- Title: Sprig Muslin
- Author: Georgette Heyer
- Genre: Romance
- Format: Paperback
- Source: Own
- Reviewed by: Olga
- Rating: 5 out of 5
Description: On his way to propose a marriage of convenience to Lady Hester Theale, Sir Gareth Ludlow encounters a saucy young lady who soon shows Lady Hester how to win Ludlow’s elusive heart.
Review: A hilarious Regency romance, an absolute riot of laughter.
It starts as a quiet and slightly melancholy story. Seven years ago, Sir Gareth’s beloved fiancé died. He grieved for her for a long time and didn’t look at any other young woman, but finally he decided to get married. He chooses Lady Hester, not because he loves her but because he holds her in affection and respect. She is shy and well-bred, exactly what he needs in a wife. He travels to her family home in the country to propose to her, but on the way, while stopping at a village inn for a repast, he meets Amanda.
And the story that started as an uninspiring account of a loveless match morphs into a wild cross-country romp with farcical inclinations.
Although Amanda first appears in the book about page 50, this enterprising damsel of seventeen ruthlessly steals the show from Gareth, Hester, and the rest of their drab, middle-aged bunch. A couple days ago, she ran away from home, because her grandfather wouldn’t let her marry her sweetheart Neil, a penniless young officer, currently on sick leave from the army. Until this disagreement, her doting grandpa had granted her every wish, so Amanda decides to force his acquiescence to her marital schemes. When her flight doesn’t go according to plan, and Gareth appears as if in answer to her prayers, she confides in him and asks for his assistance.
Gareth immediately grasps the danger such a naive and beautiful girl faces, as she travels around England unattended. As a gentleman, he has no choice but to restore Amanda to her frantic grandparent. But Amanda wouldn’t meekly accept surrender. Head-strong and yearning for adventure, she runs away again, this time from Gareth, recruiting one unlikely protector after another.
Hot and ridiculous pursuit ensues. Unable to abandon the girl to her fate, Gareth relentlessly gallops after her, but Amanda proves to be resourceful. Her fertile imagination prompts her to tell one tall tale after another, as she gallivants around the countryside, trying to evade her self-appointed guardian.
Gleaned from romantic novels, her splendid fabrications, rich in details and absurdity, make the readers laugh uproariously, and even Gareth is affected. An honorable man with a friendly smile and an even temper, he is used to being universally loved and respected. When Amanda casts him in the role of her evil abductor, he takes it with equanimity and humor. He even seems to succumb to the same storytelling bug: after a while in Amanda’s company, he starts telling fibs too.
The story flows in waves: low and quiet, when Amanda is not in the picture; high and amusing to the extreme as soon as she steps on the page or, even absent, becomes a subject of conversation. A charming, mildly spoiled girl, she seems to illuminate this novel with her inner joy, guide it to its rather anticlimactic conclusion through gales of laughter. Her outrageous escapades even bring together our lukewarm lovers, Gareth and Hester, so the romantic line of the novel triumphs in the end.
The dialog is simply magnificent, expressive and witty. Every word is precise, every paragraph necessary. And the descriptions are so simple and alive, I could almost draw the setting of every scene in the novel. Because of the superior quality of the writing, I had trouble choosing quotes for this review; there were too many excellent specimens. Eventually, I decided to forgo the quotes. It’s better, if you just read the entire book and discover your favorite quotes for yourself.