Georgette Heyer was an author who had passed me by in my teenage years. I was a bit of a snob about her books. I’d read Jane Austen, what was the point of reading a bad imitation? However, I’m in an online reading group with many Heyer fans so I asked advice as to which of her books I should try. Elaine from Random Jottings suggested A Civil Contract, a book with a quiet, plain heroine & a slow burning love story. I enjoyed it very much & since then, I’ve read another half dozen of her books. I prefer the books with older heroines. I’m too old to find the fluttering of silly young things very interesting. So, I’ve taken advice & compiled a list of books with more mature heroines. The Nonesuch is one of these.
The Nonesuch is Sir Waldo Hawkridge, a man in his 30s, an accomplished athlete & a man looked up to by all the young bucks. He’s rich, philanthropic & a confirmed bachelor. When he inherits an estate in Yorkshire from a curmudgeonly uncle, he sets off to inspect it, accompanied by his young cousin, Julian, Lord Lindeth. In Yorkshire they meet the local gentry, including Mrs Underhill, a widow with two children & a very wayward niece, Tiffany Wield. Tiffany is very beautiful & an heiress. Unfortunately she’s also shallow, spoilt & totally self-absorbed. She has been sent north to live with her aunt in the company of Ancilla Trent, a young woman in her late 20s who is acting as her companion. Ancilla’s family is in reduced circumstances & she had been teaching at the school Tiffany attended. She is the only person with any influence at all over Tiffany so she is employed by Mrs Underhill to accompany her niece.
Ancilla sees herself as on the shelf. She’s attractive, quiet, well-mannered but with a lively sense of humour & the patience of a saint when dealing with Tiffany. Tiffany’s ambition is to marry a Marquis at least, but, she contrives a meeting with Lord Lindeth soon after he arrives in the district & he is instantly attracted by her looks. Sir Waldo is attracted by Ancilla’s quiet good sense & amused by her obvious disapproval of what she sees as his fashionably shallow way of life. She isn’t aware that he has set up at least one school for waifs & urchins picked up off the streets & plans to set up another at Broom Hall. The scene is set for some delicious scenes between Ancilla & Waldo as she tries to deny her growing attraction to him & he gradually realises that he is falling in love with this woman who is so unlike the fashionable flirts he’s used to meeting.
Tiffany, meanwhile, is causing havoc by playing her suitors off against each other. She gradually alienates Lindeth by showing her selfishness & spite once too often & turns her attention to another cousin of Sir Waldo’s, the worthless fop, Laurence Calver. In a fit of pique, Tiffany decides to run away to London with Calver’s unwilling help & Ancilla & Waldo are thrown together in the chase to bring her back.
This is a lovely romantic story with a hero & heroine to admire. Even though I knew it must end happily, I was dismayed at the misunderstanding that led Ancilla to refuse Waldo’s proposal. That’s the test of a good romantic novel for me. I was so involved with the characters that I would have been heartbroken if they hadn’t worked it out. My only complaint with Heyer’s books is that she overdoes the slang, for my taste. Her research is showing & I find it slows up the dialogue. I know she had a formidable knowledge of the period & the language but less is more. Still, it’s a minor quibble. I’m a fan now, at least of her more mature heroines, & I’m looking forward to my next Heyer romance.