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I have too many books, so I decided I might as well blog about them. I have this weird habit of reaching for a book at mealtimes, which no parent, family member or teacher has been able to cure. Today, my mealtime book is Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer. I like Georgette Heyer because her books contain such entertaining characters. She also wrote mystery novels, but she's best known for her Regencies, like Sprig Muslin.

The hero of this book, Sir Gareth Ludlow, thought his plan was so simple-- he was going to propose marriage to his friend, Lady Hester Theale. After all, it had been seven years since he'd lost his fiancee, and during that time, Lady Hester had been the only person he could talk to about her. Also, Lady Hester was 29 and "on the shelf," and if she didn't marry, she'd have to live with her brother or one of her sisters, and they would all treat her like a servant. While he was handsome and rich, and one of the most sought-after catches on the marriage mart. Lady Hester would be happy with the idea of marrying him, right?

Unfortunately, while on his way to Lady Hester's family's house, Sir Gareth met a young lady, Amanda, who had obviously run away from home. Her grandfather wouldn't let her get married, so she wouldn't go home until he agreed, even if she had to find work as a governess or chambermaid. The rules of society being what they were, Sir Gareth couldn't let her go on with her plan. Unfortunately, she refused to tell him her last name or who her grandfather was, so he didn't know whom to inform about finding her, and if he let her out of his sight, he might not be able to find her again. Plus, she sort of reminded him of his dead fiancee. So... he brought her with him to Lady Hester's house, where everybody, except Lady Hester who knew him well, thought that Amanda was his mistress. And things got even more complicated, because Lady Hester refused to marry him anyway.

So now Sir Gareth has a lot on his plate: convince Lady Hester to marry him, and find a way to get Amanda back to her family before she ran away again.

* * *

The thing is, I like Regencies because of the way they are written. The characters have to conform to strict rules of behavior in their society-- they have to be ladies and gentlemen. Some of the side characters go to extremes to bend, break, or conform to these rules. Some think that they're good at conforming, not knowing that others think they're vulgar. And there are some to whom the rules don't apply anyway, because their place in society is so secure that they can get away with anything. Lady Hester knows that she should accept Sir Gareth's proposal or be thrown to the fringes of their social circle, but she refuses him anyway. Sir Gareth is actually one of those characters who can get away with anything-- he could propose to any other marriageable lady and be accepted, but he proposes to Lady Hester without negative social consequences-- and because he's such a gentleman, he undertakes to return Amanda to her family before she gets her reputation ruined for breaking the rules because she doesn't fully understand the consequences yet. Amanda is a flighty spoiled brat, but she's got such strong will that she actually carries out her harebrained plans, giving both Sir Gareth and Lady Hester a tough time. And you may wonder which of  the two Sir Gareth ends up with (it's not inconceivable for a rescuer to end up with the rescuee no matter how flighty she might be). Well, I'm not going to tell. Read the book already!

The book title is a reference to the fact that Amanda, being a teenaged girl of good family who has not yet made her debut, should wear sprig muslin dresses, appropriate to her age. There's a scene where Lady Hester lends her a dress, only to realize too late that the dress is silk and thus too mature for Amanda. Also I can't help but remember that mistresses and courtesans were referred to as "bits of muslin." The word "muslin" could then have two connotations which are opposites-- the innocent young lady and the not-so-innocent lady of the night-- and in the Regency world, it took so little to turn one into the other.

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