Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer

The Corinthian (1940) (Arrow Books)
Georgette Heyer
Grade: B
Genre: regency romance
Source: own
Fiction RBC 2014: A book at the bottom of your To Be Read pile 

Sir Richard Wyndham, notable whip, dandy and Corinthian is on his way home one evening, suitably inebriated and on the cusp of making the biggest decision of his life, when he’s met with the most startling sight. Suddenly, his imminent (and slightly dreaded) proposal of marriage to Melissa Brandon, whose family is in as dire financial straits as he is fabulously rich, doesn’t seem quite important. On a sudden whim, Richard finds himself acting as cousin, tutor and whatever other guises the journey requires as he escorts young Penelope Creed across the country.

Penelope Creed was in the process of climbing out of her bedroom window by way of knotted sheets, escaping her adopted family, when Sir Richard stumbled upon her in the act. Orphaned at twelve and sent to live with relatives, Pen is now seventeen and being ‘cursed’ with a large fortune, she’s being pressurised to marry her cousin. Deciding to escape while she can and make her way to her childhood home in Somerset, she’s waylaid by Richard who, out of a strange sense of duty, is compelled to prevent a young female from travelling across the country alone. With Pen posing as a boy and Richard as her tutor, the pair get into their fair share of trouble with a gang of thieves and a murder investigation. This isn’t the quite the anonymous journey that either of them planned!

Georgette Heyer is always a treat, if not a particularly easy read. Her writing is lyrical and beautiful, but I always know that I have to concentrate extra hard so that I don’t miss anything. Of the handful of books that I’ve read, The Corinthian wasn’t quite as good as Friday’s Child, Bath Tangle or April Lady, no matter how great it’s reviews, but it was definitely refreshing compared to everything else I’ve been reading, all the same.

Pen is young and impressionable, flighty and spontaneous. She heads back to Somerset on a childhood promise made with her best friend, that they would marry each other when they grew up. She hasn’t seen him in five years, but believes that he will honour the promise. Pen’s a little scandalized at first at the thought of travelling across England with a man she’s never met, but adapts faster than you can tie your cravat into a Wyndham Fall – named after Richard, the leader of fashion that he is. She literally creates a new identity for the pair of them as they make their way by stage coach to Somerset and Richard is left a little bemused and very helpless in the whole matter, nodding along to whatever tall tale Pen has told. It makes for hilarious reading.

Again, another title that could have fit into many RBC categories, but at this point, I’m just glad it fit into what I’ve got left. I’ve always thought that there’s an element of Jane Austen’s style in Heyer’s writing, but with a mischievous twist that makes for wonderful results. I’ve made it a mission to read all of Georgette Heyer’s books at least once, but 2014 (and I doubt 2015 either) was not the year for it. If you’re a Heyer newbie, then The Corinthian is as good a place as any to start.

Image courtesy of Book Depository

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