Monday, May 30, 2011

Venetia by Georgette Heyer

Still waiting on baby, but my husband and I were able to curb some of our impatience by indulging in yet another fabulous Georgette Heyer novel. Venetia, while not being quite as uproariously funny as some of Heyer's other novels, stands out due to its wonderful characters. Our heroine, Miss Venetia Lanyon has to be one of my favorite Heyer creations. Much in the style of Frederica Merriville of Frederica (read my review here) in her familial dedication, but with the charming benefit of possessing exquisite beauty and a streak of eccentricity, Venetia is certainly one of Heyer's more capable ladies, and her intelligence and charm captivates from the first page. Take the opening conversation, for example, between Venetia and her younger brother, Aubrey. I should admit that my interest in Greek literature adds to the appeal of not only this scene for me, but also much of the book, as Aubrey's pursuits as a classical scholar causes such references as the following to abound:
"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?" 

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!"
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 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.  


  1. Oh dear, I'm sorry your still awaiting the "this is it" labor! Well, I am glad you enjoyed this novel. When I was trying to decide which Heyer novel to begin with, it was this one I was most drawn to... but alas, I am still yet to read it.

    I hope you're able to welcome your little one into the world soon! Best wishes to you all :)

  2. Hi Svea, and thanks for all the good wishes. I expect you can perfectly understand how impatient and disgruntled I feel right now, but a little Regency Romance has proven excellent therapy. I would probably say Venetia is a second tier Heyer - lots of fun but not her best. I've done lots of Heyer reviews, and if you are looking for a place to start check out her listing under my "Reviews" tab. You'll get a great run down on what can be expected from most of her novels. My personal favorite is Cotillion, but my husband's is These Old Shades.

  3. I just took this audiobook out at my library. Loving it so far. With Richard Armitage narrating, its icing on the cake! ~ Carole

  4. Hi Carol! I hear great things about Mr. Armitage's Heyer recordings. I am just waiting for a nice road trip to justify pursuing them. Enjoy!