What’s the big attraction of a Regency romance? Why, the clothes of course! No, not really though I have to admit those are always fun to read about since what you wore was such a big part of your social standing and the hours of your day.
I have only read three of Heyer’s Regency novels to date and I hate to pick a favorite. I’m sure that my choice would change as I read more. And it could just prove to be impossible to pick any one that stands above the rest anyway. I started with An Infamous Army which was breathtaking, sweeping you up and carrying you along with all the raw emotion of battle and love. Then Cotillion was sweet and funny, light hearted and simply a joy to read. Now Lady of Quality has become the one to rave and gush over.
Annis Wynchwood is an old maid at the age of 29. Or rather she thinks of herself as an old maid though she is still the beauty of Bath and has plenty of gentlemen vying for her undivided attention. But Annis enjoys her independence and has no intention of giving up her own house to keep someone else’s. Returning to Bath from a visit with her brother’s family in the country she meets a young couple on the road beside their broken down carriage.
inian Elmore and Lucilla Carleton are running away. Not together really but from each other. Their families are determined to see the childhood friends married however distasteful the idea might seem to the two involved. Ninian caught Lucilla sneaking away and was determined to make sure she safely reached bath. Of course you can see right away that the young pair would probably work very well together if only the parent’s had the sense not to push and let well enough alone.
Annis, against the advice of her extremely irritating and jealous companion Miss Maria Farlow, takes the girl up into her carriage and home with her to Bath. Annis gets the story in full and being a woman with an independent mind herself can’t help but admire Lucilla for her desire to make her own choices. But just because she admires her doesn’t mean she agrees with Lucilla’s actions. Annis quickly dispatches a letter to Lucilla’s guardian.
Lady of Quality picks up once Annis meets Lucilla’s guardian Mr. Oliver Charleton, which of course is where the romance comes in. At first Annis and Mr. Carleton do not get on, he is rude and insufferable and Annis cannot stand him. But it’s only a matter of time before the two realize that there is an undeniable attraction between them. The romance that forms is not what you would find in a modern romance novel. No ripped bodices here, thank you very much. The progression is thoughtful and delicate, a natural believable emotion that grows where you least expect it.
Ninian and Lucilla meanwhile both have their own issues to work out with their respective families. Not to mention Annis’ own over involved brother who foists his family on her hoping that it might deter a certain gentleman. Maria, the always talking companion, provides some comic entertainment and several dashing gentlemen provide some colorful background.
As always Heyer’s writing is engaging and her characters flawless. One of the things that I find so appealing about Georgette Heyer’s regency novels is the pace. She isn’t in a hurry to get the story onto the page. Nothing feels rushed or forced and the characters progress naturally. I enjoy the chance to really get to know the characters, to see them interact with others around them before a love interest is introduced. You are given such clear pictures of the customs and traditions; it’s understandable that Heyer would be famous for her research.
Lady of Quality is a must for any fan of the Regency era. It’s full of all those little details that readers of this type of fiction love. References to balls and routs, references to royalty and great country houses, battles fought with delicate words and even a few passionate kisses- at the proper time, of course.