The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer (Naxos Audiobooks), read by Richard Armitage – A Review

I had not read The Convenient Marriage before this new Naxos Audiobooks recording happily landed on my doorstep.  I will confess all up front. 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, she 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 attentions 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 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/Decemeber relationship presents great opportunity for difference in opinion and blunder. 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 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, velvetly 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.

Listen to an excerpt at Naxos

The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer, read by Richard Armitage
Naxos Audiobooks (2010)
Abridged audio recording, 4 CDs, (5h 06m)
ISBN: 978-1843794417

On a whim, Laurel Ann Nattress created Austenprose, a blog celebrating the brilliance of Jane Austen’s writing and the many offshoots that she has inspired. As a bookseller at Barnes & Noble she delights in selling her favorite author’s works to the masses. In her spare time, she is currently deep into her editing duties for a Jane Austen short story anthology to be published in 2011 by Random House. An expatriate of southern California she lives in a country cottage near Seattle, where it rains a lot. You can follow Laurel Ann on Twitter as Austenprose.

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 continental US. Digital download internationally. Good luck!

Upcoming event posts

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

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

Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for August 2010

The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that many Austen inspired books are heading our way in August, so keep your eyes open for these new titles.

Audio

The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer, read by Richard Armitage

In honor of historical romance novelist Georgette Heyer’s birthday this month, I am sure that Jane Austen will not mind if I place one of Heyer’s Regency romance novels first among the great selection of books available this month. If you hadn’t noticed, we are celebrating Heyer in a big way all month here on Austenprose, but this novel in particular of the 34 we will be discussing stands head and shoulders over the rest. Yes, the story is one of Heyer’s best with a strong hero and an endearingly flawed young heroine, but this audio edition really chases away any fit of the blue devils with its velvet voiced reader, Richard Armitage. This is his third foray into reading Heyer for Naxos Audiobooks, and I cannot think of one actor more qualified to make half of the population of the world swoon. (Publishers description) Horatia Winwood is the youngest and the least attractive of the three Winwood sisters. She also has a stammer. But when the enigmatic and eminently eligible Earl of Rule offers for her oldest sister’s hand – a match that makes financial and social sense, but would break her heart – it is Horatia who takes matters into her own impetuous hands. Can she save her family’s fortune? Or is she courting disaster? Witty, charming, elegant and always delightful, Georgette Heyer – the undisputed Queen of Regency Romance – brings the whole period to life with deft precision and glorious characters. Naxos AudioBooks (2010), Abridged Audio CD, ISBN: 978-1843794417. Listen to a preview.

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired)

Emma and the Vampires, by Wayne Josephson

More vampires in our Austen coming our way. This time, its Austen’s handsome, clever, and rich Emma Woodhouse, with a comfortable home and happy disposition with very little to distress or vex her except her vampire neighbors. (Publishers description) In this hilarious retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, screenwriter Wayne Josephson casts Mr. Knightley as one of the most handsome and noble of the gentlemen village vampires. Blithely unaware of their presence, Emma, who imagines she has a special gift for matchmaking, attempts to arrange the affairs of her social circle with delightfully disastrous results. But when her dear friend Harriet Smith declares her love for Mr. Knightley, Emma realizes she’s the one who wants to stay up all night with him. Fortunately, Mr. Knightley has been hiding a secret deep within his unbeating heart-his (literal) undying love for her… A brilliant mash-up of Jane Austen and the undead. Sourcebooks Landmark (2010), Trade paperback, ISBN: 978-1402241345. Read the first chapter.

To Conquer Mr. Darcy, Abigail Reynolds

Originally published as Impulse and Initiative by Sourcebooks in 2008, this Pride and Prejudice variation asks “what if” after Mr. Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth Bennet he didn’t give up, but pursued her from Kent back to Longbourn? I reviewed the original edition if you would like to peruse my humble opinion. (Publishers description) What if…Instead of disappearing from Elizabeth Bennet’s life after she refused his offer of marriage, Mr. Darcy had stayed and tried to change her mind? What if…Lizzy, as she gets to know Darcy, finds him undeniably attractive and her impulses win out over her sense of propriety? What if…Madly in love and mutually on fire, their passion anticipates their wedding? In To Conquer Mr. Darcy, instead of avoiding Elizabeth after his ill-fated marriage proposal, Mr. Darcy follows her back to Hertfordshire to prove to her he is a changed man and worthy of her love. And little by little, Elizabeth begins to find the man she thought she despised, irresistible… Sourcebooks Casablanca (2010), Mass market paperback, ISBN: 978-1402237300. Read the first chapter.

Murder on the Bride’s Side: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely

Last year debut author Tracy Kiely blew my bonnet off with her clever Pride and Prejudice inspired whodunit, Murder at Longbourn. Now her clever, but endearingly insecure sleuth Elizabeth Parker is back with a new mystery to solve that is inspired from Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. (Publishers description) Drawing from the classic Sense and Sensibility, Tracy Kiely continues the adventures of Elizabeth Parker, the likable Austen-quoting sleuth, in this witty and charming series. Elizabeth Parker suspected that fulfilling her duties as maid-of-honor for her best friend, Bridget, was going to be murder. And no sooner is the last grain of rice thrown than she finds herself staring into the dead eyes of Bridget’s Aunt Roni, a woman whose death is almost as universally celebrated as Bridget’s nuptials. The horror only increases when Harry, Bridget’s cousin, becomes the chief suspect. The idea is ludicrous to the family, because Harry is one of the kindest, most compassionate people imaginable. To complicate matters, Elizabeth’s boyfriend, Peter, appears to be falling for an old flame, a gorgeous wedding planner. Determined to clear Harry of the crime, reign in Bridget’s impulsive brand of sleuthing, and figure out where Peter’s heart lies, Elizabeth sets her mind to work. Minotaur Books (2010), Hardcover, ISBN: 978-0312537579.  Read my preview and an excerpt here.

Austen’s Oeuvre

Emma (Blackstone Audio Classic), by Jane Austen, read by Nadia May

Since one can never have too many audio editions of Emma to break the monotony of the work commute,  pop this one into your car CD player and enjoy an unabridged recording of  Austen’s nonsensical girl. (Publishers description) Often considered Jane Austen’s finest work, Emma is the story of a charmingly self-deluded heroine whose injudicious matchmaking schemes often lead to substantial mortification. Emma, ”handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.” Her own great fortune has blinded Emma to the true feelings and motivations of others and leads her to some hilarious misjudgments. But it is through her mistakes that Emma finds humility, wisdom, and true love. Told with the shrewd wit and delicate irony which have made Jane Austen a master of the English novel, Emma is a comic masterpiece whose fanciful heroine has gained the affection of generations of readers. Blackstone Audio, Inc. (2010), Unabridged CD, ISBN: 978-1441755360

Nonfiction

The Jane Austen Pocket Bible: The Perfect Gift for a Literary Lover, by Holly Ivins

From the publishers description, this appears to be the be all, end all of Austen enlightenment. That is a lot of Austenology for this slim 192 page volume. (Publishers description) The perfect gift for a literary lover. Have you ever dreamt of Darcy? Wished for Wentworth? Or even envied the womanly wiles of Emma? Perhaps you want to know a bit more about the author who so accurately describes the ins and outs of courtship, and whose novels have never been out of print since they were first published nearly 200 years ago? If you’re nodding in excitement reading this then the Jane Austen Pocket Bible is one for you. This handy little book guides you through Austen’s beloved novels, explaining Regency manners, the class system, the importance of inheritance, and the delicate matter of landing a husband. Full of fascinating trivia about the world of Austen’s novels this book also contains details of Austen’s life, the writers who inspired her, the country estates which make up the settings for her romantic adventures, and details on the countless film and television adaptations which have been made. With facts on genteel dancing, a plan for an Austen dinner party and words of wisdom from the lady herself, it’s a must-have for every self-confessed Jane fan or those making their first foray into Austen’s carefully crafted world. Pocket Bibles (2010), Hardcover, ISBN: 978-1907087097

Austen’s Contemporaries & Beyond

Becoming Queen Victoria: The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte and the Unexpected Rise of Britain’s Greatest Monarch, by Kate Williams

There are ton of Victoria biographies on the market, so why do we need another one? Kate Williams is why. If any of you missed her 2006 bio of Emma Hamilton, England’s Mistress, it is well worth a trip to the library or that gift card you have been hording from last Christmas. Her next venture into fascinating women from the nineteenth-century is with Queen V. Her slant is the Princess Charlotte tragedy and how it made the Royal family scamper to conceive the next heir to the throne. (Publishers description) In her lauded biography England’s Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton, Kate Williams painted a vivid and intimate portrait of Emma Hamilton, the lover of English national hero Lord Horatio Nelson. Now, with the same keen insight and gift for telling detail, Williams provides a gripping account of Queen Victoria’s rise to the throne and her early years in power—as well as the tragic, little-known story of the princess whose demise made it all possible. Writing with a combination of novelistic flair and historical precision, Williams reveals an energetic and vibrant woman in the prime of her life, while chronicling the byzantine machinations behind Victoria’s struggle to occupy the throne—scheming that continued even after the crown was placed on her head. Ballantine Books (2010), Hardcover, ISBN: 978-0345461957. Read the first chapter.

Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester

Not just your average compendium of Regency-era historical facts and figures, this volume uses Georgette Heyer’s novels as a springboard and ties in social, cultural and political customs and events, explaining it all for you, clearly and concisely. Read my review for full details and insights. (Publishers description) The definitive guide for all fans of Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, and the glittering Regency period. Immerse yourself in the resplendent glow of Regency England and the world of Georgette Heyer…From the fascinating slang, the elegant fashions, the precise ways the bon ton ate, drank, danced, and flirted, to the shocking real life scandals of the day, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World takes you behind the scenes of Heyer’s captivating novels. As much fun to read as Heyer’s own novels, beautifully illustrated, and meticulously researched, Jennifer Kloester’s essential guide brings the world of the Regency to life for Heyer fans and Jane Austen fans alike. Sourcebooks (2010), Trade paperback, ISBN: 978-1402241369. Read the first chapter.

Shades of Milk and Honey, by Robinette Kowal

More fun with Jane. (sort of) This Regency-era novel has some similar Austenesque themes: two sisters with divergent personality seek love and happiness, but with Harry Potter magic throw in the mix. It looks intriguing. Let’s hope the prose is light, bright and sparkly. (Publishers description) The fantasy novel you’ve always wished Jane Austen had written. Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attentions of eligible men, and while Jane’s skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right—and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own. Tor Books, Hardcover, ISBN: 978-0765325563. Read the first chapter.

Until next month, happy reading!

Laurel Ann

Jane Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for February 2009

A Novel, by Elizabeth Ashton (2009)The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that Austen inspired books are heading our way in February, so keep your eyes open for these new titles. 

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired)  

Mr. Darcy’s Dream: A Novel. Elizabeth Aston continues with her sixth novel of the entertaining exploits of the Darcy family post Pride and Prejudice. (publishers description) This time out Mr. Darcy’s young niece Phoebe is shattered by an unhappy romance, and retreats to Pemberley and is joined by kind-hearted cousin Louisa Bingley, unmarried after three London seasons. Once the young ladies are situated in the house, several handsome strangers also arrive — all hopeful of winning the girls’ hearts. As preparations for the ball which Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are to give at Pemberley gain momentum, mischief and love triangles abound, making life as difficult as possible for anyone connected with the Darcy family. Touchstone. ISBN: 978-1416547266. Early review by Christina Boyd  at Amazon

Jane Austen Ruined My Life, by Beth Patillo (2009)Jane Austen Ruined My Life, by Beth Pattillo. Not a sequel, but a contemporary adventure comedy inspired by Jane Austen’s life. (publishers description) English professor Emma Grant is denied tenure in the wake of a personal scandal and left penniless by the ensuing divorce. Emma packs up what few worldly possessions she has left and heads to England on a quest to find the missing letters of Jane Austen. Locating the elusive letters, however, isn’t as straightforward as Emma hoped. The owner of the letters proves coy about her prize possessions, sending Emma on a series of Austen-related tasks that bring her closer and closer to the truth, but the sudden reappearance of Emma’s first love makes everything more complicated. Guideposts Books. ISBN: 978-0824947712. Early review by Vic (Ms. Place) at Jane Austen’s World

Pride and Prejudice Retold Through His Eyes, by Regina Jeffers (2009)Darcy’s Passions: Pride and Prejudice Retold Through His Eyes, by Regina Jeffers. A retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the hero Fitzwilliam Darcy. If you’re thinking that this angle does not sound new, of course you are correct. A quick count at Amazon reveals five books based on the same premise (and I’m sure there are more). It’s intriguing that authors keep trying to top the last effort, so we shall see if she succeeded. (publishers description) Witty and amusing, this novel captures the original style, themes and sardonic humor of Jane Austen’s novel while turning the entire story on its head in a most engaging and entertaining fashion. Darcy’s Passions tells the story of Fitzwilliam Darcy and his obsession with the most impossible woman-Elizabeth Bennet. Ulysses Press. ISBN: 978-1569756997. Reviews of the self published edition from 2008 at Amazon.  

Love, Lies and Lizzie, by Rosie Rushton (2009)Love, Lies and Lizzie (Jane Austen in the 21st Century), by Rosie Rushton. In her fourth in the series of young adult Austen novels, author Rosie Rushton continues retelling Jane Austen’s stories as she takes the famous Pride and Prejudice and reimagines what might have happened if Lizzie Bennet and her sisters had been teenagers in the 21st century. If you enjoyed her previous Austen inspired novels Summer of Secrets, Secrets of Love, Secret Schemes, Daring Dreams, and The Dashwood Sisters Secrets of Love then you should check this one out too. (author quote)  “Find out what the devious George Wickham, the lush Darcy and the ghastly Drew Collins do to wreck the lives of the Bennet sisters – and let me know what you think about my new ending!” Piccadilly Press Ltd, ISBN: 978-1853409790  

The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer (2009)The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer. Not Jane Austen, but darn close. Even thirty five years after her death, no one has come close to matching Heyer’s unique and engaging style at the Regency era comedy/romance. Sourcebooks continues in their quest to republish this worthy author and introduce her to a whole new generation of readers. (publishers description) Horatia Winwood is a plain girl with a stutter. When she rescues her sister from an undesired marriage to the Earl of Rule by proposing to him herself, he is thoroughly impressed by her spirit and enjoys watching her take the ton by storm. When Rule’s archenemy, Sir Robert, tries to kiss Horatia, she spurns his advances, and in the ensuing scuffle loses an heirloom brooch. Horatia’s brother’s hare-brained scheme to recover the brooch fails, and then the Earl himself must step in, challenging Sir Robert in a swordfight that is Heyer at her most stirring. Sourcebooks, Casablanca. ISBN: 978-1402217722. Review by  Geranium Cat’s Bookshelf.

Nonfiction 

Bloom's Modern Critical Views (2009)Bloom’s Jane Austen: Bloom’s Modern Critical Views, by Harold Bloom. The Bloom’s literary volumes have turned into a major resource on author lives and critical reception. I own the sister volume to this second edition, Bloom’s Jane Austen: Bloom’s Classical Critical Views and can attest that they are wonderful resources on opinions of Jane Austen. (publishers description) Putting her in elite company, Harold Bloom suggests Jane Austen will survive with the likes of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. Critical essays offer insight into Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion. A part of our Bloom’s Major Novelists series, this volume is designed to present biographical, critical, and bibliographical information on the playwright’s best-known works. This series is edited by Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the Humanities, Yale University; Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Professor of English, New York University Graduate School; preeminent literary critic of our time. Titles include detailed plot summaries of the novel, extracts from scholarly critical essays on the novels, a complete bibliography of the writer’s novels, and more. Chelsea House Publications; New edition. ISBN 978-1604133974 

Austen’s Oeuvre 

Northanger Abbey Tantor Unabridged Classics (2009)Northanger Abbey Tantor Unabridged Classics. This unabridged audio book is read by Donada Peters, one of AudioFile magazine’s Golden Voices who has won over a dozen AudioFile Earphones Awards. Also included is a PDF eBook containing the full text.  (publisher’s description) When Catherine is invited to Northanger Abbey, the grand though forbidding ancestral seat of her suitor, Henry Tilney, she finds herself embroiled in a real drama of misapprehension, mistreatment, and mortification, until common sense and humor—and a crucial clarification of Catherine’s financial status—puts all to right. Written in 1798 but not published until after Austen’s death in 1817, Northanger Abbey is characteristically clearheaded and strong, and infinitely subtle in its comedy. Tantor Unabridged Classics. ISBN:  978-1400110780 

Austen’s contemporaries  

Belinda (Oxford World's Classics), Maria Edgeworth (2009)Belinda (Oxford World’s Classics), by Maria Edgeworth. Even though Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth were never formally introduced, Austen admired the author so much that she sent a presentation copy of Emma to her in advance of its publication. Edgeworth did not return the complement saying “there is no story in it.” Belinda was originally published in 1801 and is offered in this nicely introduced and supplemented re-issue by OWP. (publishers description) The lively comedy of this novel in which a young woman comes of age amid the distractions and temptations of London high society belies the challenges it poses to the conventions of courtship, the dependence of women, and the limitations of domesticity. Contending with the perils and the varied cast of characters of the marriage market, Belinda strides resolutely toward independence. Admired by her contemporary, Jane Austen, and later by Thackeray and Turgenev, Edgeworth tackles issues of gender and race in a manner at once comic and thought-provoking. The 1802 text used in this edition also confronts the difficult and fascinating issues of racism and mixed marriage, which Edgeworth toned down in later editions. Oxford University Press. ISBN: 978-0199554683

  • Catch up on previous months of  the Austen book sleuth in the archive. 

Until next month, happy reading! 

Laurel Ann