Arabella (1949)

by Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer lived in the 20th century but set her most famous novels in the Regency period of early 19th-century Britain. She is sometimes recommended to fans of Jane Austen. Her Regency romances share not only Austen's time frame but also their ending with a marriage or engagement.

Arabella, the eldest daughter of a country vicar, is invited to London by her godmother, a wealthy old friend of her mother’s, to find a husband. She’s beautiful and mistakenly thought an heiress, attracting many suitors. The hero isn’t deceived, but rather than thinking her a fraud, he’s amused by watching her progress in society. Arabella impresses him with being different from the typical debutante: She cares about an abused young chimney-sweep and a mistreated dog, and she does not appear intent on capturing him.

Arabella is a takeoff on Pride and Prejudice. The spirited, charming heroine needs a husband to secure her future. She isn’t attracted to the wealthy hero at first because he seems proud and stiff. By the time she changes her mind, she fears that her own folly and that of a family member make their union impossible. The hero proves his love by rescuing her sibling from scandal.

Heyer doesn’t have Austen’s seriousness of purpose, but she is a smooth writer who creates charming characters and witty dialogue. She is more interested than Austen in details of Regency fashions in dress and houses, customs and speech. She was a prolific writer, turning out 24 Regency romances and 30 other novels that ranged from historical to mystery.


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