Still engrossed in Heyer (I might consider reading someone else in a day or two) and it's on to 'The Grand Sophy'. This one was a favourite when I first discovered Heyer and I must have read it a dozen times or more. Reading it this time transported me back to long summer holidays in Shetland and gave me a moment of intense homesickness.
One of the criticisms leveled at Heyer is that she only writes one story over and over again, I would say that she has more like half a dozen that she re-works in various ways or where she mixes in different genres. 'The Grand Sophy' is romance mixed with a good bit of comedy and has one of Heyers best action heroines. I also think this is Heyer at her most feminist and the reason that she's such a good writer to discover when you're a teenage girl.
Sophy is a twenty year old force of nature, the daughter of a diplomat she turns up on her aunts doorstep with a monkey and a parrot for her young cousins, a magnificent horse for her own use, splendid jewels, and a small pistol. Sophy has been used to wandering around Europe in the vanguard of Wellington's army (hence her handiness with a pistol) is independent, has a filthy temper, and a desire to organise everybody around her for their own good. Before long she's annoyed her older cousin Charles by setting herself up with a sporting carriage - which naturally she can drive with considerable skill, dealing with her fathers bankers - instead of relying on a handy man to sort out her finances for her - and starting to sort out the tangled affairs of yet more of her cousins. Charles has a horrible fiance called Eugenia who makes a nicely interfering villain for the piece - we can easily dislike Eugenia (who reminds me strongly of a line manager I once had and could not stand) but still keep just a little bit of sympathy for her when Sophy keeps managing to make her look as small minded and foolish as she is.
It's not Sophy's driving expertise, or her ability on horseback, or her prowess with a pistol that makes me think of her as a good and mildly feminist role model however, it's her talent for organising and for getting the information she needs to deal with a situation. There is a very funny scene where she goes to visit a money lender (the politically correct might quite reasonably object to this man's portrayal), half of it is comedy, but Heyer has Sophy know the law when it comes to lending to a minor, and how items pledged for security should be treated and I find this capable business like attitude encouraging (horses frighten me, getting good advice however is always useful).
This is classic Heyer, not without the odd fault, but overall warm, witty, and clever my 14 and 40 year old self look on it with equal approval.