Friday, February 27, 2009

The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer *****

This is my second Heyer read - the first one was Devil's Cub, an AAR Top 100 book, and frankly I didn't like it much. I'm pleased to say I liked this one quite a lot - there was a lot of humor, and the intricacy of the plot was fun too.

A "Corinthian" is defined as a playboy or a man devoted to the pursuit of pleasure. In context of the book, it's associated with "dandy" really implying more about his manner of dress. The hero, Richard Wyndham, seems more the dandy and in no way a rake from what is said about him. Indeed, it's stated over and over that he seems not to be interested in women at all - if the book wasn't written in 1940 (it was), I would say the implications were quite the opposite of a rake. Oh, there is the mention of perhaps an opera singer in his past.

When pushed to the wall by his mother and sister to make an offer for a certain young woman whose family is in need of cash, he goes to the woman's home and interviews her. She's as cold as his brother-in-law has said, and is plain that it's a marriage of convenience - her convenience, that is. Later that evening, he leaves White's with the intention of a long walk to decide what to do, when a young woman dressed as a boy falls literally into his arms.

Penelope Creed is running away - she too is being forced to marry for money - her money, that is, by her aunt who wants her son (Pen's cousin) to have it. Her plan is to run back to her original home where she and a local boy, Piers, pledged themselves to each other 5 years ago when they were children. Pen has developed quite a good acting (aka lying) streak, although she does tell Richard the truth. He's quite taken with her plight (and he's also under the influence of quite a lot of brandy) and decides to take her under his protection and accompany her. He is introduced as her tutor, then as her uncle, then as her cousin, depending on the needs of the day, as they make their way to the small town where Piers lives.

Meanwhile, the almost-betrothed-to-Richard woman's family is robbed of a diamond necklace, in odd circumstances. It seems only family members knew where it was hidden. Upon meeting up with a thief on the way, Richard and Pen find themselves in possession of the jewels when the thief hides them in Pen's cloak to avoid detection.

The convoluted plot has a member of the strapped family staying with Piers, his friend from school, while working with the thieves who stole his mother's necklace - and Pen livens up the adventure with so many lies and stories of what happened when that even she gets confused. It seems Piers, in addition to having the school friend in residence, has been sneaking out to meet his secretly betrothed - which throws a wrench in Pen's original plan.

It was fun, and funny, and I'm glad I can now look forward to other Heyer stories! I picked this one up for a quarter at the local library sale mainly because I figured I could trade it on PBS, and now maybe I'll keep it! It isn't in a series, but it does fit my A To Z challenge.

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