First sentence: Lady Winwood being denied, the morning caller inquired with some anxiety for Miss Winwood, or, in fact, for any of the young ladies.
Premise/plot: Lord Rule has offered for the eldest Winwood daughter little knowing that Elizabeth's heart belongs to a soldier. Elizabeth Winwood being a dutiful daughter has determined to break off the love match and please her mother. After all the Winwoods desperately needs Rule's money in order to satisfy their brother's debts. Horatia, the youngest, won't have it. Everyone knows she's fierce and a bit reckless. But no one suspects that she--accompanied by a maid--will go to Rule's house, request to see him, and bluntly tell him to marry HER and NOT ELIZABETH. This makes for the BEST SECOND CHAPTER IN A BOOK OF ALL TIME. He agrees despite her stammer and eyebrows or perhaps because of them. There is something fiery and unique about Horry. Readers can tell that this will be everything but a marriage of convenience.
My thoughts: Georgette Heyer's The Convenient Marriage is a historical romance novel that I love and adore. It may just be my all-time favorite Heyer romance. It is without a doubt in my top two. I love everything about it and would change nothing.
I love the setting. It is set in the GEORGIAN period. The American Revolution is going on in the background. Elizabeth's soldier has been to America and back--he was injured in the fighting. The main character, Horatia, is named after her godfather, Horatio (Horace) Walpole. The book immerses you in the times--fashion and etiquette for men and women.
I love the humor and wit. It isn't just that there's great chemistry in the dialogue of Horry and Marcus (Lord Rule). That I would expect from any and every romance novel--especially those of Heyer. No, it seems the dialogue sparkles for ALL the characters. In particular I love, love, love Horry's brother, whom we mostly see as VISCOUNT or PEL.
I love the characterization. Usually romance novels have two well-developed characters--the hero and the heroine. The whole point of the novel usually building up their relationship and leading to a happily ever after. Horry and Marcus enter the novel fully developed. They had me at hello--nearly. Again, a great second chapter that HOOKS you. But The Convenient Marriage is peopled with characters that I either love, love, love or love to hate. (Caroline Massey, Crosby Drelincourt and Robert Lethbridge).
I love the pacing. This story never once drags. There is not even one unnecessary scene. Everything is building to a GIDDY-MAKING conclusion. The journey is just as enjoyable as that ultimately satisfying conclusion you know is coming.
I love the action. Now, the action isn't the first thing that comes to mind. It does require a bit of imagination. But this one has sword-fighting and duels. It has highway men. I think it would make an absolutely thrilling film. Everything about this romance novel begs for a film adaptation. It is funny. It is romantic. It is dashing.
I also love the action you don't see--this is clean romance. I wish clean romances were more common.
I mentioned this already but the writing is wonderful. All these quotes come from the second chapter.
‘Are you L-Lord Rule?’ demanded the lady. He was amused. ‘I have always believed so,’ he replied. ‘Why, I th-thought you were quite old!’ she informed him ingenuously. Did you come to see me in order to–er–satisfy yourself as to my appearance?’ She blushed fierily. ‘P-please forgive m-me!’ she begged, stammering dreadfully. ‘It w-was very r-rude of m-me, only you s-see I was surprised just for the m-moment.’‘If you were surprised, ma’am, what can I be but deeply flattered?’ said the Earl. ‘But if you did not come to look me over, do you think you could tell me what it is I am to have the honour of doing for you?’
‘It is because of L-Lizzie–my sister. You have offered for her, haven’t you?’
Slightly taken aback, the Earl bowed. Horatia said in a rush: ‘C-could you–would you m-mind very much–having m-me instead?’
‘Of c-course I know it ought to be Charlotte, for she is the elder, but she said nothing would induce her to m-marry you.’
His lips quivered. ‘In that case,’ he said, ‘it is fortunate that I did not solicit the honour of Miss Charlotte’s hand in marriage.’
‘But may I know whether I appear to all the members of your family in this disagreeable light?’ ‘Oh no!’ said Horatia earnestly. ‘M-mama is excessively pleased with you, and I myself d-don’t find you disagreeable in the least. And if only you would be so v-very obliging as to offer for m-me instead of Lizzie I should like you very well.’ ‘But why,’ asked Rule, ‘do you want me to offer for you?’
Horatia said eagerly: ‘Oh, you will take m-me instead?’ ‘No,’ said Rule, with a faint smile. ‘I won’t do that. But I will engage not to marry your sister. It’s not necessary to offer me an exchange, my poor child.’
‘B-but it is!’ said Horatia vigorously. ‘One of us m-must marry you!’ The Earl looked at her for a moment.
‘I think you must explain it all to me,’ he said. ‘I seem to be more than ordinarily dull this morning.’
Horatia knit her brows. ‘Well, I’ll t-try,’ she said. ‘You see, we’re so shockingly poor. Charlotte says it is all P-Pelham’s fault, and I dare say it may be, but it is no use blaming him, b-because he cannot help it. G-gambling, you know. Do you gamble?’
‘Sometimes,’ answered his lordship. The grey eyes sparkled. ‘So do I,’ declared Horatia unexpectedly. ‘N-not really, of course, but with Pelham. He taught me.
‘It’s v-vulgar to care about Settlements, but you are very rich, are you not?’ ‘Very,’ said his lordship, preserving his calm.
Horatia seemed determined to make a clean breast of her blemishes.
‘And p-perhaps you could become used to my eyebrows?’ The smile lurked at the back of Rule’s eyes. ‘I think, quite easily.’
She said sadly: ‘They won’t arch, you know. And I ought to t-tell you that we have quite given up hope of my g-growing any taller.’ ‘It would certainly be a pity if you did,’ said his lordship.
‘You m-may have n-noticed that I have a–a stammer.’ ‘Yes, I had noticed,’ the Earl answered gently.
‘If you f-feel you c-can’t bear it, sir, I shall quite understand,’ Horatia said in a small, anxious voice. ‘I like it,’ said the Earl.
‘It is very odd of you,’ marvelled Horatia. ‘But p-perhaps you said that to p-put me at my ease?’ ‘No,’ said the Earl. ‘I said it because it was true. Will you tell me how old you are?’
‘D-does it matter?’ Horatia inquired forebodingly. ‘Yes, I think it does,’ said his lordship. ‘I was afraid it m-might,’ she said. ‘I am t-turned seventeen.’
‘Turned seventeen!’ repeated his lordship. ‘My dear, I couldn’t do it.’ ‘I’m too young?’ ‘Much too young, child.’
Horatia swallowed valiantly. ‘I shall grow older,’ she ventured. ‘I d-don’t want to p-press you, but I am thought to be quite sensible.’
‘But I think that thirty-five makes a poor husband for seventeen.’ ‘P-pray do not give that a thought, sir!’ said Horatia earnestly. ‘I assure you, for my p-part I do not regard it at all.
In f-fact, I think I should quite like to marry you.’ ‘Would you?’ he said. ‘You do me great honour, ma’am.’ He came towards her, and she got up.
‘Well, to tell you the truth, Lizzie, I would like to m-marry him. But I c-can’t help wondering whether you are quite sure you d-don’t want to?’
‘I thought of that myself,’ admitted Horatia. ‘He s-says he thinks he will grow used to my horrid eyebrows quite easily. And I will t-tell you something, Charlotte! He said it would be a p-pity if I became any taller.’
‘My lord, let my treasured child answer you with her own lips. Horatia love, Lord Rule has done you the honour to request your hand in marriage.’
‘I t-told you he was going to, M-mama!’ said Horatia incorrigibly. ‘Horatia–I beg of you!’ implored the long-suffering lady. ‘Your curtsy, my love!’ Horatia sank obediently into a curtsy.
Mr Walpole’s face wore an approving smile, though he regretted that his god-daughter should be marrying a Tory. But then Mr Walpole was so very earnest a Whig, and even he seemed to think that Lady Winwood was right to disregard Rule’s political opinions.
The Macaroni, Mr Crosby Drelincourt, mechanically straightened the preposterous bow he wore in place of a cravat.
You do not look at all the thing, my dear fellow. In fact, I should almost feel inclined to recommend another hairpowder than this blue you affect. A charming tint, Crosby: you must not think I don’t admire it, but its reflected pallor upon your countenance.
But how in the world came they to put “Horatia” for “Elizabeth”?’ ‘You see,’ said Rule apologetically, ‘Arnold sent the advertisement to the Gazette.’
‘Well, I never would have believed Mr Gisborne to be so big a fool!’ declared her ladyship. ‘But perhaps I ought to explain, my dear Louisa, that he had my authority,’ said Rule still more apologetically.
‘Lord, Rule, what can you possibly mean?’ she demanded. ‘You’re not going to marry Horatia Winwood!’ ‘But I am,’ said his lordship calmly.
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, and how you can mean to marry Horatia, who must be still in the schoolroom, for I’m sure I have never clapped eyes on her–in place of that divinely beautiful Elizabeth–’
‘Ah, but I am going to grow used to the eyebrows,’ interrupted Rule. ‘And she has the Nose.’
‘When did you have this notion of marrying her?’ she asked. ‘Oh, I didn’t,’ replied the Earl. ‘It was not my notion at all.’ ‘Whose, then?’
‘Horatia’s, my dear. I thought I had explained.’ ‘Do you tell me, Marcus, the girl asked you to marry her?’ said Lady Louisa sarcastically.
‘Marcus, is the girl a minx?’ she asked. ‘No,’ he answered. ‘She is not, Louisa. I am not at all sure that she is not a heroine.’
The Earl’s eyes gleamed. ‘Well, I am rather old, you know, though no one would think it to look at me. But she assures me she would quite like to marry me. If my memory serves me, she prophesied that we should deal famously together.’
‘But for all that you are at my feet, Marcus, you have offered for another woman.’
‘Marriage,’ said his lordship pensively, ‘is such a very dull affair, you know.’ ‘Is it, my lord? Even marriage with the noble Earl of Rule?’
‘Even with me,’ agreed Rule. He looked down at her, a curious expression that was not quite a smile in his eyes. ‘You see, my dear, to use your own words, you would have to love me–only me.’
‘That would certainly be very dull,’ she said. She glanced sideways at him. ‘Are you perhaps jealous, my lord?’ ‘Not in the least,’ said the Earl placidly.
‘Not that I’m in the habit of borrowing from my friends, y’know, but I count you one of the family, Rule.’ ‘And admit me to its privileges,’ said the Earl gravely. ‘Admit me still further and let me have a list of your debts.’
The Viscount was momentarily startled. ‘Hey? What, all of ’em?’ He shook his head. ‘Devilish handsome of you, Rule, but can’t be done.’ ‘You alarm me,’ said Rule. ‘Are they beyond my resources?’ ‘The trouble is,’ said the Viscount confidentially, ‘I don’t know what they are.’
‘My resources, or your debts?’
‘I wanted her to lead you a dance,’ she [Louisa] said candidly. ‘I thought it would be very good for you. But I never dreamed she would make herself the talk of the town while you stood by and watched.’
‘You see, I hardly ever dance,’ Rule excused himself.
‘C-Crosby, your wig is l-like the last verse of the song. You know, it runs like this: Five pounds of hair they wear behind, the ladies to delight, O!–only it doesn’t delight us at all.’
‘Oh, and you c-carry a fan! Lady Amelia, only see! Mr Drelincourt has a fan m-much prettier than mine!’
‘Do you find me a sore trial, Arnold? I am sure you must. It is time I made amends.’ ‘Does that mean you will look over the accounts, sir?’ asked Mr Gisborne hopefully.
‘No, my dear boy, it does not. But you may–ah–use your own discretion in the matter of Mr Drelincourt’s embarrassments.’
Mr Gisborne gave a short laugh. ‘If I were to use my own discretion, sir, Mr Drelincourt’s ceaseless demands on your generosity would find their way into the fire!’ he said roundly. ‘Precisely,’ nodded the Earl, and went on up the stairs.
Attracted by Lethbridge she might be, but there was a very cogent reason why she should not be in the least in love with him. The reason stood well over six foot in height, and was going to be shown, in vulgar parlance, that what was sauce for the goose could be sauce for the gander as well.
Glamour might still have clung to a rakehell who abducted noble damsels, but no glamour remained about a man who had been pushed into a pond in full ball-dress.
‘If a man gives a party, he ought to know what kind of party it is,’ argued the Viscount. ‘If you don’t know, how are we to know? It might be a damned soirée, in which case we wouldn’t have come. Let’s go home, Pom.’
‘Rid yourself of the notion that any of you are here by my invitation,’ said Lethbridge unpleasantly, and moved across to the table.
‘If your object was to drag my name in the mud, why, certainly!’ said Rule. ‘My wife remains my wife. Presently you shall tell me by what means you forced her to enter your house.’
Lethbridge raised his brows. ‘And what makes you so sure that I had any need to employ force, my lord?’
‘Merely my knowledge of her,’ replied the Earl. ‘You have a vast deal of explaining to do, you see.’
‘Oh, make no mistake! I am all the villain you think me. She saved herself.’
‘When I married you there was another woman in my life. She is not there now, my darling, and in my heart she never had a place.’
‘Oh, M-Marcus, put m-me there!’ Horatia said on a sob. ‘You are there,’ he answered, and caught her up in his arms and kissed her, not gently at all, but ruthlessly, crushing all the breath out of her body. ‘Oh!’ gasped Horatia. ‘Oh, I n-never knew you could k-kiss like that!’
‘But I can, you see,’ said his lordship. ‘And–I am sorry if you do not like it, Horry–I am going to do it again.’
‘But I d-do like it!’ said Horatia. ‘I l-like it very m-much!’