Heyer for Beginners — The Convenient Marriage (1934)

Heyer Society‘s fearless leader, Rachel Hyland, tells me that this is the first Heyer she ever read, when she was eleven, and it got her immediately hooked. All I can say is, Rachel must not only have been a super precocious kid but also have been weirdly okay with disturbing romances, because this story of the seventeen-year-old Horry marrying the much older Earl of Rule to save her sister from a similar fate, and then loving her new life as the plaything of a nobleman who might as well be her father, is not at all the kind of thing I would have liked at eleven.

I don’t like it now.

Yes, I can appreciate the depth of historical detail, Heyer’s Georgianisms and her wit is very clear, especially in Rule’s often supercilious conversation and in Horry’s adorable frankness. But the other massive age gap so far in Heyer, Avon and Léonie in These Old Shades, bothered me far less than this one, because it developed naturally and organically as the story progressed and then they got married. And Léonie was nineteen.

I guess what this book reminds me is that women didn’t really have much of a say in their futures, in some parts of the world they still don’t, and that these often teenaged girls end up controlled by older men who view them .

I didn’t hate Rule, and I knew this was going to be about an arranged marriage — it told me so in the title — and of course this whole story is a product of its time. But I don’t like to dwell upon that time, or that reality that so many young women still face, and so this one not only left me cold, but also really made me upset.

The dialog is often pretty funny, though. And Horry really is adorable. I just wish she wasn’t a goddamn child bride.

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.