Bath Tangle (by Georgette Heyer)

As always, I'm slowly reading my way through Georgette Heyer's excellent historical romance books, of which I have most in my collection. They're my 'comfort reading' - the books I turn to when I want something that will engage my mind and my heart, and give a guaranteed satisfactory ending.

I last read 'Bath Tangle' in 2002, almost exactly six years ago. I've read it at least twice before then, and thus had some memory of the plot. The story opens with the funeral of the Earl of Spenborough, who is particularly mourned by his strong-willed and temperamental daughter, Serena.

The Earl also left a widow, his second wife Fanny, who was considerably younger than him - indeed, she is a few years younger even than her stepdaughter. They are very different: Fanny is gentle, rather naive, and likes to be looked after, while Serena is hot-tempered and independent.

Nevertheless, Fanny and Serena are very fond of each other, and decide to set up house together. This is reasonably successful, but after a few months they decide to take a break in Bath, where they meet a strange variety of people.

Naturally it's a low-key love story; the 'tangle' in the title gives a clue that the threads are not at all straightforward. Serena was once engaged to Lord Rotherham, an old friend of her father's; however she broke the engagement, since they spent their time arguing hotly. To her annoyance, Rotherham has been appointed as one of her trustees. Serena claims that the only man she ever loved was Hector, a young man who went off to join the army seven years previously.

The plot is enlivened by the encroaching Lady Laleham, who tries to push her shy daughter Emily into Rotherham's circles - Emily, to be fair, is nice enough, albeit not very intelligent and very innocent. Emily has a delightful grandmother, too, whom her mother is ashamed of. And Rotherham's oldest ward, the boastful and rather annoying Gerard, has developed a youthful passion for Emily.

There are a lot of people but they're introduced gradually, and as always with Georgette Heyer, seem immediately believable - even those who are actually slightly caricatured. I could actually relate better to Fanny than to Serena, but certainly admired the latter as one of Heyer's typically modern heroines, set in the early 19th century amidst its restrictive society rules.

All in all, an enjoyable light read. Recommended, and almost continually in print.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 24th August 2008

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