5 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer

Title: The Corinthian

Author: Georgette Heyer

Genre Romance: Regency

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publishing Date: June 1 2009
Paperback: 272 pages

Stand alone or series: Stand Alone

Summary: Walking home at dawn, quite drunk, Sir Richard Wyndham encounters heiress Penelope Creed climbing out her window. She is running away from a dreaded marriage to her fish-lipped cousin, while Sir Richard himself is contemplating a loveless marriage with a woman his friends have compared to a cold poultice. Sir Richard can’t allow her to careen about the countryside unchaperoned, even in the guise of a boy, so he pretends to be her tutor and takes her on a fine adventure. When their stagecoach overturns, they find themselves embroiled with thieves, at the center of a murder investigation, and finally, in love.

Why did I read the book: I was offered a copy by the lovely people at Sourcebooks Casablanca.

Review:

Sir Richard Wyndham, is a 29 year old Corinthian – a bon vivant – but according to his family it is about time he left this self-serving life behind and settled down with a wife. All the hopes are that he would marry a family friend. The thing about Richard is that he may be a rake but he actually believes in true love and the prospect of marrying the cold and unloving girl makes him depressed. Still, he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do but not before getting totally drunk.

On his way home after his last night of freedom, he stumbles upon a surprising scene: a young lad coming down from a window. He helps the little person and then realises the boy is a girl who is attempting to escape a fate not unlike his own. She too has a family who wishes she would marry someone she finds unsuitable. Miss Pen Creed is fleeing so that she can marry her own childhood sweetheart. Richard, even drunk as he is, realises he can’t let the 17 year old girl go traipsing around the country on her own and decides to join her and their adventure begins.

She masquerades as a boy, they take a coach to Kent and in the three ensuing days, end up involved in a robbery, a murder, a star-crossed romance between two youngsters and their own hearts get inevitably connected.

I am at a loss on how to approach this book. I understand that Georgette Heyer writes regency romances but plot- wise, this reads more like a cross-dressing- road- trip- adventure-romp. In that vein, I cannot fault the story. It is fun and entertaining and Georgette Heyer’s clever writing shines through.

Things get more complicated when we get to talk about the romance: it is obvious that Richard and Pen are meant to fall in love. But the romance is very, very subtle , so subtle one needs to be really attentive as to not miss the whole falling in love part of the romance. One moment they are having funny conversations, then Richard is looking at Pen and thinking. WHAT he is thinking, we do not know exactly but we are meant to understand that his gazing at her means he is falling in love. I don’t mind subtle romance but I can’t help but to feel there is something missing here – something more emotional , a deeper connection between the characters and therefore between the book and the reader. Maybe I am spoilt by romance novels written now where wonderful character-driven plots abound.

Plus, Pen is SO young. And it is not simply a matter of age difference as I can appreciate May-December romances. It is just a matter of behaviour. She behaves like a child for most of the book and he behaves like an uncle. It is all for propriety of course, but I can’t get over the fact that she spent the book calling him “sir” and he spent the book calling her “child” or “brat” .

The Corinthian is just so…uneven – there were parts that were immensely fun, like the repartee between the Richard and Pen or Pen’s antics and approach to life. I could keep reading those non-stop. Other parts, like the secondary mystery plotline with the murder, the stolen necklace and whatnots drove me out. Of.My.Mind. with boredom.

This is my third Georgette Heyer and it is not a bad book as the writing is good, the subtle romance is sweet, the adventure is fun. To me, it falls somewhere in between Frederica, which I really did like (perhaps because the heroine was older and much more mature) and recommend as a starter if you wish to read this author’s work and The Convenient Marriage which was a DNF for me (the heroine was so very immature) . Overall, I liked the experience of reading these classic regencies but I think it is time to acknowledge that perhaps these are really not for me and move on.

Notable Quotes/ parts: an example of the clever writing

‘That settles it,’ said Sir Richard. ‘ I will not set you a foot on your way until I have the whole story from you. It’s my belief you are a dangerous criminal.’
‘I am not!’ said the fugitive indignantly.’ Anyone with the veriest speck of sensibility would feel for my plight! I am escaping from the most odious persecution.’
‘Fortunate child!,’ said Sir Richard, taking her bundle from her.’I wish I might do the same. Let us remove from this neighbourhood. I have seldom seen a street that depressed me more. I can’t think how I came here. Do you feel that our agreeable encounter would be improved by an exchange of names, or are you travelling incognita?’

Verdict: Old-time Adventure and Romance in one. Not exactly to my liking but this is far from being a bad book. It is just not a Book For Ana.

Rating: 5 – meh

Reading Next: Surrender of a Siren by Tessa Dare

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17 Comments

  • Tumperkin
    August 25, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Ana – thank you for an interesting post, which has prompted me to think about why I love Heyer.

    I did most of my Heyer-reading when I was 14-17. I devoured most of her romances back then and there are only a handful I’ve never read. Whilst I still love them, I understand exactly where you’re coming from. There isn’t much romance of the type the modern romance reader is used to (strong emotional and sexual connections) and her farces have the least romance of all.

    One of the things, however, I love about Heyer, is the breadth of stories and characters she tackles. As well as these farces, she does a more intense strand of romance that is more like modern romance (e.g. Devil’s Cub is a good example of this and practically a blueprint for the modern Regency romance). My current Heyer favourites are the more mature and bittersweet ones like A Civil Contract and An Infamous Army, both of which I really love.

    One of the major reasons she is so loved, though, is that she really invented the Regency romance and her research was meticulous. An Infamous Army recounts the Battle of Waterloo in incredible detail. Every Regency I’ve ever read I’ve tended to view through Heyer’s lens and it’s difficult to think of many who measure up to her exacting standards.

    Incidentally, one of things I really liked about The Corinthian was what I read as a sly nod to M/M relationships (which, at the time of writing, would still have been illegal). From recollection, there are lots of references to Richard not really being interested in women and she takes great delight in describing a coachload of people watching what appears to be two men kissing at the end. Of course, Heyer may not have intended that, but I enjoyed it just the same.

  • Ana
    August 25, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Tumperkin, thanks for the interesting comment.

    Do you know, I struggled so much with the book (and with the review). I kept asking myself the same question over and over again: why don’t I like this more? In principle, I should. I like regencies, I like her writing, heck, I like farces, repartee. It SHOULD have been a great book for me. It just …wasn’t. I think yes, it has to do with my ever evolving reading tastes to the point where now I am asking myself something else. If I read Jane Austen, Emily Bronte right NOW, what would I think about their book? I read them all before ever opening a modern romance novel.How has this experience changed my reading? I don’t know if I WANT to know the answer though.

    You are SO right though: there were a couple of instances where people thought Richard was having an affair with a young man and not only that last scene where they kiss. Great point.

  • Bridget Locke
    August 25, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Hmmm…I admit to not being a big fan of Heyer. I’ve read 2 and wasn’t impressed by either.

    I think my 2 biggest issues I have with her are: 1. She uses way too much slang and 2. she threw in mysteries or side stories that made no sense towards the rest of the story. Usually I spent more time flipping back to previous pages to figure out what I missed and I HATE doing that. 😛

  • Rose Lerner
    August 25, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    This was the first Heyer I ever read. A friend of mine loaned it to me in 7th grade, and there were catchphrases from it we would say ALL THE TIME (“One does one’s poor best!”).

    But I agree, it is not her best hero/heroine relationship, and the age difference is pretty squicky because Pen is SO child-like. And the way Richard treated her did NOT seem romantic to me as a kid who really hated to be patronized. I remember me and my friend picking out scenes where Heyer could have changed like one sentence and made Pen’s characterization SO much less disturbing (for example, if she had ever shown the slightest bit of concern that Piers wouldn’t want her anymore).

    I loved it so much that I’m actually afraid to re-read it now because I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t hold up as well as some of her others. (She can be a bit hit-or-miss, IMO, but when she hits, she hits.)

    I’d recommend trying “The Grand Sophy” before you give up entirely–the romance is still understated but the plot arcs much more smoothly and Sophy is amazing. I’ve even loaned it to several of my friends who are not Heyer fans and they’ve all enjoyed it.

  • KMont
    August 26, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Eh. I won a Heyer book via a Smart Bitches/Sourcebook contest. I could not get into it and it awaits me should I ever decide to try again.

    At least you gave this one your all. It does sound good, despite the lack in the romance section.

  • Janet W
    August 26, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    I liked Heyer so much I even like reading “meh” reviews! Anything to get my fix. But yeah, not one of her bestbestbest, is it? Like you, I loved the dialogue between Richard and his family and friends.

    Convenient Marriage, yep, not so great. But Frederica, I love. There are so many great Heyer books it’s too bad you read 2 out of 3 that you didn’t particularly care for.

    Try Venetia or Friday’s Child 🙂 Or Cotillion … or on and on and on! 😆

  • GrowlyCub
    August 26, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    I love ‘The Convenient Marriage’. Not so much the plot, which is a bit silly, but the subtle bits of POV of Rule we get here and there. I love seeing a self-confident hero develop doubts about his desirability, especially since he never had that issue before.

    ‘Frederica’ is way too farcical for my taste and I don’t ‘do’ kids, but it has a few nice moments. ‘The Corinthian’ is also not among my favorites, mostly because I’m not into suspense subplots.

  • GrowlyCub
    August 26, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Oh, and I forgot to mention how surprised I was to see this cover, after the interview on SBTB about how carefully they try to match pic to content! Certainly Pen never looks like this in the book!

  • Ana
    August 26, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    So….maybe I have been reading the wrong Heyers????
    She has so many books…perhaps I should give her one more try. Hummmm

    Cotillion maybe? ❓

  • Tumperkin
    August 27, 2009 at 5:26 am

    If I were you, Ana, I wouldn’t go for Cotillion. It’s another farce and you might want to try something different (having said that, the choice of hero is surprising and I think some people really love that about it). The Grand Sophy is a very good one and is one of the ones I often recommend to new-to-Heyer readers. However, this is also farce and light on romance. I don’t think either of those would overcome the issues you had with the Corinthian.

    In your case, I’d recommend Devil’s Cub. It has a proper romance pay-off plus classic romance elements that I think you’d appreciate.

  • Ana
    August 27, 2009 at 5:47 am

    Tumperkin thanks, I will keep that in mind.

    I just found out that I also own Faro’s Child. Recommended at all?

  • Janet W
    August 27, 2009 at 7:18 am

    Somehow as an adult I don’t find Cotillion a farce so much anymore. There are undercurrents that are so dark — one of the putative heroes concurrently trying to establish a young woman as his mistress, another of the quartet of men in real danger of being locked up by his mother (a ghastly creature), the heroine’s honestly desperate need for money … yes, it’s very funny and witty, especially the convos between Freddy and his father, but Heyer may not write about the behind the scenes side of Regency reality but she doesn’t shy away from alluding to it very clearly.

    I agree Devil’s Cub is classic. A marvelous first Heyer. What about Black Sheep? A slightly older heroine and an intensely anti-romantic hero. Great dialogue, internally, as the heroine wrestles with what she should do and her heart’s desire.

  • GrowlyCub
    August 27, 2009 at 11:29 am

    I never include ‘Black Sheep’ amongst my top 5, but it really ought to be in it.

    If you liked Alverstoke’s focus on Frederica, Miles will blow your pants off with his indifference to rules and etiquette. He’s a great hero and Abigail is a great heroine!

    I like ‘Faro’s Daughter’, but it’s not one of my top favorites.

  • Pixie
    June 16, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    I have all Georgette Heyer’s regency romances on Audiobook and I love to listen to them over and over.
    I love the Corinthian but does anyone else wish there was a sequel describing their married life? I can imagine it so well. I must have listened to this book 10 times or more and while not my favourite (which is Venetia ) This is in my top 10.

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  • Darcie
    April 16, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Ana, curious to know what other Heyers you ever tried. I was going to suggest Arabella because there are some parallels – somewhat smaller age gap but similar difference in maturity levels, disillusioned hero finds a girl who likes him for himself, not his money. Key difference is we get POV development of the romance from both sides, and it happens over a much longer period, which is one of the things that puts me off the Corinthian – just a little too whirlwind for me!

    You do need to give The Convenient Marriage another try one day – it was my very first Heyer and I was like, “Where have you been all my life?” The farce (including a very good duel scene and hilarious secondary characters) was great fun, but the coming together of the hero and heroine in a way that actually makes you think, “Hey, this might just work out!” is very nice. The stuttering was a bit annoying though, I admit that.

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