Bath Tangle is another wonderful, enjoyable novel by Georgette Heyer, the queen of regency historical fiction. A new Heyer novel is a book to be savored. I can’t think of a more perfect end to summer then to happily delight in another novel from one of my favorite authors.
I had just finished reading the wonderful biography of Heyer, The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge and was in the mood for a new Heyer. Luckily I had two on my pile to review and I chose to read Bath Tangle first.
Bath Tangle is the story of the tangled love lives of many charming characters. Serena is the high-spirited daughter of The Earl of Spenborough. After the Earl’s untimely death, he is left without a male heir, but does leave behind his 25 year old daughter Serena, and his even younger second wife, Fanny. Much to Serena’s dismay, her inheritance is tied up in a trust that is administered by the Marquis of Rotherham, her father’s good friend, and the man that she jilted before their marriage six years before. Serena and Fanny remove themselves to the Dower House, but Serena has a hard time with her cousin’s administering of the estate. Both ladies decide they would be happier with time away in nearby Bath. They lease a house and although they are still in mourning, they take limited outings to partake of the waters. It is during one of these excursions that Serena happens upon a man that she has not seen for six years, the only man she has truly cared for, but was unable to marry due to his circumstances. Hector is now a retired Major with an estate of his own, and is still as gorgeous as ever. At this point, love blooms for all characters, and their love lives become a “tangled” mess!
Heyer created brilliant characters in Bath Tangle. I LOVE the exuberant Serena. She was full of energy, lively, and always on the go. She loved to hunt and ride horses, and could care less what people thought of her. She also had clever dialogue with Rotherham that fairly crackled off of the pages. Whenever those two got together to fling insults, I couldn’t put the book down.
Rotherham was a wonderful “Mark I” Heyer hero in the vein of Charlotte Bronte’s Mr. Rochester. He is a dark and not handsome man who knows what he wants and fairly often gets it. He is a bit rough around the edges at times, but as he is a Marquis, all is forgiven and he is a prime target of all marriage minded mamas. This gets him into a tangle of his own.
I think my favorite character of all was Mrs. Floore. She is a secondary character that is a rich widow of a tradesman and proud of it. Her daughter has married well and is now a Lady who is ashamed of her mother’s background and vulgar ways, but not too ashamed to take her money to launch her daughter Emily into society. Mrs. Floore tells it the way it is and has decided to keep wearing the fashions of her youth in very bright colors. I thought she was hilarious.
I loved the bits of historical context sprinkled throughout the book. The Major has returned home as the Napoleonic wars are finished. Serena and Fanny love to gossip about Princess Charlotte her upcoming Royal Marriage. Caroline Lamb, the Duchess of Devonshire, and other notable Regency real-life characters are mentioned throughout the book. I loved it!
I just read about Bath Tangle again in The Private World of Georgette Heyer. Hodge states that Bath Tangle “has less actual comedy than the previous books. Instead there is an Austen like irony in its treatment of the linked problems of snobbery and money.” While I love Heyer’s comedies, I did love how this book reminded of the best of Austen, down to the Bath setting. This novel was written by Heyer in 1954 and Hodge also states that “This book is a watershed one. Before it, Georgette Heyer had sometimes played at turning the romantic conventions upside down; now she is beginning to look through them, and into the human heart.”
Overall, I love Bath Tangle. It is a wonderful romantic tale that will keep you guessing about how the relationships will become untangled by the stories ends. The characters were first-rate. If you have read all of Austen and are looking for something new to read in the same vein, I highly recommend Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer.
This is my nineteenth novel for The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2011.
Book Source: Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!