Arabella (by Georgette Heyer)

I do like Georgette Heyer! I keep writing this, I know. I am at least consistent. I first started reading her books in my teens, and loved them then; I've re-read most of them at least two or three times, often more, and enjoy them just as much thirty years later.

The last time I read 'Arabella' was in 2002, so it was more than time for a re-read. I knew it was one of my favourites, so took it slowly.

It's the story of an attractive girl of seventeen called Arabella. She lives in Yorkshire, the eldest daughter of a kind, if somewhat naive vicar. She has a couple of older brothers and several younger siblings, and knows that it's her duty to marry well. Her parents are not wealthy, and the education of her brothers (far more important, in Regency times, than the education of girls!) is proving expensive.

Arabella has a rich, albeit somewhat shallow godmother in London, thanks to the forethought of her mother. This lady has no daughters, and is delighted at the idea of bringing Arabella 'out' as a debutante in a London season. Arabella is a young lady of strong principle, with a good sense of humour, and a tendency to react impetuously when she is angered in any way. Unfortunately this latter tendency means that she starts her season under false pretences, having made a claim to be someone much wealthier than in fact she is...

The hero of the story, Robert Beaumaris, is one of Heyer's best heroes. Elegant, rather bored, and excessively wealthy, he finds himself first determined to make Arabella a big hit, and then - rather to his surprise - he becomes very fond of her. He has many faults, but they're all vindicated by both his sense of humour, and his sense of honour.

The overall plot is, of course, a low-key romance with predictable (and most satisfactory) ending. But along the way there are many unexpected twists and turns; even on the fifth or sixth re-reading, I found myself amused, surprised, and very taken with the whole story yet again.

I look forward to re-reading it once more in another six or seven years.

Highly recommended. Currently in print on both sides of the Atlantic, but widely available in charity shops and other second-hand bookshops.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 19th October 2009

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