Heyer, Georgette: Grand Sophy, The

I sometimes say that a willingness to pore over the shelves of used bookstores is the surest sign that one is an optimist. Well, sometimes one’s optimism is rewarded. I visited some of my favorite stores in Boston today, and came away with 10 paperbacks for something around $20—including copies of Mirabile and Hellspark (I’m particularly pleased about Mirabile, as it’s already become one of my comfort books), a few hard-to-find things for friends, and the first of Elizabeth Moon’s Serrano series, Hunting Party (I’d read a few of the sequels and enjoyed them, though not enough to buy the first new).

I also picked up Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy, along with another Heyer, and read it on the subway & train on the way back. I’d often heard that this was a favorite of Heyer fans, and I certainly enjoyed it more than some of her others (say, Regency Buck), though not as much as The Unknown Ajax. Sophy puts the lie to the cliché that romance heroines are little weak-willed simpering things. Upon arriving in the Rivenhall family home and discovering that everyone, more or less, is unhappy, she promptly sets about rearranging things; it’s rather like watching a card trick, at the end of which the original relationships have been reshuffled into several different, and much happier, singles and couples. It’s a tribute to the skill of Heyer’s characterization that Sophy doesn’t become incredibly annoying while doing so. There is an unfortunate interlude with a Jewish moneylender; whatever the stereotype in Regency times may have been, Heyer was writing in 1950. Other than that, The Grand Sophy is very funny, with vivid characters and a nice, but not overwhelming, eye for period detail.

(Note to sf fans visiting Boston: if you stop in at Avenue Victor Hugo, take a minute to walk down Newbury to Spenser’s Mystery Bookshop. It has only a very small sf collection, but I seem to have good luck there; for instance, today I bought for a friend, very cheaply, one of Sheri Tepper’s very hard-to-find Marianne books, and a nice copy of The Face in the Frost to give to someone who’d like it. Also, the proprietor has been extremely helpful whenever I’ve been in.)

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