skygiants: Beatrice from Much Ado putting up her hand to stop Benedick talking (no more than reason)
[personal profile] skygiants
[personal profile] cinaed happened to be telling me about Heyer's Black Sheep (one of the few I have not read) right before I went on vacation to the Galapagos, and then it happened to be available for Kindle checkout from my library that very day, and so the path for fluffy travel escapist reading had been prepared.

As it turns out, I like pretty much everything about Black Sheep except ... maybe the end .......?

So Black Sheep is one of those Heyers which focuses on an ironical older couple caught up in the orbit of a Very Dramatic younger couple, though in this case the whole point is not to let the younger couple get married. Our Heroine, 28-year-old Abigail Wendover, shares guardianship of her wealthy teenage niece Fanny with her sweet-but-histrionic older sister Selina. Fanny is under the earnest impression that she is desperately in love with Stacy Calverleigh, a sketchy fortune-hunter who is in his late twenties and very, very obviously gross (to Abigail!) (but alas not to Fanny or Selina!)

Enter Stacy Calverleigh's weird uncle Miles, the family black sheep who bounced off to India [obligatory colonialism warning] years ago and happens coincidentally to be back in town.

ABIGAIL: Well, sir, now that you are conveniently in town, will you help me break up my niece and your nephew?
MILES: I would, but: I'm not responsible for him and I don't care.
ABIGAIL: Would you care if you pointed out to you repeatedly how it was an important and ethical thing to do?
MILES: I definitely would not care about that. But you seem like fun, so can keep doing it if it means you'll keep hanging out with me!

Miles is Not Respectable any more than his nephew is, but, to her deep embarrassment, Abigail finds herself Showing Him Marked Preference. He is just so entertaining! However, the rest of her highly respectable extended family is even MORE down on him than they are on Stacy Calverleigh, because there is a Dark Tragic Secret Linking Them In Their Past --

MILES: Oh, yes, I definitely tried to elope with your brother's fiancee way back in the day. Embarrassing times for all!
ABIGAIL: Oh, so this was a Love Tragically Thwarted kind of thing?
MILES: Definitely, definitely not, SO happy we didn't go through with it. That was a disaster waiting to happen.

So this is all set up in the front half of the book, and then Abigail mostly spends the back half of the book zooming around in twelve different directions trying to stop Fanny from running off with Sketchy Stacy, while also grappling with the question of whether she would be a big fat hypocrite to do everything in her power to prevent Fanny from marrying Stacy against her family's wishes and immediately afterwards herself bounce off to marry Miles against her family's wishes. Like, it's definitely different just due to the fact that she is an adult and Fanny is not! But is it that different?

And in fact, in the end, after Fanny has been successfully rescued from Stacy's clutches (and, for a wonder, not paired up with anybody else! because she's still a baby!) Abigail comes to the conclusion that as much as she wants to, she can't marry Miles -- mostly because it would be so incredibly rough on her sister and her niece, who are not perfect, but who love her very, very much.

SELINA: I told our awful brother that no matter who you marry and no matter if the rest of the family and society cuts me off, I will never cut you out of my life! You are my favorite person in the world and I love you so much!!!
ABIGAL: ...dang, Selina. Unexpected feels!
[BECCA: ...dang, Selina. Unexpected feels]
SELINA: Now I am taking to my room to cry out my feelings about the possibility of you leaving me. No! No! I'll be fine! I just need a billion handkerchiefs!

FANNY: Aunt Abigail I love Aunt Selina in her sweet but histrionic way but honestly you are the only thing that makes living in this house bearable!
ABIGAIL: This was actually a pretty expected feel. Ah, teenagers.

Anyway, Miles patiently hears her out as she explains that she loves him and wishes she could marry him but she has other responsibilities, takes her out for a ride, and promptly abducts her!

MILES: Look, if I abduct you then nobody can blame you, I'm totally cool with them blaming me, and your sister and niece can just learn to deal.
ABIGAIL: ......I can't argue with your logic. >.>

Which ... is fine. It's fine! Miles and Abigail are certainly cute, and I'm generally down for the message that it's important to live for yourself and do what will make you happy instead of living for other people but ... I do actually think Abigail's reasons for not saying no were pretty good ones! Like, if you're responsible for a teenager who depends on you, it is maybe not the worst idea in the world to wait until that teenager is more of an independent adult before ditching her for True Love (who lives several days away).

Anyway, it seems very obvious to me that the correct solution here is for Miles and Abigail to hold off on the getting-married plan and, instead, simply conduct a torrid secret affair until Fanny comes of age. Everybody wins!

Admittedly I might also have been swayed by both my and Abigail's unexpected feelings about Selina declaring that her sisterly love for Abigail was THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN HER WORLD. How could you abandon her after that, Abigail? HOW COULD YOU.

Date: 2017-01-25 08:01 am (UTC)
sgac: heart made from crumpled paper (Default)
From: [personal profile] sgac
I have to admit, I am always surprised how heavily this book pushes the message 'because family is not a good enough reason; sometimes people related to you are not great people'. It's one of the few Heyers with a useful, relevant, non-gross message.

Date: 2017-01-25 01:06 pm (UTC)
percysowner: (Default)
From: [personal profile] percysowner
I admit that this is one that I know I read, because I've read all of her romances, but it never caught me enough to read again. It does sound charming, so I may go back and give it a go.

Date: 2017-01-25 01:42 pm (UTC)
venetia_sassy: (Images // reading)
From: [personal profile] venetia_sassy
I adore Black Sheep and Miles with his Disreputable Connections from his Youthful Days. I was quite pleased with the ending because I was so exhausted by all the HISTRIONIC EMOTIONS Abby was hit with (I love Mrs Grayshot's reaction to Selina) that when Miles carried her off and pointed out that there were really very sensible solutions to all these problems and she didn't have to drown herself daily in the HISTRIONIC EMOTIONS to prove she loved her family, I was very relieved for her.
Edited (WTF? I did not hit post) Date: 2017-01-25 01:45 pm (UTC)

Date: 2017-01-25 02:06 pm (UTC)
venetia_sassy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] venetia_sassy
It's a favourite trope of mine too, actually, but I would have gone insane living in that house which is probably why I was cheering Abby on.

Date: 2017-01-25 02:06 pm (UTC)
percysowner: (Default)
From: [personal profile] percysowner
You really might want to give A Civil Contract a go. Now mostly this is because I want to read your reaction to it and it's all about me. However, it does touch on this theme that there are more important things than romance.

Date: 2017-01-25 09:18 pm (UTC)
cinaed: I can whistle through my fingers, bulldog a steer, light a fire with two sticks, shoot a pistol with fair accuracy (Ann Sheridan)
From: [personal profile] cinaed
Haha, yeah, I was about halfway through when we chatted, and I have mixed feelings about the ending-- though I did feel like both Selina and Fanny loved Abigail but were also soooo emotionally draining that I both cheered for Miles and Abigail and went "er, maybe not the BEST idea you've ever had there...."

But I did really enjoy the fact that Fanny doesn't immediately latch on to another guy! Like her potential suitor is adorable, but it's not obvious that Fanny will fall for him ever. It was a refreshing change to things! Let Fanny grow up a bit more! Also the entire time I was reading her parts I was feeling bad for her AND actually feeling bad for Lydia from Pride and Prejudice as well because they were in vaguely similar circumstances.

Date: 2017-01-27 03:35 am (UTC)
cinaed: Tough times don't last, tough people do, remember? (Gregory Peck)
From: [personal profile] cinaed
Yeah, I think I considered Selina is a hypochondriac and constantly "sick" and Abgail has to deal with it, but I might be reading into things! I just felt from Mrs. Grayshot's reaction it's a fixture of their lives, heh.

But yeah, mixed feelings on the ending, though I liked most of the characters!

Date: 2017-01-26 01:23 am (UTC)
castiron: cartoony sketch of owl (Default)
From: [personal profile] castiron
I got about a third of the way through Black Sheep and stalled out, but it sounds like it might be worth finishing.

And seconding the rec for A Civil Contract.


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