Regency Buck

“‘One of a guardian’s privileges is to be seen talking to his ward without occasioning remark,’ he said. ‘I assure you he has not many.'”

In honor of Georgette Heyer’s month-long birthday celebration at Austenprose I had to read at least one of her novels; luckily I received several this past Christmas. I chose Regency Buck because it had been the topic of a talk I went to last year.

Judith and Peregrine Taverner have spent their whole lives as children of a country gentleman, and upon his death travel to London for the first time to meet their appointed guardian. What they find is not to their expectation or liking. The Earl of Worth is a fashionable society man just as displeased with the assignment as they but unwilling to be lax in his control of their fortune and situation. As much as he might like to wash his hands of his new wards, their impetuous behavior has a knack for landing them in trouble of the highest degree…

image from georgette-heyer.com

How can I say this? I adore Georgette Heyer, I enjoyed many, many aspects of this book, and yet I just couldn’t like Lord Worth. To me he is arrogant and high-handed, and if he looks out for others’ interests it is with a smug sense of his own superiority in the matter. We are led to believe that Judith’s own stubborness and determination to aggravate him necessitate such an approach, but it seems to me his manner precipitated her reaction. I was never able to forgive him for his actions in the beginning of the novel.

“Do you dislike me as much as ever? It is a pity. Try not to let your prejudice lead you into mistrusting me.”

The talk I attended called this a classic Pride and Prejudice set-up, and in many ways those traits do define the two characters, but I never noticed any real change in them like we see with Darcy and Elizabeth. Bernard Taverner and Captain Audley presented manners much more towards my liking with their willingness to show emotions. Judith insinuates at one point, however, that when it comes to romance such flirtations speak to her rather of insincerity.

“You know, you have just the suspicion of a freckle, Judith. You will always be going out in the sun and win, and my dear, nothing is so destructive of female charms as contact with fresh air.”

Judith herself is a willful girl, determined to become the talk of town by setting trends rather than following them. She drives a phaeton in the park herself, and makes taking snuff appear ladylike. Both she and her brother have hot tempers, which Lord Worth does his fair share in causing to flare; in Perry, however, the trait is accompanied by immaturity. He has the desire and not the necessary grace for everything he pursues, from driving horses to dressing like a dandy.

Regency Buck portrays the highlights of Regency London high society more than any other Georgette Heyer I’ve read. The characters are good friends with the famous Beau Brummell, whom I found expectedly flamboyant and completely charming. They hobnob with the Prince Regent and royal dukes at his Pavilion in Brighton, with lavish descriptions of the interior. Half of Judith’s suitors are contained in Who’s Who. Two of the answers for the recent Sourcebooks questions come from this volume: Judith praises the newly-published Sense and Sensibility, and goes with her brother to see Kemble playing a tragedy at Covent Garden. Time and again Mrs. Heyer impresses me with the depth and breadth of her research.

“‘Look, there goes my cousin Gloucester. I daresay he envies me perched up here beside you. What do you say?’

Miss Taverner laughed. ‘Nothing, sir, how can I? If I agree, I must be odiously conceited, which I hope I am not; and if I demur you will think me to be asking for reassurance.'”

In addition to her trademark detail and wit, she throws in the usual suspense during the second half of the book. Even with my distaste for Worth I found the book enjoyable, and others without that reaction seem to have liked it even more. If that’s you, see if you can defend Lord Worth to me!

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Published in: on August 25, 2010 at 10:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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