This is the latest installment in the Dalek Game and is for Georgette Heyer’s magnificently improbable The Reluctant Widow.
In an attempt at self-diagnosis, I have on occasion tried to branch out from Heyer into other “Regency Romances” and I – just can’t. I almost did myself an injury on one occasion, hitting my head against the window while reading a Cartland on the train: the cover was fabulous (I’m pretty sure I kept it for that reason), but there was a paragraph break at. the. end. of. every. sentence. (This isn’t a criticism of romance novels generally, it’s just that I don’t read for romance and few of the novels had what I liked about Heyer). So I’ve worked out that it is neither the romance nor the regency that I like about Heyer. And in Heyer, it isn’t about either romance (although it’s always there) or regency (despite the detail). It’s about wildly improbable adventures that gather momentum and inevitability, thrillingly unlikely insupportable situations, pistols at dawn, carriage races, kidnappings, assumed identities, French spies, murder, awful people, vain people, charming people, *human* people, and Fun. In many of the romances I’ve read, the action is a mechanism to serve the romance – in Heyer, it’s the other way round.
I regard Heyer’s regency novels as one side of the coin that has C. S. Forester’s Hornblower novels on the other – there are strong similarities between the two. But she shares with Lois McMaster Bujold the thundering inevitability of the situations characters get themselves into, and with Diana Wynne Jones the marvelously all-in chaotic denouements.
All of which fits rather well with Doctor Who, and means this wasn’t a complete digression.