, May 2010
Venetia, a classic regency romance, is set in early 19th century rural England, one fine summer and autumn. Unmarried 25-year-old Venetia, kept isolated by an eccentric father on an estate in Yorkshire, has limited experience with the world outside her home. Still she is intelligent, capable, charming and knows her own mind. What she knows about the world beyond her neighborhood has been gained from books and from what her brothers have shared with her. While her older brother Conway, a soldier, is still off in France she is in charge of running the family estate and caring for her frail, younger brother Aubrey, soon to go off to Cambridge. When Aubrey is injured in a fall from a horse, he is rescued by a mature rake, Lord Demerel, whose reputation in society is not of high standing. As the journey back to his home would be so painful for Aubrey, Demerel kindly encourages the youth to stay at his estate to recover. Venetia visits. Demerel and Venetia converse and spar and a mutual attraction grows. The strikingly beautiful Venetia does not lack for suitors who very much want to marry her but she has not found one that she loves enough to marry, until Demerel. All does not go smoothly, of course, as their friendship develops. Heyer’s detailed descriptions of the day-to-day activities of these folk are historically accurate and realistic. Heyer is elegant, suggestive, and genteel with classic allusions and cautious, most articulate, conversations.
British actor Richard Armitage’s reading one of Georgette Heyer’s best classic regency romances, combined with Naxos technical expertise and most appropriate musical interludes is absolute heaven. Fans of Armitage having recently watched his cool, aloof, calculating Lucas North on the British television series Spooks (MI5 in the US) or his villainous role in Robin Hood and pining for more a romantic Armitage as he was as John Thornton in the BBC production of Gaskell’s North and South will find his performance here breathtakingly satisfying, honoring and respecting Heyer’s words, characters and setting as he does so perfectly.
Armitage’s fully-voiced performance is simply amazing and listeners will only regret that he did not read the entire text instead of an abridgment, albeit, an excellent abridgment. From 25-year-old Venetia, through middle aged and dowager women, to the youthful Aubrey, to Venetia’s annoying suitors, to Demerel, chameleon Armitage captures them all; and it is difficult to believe that one man is playing all these characters so flawlessly. Occasionally, clearly intended by Heyer’s words, some of these women’s voices are ridiculous and amusing and Armitage captures that as well. Listeners will smile as some sound, deliberately, almost Monty Pythonesque. Listeners will also agree that Armitage should play Lord Demerel if a film is made.
The Naxos package includes a most useful booklet that provides enlightening historical and author background information by Caroline Waight, lists chapter details for each CD, and provides music sources, also available from Naxos in full…Venetia deserves 5 stars.