Not only do I think that "Venetia" is Georgette Heyer's best novel, I think Venetia is one of her best characters, and certainly one of my favorite heroines in all romance fiction. She is extremely intelligent and well read, possesses poise, a wonderful sense of humor, and lots of common sense. She is down-to-earth and earthy in a very ladylike way, and a charming, caring person. Venetia is also quite lovely, but her character is so good and strong, that were she only half as beautiful, she would still outshine her peers.
Venetia Lanyon is twenty-five years old, orphaned, and responsible for her frail younger brother Aubrey, who is crippled by a disease of the hip-joint. She is also legally responsible for the family manse and lands in Yorkshire, while their older brother and heir, Conway, is away at war in France. Although Venetia has much going for her in the way of looks, charm and intelligence, and has two loyal suitors nearby, she is determined not to wed unless it is for love. Her father, when he was alive, was a recluse and showed little interest in his children except to forbid Venetia's coming out in London society, sponsored by her very willing aunt. Unaware of the unattached treasure in Yorkshire, London society and many probable excellent matches had to get by without Venetia.
Then, quite by accident, Venetia meets her neighbor, Lord Damerel, who has rarely visited his land since he returned from exile. Damerel is charismatic but not handsome, middle-aged and quite the worst rake, having flown the country with another man's wife years before. Since that liaison broke up, he has been leading a fast, devil-may-care existence and is not received in respectable society. Of course the lady and the rogue are quite taken with each other, and of course many complications ensue. Yet it is clear from their first meeting that the two are soul mates. This is most definitely not the same tired story of good girl meets bad boy and reforms him, etc. - not with Georgette Heyer at the helm.
Ms. Heyers plot and prose are tight, her writing marvelous, and her wit at its best both in the wonderful dialogue between all the characters, and in the many twists and turns the story takes. Venetia is truly amazing with her matter-of-fact air when faced with outrageous circumstances. And Damerel is a most wonderful dark hero, who finally sees the light. Their exploits are delightful. And Ms. Heyer is able, as always, to build sexual tension to a peak with never more than a kiss between the lovers. Her descriptions of the North Country are lyrical, her unusual cast of characters are well developed, and her description of England during the Regency period is very accurate and fascinating. Superb humor and irony are liberally sprinkled throughout.
This is a wonderful novel, and probably my favorite Regency Romance.