The Earl of Spenborough has always been noted for his eccentricity. Leaving a widow younger than his own daughter Serena is one thing, but quite another is leaving Serena’s fortune to the trusteeship of the Marquis of Rotherham — a man whom Serena once jilted and who now has the power to give or withhold his consent to any marriage she might contemplate. When Serena and her lovely young stepmother Fanny decide to move to Bath, Serena makes an odd new friend and discovers an old love, Major Hector Kirkby. Before long, Serena, Fanny, Kirkby, and Rotherham are entangled in a welter of marriage and manners the like of which even Regency Bath has rarely seen.
I have been in a bit of a slump, where I have a lot in my TBR pile, but I am so distracted I don’t want to start anything new (I have been practicing more yoga and meditation which is filling up the normal bedtime reading hours). Therefore, pulling out the old Heyer’s gives me a little something to read without having to be committed.
I reread Frederica for the millionth time and then decided to try Bath Tangle (for probably the fourth).
There are a lot of familiar Heyer tropes in this one — an older heroine with a younger foil, an old and slightly grumpy hero, lots of supporting characters, and a more provincial setting. It differs in that the younger heroine foil is actually the older heroine’s stepmama, which adds an interesting comedic element which I feel Heyer didn’t quite milk for all it was worth, but was nonetheless entertaining.
Heyer also takes her time to explore some variations on other themes. Rotherham, the would be hero of the book is set up against Serena’s younger love, so in a lot of ways this is a second chance romance book. The “tangle” gives it that element of farce, or comedy of manners, and although the dialogue is witty I found this one less funny than many of Heyer’s others.
Rotherham is pretty much a jerk, and never really redeemable in a Darcy sort of way, but then again Serena is in most cases fairly unsympathetic. She is headstrong, managing, and a bit spoiled. She also doesn’t have a lot of insight into herself and others, which makes their match a good, if not heartwarming, one. I am actually a fan of the antagonist protagonist, and while I wouldn’t say Heyer takes it that far, this is not a great read for those who love to love the H/h.
Like A Civil Contract there is a featured middle class who has come upon great wealth character who is painted as vulgar, and although has enough sensibility not to “force themselves” upon “their betters” is still depicted as an object of amusement and a little bit of horror. No doubt, there was very much this sentiment about the rising middle class during the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, and in that way I think Heyer captures the very deep thread of class in British culture.
There is an excellent critique of Bath Tangle, with some added insights into Heyer’s life at the time and some themes and tropes she is grappling with…but there are spoilers so save it until you have read Bath Tangle.
I definitely like some of the themes Heyer plays with here, and although it is not by a long stretch a favorite, I do think its worth a read if you haven’t and don’t mind a jerk hero and a bratty heroine.
4 out of 6 Second chance kisses only romance with challenging H/h