Lady of Quality was Georgette Heyer’s last book before her death in July 1974. She suffered chronic ill-health in her later years and fractured her leg in a fall in January 1972. Despite this, she began work on another book and by April had sent the outline to her agent. Lady of Quality was published in October – an amazing achievement and a tribute to Georgette Heyer’s talent and dedication to her craft.
The heroine is Annis Wychwood and the title sums her up nicely. Annis is twenty-nine and unmarried (an old maid in Regency terms), but she’s no dowdy spinster. She’s intelligent, rich, beautiful, elegant and charming, with a sense of humour and an independent spirit. She lives in Bath with an impoverished cousin, Miss Maria Farlow, as her chaperone.
The book opens with Annis traveling home with Miss Farlow after a visit to her brother and his family. In spite of her comfortable lifestyle and independence, Annis is bored. Her future holds no promise of excitement and the well-meaning but prosy Maria only adds to her gloom. Unsurprisingly, then, when Annis encounters a young couple arguing beside an overturned gig, her curiosity is aroused. She alights from her carriage to investigate and discovers orphan and heiress Lucilla Carleton is running away from home in the company of her childhood friend Ninian Elmore. Ninian’s parents and Lucilla’s aunt have been urging them to marry, but it’s a match that neither wants.
Much to the jealous Miss Farlow’s dismay, Annis invites Lucilla to stay until her affairs can be sorted. Annis enjoys introducing her protégé to Bath society and things go smoothly until Lucilla’s uncle and guardian arrive. Rakish Oliver Carleton is the rudest man Annis has ever met and sparks fly from their first meeting. He’s blunt, sardonic and unheeding of society’s rules, but he’s also honest about his flaws, makes her laugh and is never, ever boring … Continue reading