So Georgette Heyer’s books tend to fit certain themes – one of her favorites is when a noble, slightly older (but still single) gentleman finds a younger lady running away from home, and basically takes it upon himself to keep her safe. She’s never the object of his affection- there’s always some suitable younger man for her, and by some association, the older gentleman manages to win the affections of a lady nearer to his age.
This book technically fits into that pattern, but definitely with a twist. The Duke of Sale was orphaned when he was born – his father had recently died, and his mother sadly died bringing him into the world. He’d always been a sickly young man, so his uncle and the rest of the household were a tad over protective as he was growing up. He’s now just about to reach his full majority when his uncle informs him that he’s meant to marry Lady Harriet Presteigne. She’s long been a friend of the family, but this is the first time that Gillie finds out that he’d long been encouraged in that friendship because his Uncle and her parents had made a match. Thing is, Gillie is very fond of Harriet, but he’s not sure she returns his feelings. So, he makes the engagement, where poor, shy Harriet also doesn’t know quite what to do, which sends them both into a sort of existential crisis about the impending nuptials.
So naturally, Gillie decides he needs to spend some time not being the Duke, and decides to help one of his cousins out a scrape. He slips off without any of his staff, and only having told his oldest cousin what he plans to do. Naturally, this leads to him more or less adopting a young boy who’s run away from his tutor (and who will do just about any mischief that comes into his head), and a beautiful foundling named Belinda, who will go with pretty much any man that promises to buy her a purple dress. There’s kidnapping involved. And a country fair. And a trip to Bath.
It’s really completely ridiculous. So much so that I cut each chapter in the middle reading vampire short stories from Blood Bank, because I needed a break. Still, it’s kind of fun by the end, and I did keep with it just to see what would happen – because I really did like Gillie and Harriet.