Having read and enjoyed Autumn Bride, I moved straight on to the sequel, which features many of the same characters but set some twelve or so years later. It was published twenty years after the first book, so there are some disconnects (to my mind) but it wasn’t a problem.
Here’s the premise: wild boy Vivyan Lagallan has reached the grand old age of thirty and decides it’s time to settle down. He proposes to beautiful, respectable and ever so slightly dull Helen Pensford. Returning from his successful suit, a very different sort of lady drops (literally) into his arms, Miss Eustacia Marchant. She’s running away from home in pursuit of the man she’s fallen in love with, Rupert Alleyne. To make things easier on her illicit journey, she dresses in boy’s clothing, but gets into difficulties and ends up stuck in a tree, from which position Vivyan manages to rescue her. And if you think this sounds vaguely familiar, then you’ve probably read Georgette Heyer’s The Corinthian, which has a very similar opening (with shades of Sprig Muslin thrown in, for good measure).
Eustacia is an innocent, and determined to make her way to London, so Vivyan, the reformed wild boy, turns gentlemanly protector to help her to get there safely and without scandal, and then keep an avuncular eye on her. This is a very different Vivyan from the irrepressible scamp of the earlier book. He’s still charming, but now he falls into the role of slightly jaded man-about-town, almost the world-weary older man found in so many Heyer books. It isn’t a problem, but reading this straight after the previous book, it was a bit of a shock.
Needless to say, Rupert Alleyne, the object of Eustacie’s affections, is astonished to find that his casual flirtation has assumed far more serious proportions in her mind. I very much liked the way the author handled this quandary. Rupert could have become the caricature villain at this point, but instead he behaves in a far more believable way.
The plot from this point becomes the standard Regency tangle of two couples engaged to the wrong partners, and at first it seems that those oh-so-restrained Regency manners are going to prevent the happy ending the reader expects. Fortunately, Eustacia is an ingenious little soul, and the way the whole muddle unravels is great fun and (unlike a number of Heyer denouements) doesn’t depend on everyone suddenly turning into morons or forgetting to talk to each other or making wild sacrifices for the heroine’s own good.
Great fun, authentically Regency and very readable in the best traditions of Heyer. Five stars.