In today’s article, award-winning Regency romance author, Ann Lethbridge, shares her experiences and views of Georgette Heyer’s Regency Bath Tangle. In particular, Ann has a special, even sympathetic, take on the very alpha male hero of this story. If you have read the book, do you agree with Ann, or do you have a different take on this alpha male hero and how Heyer handled him?
Everyone is welcome to share their own views on this story or Regency romance in general in comments to this post.
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Let me start with a disclaimer. I am an uncritical reader. If the author brings me into her world, I’m a happy camper. I rarely have anything bad to say about a book because words are food for my soul. That said, even I recognize that changing styles and expectations have made Georgette Heyer’s work less accessible to today’s reader. Nevertheless I still love them. Perhaps because they bring back happy memories of my father, who also loved her books and who introduced me to them.
My assigned book, Bath Tangle was among the first of Georgette Heyer’s Regencies I read as a teen. Written around the mid-point of her career, it is full of the charm and style we come to expect from the initiator of our beloved genre, along with long paragraphs of narrative, description and exclamation points sprinkled with abandon. The tangle refers to the lives and loves of the six main characters in the book that must be unraveled before there is any hope of a happy ending.
Our principal heroine, Serena, is intelligent, headstrong and independent, traits a modern reader will like. Our hero, Ivo, the Marquess of Rotherham is the kind of alpha male we love and hate in equal measure, or at least that is how it is for me. Every reader is different. Certainly the modern reader might find his autocratic manner hard to take at first. I personally think Heyer does a pretty good job of redeeming him by the end, but it is touch and go.
Heyer describes him in part as "of medium height only…powerfully built, with big shoulders, a deep chest and thighs by far too muscular to appear to advantage in the prevailing fashion of skin tight pantaloons." He is also cursed with what today we might call a uni-brow, is rude to a fault, with no social graces, but accepted everywhere because he is rich. A Mr Darcy in the extreme.
We also learn he lost his father at a young age and that his mother brought him up to be very proud. However, when he is informed he is behaving badly, he is suitable chastened and swiftly makes amends as Ms Heyer shows us very nicely early in the book.
Reading the book again after several years, I was surprised to discover that for at least the first third and perhaps longer we see little of Rotherham. Indeed, he is so absent after the opening scenes, one almost forgets about him as Serena and her youthful step-mama Fanny, a far more pliable character, take centre stage. This is not something an author would dare these days and it may have been Ivo’s almost unlikeable character that led Heyer to do this. Or it may have been the only way to keep them apart.
During his absence, Heyer keeps us fully engaged and entertained with intricate details of life in Bath during the Regency. There is also the introduction of fascinating and sparklingly odd individuals along with the ubiquitous ingénues, subplots and men of good character who help save the day. Much of the book is spent misleading us as to who will be with whom, and treating us to insights of the lives of single women, both widowed and the yet-to-be-married, during this period of history, with just enough romance to keep us hooked.
The story’s denouement touched my emotions more strongly than some of her others, and oddly enough, it was because of Ivo. I felt there was more at stake for him in this story than there was for Serena, who does her best to marry him off elsewhere. When he says to her "I thought I had torn you out of my heart…."
Yes, that was my kind of happy ending.
Ann Lethbridge is an award-winning multi-published author of Regency Romance. She has over twenty titles with Harlequin Historicals, all regencies. Her next is The Duke’s Daring Debutante, out July 1 (June 19 in stores). She has recently strayed into the paranormal with the self-published Vampire Regency Lady Sybil’s Vampire. If you would like to learn more about her books visit http://www.annlethbridge.com or visit her blog where she travels around regency England at http://www.regencyramble.blogspot.com You will find her on twitter @annlethbridge, on facebook, AnnLethbridgeAuthor and a variety of other social sites where she will be chatting and have fun instead of writing the next book.