Venetia is a lovely story and it just smacks of LM Montgomery. So many times I think that Maud would’ve loved Heyer should she have lived to experience the author at the height of her Regency-writing powers.
The opening scene in Venetia is memorable to fans of romance: an ultimate “meet cute.” Venetia, having strayed from her languid, opulent property to search for berries at the deserted property adjacent (its owner known to spend little time at the estate) runs into a rakish rogue who, seeing her bonnet askew, her cheeks rosy, her figure a pinnacle health, plants his eager lips on her unexpected ones.
From this chance encounter springs one of the freshest connections of intellectual equals in all of historical fiction. Jasper, Lord Damerel, has been thwarted in love and while maintains a large fortune, languishes his time beguiled by the “orgies” of the ton. Enamoured by nothing and no one, his is a second-hand, vapid existence until the entrance of Venetia and her sickly, scholarly brother, Aubrey.
Venetia is sequestered in her family homestead having been given no introduction to society. At over five and twenty, she is very much a green girl: shelved in a rambling mansion, caring solely for her brother without the slightest prospects of travel, culture or true romance. Two local men fight for her affections; but neither is up to her speed. With great solitude, we learn, Venetia has garnered a great capacity for the written word. Paired with her swift mind and biting tongue, Venetia is very much the thinking girl’s heroine.
Venetia is well-met with Jasper Damerel and beguiled by his worldly adventures. A happenstance wherein her beloved brother his laid up at Damerel’s estate requires Venetia to often be by Damerel’s side. He is immediately smitten with her beauty, erudite nature and her rapid-like brain and to see true devotion and love blossom between two “kindred spirits”, best friends, is a mature and favourite type of romantic story.
Damerel’s past, however, and is now acute adoration of Venetia dictates that he spends hours worrying about how his reputation might sully hers. Thus, Heyer winds us on a bramble and briar path of mis-encounters, family secrets and words unspoken. Readers, it is HEART BREAKING when Damerel sacrifices for Venetia’s best interest. He cannot bear to live without her, he loves her to “the end of madness”; but he worships her so much he cannot bear to think that he would mar her reputation and her chance at a wonderfully wholesome future.
The repartee between Venetia and Jasper just heightens the reader’s pleasure in excavating a perfectly adult love affair. The end scene is TO DIE FOR and Jasper and Venetia’s final
( expected ) declarations are some of the best Heyer ever wrote.
This is very Jane Austen with a dash of roguishness and a love so intense it recalls the preternatural cry across the moors when Rochester, in despair, hankers for Jane. If you have even the slightest romantic bone in your body and the slightest respect for a woman who certainly knew how to spin a Regency yarn then do yourself the pleasure of dipping into my favourite Heyer novel so far. There are some moments when I prefer Heyer to Jane Austen. Dictated by her time and sensibility, Austen’s romances could be rather reserved in exposition where as the gap of a century or so renders Heyer’s more modern infusion of romance into Regency fare is welcome, impassioned and sparkly.