It’s funny, isn’t it, how books can link us? This is something I discovered this week after speaking to grandparents on both sides of my family about The Grand Sophy- it turns out that Georgette Heyer was my great-grandma’s absolute favourite novelist; my Welsh grampy (who once read everything in the local library, including- he is proud to tell anyone who asks- every single one of the Mills and Boons) has read all of Heyer’s output and told me that he thought that this one was the best. What’s really funny is that I just picked it up on a whim in the library a couple of weeks ago because I wanted something light to read as I dealt with other stuff.
Georgette Heyer was a phenomenally successful novelist in the mid-20th century and her Regency romances were particularly popular. (In another one of those interesting quirks of fate, she lived for a while in Brighton- my adopted home city and one of the best places to see Regency architecture.) I can’t exactly remember when I became aware of her books, but they had sort of been on the periphery of my mind for a while; I went looking and found this one. It proved to be a perfect example of my belief in ‘the right book at the right time’.
Sophy is the headstrong and no-nonsense daughter of Sir Horace, a diplomat and politician who has been quite too busy to make sure she has been schooled in all the delicacies of Regency womanhood. Instead, she has travelled round Europe with him, learning to become an excellent horsewoman, party planner and a keen shot with a pistol. When Sir Horace is called away to Brazil, he asks his genteel yet dotty sister, Lady Omesbury, to take care of Sophy in his absence- and to possibly fix her up with a husband whilst she’s at it.
However, in true Regency rom-com style, the household falls into disarray when ‘little’ Sophy (who is 5’9 and 20 years old) arrives with a monkey for the children and a nose for fairness… and mischief. Pitted against her tyrannical cousin Charles and his spiteful fiancee, she goes out of her way to set all right in the world of her family. Cue hi-jinks, confusing betrothals, misunderstandings and… ducklings.
I absolutely ADORED Sophy. In fact, the whole book is a lot fun, full of madcap characters: a tragic poet, a bonkers Spanish countess, an incredibly boring suitor; and there are so many little threads running throughout the story that the whole thing was entertaining. Did I predict how it would all end? Yes. Was I bothered by this? No. I had fun along the way and now I’m very much looking forward to reading some more of Heyer’s books. I bet my great-grandma would approve.