When you’re an Assyrian-bearded manly man like me, you can just about summon up enough courage to read a romance novel.I have a gaggle of close female relatives.  Mostly they aren’t too soppy.  They have the good taste to adore Wodehouse, for instance.  They also adore a mid-century romance novelist called Georgette Heyer.  I was out at the ancestral home recently and saw a bright pink girly book called Something Something Ajax, written by her.  I idly picked it up and read the reviews on the back.  They all said it was really funny.  Reviews on the back of books are lying liars, of course.  But it was significant that they all wanted me to think it was funny.  Maybe not your typical romance novel?  I decided to give it a try.

It was really funny.  A crusty old snot of a nobleman discovers that his legal heir is actually some absolute outsider from Yorkshire whose grandfather was a weaver.  Said legal heir is puckish, so when he is invited to the manor and discovers that every one fears he is a bumpkin, he can’t help himself, he starts pretending to be a bumpkin.  Hilarity ensues.  Also the crusty snot earl orders the heir and his granddaughter to get married, which rankles them both.  Sample dialogue, paraphrased:

Girl: But people will talk if they think I am marrying you for your money.

Guy:  That is a serious problem.  How much of my money do I need to give away so you’ll marry me?

Girl: …

Guy:  Anyway, take comfort, I’m really a skinflint.  Marrying me will be just like living in poverty, even though I am rich.

Girl, laughing: But you said you’d buy me the moon if you could!

Guy, shamefacedly:  But I can’t, that’s the point.  Notice I didn’t say I would buy you a diamond necklace.

Girl, impishly:  I would like to a diamond necklace, come to think of it.

Guy, anxiously:  Would you mind if it were paste?

Be warned, though.  Part of the humor is the liberal use of period slang, which makes no sense to the modern reader at all.

Here is what surprised me most.  Besides being funny, the book was educational.  I think I am going to insist that the young males in my charge read some romance novels before they embark out on the world.

The hero did a little bit of the traditional “Thou art the tree on which the fruit of my life hangs” stuff, but very little.  Mostly he just teased her.  And he teased the earl, who everybody else was afraid of.

He was competent, manly, all that.  Took his duty seriously, but not himself.  He also assumed the sale.  He started calling the heroine “love” very early on, and passed it off as just the sort of low class slang he was unfortunately prone to.  There is no actual proposal-and-acceptance scene in the book.  He just sort of takes it for granted eventually that she is going to marry him, and she falls in with his views.

If this is the sort of stuff that high-quality females like–and my female relatives fall into that category–men interested in high-quality females out to know it.

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