"A fox got in amongst the hens last night, and ravished our best layer," remarked Miss Lanyon. " A great-grandmother, too! You'd think he would be ashamed!" Receiving no answer, she continued, in an altered voice: "Indeed, you would! It is a great deal too bad. What is to be done?"Though you may not gather it from this episode, brother and sister get along famously, and Aubrey, for all his own oddity, is a great asset to the humor of tale. This unusual duo is plagued by the rather insipid company to be had in their Yorkshire neighborhood, particularly Venetia's two determined suitors: one an immature young man wrapped in the throws of calf love, and the other, a far more determined and extremely Mr. Collins like man, Edward Yardley. Though certainly more presentable and far less groveling than Austen's most famous buffoon, the resmblance is uncanny, as is demonstraited in his inability to accept it when a proposal is refused, as well as in speeches of this ilk:
His attention caught, her companion raised his eyes from the book which lay open beside him on the table and directed them upon her in a look of aloof enquiry. "What's that? Did you say something to me, Venetia?"
"Yes, love," responded his sister cheerfully, "but it wasn't of the least consequence, and in any event I answered for you. You would be astonished, I daresay, if you knew what interesting conversations I enjoy with myself."
"I was reading."
"So you were - and have let your coffee grow cold, besides abondoning that slice of bread-and-butter. Do eat it up! I'm persuaded I ought not to permit you to read at the table."
"Oh, the breakfast-table!" he said disparagingly. "Try if you can stop me!"
"I can't, of course. What is it?" she returned, glancing at the volume. "Ah, Greek! Some improving tale, I don't doubt."
"The Medea," he said repressively. "Porson's edition, which Mr. Appersett lent to me."
"I know! She was the delightful creature who cut up her brother, and cast the pieces in her papa's way, wasn't she? I daresay perfectly amiable when on cam to know her."
He hunched an impatient shoulder, and replied contemptuously: "You don't understand, and it's a waste of time to try to make you."
Her eyes twinkled at him. "But I promise you I do! Yes, and sympathise with her, besides wishing I had her resolution! Though I think I should rather have buried your remains tidily in the garden, my dear!"
His smile was one of conscious superiority. He said: "I am afraid this is a subject on which you must allow me to be a better judge than you, Venetia. We won't argue about it, however - indeed, I should be sorry to engage in any sort of discussion with you on a matter that is not only beyond the female comprehension, but which one could not wish to see within it!"To such insufferable condescension are Aubrey and Venetia subjected to until their illusive and rakish neighbor, Lord Jasper Damerel, arrives at his ancestral home to provide the excitement and mental challenge that has been so lacking in both the Lanyon's lives. There can be no doubt that he is our hero, for Venetia is quick, upon first acquaintance, to call him an "ogre", while he retaliates with "vixen", and there is nothing more romantically promising in Heyer than an exchange of insults. However, regardless of the inevitability of their eventual union, this book has more surprises in the course of its events than is customary in her books. I found it a joy to read, and an incredibly effective way to forget my discomfort. I am saving the next new Heyer I have on hand, Cousin Kate, for when the real labor pains begin.