RogerBW's Blog

The Convenient Marriage, Georgette Heyer 16 October 2021

1934 romance. The Winwoods are a good family, but impoverished; the rich Earl of Rule needs a wife. He offers for the oldest sister, as is proper, but Elizabeth already has a beau (though a sadly poor one), so young Horatia suggests that she might do just as well. A marriage of convenience seems like a good idea to both of them, but…

Since this is a romance, the question is not "will they end up happy" but "how will they end up happy". Particularly since Rule has a mistress; of course this being Heyer certain details are never mentioned, but at the very least he continues to provide some support to her after the marriage, she would clearly like matters to continue as they have been, and Horatia feels that she is quite unable to compete.

Further obstructions come from Drelincourt, Rule's heir-presumptive who'd rather looked forward to getting the fortune one day and will now be cut of out it by a hypothetical child; and from Lethbridge, an old enemy who tried to run off with Rule's sister back in the day and has never forgiven him for rescuing her. Both of them also set out to destroy the marriage.

Indeed, one of the excellent points here is that the three villains try this in different ways, in accordance with their personalities; they're all attempting to make Horatia look bad and cause a scandal, but they each have their own methods for doing so. Indeed if they'd actually collaborated they might have managed rather better, but none of them is of a temperament to do that.

We also get Horatia's foolish brother Pelham and his friend Sir Roland Pommeroy, and if they take a lot from Heyer's standard younger-brother archetype they also manifest their own personalities. Pel essentially sees violence as a convenient way of solving problems (he's almost as good a duellist as he thinks he is), while the slightly-wiser Sir Roland feels the need to point out the scandal and bad ton that would result.

(Mind you, much of the reasons the family needs money is Pel's gambling debts, and "it's in the blood" doesn't seem like much of an excuse to paper over "he can thoughtlessly ruin us all and we can't stop him". Especially since Horatia seems to have the same tastes once convention allows her to indulge.)

But really I think the problem for me is that we don't see them falling in love at all. Rule probably fell at first sight, and certainly never seems to change in his attitude, just waits for Horatia to notice; but while we spend time with her, we're told that he's becoming more attractive to her, but somehow one never feels it. (All right, it doesn't help that she's downright gullible, never seeming to realise that anyone might have bad intentions towards her until it's far too late.)

There's plenty of enjoyable incident here, but on this reading for me at least I got a feeling that the actual romance was distinctly secondary in importance.

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