Black Sheep

by Georgette Heyer
Hey, everyone needs to read a comfort book now and then, eh? I started reading this again while in the bathtub a while back and am now reading it pretty steadily in what little free time I have. It’s a charming book, I know it very nearly by heart, and I absolutely adore the hero, Miles Calverleigh.
He’s the black sheep of his family (hah hah), and falls in love with one Abigail Wendover, guardian aunt of a headstrong young girl who is madly in love with Miles’ nephew Stacy. Stacy is a fortune hunter after Fanny’s fortune, but the girl is too blind to see that and it’s up to Abby to figure out a way to keep the youngsters from eloping. Miles is a cynical care-for-nobody kind of guy and is absolutely disinterested in helping Abby until he realizes just how serious she is about saving her neice.
It’s cheesy good fun and while it IS a historical romance, it’s also delightfully written and not at all trashy. See below for an excerpt.

Upon meeting Miles and learning that he’s Stacy’s uncle, Abby tries to persuede him to help break up Stacy and Fanny and learns something suprising.

“Infatuated, is she? I daresay she’ll recover,” [Miles] said, a suggestion of boredom in his voice.
“Undoubtedly! My fear is that she may do so too late! Mr. Calverleigh, if your nephew were the most eligible bachelor in the country I should be opposed to the match! She is by far too young to be thinking of marriage. As it is, I need no, I fancy, scruple to tell you that he is not eligible! He bears a most shocking reputation, and, apart from all else, I believe him to be a fortune-hunter!”
“Very likely, I should think,” he nodded.
This cool rejoinder made it necessary for her to keep a firm hand on the rein of her temper. She said, in a dry voice: “You may regard that with complaisance, sir, but I do not!”
“No, I don’t suppose you do,” he agreed amiably.
She flushed. “And — which is of even more importance! — nor does my brother!”
This seemed to revive his interest. A gleam came into his eyes. “What, does he know of this?”
“Yes, sir, he does know of it, and nothing, I assure you, could exceed his dislike of such a connection!…Pray do not think I exaggerate when I say that I have seldom seen him more profoundly shocked, or — or heard him express himself with so much violence! Belive me, sir, nothing could prevail upon him to give his consent to your nephew’s proposal!”
“I do — implicitly!” he replied, the light of unholy amusement in his eyes. “What’s more, I’d give a monkey to have seen him! Lord, how funny!”
“It was not in the least funny! And — ”
“Yes, it was, but never mind that! Why should you fall into a fuss? If the virtuous James forbids the banns, and if my nephew is a fortune-hunter, depend upon it he will cry off!” He saw the doubt in her face, and said: “You don’t think so?”
She hesitated. “I don’t know. It may be that he hopes to win James over –”
“Well, he won’t do that!”
“No. Unless — Mr. Calverleigh, I have reason — some reason — to fear that he might persuade her into an elopement! Thinking that once the knot was tied my brother would be obliged –” She stopped as he broke into a shout of laughter, and said indignantly: “It may seem funny to you, but I promise you –”
“It does! What a subject for a roaring farce! History repeats itself — with a vengeance!”
Wholly bewildered, she demanded: “What do you mean? What can you possibly mean?”
“My pretty innocent,” he said, in a voice of kindness spiced with mockery, “did no one ever tell you that I am the man who ran off with your Fanny’s mother?”
When did you run off with Celia?”
“Oh, when she became engaged to be married to Rowland!” he answered, very much as if this were a matter of course.
“Good God! Do you mean that you abducted her?” she gasped.
“No, I don’t recall that I ever abducted anyone,” he said, giving the matter his consideration. “In fact, I’m sure of it. An unwilling bride would be the very devil, you know.”
“Well, that’s precisely what I’ve always thought!” she exclaimed, pleased to find her opinion shared. “Whenever I’ve read about it, in some trashy romance, I mean. Of course, if the heroine is a rich heiress the case is understandable, but — Oh!” Consternation sounded in her voice; painfully mortified, she stammered: “I beg your pardon! I can’t think what made me say –”
“Not at all!” he assured her kindly. “A very natural observation.”

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