Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer

Black Sheep
Georgette Heyer

It's been a while since I posted – I'm not reading very much lately. Not doing well in the goal of 100 books for the year. Only 26 books this year! Half of the amount I had read at the same time last year. Sigh.

In the past couple of weeks I've been slowly reading Georgette Heyer's novel Black Sheep. I won this in a contest at the Misadventures of Super Librarian blog, and I'm glad because I'd never read a Georgette Heyer book but I kept hearing about them. Mostly about how great and well-researched they are but out of print, and how fans hoard them like treasure and reread them over and over again. I also kept hearing a comparison to Jane Austen since Heyer writes in the regency period – in fact she is considered the person who began the regency romance genre.

I agree with the Jane Austen comparison because Black Sheep was really about characters and society. There is a lot of emphasis on manners and what is considered acceptable to say and do, and the story progresses from one social outing to another, peppered with histronic relatives, town gossips, and "loose fish". The language is very formal and structured, even when characters speak with the regency equivalent of slang, there is a great deal of formality in it. There is also a great deal of subtle humor.

In Black Sheep, the basic premise is that the main character, Abigail (Abby) Wendover, on the shelf at 28 is concerned for her niece Fanny. She's heard that Fanny, who is only seventeen has attracted the attentions of a young man, Stacy Calverleigh, who is likely after Fanny's inheritance, nothing more. Abby is put in a situation where she can't forbid Fanny to see Stacy because she fears Fanny will consider herself a martyr and run off, but she can't allow Fanny to think the family approves either. Abby meets Stacy's uncle Miles, the black sheep of the Calverleigh family, and tries to get him to help her, but while she finds someone she gets along with very well, in Miles she also meets someone completely unaffected by societal rules. If something doesn't make sense to him, he won't do it. Miles has never met Stacy and he can't be persuaded to care about what Stacy does.

I read this book for a few minutes every night and finished it off when I was on the train this weekend. For me, this was a book I had to read slowly because I wasn't used to the language – there were several points where I just didn't understand what a character just said because they used some regency phrase that isn't in use today. So I had to read carefully to absorb it and it took me a lot longer to read 20 pages in this book than in other books. In the end the read was worth it – I felt pretty satisfied with the ending. Even though there is an open ended aspect to it, there was enough for me to feel like there was one, both to what was going on with Abby and Miles but also with Fanny and Stacy and other secondary characters. And now here is someone else to read if you have already read all of Jane Austen.

The Georgette Heyer novels being reprinted by Sourcebooks are listed here (all lovely covers)

And here is a contest for one of 4 Georgette Heyer novels at georgetteheyer.com

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