A Corinthian was probably the term used to denote the best that Nobility had to offer in Regency England in terms of men. These men were fashionably dressed (not necessarily Dandy’s), had interest in sporting and were generally considered good at it, were of good birth and usually rich. This also meant they had access to the best places and clubs and socialized in the best settings. By virtue of being interested in sports – which meant boxing, hunting, riding and driving their curricles – they were muscular and well built. Nothing could suit Regency lifestyle better!

(My ratings at the bottom of  this post)

the corinthianAnd so this book revolves around poor Sir Richard Wyndham, 29 years old, bored, jaded, extremely eligible for marriage, and yet unable to like a single woman enough to wed her. Deemed to be a cold-hearted person by everyone around him, the reader is allowed to realise that there is a Romantic lurking in his depths.

And so his Family (mother and sister) force him to offer for Melissa Brandon, the eldest daughter of Lord Saar. Unimpeachable birth, beautiful, yet extremely cold a lady. By offering for her he will also repay Lord Saar’s and his son’s debts while winning a wife promised to him when he was just a babe.

Like his sister explains:

“‘If he doesn’t wish to marry Melissa, I’m sure I should be the last person to press her claim,’ said Louisa. ‘But it is high time that he married someone, and if he has no other suitable young female in his eye, Melissa it must be.’”

The notion is enough to make him give up hope on life, drink himself silly and wander off in the middle of the night. Poor Sir Richard.

And then he meets Pen Creed hanging from a window. Penelope Creed, a pretty blonde, is a 17 year old heiress (and hence still not launched into society), living with her aunt who is forcing her to marry her cousin against her wish. Her answer to this force? Running away disguised as a boy (since single women were not allowed to travel alone, she has to dress up as a boy). Her intention is to run off to her childhood friend with whom a pact had been made earlier in her life to be married to, in case they did not like anyone else.

Since Sir Richard has not yet offered for Melissa, her plan to run away from the evils entices him as well. Plus, being a very correct Gentleman he has never done anything so imprudent ever before and the Romantic hidden within him emerges. He embarks on the journey with Pen, acting as the young “boy’s” tutor/cousin -without leaving a message with anyone.

“‘Do you know, Pen Creed, I fancy you have come into my life in the guise of Providence?’
She looked up enquiringly. ‘Have I?’ she said doubtfully. ‘
That or Disaster,’ said Sir Richard. ‘I shall know which when I am sober. But, to tell you the truth, I don’t care a jot!
En avant, mon cousin!’”

And so the adventures of Pen and his tutor begin in a common stage coach – a very lowly vehicle shared by poor people while traveling long distances. They meet many interesting people, including someone whom Sir Richard suspects of being a robber.

Meanwhile, Lady Saar is robbed on her way by highwaymen of her famous Brandon Diamond Necklace, from a hiding place in her carriage known only to the family. Not only is the family now on brink of definite financial ruin, but suspects a robber amongst them.

Sir Richard and Pen are also embroiled in deep trouble, being chased by Bow Street Runners, traveling in carriages meant for peasants, narrowly escaping the need to share rooms and having to lie to all and sundry. If that was not enough, Sir Richard averts getting robbed, but Pen finds herself in possession of the Brandon Diamonds. Soon they are witness to a murder, are retained in a town because of the same, and, to top it all, get inadvertently involved in the love story of an idiotic couple.

So what happens to our couple? After having traveled a long distance in the company of a single man without a chaperone, will Pen be accepted by her friend? Who is the murderer? What is the danger befalling our Hero and Heroine? Will they be caught for robbery, or murder? Or worse, will Pen be found by her evil Aunt before she reaches her friend, and married off to that horrible cousin before she ends the journey?

All this and much more lie in wait for the reader of this eccentric and highly entertaining book. Sir Richard is all a Hero should be, not to mention lovable at one moment and haughty at another.

“Sir Richard’s hand sought his quizzing-glass, and raised it. It was said in haut-ton circles that the two deadliest weapons against all forms of pretension were Mr Brummell’s lifted eyebrow, and Sir Richard Wyndham’s quizzing-glass. Captain Trimble, though thick-skinned, was left in no doubt of its blighting message.

We don’t see Penelope Creed in a woman’s garment even once in the book, but the trials Pen has to go through to achieve a cravat that meets the basic requirements of Sir Richard, to pass off as a boy, make you sympathise with her.

“His gaze travelled slowly over her borrowed raiment. ‘Horrible!’ he said. ‘Are you under the impression that you have tied that—that travesty of a cravat in a Wyndham Fall?’”

And if this book does not make you look up the recipe of the perfect Rum Punch to be made and drunk on a winters evening, I will be surprised!

The characters are eccentric yet real, and have the qualities wanted in the best of protagonists. A dashing, intelligent, much admired hero. A pretty, intelligent, fearless heroine. Together, their adventure is one that is too short for just one read!

So, here are my Ratings:

Protagonists: Likable.

Side Characters: Very few side characters are involved, and when they step in, they are completely believable and real. Sly, menacing or plain idiotic – all of them are just as they should be.

Plot: Interesting, complete with forceful marriage, robbery, running away disguised, murder.

Environment: Fun and intrigue!

Regency Information: The information available focuses on the traveling mechanisms of the times, and the reader will get a very good notion of how difficult and tedious it was, and what the hotels were like, and what the social strata translated to in terms of traveling more than a few miles.

Recommendation: Recommended for any Heyer fan. Also recommended for those who enjoy mysteries, irrespective of the Romance angle, which is  quite subtle.

Rating: Four on Five!

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