Sometimes, Miss Bates’ reading is desultory. Sometimes, “the world is too much with us” and our ability to immerse ourselves in a book is distracted and restless, no matter how willing we are, no matter how much we desire to lose ourselves in story. Miss Bates read Georgette Heyer’s The Convenient Marriage in fits and starts, dribs and drabs: picking it up for only minutes at a time; then, dropping it to follow the latest debacle on Twitter. She read trusted points of view on the Kathleen Hale/Guardian disappointment and wrestled with her redefinition of Miss Bates Reads Romance and a return to her original purpose. The blogger black-out was a blessing in disguise: for the first time in over a year, Miss Bates had to put the blogging aside and think about the blogging. With so many voices raised in protest, she re-acquainted herself with other blogs, ones she’d visited daily before MBRR, always anticipating a post, places where she typed her first comments, places of welcome and delight. Throughout, she read without any great concentration, but with commitment to get through the darn thing, Heyer’s Convenient Marriage proving inconvenient.
Miss Bates was bored, bothered, and preoccupied … and then, Horry took a poker to Lethbridge and she was captivated. That’s what it takes, dear readers, one delightful, or profound moment and the book can take us away, out of the daily into the “other” place … the paradox of the fictional world which, in a moment, becomes more real than waking reality. Horry emerged: impetuous, immature, and heavy-browed; Lethbridge, vindictive, unhappy, and strangely sympathetic; and then, Rule, he who ruled over all, urbane, powerful, wise, utterly charming and loveable. BUT … Miss Bates had to contend with the breaking point of the novel: Rule, wonderful as he may be, is 35 and his wife is 17. This never left Miss Bates’ mind and she never quite made her peace with it. But she loved the novel and will have to live with her conflicted feelings. Because, sometimes, that’s what fiction leaves us, a sublime discord that we can pull out and think about for distraction, delight, and discussion 😉
Rule rules over all: he dominates with languid ease. He remains one step ahead of every character in the novel. His power and ability are not immediately apparent. The Convenient Marriage has an innocuously entertaining opening: Miss Horatia Winwood, 17, precocious and not of conventional beauty, with an endearing stammer, proposes marriage to the Earl of Rule to save her older sister, Lizzie, from marrying him. At 35, handsome, powerful, rich, and titled, he’s a catch. His dominance is established early through tiny, but significant details focused on his physicality: “his lordship’s laced and scented coats concealed an extremely powerful frame, so his weary eyelids drooped over eyes [‘bored grey eyes’] that could become as keen as the brain behind.” Even more than the reckless “Devil’s Cub,” as Miss Bates has written before, the appearance of sybaritic languor belies the power of mind, body and spirit in Heyer’s hero. Lizzie Winwood is in love with Mr. Edward Heron, a military man recently returned from the war in America. It’s 1776. Miss Bates loved Horry’s proposal scene. Rule’s magnanimous superiority is apparent: Horry is naïve; Rule is all worldly kindness and indulgence and that pretty much sets the tone of the relationship for the duration. Except there’s A LOT of plot and MANY secondary characters.
What attracted Miss Bates to The Convenient Marriage was the marriage-of-convenience trope. She loves this working out of a relationship in the confines of commitment between two people who barely know one another. Rule and Horry’s marriage is particularly problematic because of their age difference, but it works, despite many complications, because of the tack Rule takes with Horry: he lovingly releases her into a precarious social whirl with temptations and pitfalls. Miss Bates likes to think he does so because, unlike Horry, he realizes their age difference is an issue. Miss Bates likes to think that he lets Horry grow up before they embark on/consummate their marriage. (There’s a final scene to which Miss Bates will refer later to bolster her present speculation.) Most importantly, Rule allows Horry to sow her wild oats: to be young and reckless and free … though he never lifts his protective mantle from her. He watches over her discreetly, subtly, and lovingly. He lets her make mistakes, but never irreparable ones.
Rule rules supreme, a master puppeteer who pulls the strings of kindness where it’s merited and those of justice where it’s deserved. Rule can be measured against the other characters in the context of the convoluted plot that ensues. To start, Horry’s family are not appealing, thought they fade into benign indifference after Horry and Rule’s marriage, except for her hot-headed brother, Pel. He is Vidal without the charm, or the sharpness of mind: a reckless freeloader puffed up with self-importance. There’s a villain, Robert, Baron Lethbridge, a more interesting one than usual, nuanced and almost sympathetic. He’s resented Rule since Rule stopped him from marrying Rule’s sister, Louisa. He doesn’t carry a torch, but he’s resented the slight to his amour-propre and uses Horry’s penchant for extravagance and weakness for gambling and partying to near-exact that revenge. Rule’s heir, Mr. Crosby Drelincourt, is a nasty little worm, a coward and buffoon, who also tries to take advantage of Horry’s social bustle and bother. Sir Roland Pommeroy, not the brightest button on the waistcoat, is Pel’s side-kick, good-natured and honourable. Not one of them matches Rule in mind, spirit, finesse, charm, physical prowess, or virtue. (Horry comes close, but she has to do some growing up first.) Rule is elevated; Horry is immature; everyone else is a caricature … except Lethbridge. No twirling moustache villain, he harbors a deep-seated hatred of Rule. There’s a wonderful scene when Rule confronts him over his machinations involving Horry, when the game is up, and Lethbridge admits defeat, in which Rule is compassionate (is there no end to how we are compelled to admire him?):
‘Experience – leads me to admit – you may have been right to stop Louisa marrying me. I have none of the husbandly virtues. Is she happy with her country squire? I am sure she is; at best women are – dull creatures.’ His face contracted with pain. [Preceding is one of the best sword fight scenes Miss B. has read.] He said irritably: ‘Wipe my sword and sheath it. I shall use it again, believe me.’ He watched Rule in silence for a moment, and as the sword slid back into the scabbard, he sighed. ‘Do you remember fencing with me at Angelo’s?’
‘I remember,’ Rule answered, half smiling. ‘We were always very even-matched.’
‘You have improved. Where’s that damned leech? I’ve not the slightest desire to oblige you by dying.’
‘Do you know, Robert, it would really not oblige me?’ …
… Lethridge gave a wry smile. ‘I could not wish you a deadlier fate than to be in my shoes now, Marcus.’ He held out his left hand. ‘I’ve done with you. You arouse the worst in me, you know. Your cut will heal quicker than mine, for which I am sorry. It was a good fight – I don’t remember a better. Hatred lends a spice, doesn’t it? If you want to add to your damned goodness, send word to my fool of a valet to join me here.’
“If you want to add to your damned goodness … ” is the key to Rule. In this elliptical man-talk (one of Miss B.’s favourite scenes), even more so than Rule’s indulgence of Horry’s shenanigans, we see his worth through his rueful compassion. After Rule defeats Lethbridge, he cares for him, he serves him: he doesn’t diminish, or humiliate him. He allows Lethbridge and he to part as equals. Miss Bates particularly loves the subtle use of first names to establish this familiarity and point to a long-standing not just rivalry, but peculiar friendship.
To conclude Miss B’s discussion of The Convenient Marriage is the inconvenience of falling in love. This is Miss B’s favourite aspect of the MoC trope: how the heroine and hero assume they’ve arranged for a comfortable solution to whatever reasons underlie the marriage, only to be foiled by the unfamiliar need and desire for the other. Certainly Heyer’s novel sets this up marvelously: Rule must marry and provide an heir and Horry is destined to marry and saving her sister is an excellent reason to do so. Horry, in particular, doesn’t expect anything more than a conventional, convenient arrangement of her marriage. Miss B. thinks that is not exactly so for Rule: he marries Horry because he likes her and he shows his honourable hand immediately by putting his mistress aside. Horry, on the other hand, expects Rule to behave in a conventional manner: by keeping a mistress, she doesn’t expect love, or respect from Rule. Once Horry exhausts the possibilities of extravagance and social diversion, she slowly realizes how much Rule means to her. And Rule waits for her: there are so many lovely scenes where he exhibits patience and kindness towards her. And to return to the age difference, Miss B. quotes the final … sigh … so lovely scene between them:
Left alone with her husband, Horatia stole a glance at him under her lashes. He was looking gravely down at her. She said, the stammer very pronounced: ‘Rule, I truly w-will try to be the s-sort of wife you w-wanted, and not m-make any m-more scandals or get into any scrapes.’
‘You are the sort of wife I wanted,’ he answered.
‘Am-am I?’ faltered Horatia, lifting her eyes to his face.
He came up to her. ‘Horry,’ he said, ‘once you told me that I was rather old, but in spite of that we married one another. Will you tell me now, my dearest – was I too old?’
‘You’re not old at all,’ said Horatia, her face puckering. ‘You are j-just the right age for – for a husband, only I was young and stupid and I thought – I thought – ‘
He raised her hand to his lips. ‘I know, Horry,’ he said. ‘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 like it very m-much!’
Miss Bates loved that Marcus asks Horatia about the very issue at the heart of their marriage, their age difference. She asks her how she feels about it, what she thinks, what she wants. And Miss Bates also likes to think that this is the beginning of their full marriage, as delightfully indicated by a kiss such as Horry hasn’t experienced before, Heyer’s subtlety in pointing to not only the omnipotent hero, but the potent one. There’s a lot to be said for subtlety in passion in an age where romance novels are too often comprised of tedious, standardized de rigeur sex scenes. Nothing equals the power of suggestion.
Miss Bates is indebted to a Twitter convo with Ros about Rule’s kindness, in Miss B.’s humble opinion, a romance hero’s greatest quality.
Have you read Heyer’s Convenient Marriage, dear reader? If so, how did you come to terms with the heroine and hero’s age difference? And what did you like best about it? What criticisms do you have?
42 thoughts on “He RULES Over All: Georgette Heyer’s CONVENIENT MARRIAGE and Omnipotent Hero”
“Miss Bates likes to think he does so because, unlike Horry, he realizes their age difference is an issue.”
He does; he admits that ‘thirty-five makes a poor husband for seventeen’. And I’m pretty sure he tells Louisa something similar when she suggests he should keep a closer rein on Horry. I think Rule is always aware of not only the age difference but also the power difference between him and Horry. And that is why he treads so carefully and so slowly – unlike the older billionaires with young heroines in so many of today’s romances. He doesn’t overwhelm her into falling for him, he doesn’t hide her away but gives her the chance to learn for herself what the world can offer, so that she turns to him freely and willingly. I really, really like that about him. I agree with your reading of that final scene, too. I think that’s also implied in the scene where he goes to her boudoir. It’s clear that Horry doesn’t expect to see him there.
I’m so glad you persevered and discovered the charms of this Heyer in the end! Horry is such a fabulous heroine – as Rule himself says of her.
Miss Bates persevered because of your comment about Rule’s kindness: it made her want to look for that in every scene and every gesture. And it came through so beautifully: there was no better way Rule could have handled it. Miss Bates *nods* at your observation about the “power difference”. It is true, not only because of his title and privilege, but in experience and understanding of the world. AND SHE LOVED your comment about the boudoir scene: she’d forgotten that, but you brought it back and it makes for a lovely addition to the final scene and its “crushing” kiss. Miss Bates would also say that another tidbit adds to that: when Capt.? Heron returns, he tells the company that Lizzie, Horry’s sister, is expecting … there is no such suggestion for Horry, so it’s wasn’t because Heyer hesitated to put that in her novel.
Oh, what a lovely post, MissB! You captured all that I love about this book. It’s Horry’s journey, but the book belongs to Rule. And Lethbridge, who in today’s genre world would definitely get his own installment in a series. I appreciate Lethbridge more and more on the rereads.
I never had much trouble with the age difference. As you say, Rule understands the pitfalls of that difference and does all he can to mitigate them. I think he married Horry because, as she and Louisa note, someone in that family had to marry him, and he appreciated her at first sight and wanted to give her an opportunity that she was unlikely to get otherwise (given her eyebrows and her height 😉 ).
You can see characters from the other early Heyers mirrored here, which is also fun to track, especially on rereads.
Thank you! It was a lot of fun to write, though the reading of it was plagued with all manner of external anxieties. But it’s nice to get back to book thought and book talk!
Miss B. is so glad you share the Lethbridge love: he was such an interesting character and that fight scene, Miss B. was mezmerized. Rule’s actions to follow and Lethbridge’s grudging but true understanding of Rule’s ethical superiority was so so good. Love the eyebrows and height detail … just sayin’, as heavy-browed and vertically-challenged myself 😉
Miss B. loved the book when the characters finally came alive for her: maybe in the first third, there weren’t enough interactions between Horry and Rule to satisfy. But in noting what Rule was doing to deal with all the differences between them, it made sense. Now that Miss B. has a few Heyers under her belt, like a few Neels, she can begin to make comparisons.
Well, that settles it… I think I need to read this book.
I’ve only read one Heyer, Cotillion, which I loved (because its hero is not so smart, and I’ve a soft spot for not-so-smart heroes), but I found the voice (and the voice of authors who write in the style of Heyer) very difficult to adjust to, very nearly uncomfortable. There’s all this lightness and sprightliness that comes across as almost manic to me because the books don’t shy away from reality. In Cotillion, the heroine befriends a very pretty girl whose mother is a bit vulgar, and, later in the book, we find out that the object of the heroine’s affections (his name might be Jack) has been sniffing after the girl to give her a carte blanche. And the heroine is perfectly happy when some French fellow who may or may not be a family connection (honestly, I don’t remember… it was years ago) falls in love with her and convinces her to elope with him. The whole thing is like “ha ha ha!! That takes care of the French guy AND the vulgar friend, and she didn’t end up being forced to sell her body to Jack. Well done!” but…. OH MY GOD can we talk for a second about the implications of that whole plot line? It all ends well, because the heroine ends up with Freddy, who’s maybe not the sharpest knife in the drawer but is at least steady and good humored (and more practical than the heroine), but…
I don’t know… I did love the book, but I think I might be allergic to that manic, high-spirited style of writing.
Does this rambling comment make any damn sense at all? Do you know what I mean about the writing style (even though I know I didn’t communicate it well)?
Miss B. knows exactly of what you speak. That was her reaction to reading her first Heyer: These Old Shades, especially because the heroine, who’s dressed as a boy for most of the novel, Leonie-Leon, is manically in awe and love of Avon. She’s always sitting at his feet and she’s fey and, yes, manically, maniacally, sprightly. Miss Bates thinks that if one is to appreciate, nay enjoy, even love, Heyer, one has to make peace with that style. And the style comes from the fact that there is very little, nil?, internal worlds to her characters. Ye shall know them by gesture and action and eyes, eyes are very important to Heyer and minute changes in facial expression and body language: this is how Heyer, in Miss B’s humble opinion, establishes character, like Rule and Horry. Secondary characters tend to caricature.
Miss Bates finds it interesting that Heyer is often viewed as a direct descendant and homage to Jane Austen. At least, in these early novels that she’s read, she just doesn’t see it. Because Austen, you see, for Miss B., is the reason, the initiator, of the internal state in the English novel. In these early works, Heyer isn’t interested. Maybe it’s something that develops later, in the Regency novels, though Cotillion is one and Miss Bates doesn’t see it from what you’ve described. Miss Bates thinks that Heyer owes more to adventure novels and swashbuckling novels (the sword fight scene in The Convenient Marriage is awesome) than she does to Austen’s manners and sedate stories and prose, novels like The Scarlet Pimpernel and Scaramouche.
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I agree. I think the Austen/Heyer link is literally as shallow and trivial as that they wrote books set in more or less the same time period. Not reckoning with the fact that Austen wrote contemporary novels and Heyer historicals, as well as the huge gulf in style and genre.
I went to a Heyer conference a few years ago and one of the most interesting papers was on the publication history of the books, which included slides of many early covers. You could clearly see that her books weren’t published as romance, but as action adventure (you can see an early cover of Regency Buck here: http://wordwenches.typepad.com/word_wenches/2006/05/the_cover_of_re.html) Some of them are, of course, much more obviously the forerunners of the modern historical romance, but there aren’t many which dwell on internal discourse. Perhaps Venetia – which is also, in my opinion, the most romantic of all Heyer’s books.
So succinct and well told! Miss B. is looking forward to Venetia even more now …
I will be interested in what you think of Venetia, Miss Bates. For I have been surprised by all the Venetia love going around in various Heyer conversations. It’s one of my least favorite Heyers, possibly because there’s less humor, less knowing characters by their actions, and body language, and more pining away and (IMHO) misplaced self abnegation. but, perhaps that’s just my immature preference for action and humor in my romance novels 😉
Well, it’s interesting that Ros thinks Venetia Heyer’s most romantic novel, so Miss B.’ll definitely read it with this and your comment in mind! Miss B. is currently reading a nice little category, but it is so heavy on the angst, she’s yearning for a little Heyeresque action and humour big-time.
I’m fascinated by your impression that there is less humor (there is a lot less slapstick/farce than in other Heyers I grant you). To me Venetia is one of the wittiest and funniest books Heyer has written. The opening scene where Venetia talks about the fox getting their best layer and providing replies because Aubrey is too self-absorbed. Or the kitten scene. Green trees and green girls. Or Venetia talking about orgies when Mr Hendred is present to show him how well she and Damerel are suited. Rose petals strewn on her bed. And I’d agree it’s definitely one of the most romantic for me. 🙂
I agree that there is less action and this is exactly why Venetia is my no. 1 Heyer. I very much disagree that there is ‘less knowing characters by their actions and body language’. I’d posit the exact opposite and I love Venetia because it’s *all* about how Damerel and Venetia relate to each other. They observe each other very closely and gestures and looks are prominent throughout. Oftentimes, it’s the body language/interrupted/deliberately brokem moments that speak louder than the dialogue.
I never ceases to fascinate me how we can read the exact same words and come to the opposite conclusions. 🙂
I love this book, because I’m so very fond of Horry. Rule’s great, and I agree with all you say about him — I especially appreciate his awareness that the kind of love he wants from Horry has to be given freely, so he HAS to give her plenty of space and freedom to figure out what she wants.
Lethbridge is a wonderful foil for Rule — not quite his equal, but closer than most of the characters in the book. Which Rule realizes; they are much the same type of man, and they have more in common than different, and that scene where it’s acknowledged is wonderful.
But for me it’s Horry. She’s brave, independent, determined to be her own person, and she has amazing potential. I love watching her realize that, and admitting when she’s made a mistake or been a fool, and I love Rule for seeing potential in her and giving her the opportunity to fulfill it.
This time through the book, I realized that Rule doesn’t give up his mistress as early as I remembered. He’s still seeing her after the wedding, and I think it’s almost as much her behavior as his commitment to Horry that causes him to end it. Given that Rule is holding off on consummating the marriage, that actually makes sense, but it hadn’t struck me that way the first time I read the book.
I agree with you about many of Heyer’s books being more like adventure novels than anything Austen wrote. Beauvallet is explicitly that way, but even in the romance novels, there are abductions, hidden identities, hold-ups, fights, and other excitements. You just don’t get those in Austen, and when you do get a fight, it’s almost always off-page. I think that’s why the rollicking language makes sense, although I agree that it can be hard to read; at their best, these books really MOVE, with an occasional introspective, tender moment that’s all the better for being rare. I have to be in the right mood for Heyer, that’s for sure.
Oh, it’s so great that you gave your idea of Horry’s worth: Miss Bates admits that was her response to Horry in the initial proposal scene. And why Rule marries her, Miss Bates thinks: she’s charming, innocent, and ready to sacrifice her happiness for her sister. How could he NOT want her. But Miss B. admits to letting Horry fade as she focused more and more on Rule.
Miss B. was fascinated by the idea that Rule doesn’t “put away” his mistress till after his marriage to Horry … because, because then it means that, to a certain extent, when he married Horry, while he liked her, he too expected his marriage to follow the usual society course. And if he puts his mistress off because of her behaviour, then maybe it’s because she doesn’t hold a candle to what he’s found in Horry?
I read Cotillion because I found it in a charity shop, but couldn’t see what the Heyer fuss was about. This one sounds more interesting. Thanks for inspiring me to make another run at reading her.
She is an acquired taste, like some dishes that take getting used to, and then become irresistible. Miss B. also thinks that, after a few tries (and you should give Heyer one more chance), it’s a-okay to say, I’ve tried and this isn’t for me. Reading should bring the deepest pleasure and revelation: if it’s not doing it for you …
She may just not be for you. But if it makes you feel better, I don’t share the general Cotillion love at all but love TCM (and Venetia, Sprig Muslin, Black Sheep and April Lady). 🙂 Hope you try again and if she doesn’t work, on to other authors! 🙂
It’s been a while since I read this one, but one of the things that has stuck with me is the way Rule allows Horry to make -and learn from – her own mistakes, while always being there in the background, her safety-net. There’s something incredibly sexy about a man who displays that kind of knowledge and insight (as well as all the other things about him that contribute to his attractiveness 😉 ) and who, moreover, has the confidence to do what he does by letting Horry have the amount of freedom she has.
In terms of the age gap; it’s never really bothered me, partly because I don’t think the storyline would have worked had Rule been too much younger. He needs that maturity in order to be able to give Horry the space she needs in order for her to start to grow up. Also, before I became a hardened romance reader, I could be found with my nose in a 19th Century novel, and in many of those such age gaps are not uncommon – as you will surely know, Miss B., given your own, dear Miss Woodhouse’s happy match. So I suppose I am used to such things.
Thank you for a lovely review.
You’re very welcome! And this is such a great assessment! 🙂
“A hardened romance reader,” what Miss B. is too … yes, and most celebratory is her very own Miss Woodhouse and her happy match with the nearly 17-years-her-senior Mr. Knightley. In a way, that is such a great comparison because Knightley too waits for Emma to grow up, to mature, and to make her mistakes on the way, though he’s sterner than Rule, Miss Bates would say.
I have a couple of thoughts (and it’s many a year since I read ACM). I remember the times my step-father sat waiting for me to come out of anaesthetic after surgeries and a nurse saying to me that you don’t often seeing men doing the waiting that’s women’s work. Rule’s waiting for Horry is usually the female role. Rule’s waiting is a choice; this means that his lack of direct action is not therefore passive. Waiting (especially women waiting) is normally construed as passive so it is interesting how his choice to wait and to take the actions that enable his waiting is the heart of his heroic action.
It’s also interesting to think of Rule and Horry’s relationship in light of the emerging focus on affirmative consent in our times. I see Rule seeking Horry’s consent at each step in their relationship. Knowing at the beginning of their relationship that Horry can’t give it fully and knowingly as the inexperienced, sheltered 17 year old she is, he gives her the space and the experiences to become the woman who can give her wholehearted, knowing consent to their marriage.
Miss Bates wants to hug this comment 🙂 It’s just such a perfect affirmation of the novel, of what women “do” and what man can choose to “do”. She’s so glad that your stepfather was there for you and took that role. And what a perfect description of the dynamic between Rule and Horry. You may have read it ages ago, but you’ve kept the heart of it.
I am very sad to realize that I don’t remember whether I’ve read this particular Heyer or not. If I have, it’s somewhere in my physical shelves, so I’ll go hunt it down in the next few days.
I am still mulling my feelings about the rather notable age difference between the protagonists, as my first instinct is to say, “she’s too young, there’s too large a power imbalance to make true love possible” yet my own family history contradicts this feeling.
My maternal grandmother was barely 17 when she married my grandfather–who was 39. They had only a bit over two decades together before he died of cancer, and by all accounts they were very happy together through thick and (mostly) thin. For the next forty years, and until the day she died, my grandmother loved him.
So I’m back to not being sure how I feel about it–ergo, needing to read the book and pay attention to how Heyer does it.
Thank you for another lovely, thought provoking post, Ms Bates!
It’s interesting, because I think Heyer makes the age difference work here but I close ‘These Old Shades’ feeling doubt about the possibility of equal partnership between Leonie and Avon.
Oh, what a lovely, moving story about your grand-parents, it’s so difficult to judge … though the age difference feels uncomfortable, that they were happy together, who would begrudge them that?
Miss B. does so hope that you do reread the novel because she’d say that Heyer deals this in a perceptive and sensitive fashion by creating such a marvelous couple. And though Miss Bates’ slant is hero-centric, the comments have elevated Horry so beautifully too! 🙂
Well, you have certainly convinced me to give this one another re-read. I had previously said that it isn’t one of my favorites. But I suspect a re-read, while I’m in the right mood, will move it up the list. Thanks for the fabulous review.
Now to dig it off my crowded shelves.
One more thing, though, that has puzzled me over the years–just why did Rule offer for Lizzie? Merely because she was suitable?(nice looks, good manners, good family, etc.) Early on, when Horry first offers herself as a replacement, she mentions something about Rule wanting to marry into the family–is the “why” he would want to ever explained??
I remembering wondering about that as well back when I first read this book. I’ve now decided that it is just a Macguffin. Heyer happily forgot about it once it served its purpose of getting Horry and Rule together.
Apparently, as Miss B’s response to Barb indicates, something that had been arranged “years ago.” But we aren’t given further details.
Oh, thank you! Miss B. is pleased you enjoyed it; she certainly loved writing it, once the kerfuffles abated and she was FINALLY able to focus. She’s awfully glad to hear that you might try to re-read: it takes some patience after the proposal scene, then gets so so good from mid-point to the glorious end.
A great question and glad you asked it. Miss B. started reading this so long ago, she couldn’t remember very well, thought it was peculiar too, especially because the Winwoods are a family whose financial straits are established on the first page by their “too narrow” stairway and a “carpet positively shabby.” Apparently, Rule offers for Lizzie because, as Horry herself declares when her aunt asks, “It’s Elizabeth Rule wants,” “No, only a Winwood … All arranged years ago. I d-don’t believe he’s set eyes on L-Lizzie upwards of half a dozen times. It can’t signify.” This detail, when we think about it, establishes early Rule’s honour and “keeping his word” that we admire of him in his treatment of his new, young, and naïve wife.
Thanks for this lovely commentary on Convenient Marriage! I loved this book when I first read it decades ago, but when I re-read it last year, I too found the huge age difference jarring – so much has changed in our thinking about this kind of thing since the ’70’s! But the story of Rule and his careful handling of his high-spirited adolescent bride, and the story of how they come together stands up to the test of time pretty well as you point out. Also, Lethbridge *sigh* . I’ve often wished that there had been a book about Louisa so we could have learned their back story which Heyer sketches out so cleverly in this book. April Lady deals with a somewhat similar theme, and has some similarities to this book, but is more of transition into the straight romance of her later novels, and you might find the similarities and differences of interest.
What a fascinating idea: you are so right. Miss Bates too would have loved to have read Lethbridge as the villain in the love story between Louisa and her “country squire,” as Lethbridge tosses at Rule with contempt. But you can hear how bothered he is still. Miss Bates will definitely add April Lady to the Tottering TBR.
I am very familiar with the Tottering TBR syndrome 🙂 April Lady is interesting to compare to Convenient Marriage because there is a big age and experience gap here as well, but the heroine is a more timid timid type than Horry, while the hero, Lord Cardross is somewhat like Rule. Will have to dig out my aged copy out AL, which is probably falling apart, and look at it in this light. Also now pondering what makes a book “romantic.” Depends a lot on personal taste, I guess. Have been trying to decide which Heyer I think is “most romantic” and having a hard time of it. The Masqueraders, Sylvester, and A Civil Contract, which I acknowledge are almost ludicrously different from each other, would all be high on my list – but not Venetia. Looking forward to your read of it!
Glad you enjoyed it after all. It’s one of my absolute favorites in terms of relationship development (enough so that I can stomach all the farcical elements). I read it very early in my rom reading and very young (early teens) so age difference didn’t bother me at all then and while I admit to more twitches in general these days, I think TCM works so well because as you said Rule is aware.
My favorite scenes are the boudoir scene Ros mentioned, the scene where he asks her to come with him to Merrion and the scene where Louisa is all ‘you can make all these other women love you, why not Horry’ and he says ‘because I’m too old’. With all his power, there’s a lovely humility in Rule. As Sonomalass mentioned, he doesn’t give up his mistress until after the card game. I’m glad I didn’t quite catch onto that as a young’in because that’s a serious no-no for me.
I second April Lady. More farce, less relationship development, similar age difference, but I love it for the moments when the main couple are together.
Miss Bates did, she enjoyed it very much. Oh, she’s so glad you reminded her of that conversation with Rule because, yes, it only brings home the fact that he’s never not aware of the age difference. And the precariousness of his place in Horry’s heart, if at all, if at all possible for him to attain. It may explain his impassioned kiss even further … he must be both desperate and relieved to know where he stands in her heart. There is a “lovely humility” to Rule.
Yay for another kudo for April Lady … though Miss Bates’ next Heyer read will be Regency Buck!
I shall be interested to know what you make of Regency Buck. For me, it’s one of the few Heyers I disliked more with each reading.
Oh, how intriguing!!!
It used to be on my top 5 list (again, read first when I was very young) and then I listened to it on audio and now I don’t even reread it any longer. I’m with Ros: very curious what you’ll think of it. 🙂
We have long duties in December and it will be Miss B’s companion: wonder whether MissB’ll be peevish, or happy?
I’m with Growly Cub on this. I enjoyed Regency Buck as an adolescent, although I never found the structuring of the mystery bit of it very satisfying. Heyer’s contemporary mysteries are often quite amusing, and shrewdly observe class aspects of British society, but this mystery gets a fail from me, although Talisman Ring is another period romance that’s quite good in this department. There’s also a fair chunk of male dominance running through this, some of it expressed in ways that today makes us think of “rape culture.” Heyer does the harsh male hero far better in Grand Sophy, Faro’s Daughter and Bath Tangle, IMO, while I personally prefer the worldly, cultured (yet manly!) heroes like Rule, Waldo Hawkridge in The Nonesuch, Richard Wyndham in The Corinthian, and Robert Beaumaris in Arabella. BTW, not saying all these are among her best books, just that this hero type has more appeal, particularly looking through today’s lens. Like Growly Cub and Ros, will definitely be interested in your thoughts!
So many “controversial” opinions coming in about Regency Buck. Miss Bates can’t wait to read it. She does have a story about it, though: she was at some English conference and was sharing her new-found blogging love with a colleague, “You review romance? Really? You mean like Regency Buck? … I loved that book. It’s the only romance I’ve ever read.” So, we’ll see what Miss Bates thinks. 😉
Wow, that was a fantastic discussion. I am a huge Heyer fan, and while I think Convenient Marriage is very middle of the pack, this discussion is forcing me to think deeper. Its rather late to chime into this conversation, but I look forward to the one about Regency Buck (which I also dislike and like Ros said, increasingly dislike over time)
Welcome to the discussion … the more voices, the better for books! Oh, so much ambivalence and not-lasting-love for Regency Buck. Miss Bates anticipates her reading.
It is definitely worth reading Regency Buck if only so that you can then read and thoroughly enjoy the sequel, An Infamous Army, which also features the elderly but still indomitable Vidal and Mary from Devil’s Cub.
Yes to An Infamous Army! (I know GC will disagree with me : -) Heyer’s description of the Battle of Waterloo is famous for accuracy, and has been praised by military historians. Plus, I love Lady Babs and her gold spangly toe nails. Also Charles Audley, who is to Lady Babs in this story much as Mary is to Vidal in Devil’s Cub.
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