Regency Buck, by Georgette Heyer
Rather than obey their guardian's command to stay in Yorkshire, Miss Judith Taverner and her brother Sir Peregrine travel to London with the intention of setting up house. After all, they've never met this guardian—their father appointed him in his will without discussing it with them. For that matter, he appointed Lord Worth their guardian without even discussing it with Lord Worth himself! (Sir John Taverner was a tad difficult.)
On their way there, they have multiple run-ins with a very rude man. Once together, and then each of them separately. The following conversation occurs just after the rude man discovers Judith on the side of the road with her shoe off (she was, of course, trying to dislodge a pebble):
She looked him full in the eyes. "If my brother had been with me you would not have accosted me in this fashion," she said.
"Certainly not," he agreed, quite imperturbably. "He would have been very much in the way. What is your name?"
"Again, sir, that is no concern of yours."
"A mystery," he said. "I shall have to call you Clorinda. May I put on your shoe for you?"
She gave a start; her cheeks flamed. "No!" she said chokingly. "You may do nothing for me except drive on!"
"Why, that is easily done!" he replied, and bent, and before she had time to realize his purpose, lifted her up in his arms, and walked off with her to his curricle.
Miss Taverner ought to have screamed, or fainted*. She was too much surprised to do either**; but as soon as she had recovered from her astonishment at being picked up in that easy way (as though she had been a featherweight, which she knew she was not) she dealt her captor one resounding slap, with the full force of her arm behind it.
He winced a little, but his arms did not slacken their hold; rather they tightened slightly. "Never hit with an open palm, Clorinda," he told her. "I will show you how in a minute. Up with you!"
Just after that, he does something EVEN MORE SHOCKING, so shocking that it made me GASP OUT LOUD.
OF COURSE, the rude man and Lord Worth are one and the same. So Peregrine and Judith find themselves both suffering under his rule. Worth dismisses Judith's suitors without consulting her and refuses to raise Peregrine's allowance. They are lucky to have the friendship and support of their amiable cousin, Bernard Taverner. Or are they... ?
The pluses: a poisoning plot; a couple of kidnappings; Lord Worth's hilariously misogynist young servant Henry; Beau Brummell, who is the personification of awesome; many, many descriptions of the clothing of the young Regency Buck(s), most of which were so outrageous that they had me snickering; and then there is Mrs. Scattergood, who should be heard rather than described:
"Lord, my dear!" said Mrs. Scattergood, in some dismay. "Never say you are bookish! Poems! Oh well, there may be no harm in that, one must be able to talk of the latest poems if they happen to become the rage. Marmion! I liked that excessively, I remember, though it was too long for me to finish. They say this young man who had been doing such odd things abroad is becoming the fashion, but I don't know. He was excessively rude to poor Lord Carlisle in that horrid poem of his. I cannot like him for it, besides that someone or other was telling me there is bad blood in all the Byrons. But, of course, if he is to be the fashion one must keep an eye on him. Let me warn you, my love, never be behind the times!"
The minuses: Okay, so a lot of people might find Lord Worth offensive. He bosses Judith and Peregrine abominably, he's high-handed, doesn't explain his reasons for his actions and doesn't give them the information that they'd need to make major decisions even if he'd allow them to make the decisions in the first place which he won't so I guess it's all moot anyway but still. Huh. Sounds a tad like Edward Cullen.
Anyway, he didn't particularly bother me at all, because as with many of the Heyer books, it's pretty clear how things are going to go from the beginning and I knew that Lord Worth must have good reasons for doing what he did even if he was an ass about it. Also, I loved him in An Infamous Army, so I couldn't really work up a good head of feminist steamy outrage.
No, the minus for me was that there was so little interaction between Judith and Lord Worth that I never felt any swoon. I never believed in the romance, and that's a bad thing in a romance novel. But I loved Beau Brummell so much that the book wasn't a dud. And the bad guy was so ridiculously bad by the end that it was fun. And I did love Henry.
So, not my favorite, but I still enjoyed myself.
*Because that would have accomplished... what?
**I love that fainting is apparently something that ladies actively choose to do in these books.