The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer, 1934, 307 p.
Thanks to my membership in Paperback Swap, I finally scored this beautiful edition of one of my all time favorite Regency romance novels, by the incomparable Georgette Heyer.
Heyer's plot is cleverly contrived, and the level of historical detail woven into the text is absolutely superb. In its familiar treatments of everything from men's fashions to interior decorating to illegal gaming, the book makes the period spring to sparkling life.
But much as I enjoy the historical trivia smorgasbord, what has always delighted me about Heyer is her talent for hilarious dialogue.
In the following excerpt, Horatia has just escaped from her husband's arch enemy (Lethbridge), and run into her intoxicated brother (the Viscount) and his equally inebriated buddy (Sir Roland):
"I've ... k-killed Lord Lethbridge," shuddered Horatia.
"Nonsense!" said the Viscount.
"It isn't nonsense! I hit him with a p-poker as hard as I could, and he f-fell and lay quite still."
"Where did you hit him?" demanded the Viscount.
"Oh the head," said Horatia.
The Viscount looked at Sir Roland. "D'you suppose she killed him, Pom?"
"Might have," said Sir Roland judicially.
"Lay you five to one she didn't," offered the Viscount.
"Done!" said Sir Roland.
"Tell you what," said the Viscount suddenly. "I'm going to see."
Horatia caught him by the skirts of his coat. "No, you sh-shan't! You've go to take me home."
"Oh, very well," replied the Viscount, relinquishing his purpose. "But you've no business to go killing people with a poker at two in the morning. It ain't genteel."
Sir Roland came unexpectedly to Horatia's support. "Don't see that," he said. "Why shouldn't she hit Lethbridge with a poker? You don't like him. I don't like him."
"No," said the Viscount, acknowledging the truth of this statement. "But I wouldn't hit him with a poker. Never heard of such a thing."
"No more have I," admitted Sir Roland. "But I tell you what I think, Pel: it's a good thing."