Sunday, 4 September 2005

Heyeroines in need of a slap

2. Serena Carlow (Bath Tangle)

While Venetia Lanyon betrays her irritating habits from the very first page, with Serena Carlow we do not discover quite what she is like until, ooh, the beginning of Chapter 2, where she starts pacing round the room, muttering "infamous!" and "abominable!", and acting out in a toddler-like manner that she maintains, more or less, for the rest of the book.

And what is it that precipitates this display of childish petulance? Her father's decision to leave her inheritance in trust until she marries, and to appoint the Marquis of Rotherham as her trustee. Given her reaction, more befitting a five or fifteen year old than a woman of five-and-twenty, this was clearly a very sound move on the part of the late Lord Spenborough. Serena's subsequent actions: moving against all advice to the Dower House with her tediously mousy step-mother before finding it a total bore (as everybody said she would); then moving to Bath and behaving in a manner guaranteed to frighten the horses, demonstrate without a shadow of a doubt that had she been allowed free run of the Hernesley and Ibshaw estates from the get-go she would have been the on dit of half the country within a matter of months.

Now some of you will be saying, "it's not the trust, it's the trustee," and suggesting that Serena's objections to the will are entirely justified because Ivo Rotherham is her ex-fiancé. What I would say to Miss Carlow is get over it. You're twenty-five years old. You have a lavish inheritance. If you are as intelligent and independent as you claim, go find a husband who will suit you. It's not as if you don't have the ego and address to carry it off. Or if, as seems more likely to be the case, you can't actually bring yourself to walk away from what must have been a coach-wreck of an engagement, then don't. Stop the attitudinising, apologise to Rotherham, and settle down with him. But which ever way you go, don't keep going on and on about it as if we should care. You'll only end up alienating your readers and driving your dull but harmless stepmother into a fit of the vapours and the arms of a distinctly dodgy army officer.

Just think, if Serena had just taken a deep breath and counted to ten when the will was read, we would all have been spared 300 pages of unbridled solipsism, and might have had instead one of those sweet little romances that Miss Austen does so well.


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4 comments:

Mandy said...

What is all this sexist twaddle about Serena? Ivo is just as bad. Heyer, with her usual genius, has given us a hero and heroine who are a perfectly matched pair.

Stephen said...

I set out what I was doing with these essays a while back, probably while you were off on your hols. There's plenty of room for others to explain quite what is wrong with Mr Beaumaris, or Avon, or Worth, or whomever.

I would have thought that the author of Darcy's Diary ("Makes Bridget Jones look like a neurotic Londoner" the Independent) would be the perfect person to tackle the project.

Mandy said...

Ah! Then may I nominate Frederica for the next in the series? Many people love her. To me, she is an interfering busybody.
As for explaining what is wrong with Beaumaris, Avon or Worth, I suspect there is nothing their presence could not overcome ;)

Stephen said...

Miss Merrivale's turn will come, have no fear, but probably not as the next in the series, as that one is mostly done (but you'll have to wait until Sunday to find out who it is to be).