It is written in the kind of language style used by Jane Austen, and I found it quite delightful. It is not a ‘bodice ripper’ type romance. It is more an examination of the manners and mores of the time.
Unlike Austen, who wrote about and for the times in which she lived, Heyer, writing in mid-century 1900s had to include all kinds of information about the period so that we readers would understand the setting. Heyer essentially invented the historical romance and created the subgenre of the Regency romance. Her books revolved around a “structured social ritual — the marriage market represented by the London season where all are in danger of ostracism for inappropriate behavior.
Just as I have enjoyed Austen, I enjoyed Venetia. So much so that I might try a few others of Heyer’s books. They are an easy read, with the tidy happy ending that we all so hope for.
The basic story line of Venetia is all about the title character, a 25-year-old young lady of good breeding, living in a prosperous manner house in the countryside of Yorkshire, a very rural and sparsely settled area. Her oldest brother and since her father’s death the current title holder of the estate, is away in France in the army, and she is left at home to take care of all household management and estate management, and to look after her younger brother. Her younger brother of 16 who was born with a hip disease (whatever that means) and who is lame, is an autodidact, working only with a local elderly scholar. The brother is of genius caliber who cares for nothing but his studies.
Venetia is terribly independent for the age she lives in. She has only two suitors, there being only the two available men living anywhere near her. One is a callow youth of 19 who is deeply smitten, and something of a featherbrain. The other is a gentleman of about 30, a childhood friend, who is bossy and dictatorial and thinks he knows everything. He is very annoying. Needless to say, she doesn’t want either of them, and resolves to eventually set up in her own home with her younger brother. This plan is set forward when the older brother surprisingly sends his new bride, of which they had no prior knowledge, home to live in the house. Along with her awful mother. This means she is now Lady Whosis and in charge of the house and household. She is a quiet, dim,creature, bossed around appallingly by her appallingly awful mother. And she is preggers.
Meanwhile, or before while, as it were, the other stereotypical character of these stories, the badly behaved rake who owns the property next door, shows up after having been absent for many years. Guess what happens. Of course.
A delightful little story, no big surprises, but a couple of little ones, some interesting commentary on life in those days among people of a certain social class, where appearances mean a great deal, and a potential spouse’s worth is noted in pounds per annum, and if there are enough pounds per annum, it can wash away a lot of otherwise dirty laundry.
If you like Austen, you will like Venetia, I am quite certain.