This will be my last book review of 2013. Arabella is the third Georgette Heyer novel that I've read this year and I really liked it. I didn't enjoy it as much as Cotillion but I found it far more enjoyable than The Grand Sophy. The story of Arabella is quite reminiscent of both Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice but it manages not to be a rip-off of either of those books. Arabella is also charming, fun and funny. The only thing that really let the book down for me were the chapters that involved Arabella's brother Bertram. He goes to London, gambles, and loses almost all of his money. I wasn't a fan of this subplot. Bertram seemed like a total prat and I got tired of reading about his misadventures. The Bertram subplot is necessary to the story but I do wish Heyer had spent less time on it.
I really liked the heroine and the hero of this book. Arabella herself is my favourite Heyer heroine so far. She's not perfect. She's naive, she has a bit of a temper, and she makes mistakes. But her faults make her believable and she's very kind, moral and compassionate. How can you not love a girl who takes care of a sick maid, shouts at a man for whipping his horse, rescues a chimney sweep that falls into her room, and then gets Mr Beaumaris to beat up some louts that are attacking a dog?! Then there's Beaumaris. Apparently a lot of Heyer's heroines are rakes but I haven't managed to come across any of those books that feature rakish heroes just yet. Mr Beaumaris isn't an out-and-out rake. At the start of the book he's just very cynical, world-weary and jaded. As he starts to fall in love with Arabella he becomes more charming and cheerful. His conversations with Arabella are very amusing but the thing that really endeared me to his character were his conversations with his dog Ulysses. They really show off his sense of humour. I enjoyed the various ways that Beaumaris dealt with all the charity cases that Arabella kept foisting on him as well. I was a bit disappointed that Arabella didn't manage to convince him to hire the prostitute Leaky Peg as a maid in the final chapter but not disheartened. I know that Arabella will nag him about it in the future. The secondary characters in Arabella are a bit flat but the hero and the heroine more than make up for it - and I did enjoy reading about Beaumaris's very camp valet Mr Painswick. If Arabella ever gets an adaptation they should get David Walliams to play him.
Arabella is a thoroughly engaging and fun book and if you're looking for a light read then I would definitely recommend it. Georgette Heyer is no Jane Austen but I'm really enjoying her books and I look forward to reading even more of them.