Black Sheep (by Georgette Heyer)

I love Georgette Heyer's light historical romances. Her writing is crisp, ironic and authentic; her characters believable and all different. I re-read all her books every so often, preferably after a gap of at least four or five years. She is my ultimate in 'comfort reading'.

I last read 'Black Sheep' in 2002, so it was more than time for a re-read.

It's the story of Abby, a strong-minded and independent young lady in her late twenties. She lives with her loyal, but sometimes foolish sister Serena, and their orphaned seventeen-year-old niece Fanny, who will one day come into a large inheritance.

At the start of the novel, Abby is returning from a lengthy visit to one of her other sisters. She soon discovers that Fanny has fallen in love with the good-looking Stacy Calverleigh, a rather devious young man who is clearly on the lookout for an heiress.

Abby is very fond of Fanny, but simply cannot get through to her on this issue. It's evident that Stacy is in rather desperate straits, and may persuade Fanny to elope with him, since she is underage and her official guardian (Abby's brother) will not give permission for a marriage.

Into the scene wanders Miles Calverleigh, long-lost uncle of Stacy. An extreme coincidence, admittedly, but it works. He has been in India for the past twenty years, banished there by his family after some unspeakable misdeed, but has returned, escorting the son of one of Abby's friends.

After an amusing misunderstanding, Abby becomes quite friendly with Miles, despite him being rather unattractive, with a pretty bad reputation. But she cannot persuade him to take the slightest interest in her problem of Fanny and Stacy.

It's a complicated plot in some respects, but the characters are so well-drawn that there was no confusion. It's fast-paced and enjoyable; I actually read most of it on one evening, and found it hard to put down despite remembering roughly what happened.

Not my absolute favourite of Heyer's books, but still a very pleasant light read. Recommended.

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