by Georgette Heyer
Reviewed by Margaret Donsbach
When Georgette Heyer published Bath Tangle, she was well into her successful career, having written twenty previous romances set in Georgian or Regency England. These are more romantic comedies than romances that evoke the feeling of falling in love. This one pokes gentle fun at characters who think they can outwit Cupid's arrow by marrying for anything other than love. Even today, though social customs may have changed, wealth and status still dazzle, and pressure is still exerted on prospective brides and grooms stricken with qualms after the invitations go out.
In Bath Tangle, Serena, the only child of the Earl of Spenborough, is not among those dazzled by wealth. A passionate horsewoman with a keen interest in politics, she's had money and position all her life, until her father dies and she must give way to a cousin who never expected to inherit. At twenty-five, she appears headed for spinsterhood but insists she feels no regret over breaking a past engagement with the Marquis of Rotherham. "We quarrelled more royally than ever before, and I positively enjoyed crying-off." Fanny, her father's shy and conventional young widow, is her opposite in every way but one: both are kind-hearted souls determined to support each other in their bereavement, despite their reduced circumstances and a shockingly unconventional clause in the Earl's will.
As consolation and diversion, the two women visit the fashionable watering town of Bath, where further surprises await. The resulting entanglements could lead to more than one misguided marriage. Readers may see a few of the important plot twists coming long before they arrive. The fun is in trying to imagine how the characters can extricate themselves from engagements far more mismatched than Serena's to the Marquis without ruining their reputations in the process. Although this story is not as consistently scintillating as Heyer at her best, it offers a rich tangle of romantic dilemmas and enough dramatic moments to satisfy. (1955, new Sourcebooks edition 2011; 362 pages)
More about Bath Tangle at Powell's Books or Amazon.com (Spoiler warning: Reviews at both Amazon and Powell's give away some of the plot twists)
Other novels set in Bath:
An Accomplished Woman by Jude Morgan (2007), a humorous romance set in eighteenth-century Georgian Bath. See review or more info at Powell's Books
Black Gold by Charles O'Brien (2002), a mystery featuring a former actress working as a tutor for a deaf child in Georgian Bath, England, assisted in her sleuthing by a Parisian friend. More info
The Penningtons by Pamela Oldfield (2010), about a young housemaid in 1902 Bath who discovers there are dark secrets in her employer's past. More info
Nonfiction about the history of Bath:
The Imaginary Autocrat: Beau Nash and the Invention of Bath by John Eglin (2005), about the self-made man who influenced the popularity of Bath as a center of amusement for upper class England in the eighteenth century. More info
Jane Austen in Bath: Walking Tours of the Writer's City by Katharine Reeve (2006), four walking tours of Bath focusing on the settings for Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. More info
Bath by Kirsten Elliott (2004), a history of Bath through the centuries. More info
City of Bath, England, the city's official website
Back to Historical Novels: Nineteenth-Century Europe
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