The Reluctant Widow--Georgette Heyer Review


I finished the book a day or so ago, but have been distracted with many things.

For those of you who have been tempted to read Georgette Heyer, but feared becoming entangled in the sticky strands of Regency Romance, this may be the book for you. More mystery and comedy of manners with a romance tacked on around the edges, this book seems like a practice or a "light" version of some of Ms. Heyer's exquisitely plotted mysteries.

A young woman coming from London is met at the coach stop by the representative of a man she presumes is the husband of the woman who hired her as a governess for her children. As it turns out, this man wants something entirely different--he wants the young woman to marry his good-for-nothing cousin so as to remove from the highly suspicious minds of neighbors and friends any sense that he might be after the cousin's fortune. As it happens, the cousin is stabbed in a brawl that night and news comes that he lay on the point of death, which galvanizes the action of the story, for the young woman, Elinor, is persuaded to marry him.

The story zooms on from there with spies, papers, hidden passages, nocturnal visitors, murder, and one of the most obnoxious dandy's on record. Every turn of the slight plot is amusing and entertaining, and the resolution, while a trifle long-winded is most satisfactory. Ms. Heyer played her hand well enough and cleverly enough to have me guessing whodunit, even though to the casual reader it is perfectly obvious. (It's what happens when you apply the conventions of one genre to another.)

As I noted the romance is slight, referred to perhaps three times directly--the romantic leads having improbably few scenes together to uncover their mutual attraction. But again, this wasn't the main point of the novel, and as a result there is no disappointment or frustration with the denouement.

If you are not an inveterate romance reader and you'd like to find out why such critics as Michael Dirda and Margaret Atwood praise Ms. Heyer's work, this may be the chance for you. Not so sparkling and witty as Venetia or Powder and Patch but none the less a whirlwind of intrigue and a well-written historical novel The Reluctant Widow may provide insight as to why Georgette Heyer is sometimes compared with Jane Austen.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 16, 2009 7:20 AM.

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