Venetia - Georgette Heyer Oh, Georgette Heyer! At the top of her talent, there is no one better. I have already read all Heyer’s Regency romances at least once, so this was a re-read. And it’s just as good now as it was on the first reading, some years back.
The story is simple. Venetia, a country miss of twenty-five years, lives quietly with her seventeen-year-old brother Aubrey at their estate in Yorkshire. When their neighbor, Lord Damerel, arrives at his manor from London, rumors start flying, for Damerel is a confirmed rake. Having only contempt for the rigid villagers, he doesn’t hide the fact, just the opposite, he flaunts his dissipation.
Of course, stuffy local gentry disapprove of him, but Venetia is not as ready to judge and condemn her unusual neighbor as they are. Instead, a beautiful friendship unfolds between the two. Although Venetia has lived all her life at her estate, she is not as innocent as some believe. Her estimation of Damerel’s character is neither all black nor all pink. She accepts him for what he is and doesn’t deceive herself about him. While she values his wit and his honesty, he is charmed by her candor, her lively sense humor, and her appreciation of the absurd. He becomes the only one of her acquaintances she could laugh with.
“… I always wished for a friend to laugh with.”
“To laugh with!” he repeated slowly.
“Perhaps you have friends already who laugh when you do,” she said diffidently. “I haven’t, and it’s important, I think—more important than sympathy in affliction, which you might easily find in someone you positively disliked.”
“But to share a sense of the ridiculous prohibits dislike—yes, that’s true. And rare! My God, how rare! Do they stare at you, our worthy neighbors, when you laugh?”
“Yes! Or ask me what I mean when I’m joking!” She glanced at the clock above the empty fireplace. “I must go.”

Both of them feel a kindred soul in the other, and their friendship quickly metamorphoses into love. But of course, at this point Damerel, a truly Byronian figure, suffers some serious pangs of belated honor. Feeling himself unworthy of his beloved, who is in truth one of the most enchanting and sensible female characters I know in fiction, he nobly steps back and refuses to supply the offer of marriage she’s been eagerly waiting for. He thinks she’d be better off without him. It takes some ingenuity on Venetia’s part and a really drastic scheme to disabuse the hero of his misplaced scruples and coax him into her desired outcome – a proposal.
The protagonists’ complicated minuet is enhanced by a slew of quirky secondary characters. As always the case with this author, they shine; they come alive off the pages. Among them are Venetia’s brother Aubrey, a brilliant scholar with a sharp tongue and a lame leg; Venetia’s vapid sister-in-law Charlotte and her hateful mother; Venetia’s “worthy” suitor Edward and his rival, a romantic boy Oswald; and a couple of others.
Like most Heyer’s novels, this one flows gracefully towards its happy ending. Along the way, the readers are delighted by the seamless and luminous prose, witty dialog, and scrumptious meals. I particularly relish Heyer’s culinary interludes. In all her novels, her characters have at least one meal, sometimes several, and the descriptions of those feasts always make me hungry and willing to try the gastronomical masterpieces she is offering her heroes.
Overall – a light and enjoyable read, often hilarious and invariably tasteful.