The Grand Sophy – Georgette Heyer, 1950

Continuing on my Heyer kick–this time one of the few Regency romances I like. Now that I’ve finally become an Austen fan, I can understand the desire to create works like hers, but not the veneration of the Regency period itself as a setting. What makes Austen delightful to read, for me, is primarily her humor and subtle observations–she was not writing historical fiction. As in most Regencies, proof of research is laid on with a trowel; every page is studded with period detail and every speech is stuffed with period slang, ironically far more than in all of Austen put together. But this book is so delightful that it doesn’t bother me too much–and even thought I don’t think it works well artistically, I do enjoy the vocabulary itself, from “great gaby” to “puptons of fruit.” Sophy Stanton-Lacy is a wonderful heroine–independent, wise, funny, and kind–but there are lots of great minor characters as well, like the impractical poet Augustus Fawnhope and the interfering fiancĂ©e of the male protagonist, whose appearance gives rise to my favorite exchange (between the two leads):

“Since you have brought up Miss Wraxton’s name, I shall be much obliged to you, cousin, if you will refrain from telling my sisters that she has a face like a horse!”
“But, Charles, no blame attaches to Miss Wraxton! She cannot help it, and that, I assure you, I have always pointed out to your sisters!”
“I consider Miss Wraxton’s countenance particularly well-bred!”
“Yes, indeed, but you have quite misunderstood the matter! I meant a particularly well-bred horse!”
“You meant, as I am perfectly aware, to belittle Miss Wraxton!”
“No, no! I am very fond of horses!” Sophy said earnestly.

I hadn’t noticed the profusion of exclamation points in the dialogue until typing it up. !

Fair warning: on top of the usual classism, there’s a very offensive (anti-Semitic) scene with a money-lender.

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