wrote a great many romances set in the Regency
, and in many of them the hero is the most eligible bachelor in London, and the leader of fashionable society
, while the heroine is often the newest heiress
who sets all tongues wagging. She's not repetitious in detail but this oft-used formula does require that each of the books excludes the others. The couple who take the 1811
Season by storm can only marry once.
Regency Buck (1935) is a classic tale in this mould, but it has the distinction of sharing characters with other books. There is a chain connecting five of her best works, this with The Black Moth, Devil's Cub, The Spanish Bride, and An Infamous Army. Each one of these is more powerful than most of her others, and together they form a saga of love, society, and war.
"Rich and lovely, ardent and wilful, any restraint maddened Judith. But in her handsome, rakish guardian she met her match--and more." (cover blurb)
The very wealthy young pair of Judith Taverner
and her brother Sir Peregrine
are travelling from their Yorkshire
home to London to set up in society there. They know no-one, but their father's will names an elderly friend, Lord Worth, as their guardian, and their first action in town must to be make his acquaintance, soft-soap him a bit, and ensure he has no objection to their setting up house.
On the road their paths cross two very different young men: one haughty, nonchalant, odious, and insufferable, who offers insult to Judith by kissing her then laughs it off; and the other a kind, well-spoken, diffident chap who proves to be a cousin (estranged by a quarrel between crotchetty brothers). They look forward to meeting this second one in town soon, and hope never to set eyes on the other, though Peregrine would very much like to call him out for his insolence.
Once in London they call on Lord Worth. Unfortunately their father seems to have made a Horrible Mistake in drawing up his will, and Judith is incensed that her money is under the protection of a person she cannot abide.
Worth makes no objection to most of her doings, and she joins fashionable society, makes a splash and numerous conquests, and Worth refuses her hand to the worthless types who solicit it. She dosn't want to marry any of them but is thoroughly displeased at his high-handed assumption.
Things take a sinister turn. Peregrine falls in love; if he marries he will produce heirs; if has heirs of his own, his vast fortune will not fall to Judith if anything untoward should happen to him; and whoever was to marry Judith would not get all that money.
Peregrine attends a cockfight and another patron, accusing him of cheating, provokes him into accepting a duel. Among Peregrine's Christmas presents is an unlabelled jar of snuff. Among Lord Worth's hobbies is making up very special blends of snuff.
Mr Bernard Taverner does not trust Worth, and feels it is duty to act as his cousin Miss Taverner's friend and confidant. Lord Worth wants his brother Captain Audley, lately returned from the wars, to become Peregrine's friend and confidant. He also has been watching Peregrine run himself deeply into debt with gambling, and he himself holds a lot of his IOUs. Then, on a visit to Brighton, Peregrine disappears...
A number of real people figure in the plot too. Not only Lady Jersey and other hostesses of Almack's; but the arbiter of taste Beau Brummell on whom many fictional heroes are partly based; and Judith undergoes very pressing attentions indeed from two unwelcome suitors, the future kings George IV and William IV.
If you had to choose one Regency romance to start from to appreciate the power of Georgette Heyer's consummate story-telling and period detail, let it be Regency Buck. Germaine Greer unkindly wrote it off as an example of degrading formulaic fiction in The Female Eunuch, but I hope she has since mellowed and reread it and found how complex and intelligent it is.