admirers, spends thousands on new finery, and racks up huge gambling debts which Rule indulgently settles. But when she begins to favor Rule’s long time enemy, Lord Lethbridge, the Earl realizes two things: first, he must take steps to guard his wife from Lethbridge’s foul schemes; and second, the outspoken Horatia Winwood is indeed a treasure worth guarding. Full of duels, abductions, plots, and counterplots, The Convenient Marriage is a fun romp of the first order.