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Return of the Black Sheep
on 26 April 2008
'Black Sheep' is one of Georgette Heyer's later Regency novels and shows all her skills as a writer, including her much-praised historical accuracy for this period. The 'Black Sheep' of the title is Mr Miles Calverleigh, a gentleman who was sent to India twenty years before after shaming his family. Unfortunately for Miss Abigail Wendover, the absent Mr Calverleigh's nephew Stacy is apparently trying to beguile her spirited niece Fanny in order to get his hands on her fortune. Abigail and her sister Serena have stood as parents toward Fanny for many years but Abigail begins to discover that Fanny has grown up enough to want to rely less on her aunt and more on her own heart.
It is into this situation that Miles Calverleigh steps, having finally returned from India. The first scene between him and Abby, a case of mistaken identity, is a wonderful example of Heyer's skill in writing two spirited and interesting characters. Abigail tries to get Miles to help separate his nephew from her niece but she finds herself thwarted by his apparent lack of interest in the cares of others and his apparent wish to thwart her own strict views on being a support to her own sister which may prevent her from following her heart.
There are some similarities between this book and 'Lady of Quality', also written late in Heyer's career, not least in the age of the heroes and heroines who aren't the youngsters of 'Friday's Child' or 'Cotillion' but are mature people who may perhaps feel that the opportunities in life have passed them by. As usual the side characters are excellent in this story, including the very amusing Mrs Clapham and even the straighlaced James Wendover. This book seems to contain less of the cant phrases that can render some characters in other books almost incomprehensible but the overall standard of dialogue is excellent. 'Black Sheep' makes an excellent introduction to Heyer's Regency novels and can be enjoyed again and again.
Originally published for Curled Up With A Good Book © Helen Hancox 2008