I’m not entirely sure how to rate this, because I did enjoy it a lot, but it’s still not on par with The Talisman Ring or The Grand Sophy for me. Having finished it, I was just a little relieved that all the tangles of the love interests were sorted out, and that everyone got to where they intended to go (though, I would almost have enjoyed it more if someone had made an irrevocable mistake, even if it were just Gerald and Emily; the way it came out was too good to be true, and Rotherham far too in control of the whole situation).
You’ve got to like that this isn’t just a story with a tempestuous male character pulling everyone along; Rotherham may well remind the gentle reader of Rochester from Jane Eyre with his manners. Lady Serena is no Jane, however, and she gives as good as she gets. I liked that their romance is not some insipid mutual regard, but something real and passionate.
I especially like that Heyer manages to bring in a spread of characters across social class and attitudes. Obviously, Lady Serena and her cohort are privileged as heck and don’t know it, but I don’t really expect an older book like this to really deal with that aspect. I liked the realism of Serena’s indifference to class while Fanny, equally likeable, has more difficulty with being snobbish. The way Heyer handles show-don’t-tell is pretty instructive, too; scenes like Serena holding the thorny flowers, or Fanny and Kirkby, etc.
Of course, the situation itself is one of Heyer’s typical tangles, with Serena’s father putting her under the guardianship of a man she jilted. It could be pretty creepy, to be honest, but Heyer handles it well — Rotherham never takes advantage of the guardianship, and is prepared to let Serena make her mistake if necessary, even if he is manipulative.