A little before eight o’clock, at the close of a damp autumn day, a post-chaise entered Bath, on the London Road, and presently drew up outside a house in Sydney Place. It was a hired vehicle, but it was drawn by four horses, and there was nothing in the appearance of the lady who occupied it to suggest that a private chaise, with her own postilions, would have been rather beyond her touch. She was accompanied by a middle-aged maid; and she was attired in an olive-green redingote of twilled silk which so exactly fitted her admirable figure that any female, beholding it, would have recognized at a glance that it had been made for her by a modiste of the first stare. It combined the simplicity of a garment designed for travel with an elegance only rivalled by the hat which becomingly framed Miss Abigail Wendover’s face … as fashionable as the redingote…
Her hair was neither fashionably dark nor angelically fair, but of a soft brown. It was not cropped, after the prevailing mode; she wore it braided round her head, or in a knot from which curls fell about her ears.
observations: I keep looking at this picture: the outfit seems very exactly to be as described, but the head/face looks very much as if it’s a man. Is it just me, or is that what others see? It’s a fashion-plate, and definitely described as clothes for women, so it must just be a trick of the light….
These are the opening paragraphs of the book, and very typical of the Georgette Heyer oeuvre. She works with a couple of different modes of heroine – this one is the slightly older woman (should have been married years ago, but very sprightly, and is 28). She is, as we will shortly find out, not considered to be beautiful, but has some lovely aspects to her face and – yes of course – the right man will find her very very attractive. He will turn up very soon, and there will be no question from then on. The plot turns on saving Miss Wendover’s foolish young niece Fanny (a Lydia Bennet if ever I saw one) from the attentions of Mr Right’s nephew, who is very much Mr Wrong. And it is all very cleverly done, this is definitely one of Miss Heyer’s finer moments. There aren’t any annoying misunderstandings and arguments between the two principles – the biggest question is the exciting one of whether she can go to the theatre with him alone without compromising her reputation. When the younger generation’s problems are resolved, there is one practical issue for the older couple, but Mr Miles Calverleigh cuts through that in admirable style. All this is helped by the fact that all the nice people in the book are either very rich already, or are going to become rich. It does make life simpler.
I read this book about once every ten years – most recently because I have just visited Bath, which is nicely portrayed here – and these days I think ‘Yes, Heyer is quite annoying and predictable in some ways, but actually this is a most entertaining book, and very funny. So I’ll keep it for another 10 years.’
'Redingote' comes from riding coat, and means just what you'd think - a long fitted coat, suitable for travelling.
More Georgette Heyer: Another Regency Romance, and detective stories here and here.