(Heinemann, 1955) has perhaps the stormiest
relationship between its heroine and hero of any of Georgette Heyer
is a tall, fiery redhead
, a superb horsewoman
, who can brook no opposition or mastery
is a black-browed cynic, careless of his dress, exploding into fury
at the slightest challenge. Naturally they are both absurdly rich, rich enough that their disregard of convention
has to be ignored by Society.
The Marquess of Rotherham has few of the redeeming graces of a Mr Darcy; I can't imagine many impressionable young readers would fall for him. Lady Serena Carlow is magnificent and beautiful. They share a sense of absurd humour, of course, though it is very hidden in him. Probably only she can see how much good there is in him; and she is a lot of the time too blind with anger at his latest high-handed provocation to be able to do him justice. Many years ago they were engaged, she jilted him, and they remain friends in their peculiarly fraught way.
It opens when her father Lord Spenborough has died, and the family are gathered for the will. The usual set of grasping or absurd relatives are in wait; Serena is not much interested in any of it, as she knows pretty much what everyone gets. What interests her is where she will live now and how she will get on, and what is to be done with her friend and stepmother, the second Lady Spenborough. Fanny is younger than Serena, very pretty and shy and unworldly. It would be best to set up home together in a small way.
Her reveries are interrupted by hearing the portion of the will that names Rotherham as the trustee of her fortune. She becomes white-hot with fury, and he reacts as violently, not wanting the charge. It was a last device of her father to bring the two back together. So this is how Bath Tangle begins to unfold.
It gets tangled in Bath, where Serena and Fanny move eventually to get away from the Spenborough estate now it is in a cousin's hands. As they are still in mourning they can't go for the social life of London, but some quiet activities at Bath are allowable. As well as being engaged to Rotherham in the past, Serena did once have someone else she thought she was in love with, Hector Kirkby. Suddenly she meets him by chance in Bath, and they are overjoyed.
Hector is everything Rotherham is not: classically handsome, kind, gentle, concerned, scrupulous, charming. Where once he was a penniless younger son, now he is a Major, has sold out from the wars, and has a competent independence, though nothing like Serena's vast fortune. This disparity troubles him deeply.
It would be giving too much of the plot away to elucidate the tangles they now get into. There are the schemes of Lasy Laleham to ensnare a rich and titled husband for her tremulous, pansy-eyed daughter Emily; there is Emily's vulgar and forthright grandmother with a firm hold on the Lalehams' purse-strings; there is an extremely foolish and cowardly mooncalf cousin and ward of Rotherham's, who thinks his guardian is being monstrous to his beloved Emily.
There is a very public engagement, a secret engagement, an elopement, a pursuit, a guilty kiss, a tyranny, a noble resolution, and so on: classic Heyer adventure.