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Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer

Lady of Quality (1972)

by Georgette Heyer

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Rating: 3.25* of five

Heyer's last book. It was published in 1972, before a series of strokes and a fatal bout with lung cancer (80 cigarettes a day will do that to one) carried her off in 1974. Definitely not the best work she did.

Interestingly, Dame Agatha Christie's last book came out in 1972, the absolutely execrable [Elephants Can Remember], and Dame Ags died in 1975. These ladies were contemporaries, though I know of no evidence showing that they ever met; I'd've paid top dollar to be present when they did! Your attention please, time-travel agencies, I want a cut of the bucks from that alternate-timeline tour.

The books were not the finest in the respective authors' ouevres. Heyer's not-best, however, was about as far from her normal output as any other author's not-best; as Christie was suffering from dementia, she headed a great deal farther down from her own peak. In this book, Heyer's accustomed subtlety and witty misdirection are entirely absent. There are pleasant passages of smile-inducing drolerie, but few standout moments and then almost always deeply familiar from past works. Ninian, the very-recent schoolboy whose arc to maturity resembles that of Nicky Carlyon from [The Reluctant Widow], has probably the most memorable humorous lines in the book:
"Well, I don't scruple to say that I never had the least turn for scholarship," Ninian somewhat unnecessarily disclosed. He added a handsome rider to this statement, saying, with a beaming smile: "And I promise you, ma'am, no one would ever suspect you of being bookish!"

Overwhelmed by this tribute, Miss Wychwood uttered in a shaken voice: "How kind of you, Ninian, to say so!"
Nicky's boyish enthusiasm for espionage in that earlier work contrast tellingly with Ninian's fuddled motivations and interest in this story. Ninian, graduated from Oxford as opposed to Nicky's rustication therefrom, is as bumptiously energetic as Nicky though considerably less interesting. He's a Regency dudebro, out with the boys and making light work of his childhood friend Lucilla's Bath coming-out sort of season. He is no patch on the juvenile leads from earlier Heyers, but he is energetically amusing whenever he's in the frame.

Miss Annis Wychwood and Mr Oliver Carleton are peas in a pod; they recognize kindred free spirits in each other from the first. Neither of them was much given to conformity; each has economic independence; both are older and wiser than all of the conventional folk around them, regardless of calendar age. Does this sound familiar, Heyerites? [Black Sheep], anyone? (I should probably review that one one day soon.) They are crashed into each others' spheres of influence and, as a result of their shared indifference to Society (within the bounds of propriety in Annis's case! can't go too far from reality) discover they will do nicely as spouses to each other. (In a tellingly complete rundown of his character flaws at the end of his proposal to Annis, Oliver fails to promise Happily-Ever-After and Annis accepts him with clear eyes and a happy heart. I can but hope that represents Heyer's own marriage to George Rougier.)

Here's the thing: None of this is accomplished with the subtlety and panache of previous iterations. It's just out there from the first, and so there's no tension or conflict to resolve that's worthy of the name. This book is a canter down the bridle path on your oldest horse, a treat for the old creature and for you, a visit to the site of many familiar pleasures.

But how man and beast long for the fences and the hedges of steeplechasing youth. ( )
1 vote richardderus | Jun 18, 2019 |
Among the last of her novels, Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer was published in 1972 and is a thinly disguised re-working of her 1966 book, Black Sheep. Both books are Regency romances, both set in Bath and both feature heroines who, being 28 years of age, have a little more independence than her younger characters.

I have not yet read Black Sheep but fully intend on pulling it off the shelf at some point. I did enjoy Lady of Quality but not as much as many of her other novels. While the characters felt a little flat, and the story line wasn’t the most interesting, Heyer still manages to deliver some of the most amusing and period correct sentences. When spirited Miss Annis Wynchwood gets involved in the affairs of the Carleton family she comes into contact with a man whom she calls odious, ill-mannered and the rudest man she ever met. He in turn calls her “hornet” for the stinging rebukes she delivers him. Of course, they are destined to fall in love.

Even a less than perfect Georgette Heyer makes for a lovely escape read and I breezed through it smiling all the while. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | May 2, 2019 |
Fun read with great characters. I find the dialog hilarious. ( )
  ladyoflorien | Nov 19, 2018 |
Although Georgette Heyer has used this type of formula several times, meaning I guessed certain outcomes in advance and there were few surprises, I nevertheless loved the story.

The comedy is top notch. The best of the humour comes through dialogue exchanges, which I feel is the author’s greatest strength. I love the arguments, especially between Annis – the heroine of the piece – and the rude-mannered Oliver Carleton.

While the plot isn’t very substantial, the characters make this novel great fun. Even the secondary and incidental characters are memorable. Annis and Oliver are both brilliant. Ninian Elmore is a likeable lad and amusing when he gets annoyed.

Maria Farlow sets everyone on edge without her relentless waffle and is the sort of person I avoid in real life, but as a fictitious character she’s great entertainment, making me laugh often.

Lucilla Carleton takes the prize of being my favourite. She’s likeable, naive, and funny. Ms Heyer is at her best with this type of character.

Having read all this author’s historical novels except “The Spanish Bride” (which I gave up on) and “The Great Roxhythe”, I place “Lady of Quality” as my third favourite Heyer novel. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Oct 17, 2018 |
If I have a complaint about Heyer's novels, it is that the plots and characters are repetitive. In fact, I selected Lady of Quality because it was the one unique storyline of the choices at the library. Annis Wychwood is one of Heyer's best heroines, in the vein of Sophy Stanton-Lacy (The Grand Sophy), Deborah Granthan (Faro's Daughter) and Elinor Rochdale (The Reluctant Widow) - independent, intelligent, witty - and though her hero, Oliver Carleton, isn't as fleshed out as some of her other heros, your heart will leap for Annis when he asks for her hand. Heyer also creates one of the more brilliant annoying characters in Annis's companion, Maria Farlow. I'm giving five stars because, while I'm not sure I would reread Lady of Quality, I would recommend it to anyone.

Edited to add 11/21/16 - Read this the last two days and, I swear to God, I didn't remember a stitch of it. Though, I suppose the idea of the sameness of Heyer's plots niggling in the back of my mind should have given me pause. Today, I would give it three stars, and wouldn't recommend it to anyone but a Heyer completist. What a different three years makes. ( )
  MelissaLenhardt | Mar 11, 2018 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Georgette Heyerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bisschop-Velthuis, ChristaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Donkersloot, PietCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lux, HannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matheson, EveNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mortelmans, EdwardCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The elegant travelling carriage which bore Miss Wychwood from her birthplace, on the border of Somerset and Wiltshire, to her home in Bath, proceeded on its way at a decorous pace.
"I lied when I said I like you! I do not like you! I am very nearly sure that I dislike you excessively."
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* Dit boek is ook uitgegeven onder de titel: De Liefde van een Lady..

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Book description
The spirited and independent Miss Annis Wychwood is a beautiful heiress, and hopelessly single, has twenty-nine and well past the age for falling in love. When she sponsored young pretty Miss Lucilla Carleton's "coming out," the town's social elite were shocked. After all, how could Annis find Lucilla a husband when she could not choose one for herself? Then Lucilla's handsome and egotistical uncle and guardian, Mr. Oliver Carleton, arrived to approve the sponsorship.

But when Annis embroils herself in the affairs of the runaway heiress, Lucilla, she is destined to see a great deal of her fugitive's uncivil and high-handed guardian, Oliver. Befriending the wayward girl brings unexpected consequences, among them the conflicting emotions aroused by her guardian, whose reputation as the rudest man in London precedes him. Chafing at the restrictions of Regency society in Bath, Annis has to admit that at least Carleton is never boring. And his brash and rakish manner quickly succumbed to the will of Annis, this remarkable heiress no man had yet subdued. Outrageous as he is, the charming Annis ends up finding him absolutely irresistible.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099474468, Paperback)

When spirited, independent Miss Annis Wynchwood embroils herself in the affairs of a runaway heiress, she is destined to see a good deal of Lucilla’s uncivil and high-handed guardian Mr Oliver Carleton.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:59 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

When Miss Annis Wychwood offers sanctuary to the very young runaway heiress Miss Lucilla Carleton, no one at all thinks this is a good idea. With the exception of Miss Carleton's overbearing guardian, Mr. Oliver Carleton, whose reputation as the rudest man in London precedes him. Outrageous as he is, the charming Annis ends up finding him absolutely irresistible.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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