Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Abigail Wendover is determined to save her niece from a fortune-hunter; but the wise young aunt finds herself falling for another black sheep, the cynical and charming Miles Calverleigh.
It's Heyer having fun with romance, showing Abby's slow seduction through friendship. Miles, who is hardly the perfect man, pushes her buttons and makes her laugh at the same time. Abby considers herself 'on the shelf' (what a devastating term for an old maid!), but it's plain that a few of the men around her don't see it the same way; yet Miles is the only one capable of attracting her attention.
The aunt is mostly worried over her niece's ill-advised engagement to Stacy Calverleigh, a man Abby recognizes as a cold-hearted fortune-hunter. My only quibble - the characters are all horribly condescending toward young Fanny; while clearly inexperienced (only 17!), she is hardly the halfwit they all seem to take her for. Still, it's a fun story with a happy ending that will make you smile - what more can you ask for?
Georgette Heyer is known for doing her homework on Regency England, and she turns up some great old-fashioned expressions in this novel. They are clear by context, but I just had to look some up to try and figure out their precise meaning (there is this awesome website, too):
havey-cavey - suspicious
throw her cap over the windmill - to act recklessly (as in Don Quixote)
return by Weeping Cross - to return as a penitent, as to a roadside shrine
to shoot the crow - Scottish expression: to leave hurriedly, esp. without paying one's bill
a trifle above oar - a little drunk
shabrag - scruffy, shabby, dilapidated
If you love Georgette Heyer's Jane Austen-like charm and wit, you're in luck: the woman wrote way more books than Austen did! Definitely check them out.
"He had nothing to recommend him but his smile, and she was surely too old, and had too much commonsense, to be beguiled by a smile, however attractive it might be. But just as she reached this decision he spoke, and she glanced up at him, and realized that she had overestimated both her age and her commonsense." - 66
"Half a loaf is better than no bread: he didn't know who had been responsible for that silly proverb, only that he must have a cod's head. It wasn't better; when the lovely, darling girl you would have given your soul to possess invited you to be her brother it was infinitely worse." - 132