The Grand Sophy, published in 1950, features a heroine that every modern reader can surely enjoy. Sophy Stanton-Lacey is a glorious character, feisty without being unfeasibly modern, spirited and determined without being aggressive, a catalyst for change without being ruthless. Yes, she’s meddlesome and manipulative, but she genuinely wants the best possible outcome for everyone. From the moment she arrives at her aunt’s house in London, armed with her own Spanish horse, a parrot and a monkey, she dominates the page, charming and infuriating her relations in equal measure.
Her stuffy cousin Charles and his priggish fiancee, Miss Eugenia Wraxton, bear the brunt of Sophy’s good-humoured efforts to sort out their lives. Eugenia, in particular, is beautifully drawn, very much the other side of the coin from Sophy herself. Eugenia is constantly trying to ‘give her a hint’ about how to behave in London society, none of which advice Sophy needs, ensconced as she already is in diplomatic and political circles through her father’s career. And where Sophy wants to rearrange the romantic pairings of her cousins, which she can see will only bring them grief, Eugenia’s meddling takes the form of interference in the running of the household and suppressing the natural liveliness of the children.
As always with Heyer, the tangles reach a very entertaining climax where everything teeters on the brink of disaster before abruptly resolving itself into a happy ending mode. And, as always, the romance is almost forgotten about until the very last chapter. I confess, this weakness of the author’s is a constant irritant to me, as I far prefer a romance that builds steadily over the course of the book. However, everything else about this was a delight, even including the Lady-Catherine-like aunt and the array of caricature supporting roles. Five stars.
PS I’ve chosen to illustrate this with the classic paperback cover I remember from years gone by. I may even still have a copy in the attic. Sadly, my modern Kindle version has a far less interesting external cover, and none at all within the body of the book.