5. “Venetia” by Georgette Heyer

Publisher: Pan Books Ltd, 1971 (first published in 1958 by William Heinemann Ltd.)
Page count: 324 pages

“Venetia” is a Regency romance written by the prolific author Georgette Heyer. It is the story about Venetia, a 25-year-old woman living a reclusive life in Yorkshire with her younger brother, Aubrey, a bookish and partly handicapped boy of 16. Their older brother, Conway, has left Venetia in charge of the household while he is abroad with the army. A combination of keen intelligence, a mischievous sense of humour and plenty of common sense (as well as a beauty that Venetia herself seems oblivious to) makes Venetia popular among the neighbourhood’s eligible bachelors. Having attained the ripe old age of 25, however, Venetia has long since reconciled herself to a life as an old maid and, in fact, would rather remain a spinster than accept the proposals of her pompous and self-righteous neighbour, Edward Yardley.

One day she is out walking in the woods, Venetia meets Lord Damerel, an infamous womanizer living nearby whose reputation is scandalous to say the least. He has the impertinence to kiss her there and then without even having been formally introduced! Rather than being upset, however, Venetia is intrigued by her new neighbour and, after a riding accident leaves Aubrey in the care of Lord Damerel for two weeks, the two become fast friends. Predictably, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship that soon develops into something more…

As you’d expect from a romance novel, “Venetia” is a fun, fast-paced and easy read. Nonetheless, Georgette Heyer’s superb language and acute observations of the Regency era’s social norms and behaviour gives this book a real edge over the usual dime-a-dozen romance novels. Further, the main character, Venetia, has much in common with Elizabeth Bennett in Jane Austen’s “Pride and prejudice”, ensuring that readers instantly sympathize with and cheer for Venetia not only in her romantic endeavours, but also in her attempts to protect Aubrey and the household staff when Conway’s new bride and outrageous mother-in-law turn up in their home unannounced. Great entertainment!


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