Author: Georgette Heyer
UK Publisher: Arrow
Genre: Historical fiction, Regency romance, mystery
It is in regrettable circumstances that beautiful Judith Taverner and her brother Peregrine first encounter Julian St John Audley.
The man, they both agree, is an insufferably arrogant dandy.
But unfortunately for them, he is also the Fifth Earl of Worth, a friend of the Regent, and, quite by chance, their legal guardian…
Having spent a lot of this year, it feels, talking about Georgette Heyer in some review or other, I felt it was past time to re-read some of her books. I decided not to revisit my perennial and forever favourite These Old Shades and its sequel Devil’s Cub as I read both of those last summer (although I may stick them on my Christmas reading pile as a treat), but instead to read another one I remember enjoying a lot. Please admire the beautiful copy I stole from my mother many years ago, which she hasn’t asked to have back yet. Delightfully, in my research for this post, I’ve discovered that not only is there a sequel to this, An Infamous Army, but that the sequel also acts as a further sequel to These Old Shades and Devil’s Cub, bringing the Alastair family back albeit several generations later, which is something I had never realised.
The thing about Heyer which I love is that her prose is so fluent, perfectly toned for the period it’s set but still easy to read. She also has this amazing knack of cleverly and carefully setting up chaotic situations which end up with one group of people desperately trying to drag everything back on track, and another group of people with no idea what’s going on just bemused and trying to understand the whirlwind of chaos that has just swept them up. This is perhaps less the case in Regency Buck, where there are fewer characters and slightly less of an inclination towards eccentricity, but there is still that delightful bite and wit in her conversations, all whilst building a romance around the lead characters.
This is apparently one of only a handful of books which covers both of Heyer’s genres – historical romance and mystery, although I feel it lands more firmly in the former than the latter. It is also the only one to feature Beau Brummell as a character, rather than just mentioned in passing, and he is a delightful character too. Interestingly, Lord Byron also gets a mention, meaning that Regency Buck is set at the same time as the Dark Days Club, meaning that Lady Helen and Miss Taverner were probably jollying around London and Brighton at the same time. This is why I love re-reading books, each time I bring different knowledge and experiences with me that colour my reading. Another change is that, this time, I have been to Brighton, so I can completely picture the Palace down there in all its ghastly, incredible glory.
Heyer was renowned for her encyclopaedic knowledge of the Regency era, and it shows. She paints the world with confidence and consistency, never info-dumping, but giving just enough to know that the prose is on solid foundations. This means that you are rarely pulled out of the narrative because of anachronisms – for example, in Mary Balogh’s book Someone to Love (review forthcoming), the characters raise a concern about a marriage to someone’s cousin as they’re blood relatives, but this was common in Regency England, and so it felt out of place, whilst Heyer never demurs at things which might clash with modern sensibilities. BUT it does mean that the books express the sensibilities of their time in ways that aren’t always… super. There’s a lot of putting down of women as a gender, and the heroines are always decidedly ‘not like other women’, which is something I tend to rankle at in modern fiction. There is in this book, as in others, talk about beating women so they behave. I would like to emphasise fully that this never happens, in any of Heyer’s romances, but there are often exchanges along the lines of “I bet you would have liked to beat me soundly then!” etc etc. When I first read Heyer’s work, I never even noticed this sort of language, tied up as it is generally in excellent chemistry between characters and witty exchanges.
It is true that you can still enjoy something whilst being aware of its problematic nature. Regency Buck isn’t my favourite Heyer, but it’s a good, solid story with a lot of fun characters and some delightful set pieces. If you want a good Regency romance with pace and intelligence, I’d recommend checking it out, or at least looking at Heyer’s wider catalogue.
- A fun, historically grounded mystery-romance, with sparky characters and real wit.
- Perhaps the combination of the two genres means that neither is explored to its full potential, but it works out enjoyably.
- Be aware that Heyer was a renowned stickler for Regency history, so whilst the fact checking is almost certainly on point, some of the social standards displayed in the book aren’t always comfortable when seen in a modern light.
Rating: 3/5 – this re-read reminded me that it wasn’t my favourite, but it has made me want to just plough through all the Heyers I have, and be thoroughly unproductive as I read them.