Yes, I still want to be Venetia when I grow up. Sigh.
If you recall, we left off last week with Venetia making a shocking call on Damerel at his bachelor home without any chaperon.
In chapter 15, Heyer continues with this breach of propriety in the way she shows us the servants’ reaction and in her description of the room to which she is shown to wait for Damerel.
The saloon seemed unfriendly, with no fire burning in the hearth, and the furniture primly arranged. They had never sat in it when Aubrey was at the Priory, but always in the library, and it still bore the appearance of a room that was never used. Venetia supposed that Imber must have led her to it either to emphasize his disapproval, or because Damerel had not yet finished his business with his agent.
Dun. Dun. Dun.
Everyone pretend that I saw through that his business with his agent right away.
Uh, no. I did not.
He came back to her, and grasped her wrists. “I told you also we would talk of it when we were cooler: well, my love, the night brings counsel! And the day has brought your uncle– and there let us leave it, and say nothing more than since there’s no help, come let us kiss, and part!
She lifted her face in mute invitation; he kissed her, swiftly and roughly, and almost flung her away. “There! Now go, before I take still worse advantage of your innocence!” He strode over to the door, and wrenched it open, shouting to Imber to send a message to Nidd to bring Miss Lanyon’s mare up to the house.
Now there is a man under the grip of strong emotion.
I confess that I kept thinking of the usual things that happen in Historical Romances penned in the 21st century and that did hamper my ability to work my way though to the possible solutions. I had confidence that Venetia would figure something out, but I did think moving to country by herself would some how be it.
What else didn’t I see coming?
How about Mom being alive? I thought she must be for a while and then around the middle of the book, I figured that couldn’t be, so I discarded that notion. No, I didn’t see that coming either, and I should have. The clues were there. Way to go, bro’s, lying to your sister like that.
What about her step-father? Was he a nice guy or a creep who would have taken advantage of Venetia if she weren’t too smart for him? After all, he’s already run off with a married woman once, why wouldn’t he stoop to running off with Venetia? There was a moment there when I was quite worried about the man’s intentions.
I thought the ending was amusing and I loved that way it was so wonderfully anticipated by all the previous times they were interrupted. Poor Damerel, trying so many times to propose to her!
Oh, and wasn’t Edward Yardley THE WORST ever? I wanted to bop that man over the head.
In the end, Venetia wins her man by staying true to herself AND to her understanding of Damerel. If she didn’t truly know his character and love him, she could never have won him. Damerel would have refused to be caught. But, as we know, he was a goner by page 30 (of my edition.)
So often in historical romance, it’s the hero who needs to change. That’s not the case with Venetia. We see, instead, the heroine’s journey into the kind of love that changed her as a person. Though the book opens with the suggestion that Damerel = the fox and Venetia = the best layer, one could argue that by the end, it’s Venetia who plays the role of the fox. Damerel is the ravished best layer. All he can do is capitulate to his superior opponent.
So. What do you guys think? First time readers, or those who recall their first reading, did you anticipate what I did not?
What did you like and not like? Any issues, quibbles or what not? Opine in the comments. Go!]
I can’t wait to read what other’s think, Carolyn, but I just have to say that the mother was a complete surprise to me (even though I read Venetia before!)
I thought it was masterful of Heyer. The appearance of the mother made everything suddenly make sense and provided the means to solve the romantic dilemma. It even got Yardley to get out of Venetia’s hair.
Step-father was a good-natured old lecher, I’ll say that for him!
It’s been an interesting experience. I like to view my books as my friends. As I read Venetia, all I could think was there were far too many unsavory characters. I’ve ended friendships for the kind of behavior these characters were displaying, so why was I giving so much of my free time to people who are uses, abusers, manipulators, and not even real? I admit, I skimmed, a lot, until the opera. I thought maybe it was one of Damerel’s old lovers and glad it wasn’t when I learned who it was. I never imagined it being Venetia’s mother. Never. I thought she was dead. Apparently not. I did not skim the last chapters of the book. I wasn’t too sure about the stepfather either, but he turned out right enough. He did a fabulous job of helping to rid Venetia of Yardley the Twit. Hurrah! Damerel and Aubrey are still my favorite characters in the book. I appreciate Venetia’s tenacity. You go girl! It wasn’t that she developed a backbone; she always had one, but need a clear understanding of what she wanted and what she had to do to obtain it. Once she straightened that out, she stormed ahead, no backing down. I’d like to be more like that.
I thought the mother being alive was a master stroke by Heyer. In any other romance the woman at the opera WOULD have been one of Damerel’s old flames.
I am STILL a bit iffy about the stepfather, but I think he may just be one of those men who comes off that way, but would never act on it. It takes a certain sort of skill to write a character that leaves the reader guessing.
But I do love the fox analogy. Once Venetia decided he was the one poor Damerel really didn’t stand a chance.
And the scene you quote, the goodbye kiss, just broke my heart. You could see that it was killing him to let her go. I really do love this book!
Well, good! I don’t feel quite as dense. At least I have company in not foreseeing the appearance of Mom. I, too, thought it might be an old lover of Damerel.
I really love this book. I’ll confess that I thought there were some weaknesses in the ending (or, rather, in what wasn’t there) but I still loved every word. To me, skimming and Heyer just don’t belong in the same sentence. (As I said in an earlier post, I suspect it may have something to do with how much one is reading for plot, and how much one is reading for humor or prose or setting…and as I’m someone who loves to sit around and quote Oscar Wilde and Douglas Adams and Jane Austen, I’m happy to read for the latter!)
This is really sort of a mystery/intrigue novel, in a bizarre way. Venetia is the actor here: she knows what she wants, and is willing to do almost anything to get it. What’s stopping her is her imperfect knowledge — she’s young, sheltered, inexperienced, and everyone is lying to her! But she’s smart — smart enough to feel confident that Damerel loves her even when he and everyone else tell her he doesn’t. Smart enough to know that she’ll be happier with him than without him, even if he strays one day. So she just collects pieces of information, bit by bit, and when she finally has enough, she acts.
I mentioned in a previous week that I thought that Heyer, after sort of setting up her “formula,” sometimes tweaked it in her later books (e.g. Cotillion). In Venetia, however, she’s coloring within the lines she set up, but doing it with such depth and intensity and with such real main characters that I think it’s still a reevaluation of her “formula.”
For example: I cannot recall another Heyer (or, indeed, probably any other romance) where there is such acknowledgment made that a man who’s been a rake for so many years might not be able to totally reform at the drop of a hat. Venetia is well aware that Damerel may end up sleeping with other women, but she’s more or less okay with that — and not in a sad, she-needs-more-self-esteem sort of way, but in a mature, wise, I’m-in-it-for-the-long-haul way. (And though I secretly believe that Damerel won’t ever cheat on her, I’m well aware that Heyer made me no promises!)
Oh, I forgot to mention what I minded about the ending!
Conway needs a smackdown. Badly. I really needed him to show up and be smacked. And together with a Yardley smackdown, and a Conway-mother-in-law smackdown, it would have been a very nice prix fixe meal.
CaraKing: I totally agree with you on the smack downs. I was waiting for Conway to get his and it was a disappointment not to get that.
I love your comment on Heyer and her “formula” — this is only my 2nd Heyer, so I don’t have your experience. And yes! I do agree that Venetia has an interesting non-Romance way of commenting on Damerel’s potential infidelities. I found it at once refreshing — in that it was an acknowledgment of imperfection in people, but like you, I just can’t believe that Damerel would cheat on her.
I also very much liked his invitation to her (and her acceptance) of joining any orgies he might have. That made me laugh.
I don’t think Damerel would sleep with other women! He was a loyal lover to the woman with whom he eloped. After that disillussion, he played the rake. Why not? But now he met a woman worthy of his love.
I feel that Heyer touches sufficiently on what will happen with Conway and his MIL.We can imagine the ructions for ourselves as well as his future – settling into just that stultefyingly dull country gentleman life that Venetia wanted to avoid for herself. It’s thanks to Conway’s marriage that she can no longer avoid moving from her home, so he’s useful!!
With Damerel she can travel as well as enjoy a slightly scandalous lifestyle – I’m sure he’ll hold a minor orgy for her [in Venice, maybe…] and strew rosepetals in her bedchamber. And she was going to get a see-through wrapper like her mother’s – she’ll keep him fascinated. I agree with Diane, I don’t think he’ll stray – he’s met the woman he can truly share his life with from now on.
Oh, and I forgot to talk about the step-father!
I think I feel like the rest of you do. It was so weird — our first view of him was truly creepy — he’s totally sizing up and leering at his stepdaughter. But then by the end, he’s sweet and sort of fatherly — weird! I wasn’t sure what to really think of him afterward. (Whereas I figured we’re really not supposed to like the mother, due to her comments about Aubrey if nothing else….)
The mother was a surprise to me, too. I found the stepfather a little creepy, even though he does right by Venetia. But that’s one thing I like about Heyer; most of her characters have flaws, they are rarely all good.
What totally sold me on this book was Venetia’s complete trust in Damerel’s feelings for her. Once she knows, she doesn’t doubt – so refreshing! It’s fashionable in romance for one main character to doubt the other’s feelings if they aren’t constantly being reassured, and to me that often comes across as a lack of trust. I just love that Venetia doesn’t wonder whether Damerel’s feelings might have changed, and that she goes all out for what she wants. I was very satisfied at the end.
Okay, I sort of wanted to see Conway get smacked, but knowing what he’s in for with his MIL, I figure he will pay and pay.
Like the arrival of the snarky mother-in-law, the mother being alive was so perfectly explanatory and surprising. Yes, YES, Venetia must be perfect, because she has already been compromised.
The stepfather seemed to me like a habitual flirt (phasers always on stun, to mix genre metaphors), and he helped establish the stepmother’s character and how inappropriate it would have been for Venetia to go with them.
One of the things I loved about the book was how true to character everyone remained, and the surprises and solutions come entirely from these characters: no sudden changes of heart, and the late arrivals came from plausible places. We even have a clear picture of Conway, even though he never appears on stage.
Yes, I remember on first reading Venetia being utterly bemused by the advent of the ‘dead’ mother. Indeed, I was so caught up in the love story, I will admit to skipping parts that didn’t feature hero/heroine time together and then being justly served for my crime by not having a clue what was going on or who this glamorous woman was. I was even more confused by Damerel’s motivation at that point. Why did he refuse her at first and then later decide it was okay to marry her after all?
But it’s such a cracking romance, and he’s such a marvellous hero, I tacitly ignored all that sideshow business and just loved the book, then and now, about 25 reads later!
I felt like her step-father was an old man who had probably been a notable rake in his time, but now had discarded almost all of that except for a bit of flirtation which he uses on Venetia to make him feel young again. You can see he is still devoted to keeping Venetia’s mother happy, and that he’s really a gentleman.
At the end of their walk, when he pats her hand and tells her that he wishes she could have been his daughter, it’s completely sweet and not weird at all. I think at that time there may have been an accepted level for old gentlemen to indulge their flirty sides (and even now a young girl might smile politely at an old man who says something semi-lecherous, especially if she can use him to annoy Edward Yardley, so to speak.)
I fell behind in my Venetia reading (I’ve been reading Victoria Dahl’s contemporaries which are awesome) but am anxious to catch up now!
I felt Damerel’s “kiss me and leave me forever”/”I cannot corrupt you further” scene a bit tiresome, b/c everyone else has done it but not nearly so well, and I think this is the weakness of the book. Can’t he get over himself and propose marriage?
But I also admired how Venetia went to London and made an effort to enjoy herself and move on, even though he’d rejected her. She didn’t wallow or adapt some fake stiff upper lip attitude and I loved her for her resilience and humor.
But the funny thing about Venetia, which admittedly I’m reading in fits and starts, is that I forget about it entirely, but once I open it up again I’m enthralled and know exactly what’s going on.