Monday, 29 September 2014

REVIEW The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer


When the redoubtable Sir Horace Stanton-Lacy is ordered to South America on business, he leaves his only daughter Sophy with his sister in Berkeley Square. Newly arrived from her tour of the Continent, Miss Sophia Stanton-Lacy invites herself into the circle of her relatives, the Ombersleys, and Charles Rivenhall, the Ombersley heir, vows to rid his family of her by marrying her off. But vibrant and irrepressible Sophy was no stranger to managing delicate situations. After all, she'd been keeping opportunistic females away from her widowed father for years. But staying with her relatives could be her biggest challenge yet.

When Lady Ombersley agrees to take in her young niece, no one expects Sophy, who sweeps in and immediately takes the ton by storm. Beautiful, gay, impulsive, shockingly direct, Sophy swept into elegant London society and scattered conventions and traditions before her like wisps in a windstorm. But Sophy discovers that her aunt's family is in desperate need of her talent for setting everything right: her uncle is of no use at all, the ruthlessly handsome cousin Charles has tyrannical tendencies that are being aggravated by his grim fiancee; lovely cousin Cecelia was smitten with an utterly unsuitable suitor, a poet; cousin Herbert was in dire financial straits; and the younger children are in desperate need of some fun and freedom, and she's arrived just in time to save them all.

She became the mainstay of her hilariously bedeviled family, as a horsewoman, social leader and above all, as an ingenious match-maker. Using her signature unorthodox methods, Sophy set out to solve all of their problems. By the time she's done, Sophy has commandeered Charles's horses, his household, and finally, his heart. Could it be that the Grand Sophy had finally met her match...?

First a word about the author.  If you've never read a Georgette Heyer Regency she is the gold standard against which other Regency Romance authors are compared.  Her work is beautifully researched but still delightfully readable: filled with fascinating characters, complex plots and beautiful settings.

Sophy is the daughter of a diplomat who is sent to stay with English relatives who do not know her.  They are expecting a shy and timid mouse - are they in for a BIG surprise!

Sophy arrives complete with a monkey and a parrot [which was not raised in a vicarage] for the children, an Italian greyhound at her feet and her personal groom and maid in attendance.  She is tall and although not classically beautiful, her vivacious charm wins over all the family members in the first meeting except Charles, the dour eldest son. 

Charles is pained by his cousin's behavior.  She is forward, bold, out-spoken and a bad influence on his family.  Already she is encouraging sister Cecilia's unfortunate infatuation with a poet, encouraging brother Hubert to confide in her rather than himself, fascinating the children and befriending his mother.  Everyone loves her except Charles' fiancée...

Sophy is never bored, there is always something, or someone, to put to rights and she finds ample situations in her newly acquired family.  There's Cecilia who is weeping over her poet and the 'older man' they want her to marry, there's Hubert who is obviously laboring under a heavy burden of worry, and Charles who has become a domestic tyrant and is engaged to a truly tedious girl which he intends to inflict on the family by moving her into the house after the wedding.  But she's set worse situations to rights, it's only a matter of planning and initiative...

The book abounds with wits, rakes, snobs and eccentrics, all fashionably dressed and involved in a whirlwind of social activities.  It sparkles with intelligent, witty and charming conversation.  The plot has a satisfying number of twists without anyone stumbling over a dead body or kidnapping the king or even losing a diamond necklace.  The romance is warm and believable.  Like most of Georgette Heyer's work, this is a stand alone novel.

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