For those who may not have heard of her, Georgette Heyer was a British novelist who in her long career wrote 30 historical romance novels and 12 crime thrillers. She was greatly inspired by Jane Austen, and is probably the reason why Regency romance is now a genre onto itself. Heyer's romances, unlike today's modern, quite often very raunchy stories, are more in the vein of Austen, in that the characters are created with wit and charm, and the dialogue sparkles. The hero and heroine may kiss at the end, but there is nothing even vaguely like sex scenes in them.
Bath Tangle was written in the latter half of her career, and features, not at all unusual for a romance novel, a redheaded, fiery-tempered heroine, and a dark, swarthy, rich and arrogant hero. 25-year-old Lady Serena Carlow has just lost her father, the Earl of Spenborough. Her cousin inherits the estate, as her father left no sons, just a widow younger than his fiesty and strong-willed daughter. Lady Serena is shocked to realize, that her father has placed all her inheritance in trust, and her former fiancée Ivo Barrasford, the Marquis of Rotherham, is to be her guardian. She will only gain control of her fortune once she is married, and Rotherham has to consent to the union before such an event can occur.
Serena was engaged to Rotherham years previously, but broke it off with him a month before the wedding, because all they did was quarrel. She has known him all her life, and has great affection for him, but every time they are in the same room, sparks fly. This is partly due to the fact that Rotherham does not let Serena boss him around, as she is wont to do everyone else. He is greatly amused by the Earl's will and testament, but promises Serena he will be a sensible guardian to her.
After living with her young and lovely step-mother Fanny in the dower-house on the estate, the two young women realize that they are both bored to death, and decide to move to Bath, where there is more of a varied society, and Serena does not need to annoy herself over every change her cousin, the new Earl, is making to her former home. In Bath, Serena soon meets up with the only man she claims to have ever loved, a young army officer who after seven years has become a Major. Major Kirkby is stunned to have met his former love again, and seems just as much in love with her as before, only now their stations are not quite as far removed from each other as they once were. He becomes secretly engaged to Serena, who is quite happy with the idea of becoming his wife, until she discovers that Rotherham is engaged to a 17-year-old debutante.
Unusually in a romance, the hero does not feature all that prominently in the story at all. As in most romances, it is obvious from the start that Rotherham and Serena are meant to be, no two people argue that vehemently and passionately in romance without getting together at the end. Bath Tangle also explores a common fate of many women in Regency society - having to marry a much older man because family and society expects you to make a good match, no matter how big the age difference. Fanny keeps assuring Serena and everyone else that Spenborough was a most considerate husband, but she is clearly very distressed at the thought of an innocent 17-year-old marrying the much older Rotherham, obviously not out of love, but because of her ambitious mama's wishes. Serena's grief at her father's passing, and having to move out of the home she grew up in, simply because she is unmarried and her father did not provide male heirs, is also well written.
Bath Tangle will not go down as one of my favourite Heyer novels, but it was a quick and enjoyable read, as always.