The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date:February 1, 2009
Original Publication Date: 1934
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
In A Nutshell: A Good Read
Horatia Winwood’s sister has been engaged by their mother to marry the Earl of Rule, but since her sister is hopeless in love with someone else, Horatia goes to the Earl and offers herself up in marriage so that her sister is free to marry as she pleases. The Earl is intrigued by the quirky, stammering young lady, and accepts Horatia’s proposition since he must marry anyway. Horatia lets the Earl know that she doesn’t plan to interfere in his life, and that they will truly have a marriage of convenience.
Horatia’s life changes completely once she marries the Earl and becomes a lady of consequence. She spends a mint of money on clothes and gambling and is always looking to participate in the latest entertainments. The Earl is obliging in every way until an old enemy takes and interest in Horatia, and she in him- that’s when the Earl has to step in and keep his young wife from coming to harm.
I was immediately taken with the premise of this story, and I liked the way that Heyer jumped right into the action. Horatia and the Earl were quickly married and we started seeing Horatia interact with her new friends, indulge in exciting an different activities, and revel in her high society status. Heyer shows that one of her sisters is concerned by the changes in Horatia and the new ways she seems to be behaving and thinking. I liked the storyline and the way that it progressed, but I also found it really frustrating that Horatia and the Earl didn’t interact more, and there was a little too much of her wastrel and financially insolvent brother and his bumbling friend for my taste. They were the comic relief, but for me a little of them went a long way.
This is the first Heyer novel that I have read where the characters seem a little flimsy to me. Horatia is very young, and though in the beginning I like the sacrifice that she makes for her sister, as the novel progresses I didn’t feel like I got any further insight into her character besides the fact that she is suddenly rich and doing whatever thing crosses her mind. It was hard for me to see her go from so thoughtful to so thoughtless in just a few short chapters. It’s apparent that there is some spark between Horatia and the Earl and I was looking forward to see how they would interact as they got to know each other, and how they behaved in such close quarters while adjusting to living together and their newly married state. That didn’t really happen as much as I would have liked. My favorite scenes were of Horatia and the Earl bantering at home.
Georgette Heyer masterfully and realistically recreates Georgian and Regency England, and with The Convenient Marriage there is no exception to exacting research and standards. From the great clothes, and wonderful food to the to the exceptionally on point language, she excels in carving out the time and place so accurately that the scenes literally come alive before your very eyes. I have noticed in some historical fiction that I come across language which strikes me a suspiciously modern, and can get distracted in wondering whether characters would actually say things like that in a particular time period, but I find that never happens when I am reading a Heyer novel. I am able to trust her descriptions and language completely.
All in all, I enjoyed The Convenient Marriage. For me, this wasn’t her best, but it works as a light and superficial comedy. My favorite of her books so far is The Reluctant Widow, but as usual I loved the costumes, descriptions and the airs and manners of the time. Like I said before, Heyer goes a long way in getting the details just right. The characterizations aren’t very deep here, but the plot was entertaining even if the storyline was bit unbalanced and skewed more to Horatia and her brother than her and her husband. I think this is intended more as a farcical comedy than anything else. The Convenient Marriage moved along at a good pace. Heyer spent some time fleshing out quite a few of the minor characters, and sometimes I felt I knew more about them than Horatia, and I definitely knew them more than the Earl, but it was a nice distraction from some of the heavier books that I have been reading and if you like a good farce, then I am sure you will find a lot that is enjoyable here.
About the Author: Georgette Heyer wrote over fifty novels, including Regency romances, mysteries, and historical fiction. She was known as the Queen of Regency romance, and was legendary for her research, historical accuracy, and extraordinary plots and characterizations.
Check It Out:
- Georgette Heyer (website)
- The Georgian Age (website)
- Georgian Marriages (website)
- Gambling in Historic England (website)
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