The Nonesuch, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

Guest review by Marie Burton of The Burton Review

Synopsis:

An impetuous flight

Tiffany Wield’s bad behavior is a serious trial to her chaperone. “On the shelf ” at twenty-eight, Ancilla Trent strives to be a calming influence on her tempestuous charge, but then Tiffany runs off to London alone and Ancilla is faced with a devastating scandal.

A gallant rescue

Sir Waldo Hawkridge, confirmed bachelor and one of the wealthiest men in London, comes instantly to the aid of the intrepid Ancilla to stop Tiffany’s flight, and in the process discovers that it’s never too late for the first bloom of love.

The Nonesuch is one of Georgette Heyer’s many Regency romances novels with a wide range of characters. It was my very first Heyer read, therefore this review is from my first impression of Georgette Heyer’s work, and stands as my introduction to the Regency world.

While the text is somewhat dated to non-Regency readers, it is done so that we truly feel we are reading something written in that time period yet we can understand the old-fashioned dialect. It reminded me of reading Margaret Mitchell and Louisa May Alcott. There were quite a few words that were ‘new’ to me, although the words I am sure were quite old. Such as sennight, which I looked up: a week. And the line “O my God! thought Sir Waldo. Now we are in the basket!” I also have seen the phrase “on the shelf” for those unmarried girls past their prime (at age 26!).

This novel has a simple storyline: The main character is the nonesuch (the talented and popular guy who was at the top of his social game in all ways). He is the very likeable Sir Waldo Hawkridge who comes to town to settle an estate he has inherited. We are introduced to those he crosses paths with along with some of his own family who may or not have his best interests at heart. Miss Ancilla Trent is a governess to the spoiled Tiffany Wield within the social circle of butterflies around the nonesuch, but it is the nonesuch and Ancilla, the governess, who fall in love from afar. Of course there are obstacles to that endeavor being from two different social classes, and we chuckle along the way as the younger set in the story supplies enough antics to keep us occupied.

The characters are well-defined and at times hilarious, and I often found myself feeling that I was watching a black and white movie in my head while reading it. There was a lot of dialogue going back and forth and it would have played really well on the Silver Screen.  The story line itself is not a far-reaching plot, therefore it was slightly slow at times, yet the chemistry between the characters is quite charming and coupled with the writing style it becomes amusing and witty, in typical Heyer fashion. However predictable the plot may have seemed, I did enjoy this novel and I look forward to her other books. The book made me smile and I enjoyed the way the writing took me back to that period and was a fabulous introduction to Georgette Heyer though other Heyer novels have since become my favorite.

The Nonesuch, by Georgette Heyer
Sourcebooks (2009)
Trade paperback (352)
ISBN: 978-1402217708

Marie Burton works full-time as a’ book keeper’ which is a nice way for saying the calculator is her best friend, but she’d rather work in a library ‘keeping books’. She writes book reviews in her spare time at The Burton Review. She enjoys reading about the past and learning the history of the world through the skill of authors such as Jean Plaidy, Alison Weir, Sharon Kay Penman and, of course, Georgette Heyer. You can follow Marie on Twitter as BurtonReview.

Celebrating Georgette Heyer – Day 16 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of The Nonesuch, by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2009) by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about the plot or characters, or if you have read it, which is your favorite character or scene by midnight Pacific time, Monday, September 6th, 2010. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, September 7th, 2010. Shipment to continental US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Upcoming event posts

Day 16    Aug 27 – Review: False Colours
Day 17    Aug 29 – Review: Frederica
Day 17    Aug 29 – Review: Black Sheep
Day 18    Aug 30 – Review: Cousin Kate

Celebrating Georgette Heyer   •   August 1st – 31st, 2010

40 thoughts on “The Nonesuch, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

  1. >often found myself feeling that I was watching a black and white movie in my head while reading it.

    Nicely put! I like that comparison.

    >However predictable the plot may have seemed, I did enjoy this novel and I look forward to her other books.

    It’s amazing how Heyer was able to pull this off time after time.

    I enjoyed your review.

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  2. This one sounds like great fun, especially the romance involving a heroine that is ‘on the shelf’. The characters and the dialog in Heyer novels are the main attraction for me. Thanks for the review.

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  3. This sounds so fun! I love the idea of getting the perspective of the chaperone instead of just the young lady’s.

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  4. I read THE NONESUCH a long time ago and I loved it. At the time, the words were a little difficult for me. But nowadays, with so many Regencies sounding like 21st century English, I can’t wait to reread THE NONESUCH for the glorious language.

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  5. I am a long-time fan of Georgette Heyer. I read the Nonesuch many years ago, and am now re-reading her stories. I agree with Linda, the language is wonderful!

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  6. This sounds like an excellent book – it’s one of Heyer’s that I haven’t yet read. A governess is a nice change from so many of Heyer’s well-born heroines, I’m curious to see how the story evolves.

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  7. I particularly enjoy the fact that Ancilla is competent and intelligent. She manages Tiffany as well as anyone can manage “The beautiful Miss Wield”, and I thought the horseback riding expedition where one of the young ladies becomes ill is a perfect showcase for all of the characters to show what they are really made of.

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  8. This is another great book for beginners for many of the reasons you have mentioned, Marie. It was among my first Heyers and there remains among the ones I like very much.

    Yes, unlike many heroines, here Ancilla is a working girl, a governess (mind, that doesn’t mean she is not well-born, what are you thinking, Elizabeth! She might not be rich and that is why she choose to work, but her father was a gentleman, so she is very well-born) and she has managed to control her more than spoilt charge. Whereas Sir Waldo is a character who truly deserves being called the Nonsuch, he is almost too perfect.

    The large cast that surrounds them is as if Heyer had followed Jane Austen’s advise: three or four families in a country village. With Sir Waldo and his two young cousins as the outsiders who make quite a stir in the neighbourhood, which is what makes the story move.

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  10. The slow unfolding of the relationship between Sir Waldo and Ancilla is quite delicious. He is really caught at the outset, when she looks at him with disapproval – it takes her a lot longer to be caught, and longer still her to admit it to herself.

    Tiffany’s aunt, Mrs. Underhill is a very enjoyable character, who, though not outstandingly bright, is the first to see the budding romance. Of course, as Ancilla’s employer, she ought to object, but instead she encourages Sir Waldo shamelessly.

    One of the most delightful scenes in TN is when Sir Waldo waltzes with Ancilla, setting up the backs of all the marchmaking mamas: “Matrons who had brought their daughters to the ball felt their bosoms swell with wrath as they watched [a governess!] gliding over the floor in the Nonesuch’s arms, not finding it necessary to mind her steps, but performing the waltz gracefull and easily, apparently enjoying an amusing conversation with him while she did it.”

    If there is anything to complain of in this book, it is that the Nonesuch is too perfect. Also, I always find myself annoyed by Ancilla’s misunderstanding of him near the end.

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    • This is, without doubt, my most favorite Heyer novel. Period. Bar none. I think one of the reasons I liked it so much was that I did not read it for the first time unitl I was in my early twenties, so I could identify with Ancilla. I loved that she was so classy, even though she had to work for a living. It wasn’t until the second time through that I realized she had to so very much better than the “quality” because she worked for a living. They would never forgive her things they so easily forgave others of their own class.

      I think that is also why I have never been annoyed by her misunderstanding of Sir Waldo’s character near the end. The evidence before her eyes was that he was, as they might say, a loose fish. She had personal experience of the damage such a person could do to a family, and now that she is on her own, her very life depended on the perception by others that she was an extremely upright young lady.

      She suffered terribly, if silently, to think Sir Waldo was not the man she had thought him. I think that made the ending all the sweeter!

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  11. This is one of my top GH reads :0) Sir Waldo may not be everyone’s cup of rack punch, but he’s certainly mine and has been since I first read this book. There are few romantic heroes you’d want to meet, let alone live with, outside the pages of a novel, but Sir Waldo is an exception ;)

    Plus we get the spoiled beauty Tiffany Wield, a wondrous GH creation who is deliciously shallow, selfish, and conceited. Truly appalling but memorable all the same.

    GH later books are a masterclass in characterisation and insight; the arrival of the rich and fashionable Sir Waldo and Lord Lindeth in Oversett, and the effect on the inhabitants are captured beautifully in The Nonesuch. All the absurdities and humour of English village life are here – LOL some things never change!

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  12. This ‘four families in a village’ book has a great feel of Austen for me despite the many scenes written in a masculine point of view.

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  13. I think this one has to be the next one for me to read! Sounds wonderful! I am so glad we have so many of hers to choose from!

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  14. After I got pass the numerous characters thrown at me in the first chapter and the fact that the hero is named Waldo =), I really enjoyed this novel. Heyer peppers this one with such a memorable cast of characters: Tiffany Wield, the literary spawn of Scarlett O’Hara; the astute Mrs. Underhill; the impressionable Lord Lindeth; the aptly named Patience Chartley; and of course the two protagonists – Ancilla, with her maternal instincts, and Waldo, with his charitable nature, are a perfect match. The ‘forbidden’ aspect of their love and its slow awakening is what makes this a delightful read… almost Pride and Prejudice in a way.

    Like Faro’s Daughter, some may find the ‘misunderstanding’ towards the end a little de trop, but Heyer’s final twists always leave me with a silly grin on my face. =)

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  15. I like this one a lot, especially Waldo. I really like and admire the way he dealt with Tiffany. He’s the perfect hero and i just love the scene where Waldo and Ancilla waltz. I fell in love with him at that exact moment. I love the Heyer stories that make me giggle. I disliked the misunderstanding at the end. It didn’t seem like a sensible woman like Ancilla would jump to such conclusions.

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  16. I always love when the ladies are “on the shelf” when they are in their twenties! I am intrigued that the heroine is a working class governess and manages to get the guy. It sounds like this is another classic Heyer with witty dialogue and hilarious siutations. Definitely a book I want to read.

    Great review!

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  17. This was the first Heyer I read and after I got past the slang, I thought it was really funny. I think my favorite scene is when Miss Trent realizes that she was wrong about Sir Waldo’s “little brats”. :-)

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  18. So many favorite scenes in this one. Tiffany is such an incredible… (I don’t have the words) but I love how Ancilla deals with her, especially the lines about “losing her beauty”. To me, that one is priceless.

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  19. I like your little sub-headings … reminds me of the captions in old movie trailers, which fits your theme very nicely!

    One of the few things I liked about another Heyer, “Lady of Quality,” was seeing how the author dealt with both her older and younger heroines (her older one, of course, getting most of the attention). Definitely interested in how she works through that theme in “The Nonesuch.”

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  20. Heyer’s secondary characters are always a joy. Charlotte who is afraid of horses, Patience Chartley and her upright parents, the stammering country boy who discovers that Sir Waldo is not as stupid as everybody wanted to make him believe, and the good hearted, vulgar Mrs Underhill (doesn’t she resemble Mrs Bridlington and Mrs Jennings a bit?) – all favorite characters.

    The first scene with the relatives seemed a rehash of other meddling relatives plots – the energetic aunt (who resembles Count Rule’s sister Louisa and the Corinthian’s sister). Baddie Laurie was charming, though, much more so than butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-his-mouth Lindeth.

    Ancilla fell a bit too swiftly for charming Sir Waldo, yes, but who could resist such a wonderful man? And her gray eyes lit up a bit too much for my taste. Heyer recycles her phrases sometimes. Or is that only my impression?

    Yes, it’s not one of the sparkling witty Heyers, and it’s not one of the many-layered ones. I’d put it in the 2nd league.

    But 2nd league Heyer still means much better than your average romance. It leaves you smiling and feeling much, much better. I’ve read it many times and intend to do so again.

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  21. While not one of my favorites, this is still a really good read. I’ve only read it once and had a harder time believing the romance between the couple in the Nonesuch than say Frederica or Venetia. I did like a lot of the other aspects of the novel, though.

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  22. I first read Georgette Heyer because I was looking for more Jane Austen. A friend recommended some of Heyer’s “best”, but despite energetic plots and characters I was disappointed. I’d just read Persuasion;compared to Anne Elliot, Heyer’s heroines seemed too pretty, too willful, and too fortunate!I might have been more enthusiastic fresh from reading Emma or Northanger Abbey. But I remember as well being swamped by Heyer’s vocabulary. Though the fashionable regency “cant” recreated the time period, it made the characters less accessible than Austen’s.

    Many years later, I found Jennifer Kloester’s excellent Georgette Heyer’s Regency World. The glossary explained much of the language. And with the aid of her brief summaries I sought out more Heyer titles that sounded appealing and revisited others I’d unfairly dismissed. I still haven’t read them all, but I believe I now appreciate Heyer for Heyer.

    Except…. Well, my standard for a great romance still seems to be Austen. And this is why I place The Nonesuch at the top: because Ancilla Trent and Waldo Hawkridge are, among the Heyer heroes and heroines I’ve encountered, the most intelligently aware, adult, and well-matched COUPLE. Miss Trent has a prejudice against “sporting” gentlemen like Sir Waldo; Sir Waldo has an easy pride and assurance that ASSUMES Miss Trent’s understanding. The two love in spite of their flaws, attempt remedies, and — yes, familiar territory! But I think that in The Nonesuch, though it’s still very much her own, Heyer came closer than any other author to evoking the spirit of Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.

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    • Have you read A Civil Contract, Sherry? Although not “romantic” in the usual sense, it is certainly about an adult relationship.

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  23. Hello Alert AprilFool:

    You must be a mind reader. I’m about halfway through A Civil Contract! Jenny has just married Adam. I want all to turn out well for Jenny (since my heart is with Jenny Chawleighs everywhere), but I have my doubts. None of the reviews has quite spoiled it for me. I see why you recommend A Civil Contract as “adult” — both hero and heroine are responsible, dutiful, empathetic. It will be interesting to see how Heyer portrays a marriage instead of a courtship; Austen never quite went there, which is why we enjoy so many sequels….

    As you mention, A Civil Contract doesn’t seem romantic in the “usual sense” — perhaps because it is, at least so far, so one-sided, with such a heavy sense of compromise? I’m left to discover!

    I must make another plug here for The Nonesuch. Because what I find “adult” within this courtship tale is the hero and heroine’s composure/restraint/self-mastery (highlighted by their absence in Tiffany Wield!) in spite of acknowledging an attraction. On Ancilla’s part: “The thought flashed into her mind that she beheld the embodiment of her ideal. It was as instantly banished…” And on Sir Waldo’s: “It was refreshing to meet a marriageable female who did not instantly exert herself to win his admiration; it might be pleasant to pursue her acquaintance;but if he were never to see her again it would not cost him any pang of regret.” And we’re left to wonder how these two determined individuals will let down their guards.
    The twin “tug” is what intrigues me and reminds me so much of Elizabeth and Darcy. As though they recognize that “he/she might be ‘perfect’ — but I can do without!” Or so they think….

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    • Hi again, Sherry:

      I entirely agree with you about the Nonesuch (see my August 27 post above) – I was just suggesting A Civil Contract for further enjoyment.

      Don’t you love Adam’s sister Lydia?

      I think you’ll like the way it turns out, although compromised. “Lambert says . . .” sort of exemplifies where they get to – you’ll understand.

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  24. Hello AprilFool,
    I’m reading, reading… Yes, I love “saucy” Lydia. And love Lydia WITH Mr. Chawleigh! Find myself wishing these two could be sent out into the world on some adventure of their own….
    I’ve appreciated all your thoughtful, sound reviews during this event. What do you recommend next?

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    • Frederica is a total delight – and she is so “mature” that she literally never thinks of herself. It’s more of a romp than an adventure, though.

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  25. Anoother one that I need to read again after many years. I like the older heroine-who works for a living. I also like the fact that Ancilla’s employment doesn’t deter Waldo from recognizing her value.

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  26. Marie got me with the comparison to old black and white movies and that she could see that witty dialogue working really well on the screen. Old movies are another obsession, right up there with reading for me. I immediately jumped in my mind to Nick and Nora Charles, from the Thin Man movies, if Heyer comes even close to that then I can’t help but enjoy her work. I also like the romantic obstacle being that they are from different social classes. Another plus is that so many have recommended The Nonesuch as a good book to begin for those not initiated into Heyer’s world.

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  27. Thank you, AprilFool. ‘Frederica’ is definitely next — on your recommendation and because it seems to have won the poll. And because it’s one I haven’t yet read! Congratulations to you and all the other winners. All best wishes.

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