This is one of Heyer’s books that I remember vividly from my original read many years ago, and not in a good way. I’ve not been looking forward to reaching this point in my reread. It has so many of the motifs I really dislike: the worldly older hero, the silly, very young heroine, the misunderstandings, the main romance pushed aside by the subplots… Not to mention there’s also a second silly, very young female, plus (another Heyer favourite) a rather wild young man.
The overriding problem is the relationship between the hero and heroine. In the very first scene, he is telling her off for running up so many bills and she’s miserably apologetic, and although there’s no heat in his manner, it still comes across as something not very much like a married couple. An uncle/niece, perhaps, or a teacher ticking off a naughty schoolchild. And even though he’s somewhat affectionate towards her, his manner is more avuncular than husbandly. It’s certainly not a marriage of equals, and one wonders just what he sees in her.
The other problem is that every difficulty between them could be resolved if they just sat down for five minutes and talked to each other. But no, she jumps through endless hoops to avoid telling him something trivial, and he gets all huffy and uptight, and frankly, they deserve their misery. As for the subplot with the ridiculous sister, the less said about that the better. This is the first Heyer I actually skim-read just to get through it, and even then the payoff wasn’t worth it. There’s a point where the heroine sets off to confess all to the hero (at which point, I’m yelling ‘YES!!!’), she realises he’s misunderstood something and instead of just explaining it, she dashes all over London trying to resolve things single-handed, while he’s dashing around after her. And of course, there’s a whole heap of prime Heyer shenanigans as a result, but by that time, I just wanted to bang their heads together. This is one romance where it’s impossible to see how the marriage will last. Sadly, this doesn’t merit more than two stars.