Sunday, 2 October 2005

Heyeroines in need of a slap

6. Catherine Charing (Cotillion)

It has all the ingredients of a classic tragedy in the tradition of King Lear. Matthew Penicuik, a visionary leader in the field of drainage, finds himself in his old age surrounded by five excellent great nephews, but beset with the problem of off-loading his step-grand-daughter (whose mother, let us never forget, was called, if not quite Dolores, the next worst thing, Desirée).

The first thing we see of "Kitty" is her physically throwing an old woman out of the room she has just entered. Her language is littered with cant and slang. She confesses to a love of extravagance, but no wish for any intellectual development. She considers one of her step-father's great nephews a humbug, another cruel and two others stupid. And that's just what we learn of her in Chapter 2.

So much for her attitude. Her behaviour is no better than one might expect. She runs away from home on a whim without clothing or maid-servant. She gets "stupid" Freddy drunk on punch and tricks him into a sham betrothal, and then uses rumours of an epidemic to prevent her bluff being called. She uses her devious feminine wiles to trick poor Lady Buckhaven into spending a fortune on her wardrobe, and imposes on Lady Legerwood by comandeering her town carriage for a self-indulgent tour of London.

It gets worse. Having established herself in London on such outrageously false pretences, "Kitty" not only steamrollers herself into Almacks, but also allies herself with the distinctly un-tonnish Miss Plymstock in her pursuit of poor bewildered Lord Dolphinton.

Such a career can only end in tragedy, and in this cases the tragedy is Freddy's, as he sacrifices his bachelor happiness (not that there's anything wrong with that) for the shackles of matrimony. If only the Honourable and Reverend Hugh Rattray had been in possession of a bit more spine, we might have had a much more satisfactory resolution, with "Kitty" settling down as a vicar's wife, acting as the housekeeper that she herself admits is the only role for which she is qualified.

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mandy said...

I can only assume the elation of getting the Behemoth off your hands has addled your brains, as Kitty is quite the most wonderful heyeroine in all of Heyerdom.

Who but a girl after my own heart would pour scorn on the wretched reverend's remark that her sober clothing was charming by returning that she wanted some fabulous clothes and not - not - to be some poor little squab of a dowdy?

And who but a Heyeroine of true worth would finally realise that it wasn't the alpha male she loved, but the slipper-wearing Freddy? (Those who don't remember Freddy wearing slippers will have to ask Stephen to explain.)

If anyone has written a funnier scene than the one in which Dolph pops in and out of cupboards as he tries to get hitched, I've yet to read it, and it all came about because of my own darling Kitty.

I would just remind you that Freddy has felled men twice your size in defense of Kitty, and suggest you either placate her by buying her a new bonnet, or take some speedy lessons in the Noble Art from Gentleman Jackson in his gym.

Stephen said...

But is that sufficient to justify Miss Charing's appalling treatment of Miss Fishguard?

Did Mr Penicuik drain the Fens of Eastern England to be repaid in such coin?

mandy said...

As Kitty's activities led to Miss Fishguard, a penniless spinster, marrying the wealthy old curmudgeon Mr Pennicuik - a man who spent even more time draining the port bottle than he did draining the fens - I cannot bring myself to feel sorry for either of them. The one ends up with a safe, secure life instead of a very uncertain future, and the other ends up with a permanent nursemaid who can recite chunks of verse at the drop of a hat. I think my dear Kitty did them both a favour.

pam cleaver said...

Never mind about Kitty - my favourite character in Cotillion (one of GH's cleverest IMO) is Freddy - the perfect beta hero. Keep your alphas, give me Freddy!

Kate Allan said...

ahhhhh Freddy! What about a series for Heyeroes in need of a kiss? xxxxxx