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REVIEW: Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer

Dear Readers,

When I reviewed The Nonesuch a few months ago during Sourcebooks’ summer Heyer sale, I mentioned in passing that I really wanted to review Sprig Muslin, but it hadn’t been digitized yet. Now it is, so as promised, here’s a review.

Sprig Muslin Georgette HeyerThis book wasn’t in my Top 10 Heyer Regencies during the first decade or so that I read her (that would be my teens and early twenties). It was too slow and too rural, and the hero and heroine weren’t exciting enough. I was totally a These Old Shades, Devil’s Cub, and Frederica kind of girl. But as I reread it in later years, I grew to appreciate the quiet humor. I especially came to love Lady Hester, the plain spinster heroine, and it’s become one of my very favorite Heyers.

Sprig Muslin chronicles the romance of Lady Hester Theale, the aging, on-the-shelf daughter of a gaming-mad Earl, and Sir Gareth Ludlow, one of Heyer’s patented top-of-the-trees, Corinthian heroes. Having reached his mid-thirties and lost his only brother at Salamanca, Sir Gareth accepts that he has to marry and produce heirs. But since losing his beautiful and much beloved fiancée in a riding accident a decade agp, he believes he is unable to offer a wife love. He chooses Hester, an old friend, over younger and more beautiful candidates because he thinks that marriage to him will be better for her than her current life as a general dogsbody for her father and her siblings’ families. But Hester shocks everyone, not least Sir Gareth, when she turns him down:

“I can offer you a position of the first consequence. You would be at no one’s beck and call, you would be your own mistress—with a husband who, I promise you, would not make unreasonable demands of you. You may be sure that I should always attend to your wishes, and hold you in respect as well as affection. Would that not mean a happier life than the one you now lead?”

Her face was very white; she pulled her hand away, saying in a stifled voice: “No—anguish!”

This seemed so strange a thing for her to have said that he thought he could not have heard her aright. “I beg your pardon?” he said blankly.

She had moved away from him in some agitation, and said now, with her back turned to him: “I didn’t mean it— don’t heed it! I say such foolish things! Pray forgive me! I am so deeply grateful to you! Your wife will be the happiest of females, unless she is a monster, and I do hope you won’t marry a monster! If only I could find my handkerchief!”

Gareth’s proposal visit to Brancaster is complicated by his meeting with Amanda, a lovely sixteen-year-old who has run away from home in order to compel her grandfather to agree to her marriage to a serving officer who is a younger son. She refuses to tell Gareth her name or address, and he cannot leave her on her own, so he takes her with him, to the consternation of Hester’s family (but not Hester). When Amanda runs away, Gareth must postpone any attempt to persuade Hester to change her mind and go after her. In the meantime Amanda has found a younger and more credulous knight-errant, and an accident occurs when Gareth catches up to them. When they can’t think of anyone else to turn to, the panicked and guilt-stricken pair beseech Hester to come and nurse Gareth until he recovers.

Gareth can’t be moved, so the four wind up in an inn in a tiny village, isolated from their families and friends and with their whereabouts unknown. This suits Amanda perfectly, because her grandfather won’t be able to find her and thus will submit to her ultimatum. Hester has her hands full caring for Gareth, and she isn’t averse to being cut off from her usual life for a while. As Gareth recovers, he sees a different side to Hester, and his feelings of friendship deepen into something else:

Lady Hester emerged from her hiding-place, her cap now wildly askew. Sir Gareth lay back against his pillows, watching her, a question behind the brimming laughter in his eyes.

“Gareth!” said Hester, in an awed voice. “You must own that Amanda is wonderful! I should never have thought of saying I was your natural sister!”

He was shaking with laughter, his hand pressed instinctively to his hurt shoulder. “No? Nor I, my dear!”

Suddenly she began to laugh too. “Oh, dear, of all the absurd situations—! I was just thinking how W—Widmore would l—look if he knew!”

The thought was too much for her. She sat down in the Windsor chair, and laughed till she cried. Mopping her streaming eyes at last, she said: “I don’t think I have ever laughed so much in all my life. But I must say, Gareth, there is one thing about this new story of Amanda’s which I cannot like!”

“Oh, no, is there?” he said unsteadily.

“Yes,” she said, sober again. “It was not well done of Amanda to make up such a tale about your father. For he was a most excellent person, and it seems quite dreadful to be slandering him! Really, Gareth, you should have denied it!”

“I assure you, he would have delighted in the story, for he was blessed with a lively sense of humour,” Sir Gareth replied. He looked at her, a glimmer in his eyes, and a smile quivering on his lips. “Do you know, Hester, in all these years I have held you in esteem and regard, yet I never knew you until we were pitchforked into this fantastic imbroglio? Certainly Amanda is wonderful! I must be eternally grateful to her!”

There’s not a lot of plot to this story. Gareth offers for Hester and is turned down; Amanda runs away to force her grandfather to bend to her will; Gareth is injured and must be nursed back to health. Amanda’s knight-errant, Hildebrand, stays a friend because Amanda is unshakeably devoted to her Brigade-Major.

But what the novel lacks in plot it makes up for in characterizations. Amanda could have been intensely annoying, but her determination and her commitment are admirable. Hildebrand, Hester’s family, and the innkeeper and his sister are portrayed with Heyer’s usual deft touch. The book is chock full of sparkling dialogue, and it is relatively free of the cant that Heyer loved so much.

Best of all, though, is the way the romance unfolds. There is nothing external (apart from Gareth’s injury) that drives the couple together or apart. Hester is truly a plain-Jane, downtrodden spinster when we meet her, but she blossoms away from her family. Heyer shows us her wit, humor, and intelligence, all of which Hester has suppressed during years of living with her unsympathetic, uninterested, unimaginative family. In the end, she gets Gareth on her terms, not his.

Gareth is saved from being unbearably arrogant at the beginning of the novel by his innate decency; his assumption that the best Hester can do is a loveless marriage is harsh but probably true, and he genuinely believes that his ability to fall in love died with his fiancée.

By the end of the story, Heyer convinces us not only that the handsome and sought-after Gareth can fall in love with someone like Hester, but that she is the ideal person for him at this point in his life. And she does this not by turning Hester into a different woman or by demonizing his late fiancée but by revealing to us and to Gareth the wonderful woman who has been trapped under that spinster exterior.

Grade: A-

~ Sunita

Note: this book is currently $1.99 at Amazon

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Sunita has been reading romances since she ran out of Cherry Ames, Student Nurse and Chalet School books and graduated to Mary Stewart and Georgette Heyer. Other old favorites include Mary Burchell, Betty Neels, Elsie Lee, and Edith Layton. Among current writers, she reads and rereads Anne Stuart, Tamara Allen, Jordan Castillo Price, Sarah Morgan, Marion Lennox, Josh Lanyon, and Susanna Kearsley.

48 Comments

  1. carmen webster buxton
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 16:11:33

    I loved Sprig Muslin for all the reasons you describe, especially the fact that Hester doesn’t take off her glasses and turn out to be gorgeous. I also like the way she talks in italics. The only thing that never made sense to me was the title. I guess it refers to Amanda’s youthful state, but it still doesn’t give any clue at all to what the book is about.

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  2. Julie
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 16:15:37

    I have been on a roller coaster of emotion since I read this review 2 minutes ago. First I was shocked that I couldn’t remember reading the story, then delighted that it appeared there was a Heyer that I hadn’t read yet, then excited to go to Amazon to buy it, then devastated when I couldn’t find it on Amazon, and then confused but slightly hopeful to see that you somehow found it there. Help. I need to read this book right now on my kindle. Right. Now. Please!

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  3. Julie
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 16:16:57

    I see it now. Crisis averted!

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  4. Lakshmi
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 16:46:16

    @carmen- Early on in the book Amanda tells Hester that her aunt only allows her to wear sprig muslin due to her youth.

    This book has always been one of my favorite GH novels. I’m glad that it’s finally been digitized.

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  5. Jayne
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 16:51:58

    @carmen webster buxton: This sounds like just the kind of heroine I adore.

    Great review, Sunita!

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  6. Jorrie Spencer
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 17:02:23

    I remember this one! I liked it a great deal. One day I’ll have to reread Heyer.

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  7. Author on Vacation
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 17:02:53

    I’ve read Chapter 1 of “Sprig Muslin and I really liked it. I’m going to read the book as soon as I get past a bad cold.

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  8. Ros
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 17:06:15

    It’s a lovely book. I think I had a similar experience to you, Sunita, in that I first read it when I was too young to really appreciate it.

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  9. venus velvet
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 17:24:12

    (I used to read Elsie Lee years ago, and have most of her books in a box somewhere – I rarely run across a mention of her. )

    I’ve followed the same trajectory of Heyer appreciation – still have a pitter-patter for Vidal, but can appreciate Sprig Muslin, The Toll-Gate, The Quiet Gentleman, etc. now that I’m older. I will always hate The Civil Contract, however. It’s like the anti-romance.

    Reread The Corinthian and Cotillion recently – still two of my favorites, all-around.

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  10. becca
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 17:42:03

    @venus velvet: I agree; Civil Contract is a downer.

    I used to love Elsie Lee, but somewhere in all my moves her books were lost. I wish they’d come out in (affordable) eformat.

    -becca

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  11. venus velvet
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 17:56:29

    @ becca
    Just looked on ebay and amazon for EL, and holy cow those prices are all over the place! I had the misfortune of losing much of my original Heyer and Lee books from the 80′s to an apt basement flooding years ago, but eventually replaced them from online and used book stores. I can’t believe how much prices have gone up. I wonder what determines how or when out of print books go electronic. Maybe pdf files will become available, if not?

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  12. eggs
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 18:21:24

    If romance were a religion then, when it comes to Heyer, I’m the atheist who sits quietly in the pews, week after week, posing as a member of the faithful, but secretly not believing. I’ve never read a Heyer and doubt I ever will. They sound so good in review! Yet every time I’ve tried to read one it’s just been … meh. Not for me.

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  13. becca
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 18:44:52

    @eggs: I’m the atheist in the Romancelandia church down the street – I can’t read UF or PRN (except for Jayne Ann Krentz, who somehow escapes my anti-PRN filter).

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  14. Amy Kathryn
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 18:45:47

    I love Lady Hester and this quiet romance. I now have the print and ebook.

    Add me to the Elsie Lee fan club also. Her books were suggested to me last year. The Nabob’s Widow is in my top 10 with Venetia.

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  15. Sunita
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 19:02:40

    Thanks, everyone! This review was a real labor of love. Just reading the exerpts with all Hester’s italics makes me smile.

    Oh, Elsie Lee. She is at the top of my “please digitize” list. I have An Eligible Connection and Prior Betrothal, but I’ve never found The Nabob’s Widow (a fantastic book).

    I don’t know if any of you are familiar with one of her contemporaries: The Passions of Medora Graeme. Terrible title, wonderful book. It’s one of my favorite contemps ever, and not as expensive as The Nabob’s Widow (but then what is?).

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  16. GrowlyCub
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 19:09:02

    Should I mention that I have doubles of several Elsie Lee titles? :)

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  17. venus velvet
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 19:22:15

    I enjoyed all of Elsie Lee’s regencies: The Nabob’s Widow, An Eligible Connection, Second Season, The Wicked Guardian, Prior Betrothal. I don’t recall Medora Graeme offhand, was that the one where she was partners with another designer? Something to enjoy over again. : )

    Some of her other contemporaries I particularly enjoyed were The Spy at the Villa Miranda, Mansion of Golden Windows, Sinister Abbey, and Season of Evil (although the hero in SoE didn’t deserve the heroine).

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  18. Sunita
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 19:30:11

    @GrowlyCub: *faints*

    @venus velvet: Yes, that’s the one! And thanks for reminding me of her other contemporaries.

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  19. GrowlyCub
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 19:41:53

    @Sunita: I’d be happy to sell them for what I paid for them (around $5-7 plus shipping). Unfortunately, only 1 copy of ‘The Nabob’s Widow’ which they’ll have to prise out of my cold, hard hands after death. lol

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  20. Barb in Maryland
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 19:46:20

    I really liked this G. Heyer–but, it is one that I seldom re-read and I’m not quite sure why.
    Re: Elsie Lee–Oh My!!I read them all in the day. I kept Prior Betrothal, but NOT (why? oh why??) Nabob’s Widow. I HATED “Spy at the Villa Miranda” because the author trotted out the old ‘hero’s affair was the fault of heroine’ and (I don’t believe there is bold type bold enough) the heroine bought into that. And that was when I threw the book across the room. But I enjoyed all her other contemporaries.

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  21. Ros
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 20:16:07

    *sigh* I know I’m the only one, but I really, really love A Civil Contract too. I think the love it depicts is more romantic than any whirlwind adventure. Real love is so often seen in the domestic and the mundane. Jenny might have dreamed of a knight on a charger, but she knows she’s much happier with her Adam. And he knows he is far happier with Jenny than he ever could have been with Julia. They care about each other’s happiness and each other’s concerns and show their love in so many ways.

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  22. Ros
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 20:19:32

    @venus velvet: It depends who holds the rights. If the publishers still hold the rights then it’s possible they might digitize backlist books but it could take a while to get round to it. If the rights have reverted to the author, then it depends whether she realises the potential goldmine she’s sitting on. It’s not hard to get a print book digitized, and there are plenty of companies who will do it for a fee. It’s not hard to get the digitized copy into online bookstores and again, you can pay someone to sort it all out if you want to. It’s just a question of someone recognising the demand and deciding to do it.

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  23. GrowlyCub
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 20:28:59

    @Ros: I used to feel exactly like that about A Civil Contract and then I listened to it on audio and now I don’t ever want to read it again.

    And it had nothing to do with the narrator, who was very good, it had all to do with Heyer’s own words. I guess in the many re-reads I just glossed over some of the truly unforgivable things Adam thinks and does, but on audio I just couldn’t escape them. I don’t believe that Adam loves Jenny and all the doing is on her part, none of it on his.

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  24. cecilia
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 21:07:06

    @Ros: I totally agree with what you say about A Civil Contract and for those reasons it was satisfying. But at the same time, it just left me feeling kind of sad. I think it’s because the book left with the feeling that while Adam might have loved Jenny, I wasn’t sure he really knew that, but still kind of carried a torch for that other woman.

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  25. venus velvet
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 21:19:00

    @ Barb in Maryland
    It’s been a long while since I read the EL books, and I’d forgotten that part of SaVM; I agree, infidelity’s usually a deal-breaker for me. I think I liked that Kai was different from the usual alpha male type, but overall, I think EL wrote more interesting heroines than heroes.

    @ Ros
    I’m not going to argue with your enjoyment of CC, but having tried to give it another chance recently, I found it still bugged me. Heyer never sounds more patrician than when she describes commoners, and poor Jenny, who loved Adam so deeply, had only comfort and deepening friendship with him to look forward to in the end. It was the antithesis of passion.

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  26. venus velvet
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 21:26:39

    @ cecilia
    Everyone thought of Jenny as being stolid, placid and obtuse, and I don’t think anyone realized, Adam least of all, how she’d carve up her heart and serve it on a platter for him if it would make him happy. It was unsatisfying for me, b/c I don’t think he really knew or appreciated her. His feelings toward her seemed platonic.

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  27. Merrian
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 22:00:17

    @Ros: I agree with you Ros. It is a book about love being learned and not a bolt from the blue.

    I also have to say that Sprig Muslin is one of my favourite Heyer’s and I am so glad that others share the love for this gentle story.

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  28. venus velvet
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 23:38:46

    Sunita, out of curiosity, I googled Georgette Heyer + snobbery and ran across your commentary last August on your blog about the article here re separating authors from their works. It was something I always found off-putting about her work, without consciously thinking about it- you tend to relate to the aristocrats that mainly people her stories when escaping into them. Probably in every other book, though, there’s someone complaining of somebody “smelling of the shop.”

    I think it’s the affection she had for her characters that comes through on the page for me more strongly, and keeps me going back to her from time to time. They have an endearing charm in their sweetness and humor that make up for a lack of depth.

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  29. Sunita
    Jan 15, 2012 @ 00:04:16

    @venus velvet: I think that with really good writers (and Heyer was certainly that), they can be so good at what they do that the reader forgives weaknesses that would be deal-breakers in lesser writers. It also makes me feel better to remember that the same author who wrote deplorably classist characters like Jenny’s father was also able to bring to life the humor and attractiveness of the plain, spinster character of Hester.

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  30. Twila Price
    Jan 15, 2012 @ 10:33:39

    I have adored Sprig Muslin ever since the first time I read it *mumpty mump* years ago — in fact, it was one of the reasons I named my son Gareth. There’s something about the quasi-family that develops between Hildebrande, Amanda, Hester and Gareth in that final quarter of the book that resonates so much with me, and the fact that Gareth finally sees the worth of Hester only makes it that much better to me. It’s one of my favorite Heyers, and I’m glad to see this review of it.

    I admit that I fell for Heyer so long ago that I don’t really see her flaws — the books are such lovely worlds to revisit that I overlook any problems. In fact, I’m planning on putting a Heyer audiobook on my iPod for my upcoming heart surgery.

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  31. Gwynnyd
    Jan 15, 2012 @ 11:46:22

    I also love A Civil Contract – and a lot of that is the way she seamlessly weaves the history in with the plot. (The main failing of some of her other histories is the seams showing where she grafted the bits of romance onto the history.) I still cannot see Papa Chawleigh as any kind of shrewd businessman, though. As to Adam and Jenny, it cries out for someone to write a sequel where he finds out how much Jenny really means to him.

    Elsie Lee! I have most of her books, too. She’s one of my comfort reads. The Passions of Medora Graeme was my first contemporary romance. I suppose that dates me terribly.

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  32. sarah mayberry
    Jan 15, 2012 @ 20:07:11

    What a great review! Great trip down memory lane.

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  33. Tae
    Jan 15, 2012 @ 22:45:25

    Sold! And while ideas at Amazon I bought Angelfall as well.

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  34. Marguerite Kaye
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 04:21:50

    I’ve only ever read this one once, and for all the reasons you said I didn’t like it. But it was a very long time ago. As a few others have said, I didn’t like Civil Contract either, I hated the way Jenny was never going to be anything other than second best. But this review and the comments have made me want to take a look at both again, so I’m going to have to dig out my big storage box of Heyers and look for them. Thank you, I’m already wondering what it’s going to be like reading them after a gap of about 20 years.

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  35. etv13
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 04:43:22

    Sprig Muslin is one of the Heyers that never truly sank in deep for me, partly because it’s one of the last ones I got a copy of and read. So it seems kind of derivative of other Heyers to me — the Hildebrand/Amanda relationship is a lesser version (to me) of the relationship between Tom and Phoebe in Sylvester, for example, and Sir Gareth is a retread (again, to me, I have no idea how they come out in actual publication order ) of Sir Richard Wyndham.

    A Civil Contract, on the other hand — that’s just a triumph. I don’t think it’s fair to attribute Adam’s snobbery to Heyer; I think she carried off a tremendous balancing act making Adam sympathetic in spite of his willingness to marry Jenny for her money, his obsession with vulgarity, and his complete failure to understand that Jenny truly loves him. I don’t think we get these points in spite of Heyer, but because of her. That is, I think she’s showing us deliberately that Jenny is a worthy romance heroine, and that her father is an admirable person despite his vulgarity. Adam’s hypersensitivty to Chawleigh’s vulgarity is a character flaw he struggles to overcome, with at least partial success. Adam, his mother, and his sister Charlotte are contrasted with the aunt who gets Jenny ready for her presentation at court, and with his sister Lydia, whose appreciation for Mr. Chawleigh isn’t compromised by worries about vulgarity — and who ends up marrying a duke’s younger son who has no money to speak of. I think Heyer is on Lydia’s side, and Jenny’s.

    It also interests me that Jenny talks like Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey, and like various secondary Heyer characters, but unlike any other Heyer heroine.

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  36. Sunita
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 09:15:50

    You all are making me want to go reread A Civil Contract for the umpteenth time. It’s another of my favorites. For me it illustrates how certain kinds of young love don’t have the capacity to turn into enduring love, and also how an arranged marriage can bring great contentment to the participants when they don’t expect it. It makes sense that the book would come up in comments to a review of Sprig Muslin, since Hester is a non-typical heroine.

    @etv13: You make a great argument for Heyer. I’m not sure I fully agree; I’d have to go back and reread. You may be right, and I may be reading the snobbery that I see in other of her merchant and middle-class characters into this one. Certainly there’s the worthwhile person under a rough exterior characterization going on, and I do use Mr. Chawleigh as an example of how well she can characterize such people in the blog post Venus Velvet referred to above.

    As much as I love ACC, though, I don’t think I could call it a triumph, at least not as a romance. In the end, Adam loves Jenny for her practicality and her role as his wife and mother. It’s a love born of respect and affection. But I never get the feeling he’s really emotionally satisfied with the outcome. It’s the difference between contentment/appreciation and happiness, and in romance novels we want Happily Ever After, not Contented Ever After.

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  37. Sunita
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 09:26:22

    @etv13: I see Sir Richard and Sir Gareth as very different characters. They have some very similar characteristics, of course, but Sir Richard would have fallen for Amanda, and never even have seen Hester. Sir Richard was still hoping for coup de foudre romance, whereas Sir Gareth had given up on it.

    The first chapters are structurally very similar (the hero discusses marriages of convenience with female relatives and reluctant male in-laws), but Richard is being persuaded into marrying, whereas Gareth is doing the persuading.

    The Corinthian was first published in 1940 and Sprig Muslin in 1956.

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  38. Kate Pearce
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 12:56:04

    Put me in the loving a Civil Contract group, because it seemed far more real to me than most romances and I liked that GH was brave enough to see that through. It is also more like an English romance than an American one, (if that makes sense to anyone who has read/written or lived in both places.)

    Sprig Muslin is somewhere in the middle of the pack for me but I’ll definitely be chasing up the digital version and rereading it. :)

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  39. Lily
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 13:44:56

    I’ve never read Heyer and went into the review with hope as it was rated so highly, but then I got to the excerpts. My goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many exclamation points in such a small amount of space. Excessive exclamation points is a strong pet peeve of mine. My mind reads them with extreme emphasis and it spoils the dialogue in my head. Rats. I think I’m going to have to skip this one.

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  40. Sunita
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 15:15:50

    @Lily: That’s why I always try to put in excerpts, so that readers have a sense of the prose.

    To be fair, these two passages represent points of high emotion and drama. But there are quite a few exclamation points throughout the book. I think it’s a style Heyer regularly employed for young and/or somewhat emotive characters.

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  41. Maytoo
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 16:15:54

    I love both Sprig Muslin and a Civil Contract. But then there are very few of Heyer’s that I don’t.
    The one I never see discussed or even mentioned is the Foundling. This, was for me, her most unique hero. Even more so than Freddie. Has anyone read The Foundling and was Gilly a great or offputting hero for you?

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  42. Maytoo
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 16:21:32

    I meant to add that the Foundling and Sprig Muslin were similar stories for me. Both had the young girl to be protected (though very different characters) and the heroine who played a back seat for much of the story. The heros and the plot were totally different. The Foundling had one of the best villains.

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  43. venus velvet
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 17:17:29

    @ Maytoo
    I just reskimmed The Foundling and The Quiet Gentleman today, trying to remember which book reminded me of Sprig Muslin (totally derailing my day’s agenda). The Foundling’s plot was similar, with Gilly and Harriet’s romance taking a back seat to the young girl’s shenanigans, which was why I lost patience with it way back when. They are a charming couple, though, and I wish they had more page time. I liked the bit where, fresh off the success of facing down his valet, Gilly went to see Harriet, ready to take on her grandmother, the Dowager, when Heyer slips in the sly observation that he was fortunately not put to the test, since she had held her own against “far more formidable males than he would ever be.”

    I think Lady of Quality, The Talisman Ring and The Black Sheep all also used a younger couple/ girl as a plot device to throw the older couple together. I was amused to see her riff on The Devil’s Cub in The Quiet Gentleman, when the heroine, Drusilla, is wishing she had been romantic enough to foil a duel by coming between the swordsmen, but concluding that that would only get herself seriously injured, as well as exasperating the duelists.

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  44. Maytoo
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 20:37:55

    @venus velvet: I think I enjoyed the Foundling despite the lack of pagetime for Gilly and Harriet because of Gilly’s growth. It was such fun to see a hero grow into his “heroism” rather than already super confident and alpha.
    I had not thought of the others you mentioned all having young people to throw the main couple together. You have me searching my memory now to see if I can think of others. This is one of the reasons I enjoy all of Heyer – the couples cover such divergent ages and characters and even the similar ones still manage to be very different in some way.

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  45. Emily A.
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 02:18:05

    Darn! I seemed to miss this review being posted. Sorry if I missed the party.
    I loved this one. I read last year and it was one of my favorite books of the year. Here are my views on this wonderful read.
    I mentioned in Jayne’s review of False Colors that I find Heyer’s views on men and women very varying and complex here is yet another book to demostrate this. Warning Spoliers:

    I love Lady Hester. I found her sympathetic from the first being almost stuck living with her relations who are difficult to say the least. She tries her best to let her relations run the show while she stays out of the way and causes little trouble.
    One of the first things that warmed her to me was her reception of Amanda, whom she treats with kindness and sympathy. When Hester meets Amanda it seems they might be rivals yet Heyer never lets us see Amanda show any spite or bitterness towards the much younger woman. Instead they are allowed to be friends bonding despite the differences in their ages, they recognize the disadvantages of each other’s situation and they form a friendship and become allies in each other’s causes.
    I love in general the friendships and camaraderie that Heyer allows to build in this book. At the end of the book a number of separate entities have slowly merged and form alliances and friendships by the end. At the very end there a wonderful confrontation in which the friendships that have built in the book have become almost a team which stands strong in the face of opposition. These tropes will never get old of friendship and a sense of community or something will probably never get old for me. Heyer in general is rather unsentimental in her depiction of so many relationships (such as Hester’s relationships with any of her relatives) that she alloys the relationships where true friendship and love exist to shine.

    back to this book, I love that while Lady Hester does show growth & change in some ways she is still fundamentally herself. She becomes bolder, more able to go after what she wants and able to take care of a situation. But she retains a lot of her natural quietness and gentleness.
    This leads to talk about the hero. I love Sir Gareth. While he can take charge, he is almost a beta hero. Quiet and mature. Saddened by the loss of a fiancee whom he generally loved. (The descriptions and contrast of the fiancee is delightful.; Add to Hester”s good qualities she is not jealous particularly of the fiance either.)
    What I love most is the Gareth comes to appreciate Hester not only for the new strength and spirit she shows but he also comes to realise how much he really appreciates her gentle and quiet nature. He finds Hester soothing, relaxing, easy to be with and a lot of fun to have around. They both find that they can be their selves in each other’s pressence.
    I think this is a beautiful story and one of my favorites.

    ReplyReply

  46. Sunita
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 12:48:12

    @Emily A.: I agree that in many ways Heyer’s romances can be very unsentimental even though they are romantic. I really like that aspect of her style, but I can imagine it can be a surprise to readers who find her after they’ve been reading romances written in the past couple of decades.

    I glanced over the list of novels, and I counted about a dozen that I know for sure have two romantic storylines (one older, one younger). I think this was more common at the time she was writing. The secondary romance filled out the book the way mystery and spy storylines do today.

    ReplyReply

  47. Thoughts on Reading, Academic and Otherwise | Something More
    Jan 22, 2012 @ 18:51:36

    [...] from a different angle when I reread Georgette Heyer’s Sprig Muslin last week, spurred by Sunita’s review at Dear Author. I’d say that rereading appealed to me at this moment because it allowed me to [...]

  48. REVIEW: A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer
    Aug 17, 2012 @ 13:21:19

    [...] to write about it. Heyer fans really split on this book, as you can see in the comment thread to my review of Sprig Muslin. Ros said that it was a favorite of hers because “the love it depicts is more romantic than [...]

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