I had not read The Convenient Marriage before this new Naxos Audiobooks recording happily landed on my doorstep. I will confess all upfront. I did the unthinkable. I read the complete plot synopsis on Wikipedia before I delved into the first chapter. *horrors* Don’t even think about following my example. It will spoil the most enjoyable aspect of this novel – surprise!
The Convenient Marriage is one of Georgette Heyer’s more popular Georgian-era rom-com’s, and for good reason. It has all the requisite winning elements: a wealthy and eligible hero, a young naïve heroine, greedy relatives, a scheming mistress, and a revengeful rake. Add in a duel, a sword fight, highway robbery, abduction, switched identities, and scandalous behavior, and you are in for comedic high jinxes and uproarious plot twists. As I laughed out loud at the preposterous plot machinations in the synopsis, I thought to myself, “How does Heyer do it? How can she take us on such an outrageously wild ride and make it believable?” I was soon to find out.
Handsome and elegant Marcus Drelincourt, Earl of Rule, is comfortable in his bachelorhood. At thirty-five his sister Lady Louisa Quain urges him to marry, suggesting the beautiful Elizabeth Winwood. She is from an aristocratic family of good pedigree but little fortune. With two unmarried younger sisters, prim Charlotte and impulsive Horatia, and their self-indulgent elder brother Pelham (about as much help to his family as a rainstorm at a picnic), she must marry well. Lady Winwood is thrilled when the Earl agrees to marry Elizabeth and save the family from destitution. Seventeen-year-old Horatia is not. Presenting herself at the Earl’s doorstep she boldly offers herself to him in exchange for her elder sister who is in love with Lieutenant Edward Heron. Horry proposes a marriage of convenience to Lord Rule with the promise that she will not interfere with him after they are married. She does not bring much to the bargain. Not only is she poor, but she also does not possess her sister’s beauty, and she stutters. Intrigued by this young, brave girl, he is tempted and soon sees the logic, agreeing to her proposal.
The new Countess of Rule wastes no time in becoming the sensation of the bon ton dressing to the nines, attending parties, the opera, gambling huge sums and getting into all sorts of scrapes while her husband continues to pay attention to his mistress Lady Caroline Massey. With patience and fortitude, Lord Rule councils his stubborn young bride against excess and the dangerous liaisons of Baron Robert Lethbridge, a known rake with a history with the Drelincourt family.
Determined to teach her husband a lesson for his interference, she defies his wishes by attending a masked ball. Escorted by Lethbridge, he sees their friendship as the perfect opportunity to ruin her reputation and punish Drelincourt for thwarting his elopement with his sister Louisa years before. Horry tempts Lethbridge with cards, bending his resistance by scandalously agreeing to offer a lock of her hair if he wins. Unbeknownst to Horry, her husband has followed her to the ball, overhears their conversation and intercedes by stepping on her dress and ripping it. While she is away he disposes of Lethbridge and exchanges his costume with his own. Returning, Horry loses badly at cards and must give Lethbridge/Rule his winnings. Penitent, she concedes the bet which is met with a stolen kiss. Furious, Horry rushes away running into Lady Caroline Massey who recognizes her. Certain that her husband’s mistress will reveal to him that his wife was at the ball, she confesses all to him first. The Earl, in turn, reveals his charade. Discovering that he has fallen in love with his wife, how will he court and convince her that love is much better than a marriage of convenience?
Heyer’s characterizations just sparkle and shine. This May/December relationship presents a great opportunity for differences in opinion and blunders. If Horry had not been an impulsive, stubborn seventeen-year-old there would have been little conflict and no story. Lord Rule’s patience in dealing with his teenage bride commanded respect, endearing us to him by opening up the possibility of the love relationship that we hope for. This delightful romp was made all the more enjoyable by this new audio recording by the British stage and screen actor Richard Armitage. This is his third foray into Georgette Heyer for Naxos Audiobooks. His skill at unique characterization and resonant, velvety voice transports the listener like Cinderella to the Ball. Unfortunately, once the story ends, so does the enchantment. My solution was to start it again. For me, a new audio recording combining fanciful storyteller Georgette Heyer and the sultry and seductive voice of Richard Armitage is like la petite mort. Hopefully, they are not few and far between.
The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer, read by Richard Armitage
Naxos Audiobooks (2010)
Abridged audio recording, 4 CDs, (5h 06m)
Celebrating Georgette Heyer – Day 04 Giveaway
Enter a chance to win one copy of The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer, read by Richard Armitage (Naxos Audiobooks 2010) by leaving a comment stating which Georgette Heyer novel you think Richard Armitage should narrate next for Naxos by midnight Pacific time, Monday, September 6th, 2010. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, September 7th, 2010. CD shipment to the continental US. Digital downloads internationally. Good luck!
Day 05 Aug 08 – Review: Regency Buck
Day 05 Aug 08 – Review: The Talisman Ring
Day 06 Aug 09 – Review: An Infamous Army
Day 06 Aug 09 – Review: The Spanish Bride