Review of “Arabella” by Georgette Heyer

The star of this Regency romance is Arabella Tallant, one of eight children of a vicar without much fortune. Thankfully for Arabella, she has a well-placed godmother in London – Arabella Bridlington, after whom she was named – who offers to sponsor her for a London season, i.e., the opportunity to snag a well-placed husband. As for Lady Bridlington, she has no daughters, and welcomed the opportunity “of chaperoning a young protégée to the balls, routs, and Assemblies she herself delighted in.”

On the way to London after a carriage mishap, Arabella and her chaperone stopped and asked for succor at a posh hunting lodge as they waited for repairs. They overheard their host, the young and handsome but apparently full-of-himself Robert Beaumaris, telling his visiting friend Lord Fleetwood that he was sick of women contriving to trick him into marrying them for his fortune. Upon hearing this, Arabella decided she would pretend to be fabulously wealthy and complain about all the fortune-hunters who have plagued her.

Beaumaris, also called the Nonpareil reflecting his influence in society, was possibly wise to Arabella’s deception, but he was amused by her. He decided to show her favor in London, thus assuring her popularity. Indeed, she was soon fielding marriage proposals, albeit mainly from men clearly after her money.

In the meantime, Beaumaris found he was more than just amused by Arabella in spite of his usual resistance to women, even as Arabella warmed up to him, in contrast to her initial repugnance.

The plot moves in a predictable but fun manner as the season progresses and Arabella is ever more plagued by a bad conscience over her lie.

In the course of the story we get to know the “ton,” or upper crust of society, which is consumed not at all by work but rather by gambling, parties, and shopping. Heyer also introduces reader to a lot of the “flash” argot popular at the time, and can’t resist adding a gratuitous antisemitic slur, as she often does in her books, marring an otherwise pleasant and diverting story.

Evaluation: Heyer’s books occasionally bog down, especially when it comes to the rapturous descriptions of men’s clothing. In addition, as indicated above, she can vitiate the reader’s good will because of her antisemitism. Otherwise, her stories have the (apparently timeless) appeal of the Regency period; a generally plucky female heroine and a handsome male protagonist; and a predictably happy outcome.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published originally in 1949, and republished frequently thereafter. The edition I read was the Kindle Edition published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2018

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1 Response to Review of “Arabella” by Georgette Heyer

  1. Blech, Heyer’s antisemitism is exhausting and really does make it impossible to enjoy her books sometimes. It’s been ages since I read anything of hers, but I think I remember Arabella being one of the ones I enjoyed!

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