Heyer for Beginners — Arabella (1949)

If I had discovered Heyer as a teenager, as so many of her readers seem to have, then I have no doubt this would have been my favorite of her books. It’s not just that our heroine Arabella Tallant is young — so, too, was Pen, and Horry, and oh God, Juana — but also that she is fierce. I would totally have identified with Arabella as a teenager.

And I would absolutely have fallen in love with Mr. Beaumaris.

Now, it’s not so different. Arabella’s crusading ways still speak to me. Mr. Beaumaris is still pretty dreamy, especially when he is hanging out with his new doggie friend. And there is a kind of looming danger of discovery hanging over the whole thing — will Arabella be found out and be disgraced in Society, when it is learned that she is not the great heiress she claimed to be, to avenge an insult? — that I found added a sense of drama and intensity to events that otherwise really didn’t warrant them.

It’s a pretty mild story, with not much of a plot, when considered objectively. But who can be objective when the truth might be discovered at any moment?

I probably could have done without the intrusion of Bertie Tallant’s gambling problems (is his name Bertie? I found him so irrelevant to the story that I only read it today but still can’t be sure), but for the rest, this was a light, fun, often very funny read, and I enjoyed myself exceedingly, as one of Heyer’s heroines might say.

I just wish I had read it when I was younger. (Sorry, Rach. As usual, you were right.)


Maura Tan was born in Zanzibar, grew up in Morocco and lives in Singapore, where she is currently studying for her third degree in Contemporary Literature—when not writing reviews for Romantic Intentions Quarterly and eating her bodyweight in durian.