Customer Reviews: The Grand Sophy
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on February 15, 2000
This book was voted one of the 400 best novels ever to come out of the 20th century; chosen out of Heyer's entire oeuvre to represent the best of her work. They made the best choice. Heyer invented a genre, that of the Regency Romance, which became cheapened by countless imitators and emulators as well as many very good authors who got lost among the dross and the sweeping statements which consigned the Regency Romance to an undeservedly low-rated place. The Grand Sophy shows Heyer at her very best - it is a outrageously funny book that still has me laughing out loud (I had to stop reading it on the train because other passengers began to complain), it presents a cast of strongly drawn and complex characters, premier among whom is the titular Sophy - Sophia Stanton-Lacy, the irrepressible, indefagitable young woman with a personality the size of all England. From her extravagant arrival at her aunt and uncle's house accompanied by a monkey, a parrot, an Italian greyhound, and a very fine horse - to say nothing of her strong managing nature and charisma, she takes her rather hare-brained cousins in hand, sorting out their entanglements, scandals and romantic peccadilloes in a helter-skelter way. A book for those who always know the best for everyone else, unless you don't want to encourage them. It is a fast-moving, extravagantly amusing, richly detailed and satisfyingly convoluted novel in which Heyer skilfully draws myriad loose ends together with an incredible lightness and sureness of hand - her great talent. Many imitators tend to do so with too heavy and ponderous a style. Buy, borrow or beg this novel - but don't read it in public unless you're good at suppressing laughter. And even better - unlike several of Heyer's best novels, where the language can be somewhat offputting, this book is among one of the most immediately accessible for the novice to Heyer.
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on January 28, 2001
The Grand Sophy has always been one of Heyer's most popular books, and for good reasons. The main character, Sophy, is so confident, fun and extremely likeable - she is almost irresistable. It is also one of Heyer's more complex plots with a number of problems, mostly romantic to be resolved - and it is only in the last few pages that all is made clear.
Sophy, the 'little' neice of Lady Ombersley is sent to London to stay with her aunt. However, somewhere in the decade or so since her aunt last saw her, Sophy has grown into a rather tall, imposing woman, with a personality to match. She is good-natured, sociable, and utterly independent. She soon has the Ombersley household in the palm of her hand - well all except Charles, the eldest son who takes a rather dim view of her. Charles's pious fiancee, Eugenia Wraxton, is also not impressed by her and attempts to bring her into line with London manners - but Sophy, with unimpaired good-manners and immense charm usually manages to get her own way.
Having established herself in the Ombersley Household Sophy soon sees how much they need her. Charles is clearly about marry the wrong woman (Eugenia), his sister, Cecilia is caught up with a clearly unsuitbale poet, and younger brother has Hubert trapped in some clearly dark sort of activity which he cannot escape from. At the same time Sophy's soon to be mother-in-law, Sancia looks to be straying herself.
Sophy's ability to orchestrate this huge cast of characters all to fitting ends is truly marvellous - and highly enjoyable.
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on August 29, 1999
A neighbor put this book (in paperback) into my hands in the summer of 1972 as I was preparing to move overseas with my family. Thus began a wonderful, lifelong relationship with Georgette Heyer's marvelous characters. I have read and re-read this paperback, which I still own, so many times that it is held together with a rubber band. I don't read any other romance novels - I am a sci fi/history buff - and the few other "regency" novels I've read by other authors are inferior, poorly written, fluffy drivel compared with GH's work. But this is superb. Read it and laugh along with the brilliant Sophia Stanton-Lacy!
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on October 19, 2009
After a surprise visit from her long-lost brother, Lady Ombersley is persuaded to take in her niece while Sir Horace goes on extended trip to Brazil for business. Although she is already mother to eight children of various ages, her brother assures her that Sophy will not be any extra burden at all. She expects her sweet, motherless niece to be a shy child and encourages everyone to take extra care to welcome their cousin. However, once Sophy arrives, she dispels any preconceptions her relatives may have harbored about her.

Sophy sweeps into the Ombersley's lives like a joyful tornado, upsetting the rigid principles of the firstborn son, Charles, who has recently become engaged to a young lady even stricter than himself. Since his father is a reckless gambler who spends his days (and often nights) at the club, Charles has taken it upon himself to shoulder all the family responsibilities. This includes the thankless task of deciding who his sisters are going to marry. Just when he thinks he has found the right match for his sister, Cecilia, the silly girl goes off and falls in love with an idiotic teenager whose sole occupation is writing poetry.

Big-hearted, brave and quick-witted, Sophy quickly catches onto the situation and decides to take matters into her own hands. She introduces some fun (and a pet monkey) into the lives of her younger cousins and goes about confronting the tyrannical Charles with spunk and winsome good-humor. Though she and Charles clash about many things, she makes an even greater enemy of his fiancée, Miss Eugenia Wraxton. Does Sophy have what it takes to show them all that a little human kindness and some freedom are more important than the heartless rules they have imposed on themselves?

In my opinion, Regency author Georgette Heyer should be right up there with the legendary Jane Austen, and "The Grand Sophy" is a great example of some of her best work. The sparkling dialogue, memorable characters and, not least of all, the charming and independent heroine are all great reasons to pick up this book. It will soon have you laughing and wondering what scheme the unpredictable Sophy will come up with next. It might even make you think about how we all should make balanced decisions by using both our heart AND head. A grand book, indeed.
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on May 14, 1998
This was my first introduction to the world of Georgette Heyer and what an introduction it was. I still laugh to this day at Sophy's delightful unconventionality and at the way her poor bewildered cousins learn to deal with her. A wonderful, wonderful book with great period detail and a light-hearted touch that makes it refreshing and non-sentimental at the same time. Read it. I'll not spoil the enchantment for you but beware...Sophy (and in consequence Heyer herself) is very addictive. You might just find yourself craving more.
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VINE VOICEon August 18, 2010
A young relative unaccustomed to London society comes into her aunt's society home, where everyone is making terrible choices, and sets about to fix them all. The final scene is one of the funniest things I've ever read, and made me wish for a movie, and think about casting it. I lay on my couch just guffawing as I read it, amazing my family. Even though I finished it several weeks ago, I'm still replaying great lines of dialog in my head ("they tread blindly"). I'd also love a sequel set after Sophy has children. Perhaps the authors who're writing follow-ons to Jane Austin could tackle that.
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VINE VOICEon August 22, 2009
Plot Summary: Sir Horace Stanton-Lacy drops a bomb on his sister; he's going to Brazil and he needs her to watch over his 20-year-old daughter, Sophia. Picturing a meek, biddable young lady, the aunt agrees, and receives another shock when a tall vibrant woman arrives with three animals in tow. Sophy is a force of nature, and there is no middle ground in how people feel about her - they either love her or hate her. Fortunately all but the most small-minded stick-in-the-muds treasure her, and benefit from her grand domestic schemes.

This book is going on my keeper shelf for life, and I'm sitting here regretting that this is the first Heyer book I've read. I have been wasting precious time! Now I'll have to play catch up, and start reading her books, posthaste. This story was such a treat to read, and I had a smile on my face whenever Sophy entered the scene. There are several books and movies that attempt to do this kind of screwball comedy, but they're sad imitations next to this grand master. The humor keeps building until the final crescendo, which is equal parts chaos, comedy, and closure. I wish I could see this book acted out on the stage. No one could ask for a better cast of characters.

Sophy is a dust devil that blows her aunt's family into turmoil, and unlike the hapless Emma by Jane Austen, Sophy knows precisely what she is doing with all the cunning of chess master. If I have any criticisms it is that Sophy does not have any flaws, but I love her too much to wish her any different. Pitted against her are the sour-faced Miss Wraxton and her fiance, Charles Rivenhall, who is Sophy's cousin and a veritable wet blanket. In true English fashion, Lord and Lady Ombersley's family have been quietly unhappy for some time, but Sophy is the one who illuminates all the problems that have been festering in the family's bosom.

In perfect Regency romance tradition, all the ladies find love, propriety is satisfied, and the puckered sourpusses slink back into their holes. I had a grand time.
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on March 19, 2003
The very first romance novel I ever read (and I'm not including Jane Austen in this category) was "Black Sheep" by Georgette Heyer. I enjoyed the book so much that I immediately began haunting used book stores, hunting for as many of her novels as I could get at a time. That was more than two decades ago, and Georgette Heyer has remained a firm favourite ever since (in spite of her rather dated opinions about the merchant middle class, etc). "The Grand Sophy" ranks up there with other of my all time favourite Heyer novels (the ones that I rate about 10 stars) like "Sylvester," "Sprig Muslin," "The Foundling" & "These Old Shades," -- they're all excellent reads that every Regency-era romance novel addict should read at least once!
Other reviewers have done excellent jobs in giving plot synopsis, so I'll leave off doing the same except to note that the novel deals with the humourous and outrageous efforts of a visiting cousin, Sophy Stanton-Lacy, to sort out the myriad of problems that all those around her have (mainly her Rivenhall cousins like Herbert and Cecilia) become entangled in. What makes this novel 'work' is not only the clever plotting and the numerous escapades that Heyer has Sophy pull, but also the brilliant manner in which Heyer draws her characters. In Sophy Stanton-Lacy, for example, Heyer has created a young heroine who while incredibly managing, bossy, independent and very determined, and yet who is so utterly charming that you cannot help but root for her to come out on top -- this in spite of the fact that your sympathies may lie elsewhere. And I did have sympathies elsewhere! The first time I read the book, I felt quite sympathetic towards stuffy cousin Charles. Here was a young man, the only sensible person in a rather flighty family, who had had to contend with some crisis or another for goodness knows how long, all he gets for his efforts is abuse from his family! Yes, he is stuffy and easily angered, but his family was enough to give even me the megrims (and all I was doing was reading about them!)
"The Grand Sophy" is a riot of a read. Heyer sketches Sophy's escapades in such a humourous and entertaining manner that we cannot help but be charmed. Cleverly plotted, possessing elegant prose and characters that are just so alive and real "The Grand Sophy" proved to be the kind of book I wish I could find and read everyday.
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HALL OF FAMEon December 9, 2005
Having read The Convenient Marriage, I had to give another Georgette Heyer novel a whirl. I heard wonderful things about The Grand Sophy and thought I should give it a go. This is one of the funniest, most historically accurate and endearing Regency romances I have ever read! The language, situations and characters reminded me a great deal of Jane Austen. The second Sophia Stanton-Lacy enters the Rivenhall household, nothing is ever the same. They expected a small, shy girl and got an amazonian, spirited, witty and challenging young woman instead. Sophy decides to fix the lives of the Rivenhalls as soon as she gets there. She wants her cousin Cecilia to marry her true love and wants Charles Rivenhall, her handsome, imposing cousin, who is now in charge of the finances and all decisions in the household despite the fact that his father is still alive, to marry someone other than the prim and proper Miss Wraxton. However, all of her good intentions are either ill-timed, disastrous or misunderstood, bringing in hilarious results. There are various twists throughout the novel.

I don't know when exactly this book was first published. The book says it was copyrighted in 1950, so I'll go with that. I am impressed with Heyer's ability to create a laugh-a-minute romance with great historical accuracy to boot. The details and references are quite precise. I also enjoyed how well written the development of the feelings between Sophy and Charles is. The scene where she drives his horse carriage after he forbade her to do it summed up these characters' personalities and how different they are and how unlike Sophy is from his lady-like, etiquette-obsessed betrothed. Sophy causes so much mayhem that you will not be bored throughout the novel. She annoyed me at times, but it was refreshing to read about a heroine who doesn't have one ninny bone in her body. Charles is wonderful and alpha male-ish. He reminded me of Mr. Darcy at times. In fact, this novel, to me, was a cross between Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Heyer had a very Jane Austen style to her writing, but with some very unique touches of her own. Aside from the fact that the protagonists are kissing cousins and that the author stereotyped nationalities, The Grand Sophy is one of the best Regency novels I have read. I now see why so many readers swear on this classic. I look forward to reading more Georgette Heyer novels.
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This is a very funny book, but the constant screwball comedy overwhelms the characters, who come off as one-dimensional as a result. There is also a scene which is clearly anti-Semitic, which makes this reader squirm. Sophy may only be twenty years old, but she seems to have omniscient wisdom for her age, carries everyone and every situation before her like a tidal wave, and Always Knows Best. There are some wonderful scenes - particularly the round-up at the end, when all the major characters appear, in a plausible way, and all plot threads are resolved. I'm conflicted by this book. As a lifelong fan of Heyer's work, I appreciate the humor and readability. But the scene with the money-lender casts a shadow on it and I'm annoyed by Sophy's perfection and infallibility.
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