Saturday, 11 May 2013

Dear Drusilla

Dear Drusilla,

I am writing to you in desperation, having exhausted all other Avenues. My problem is so dreadful, I scarcely know how to write it! My son, who is generally the sweetest, dearest boy imaginable, has fallen into the toils of a Creature – dare I say, a Hussy? – from a Gaming House! 

Oh, make no mistake! She and that Scheming Aunt of hers (who, I vow and declare, was always the most hen-witted woman imaginable) have my Darling Boy so tight in their clutches that he no longer listens to his Dear Mama. 

In desperation, I turned to my nephew, who is prodigious wealthy, but also dreadfully disagreeable. He Approached the Creature but, to my Horror, she refused his offer of money to unhand my boy, and had the effrontery to demand a higher amount! I believe she intends to raise her price as my Dear Child approaches his majority. 

My nephew tried to convince me that she is Respectable, and I agreed to attend a party at Vauxhall so that I could meet her. Imagine my alarm when she appeared wearing an outmoded gown of cherry stripes, a head-dress a full foot tall and powdered – yes, powdered! - hair. She had with her a Vulgar Widow and a very Familiar Irishman with whom she flirted quite Outrageously, ignoring my Poor Boy, who looked most distressed. Worse than all that, she looks to be at least Thirty! I am not one to repeat gossip, but I have it from several reliable Sources that she is also the mistress of a Rake of some renown. 

My nephew flies into a towering rage whenever I mention the name of this designing Faro’s Daughter and he too is haunting the Gaming Establishment in hopes, I expect, of prising my Beloved Child away from her. 

As you can see, Miss Morville, I am in dire need of your assistance.


Lady M

Saturday, 27 April 2013

What Would Drusilla Do?

“You would become disgusted with my odious common-sense. Try as I will, I cannot be romantic!” said Miss Morville despairingly.

My recent post, 'Which Heyer Heroine Are You?' attracted considerable interest. Most people (myself included) fell somewhere between Mary Challoner (Devil’s Cub) and Judith Taverner (Regency Buck). Very few people felt identified with Leonie de St Vire, which is probably a good thing. If you’ve read ‘These Old Shades’, you’ll understand that comment.  Lovable as Leonie is between the pages of a book, you wouldn’t want her running loose with a sword or a gun.
I loved the suggestion that most of us would probably like to be the Marquesa de Villacanas (The Grand Sophy)! But the heroine many people felt they had most in common with was Drusilla Morville (The Quiet Gentleman).
I have a confession to make here, but there are mitigating circumstances (honest, guv). To my shame, when I first read The Quiet Gentleman, I did not recognise Drusilla as the heroine. When it dawned on me that this staid, dumpy, little figure was, indeed, going to turn out to be the love interest of the handsome hero, Gervase Frant, Earl of St Erth, I felt … well, cheated is the word that springs to mind. It was as if my beloved GH had conned me out of a beautiful, or at the very least, interesting heroine. The mitigating circumstances, I hear you ask? I was fourteen.   
Drusilla is the daughter of free thinking, academic and deeply radical parents who scorn such accoutrements as titles and hereditary wealth. They are tenants of St Erth and Drusilla is staying with the Dowager Countess at Stanyon when the Earl arrives at his home for the first time since he inherited the title. To say he is not welcome would be an understatement.  
The Earl’s first impression of Drusilla is not favourable. In fact he describes her as having neither countenance nor conversation. As the story unfolds, they become friends and he begins to appreciate her prosaic sayings and common sense approach.  It seems poor Drusilla is destined to have her sensible heart broken when, against every dictate of her own nature and despite her best efforts to the contrary, she tumbles headlong in love with Gervase.  He, on the other hand, has joined the throng of admirers flocking to the side of the lovely Miss Bolderwood.

Here we encounter Drusilla as she ponders her plight:
‘ … a candid scrutiny of her own face in the mirror soon lowered her spirits … She could perceive no merit either in the freshness of her complexion, or in her dark, well-opened eyes, and would willingly have sacrificed the natural curl in her brown hair for tresses of gold, or even of raven-black. As for her figure, though some men might admire little plump women, she could not bring herself to suppose that St Erth, himself so slim and graceful, could think her anything but a poor little dab of a girl. … 'Depend upon it, you are just the sort of girl a man would be glad to have for his sister! You don't even know how to swoon, and I daresay if you tried you would make wretched work of it, for all you have is common-sense, and of what use is that, pray?'
This embittered thought brought to her mind the several occasions upon which she might, had she been the kind of female his lordship no doubt admired, have kindled his ardour by a display of sensibility, or even of heroism. This excursion into romance was not entirely successful, for while she did her best to conjure up an agreeable vision of a heroic Miss Morville, the Miss Morville who was the possessor not only of a practical mind but also of two outspoken brothers could not but interpose objections to the heroine's actions. … 'You would do better to put him out of your mind, and return to your parents,' she said. 'No doubt he will presently become betrothed to a tall and beautiful woman, and forget your very existence.

Having re-read The Quiet Gentleman many times since I was fourteen, I now count Drusilla as one of my favourite heroines.  Along with Hesther Theale (Sprig Muslin), she has me rooting for the ‘ordinary’ girl. And she makes me laugh.

My favourite Drusilla-isms are her comments on some famous academics of the day:
Mrs William Godwin, née Mary Wollstonecraft, is a former friend of Mrs Morville. Drusilla recounts a story about her attempting suicide by casting herself into the Thames at Putney. In her inimitable way, Drusilla states that she had planned to do it at Battersea but it was too crowded there.
Mary Wollstonecraft was an English author and feminist who wrote a Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792, the first great feminist document. She married William Godwin in 1797 and died in childbirth. Her daughter Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote Frankenstein.
Miss Mary Lamb was described by Drusilla as having ‘murdered her mama in a fit of aberration’. Drusilla was using this example as an illustration of how highly intellectual people can be capable of violent acts.
Mary Lamb along with her brother Charles Lamb was the noted author of Tales from Shakespeare, a children's book. She was considered mentally ill and did, indeed, murder her mother.

One of my recent flights of fancy has been to imagine an Agony Aunt column written by a Heyer heroine. It would have to be one of GH’s self-styled ‘managing females’. Probably Sophy, Frederica or Drusilla.
‘Dearest Drusilla’ … it has a ring to it, doesn’t it?  
So, when faced with a letter from a certain aristocratic red-head residing in Bath who wants advice on her tangled love life ( having jilted an Earl just before her wedding she is now engaged to her first love but realises that, despite their stormy relationship, she is still in love with said Earl), I wonder, What Would Drusilla Do?   

Friday, 12 April 2013

Historical Novelists' Book Fair

I'm taking part in this great event ...
a Book Fair for those who love stepping back in time.
Whether you love historical novels with a literary bent, frivolously romantic or you're inclined toward swashbuckling epic series, then you've stopped off at the right place.

Hop along to Romancing the Blog to visit any of the romantic novelists who are taking part.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Which Heyer Heroine are you?

Are you Hero or Sophy? Arabella or Judith? Take the quiz below to find out if you should
be with Vidal or Sherry!

1. You have recently made the acquaintance of a handsome, eligible gentleman but he has formed a most unfavourable opinion of you. What do you do? 
A Challenge him to a duel … with either swords or pistols. 
B He is such a god-like figure to me, how could I hope to change his opinion? Indeed, why would I want to? 
C Solve all his problems and those of his family, laugh at him, challenge him at every turn, and argue with him. Just generally infuriate him! 
D Make up a daring false identity on the spur of the moment and not give a thought to the consequences. 
E I don’t think he has really noticed me - his gaze seems to look right through me - but I would maintain a dignified distance. 
F Glare at him and try and provoke him into an argument. 
2. Another lady challenges you to a carriage race. How do you respond? 
A No-one would dare challenge me! 
B I would take up the challenge. After all, I want to be thought of as a dashing lady of fashion and I think it would really impress the man I love. 
C Although I know it’s not the done thing, I wouldn’t be able to resist a challenge and it would provide an opportunity to provoke my love rival and infuriate the man I love! 
D I wouldn’t do anything that might draw undue attention to me. If the ton find out I’m an impostor, I’m in more than enough trouble as it is! 
E I’ve never had the opportunity to learn to drive. But the man I love drives at the devil’s own pace and cares nothing for reputation! 
F I’d take up the challenge just to annoy the man I love, but I think I’d regret my actions later. 
3. It is your first appearance in society, and you are being introduced to the polite world. What is their first impression of you? 
A I’m unique … stunningly beautiful and spirited. And there is a mystery attached to me. 
B Well, people are rather shocked by my runaway marriage, but on the whole I’m seen as a sweet, prettily-behaved girl. 
C I’ve spent my whole life in the public eye across Europe. I was born to be a society hostess! My sparkling wit makes up for the fact that I have countenance rather than beauty. 
D I take society by storm because I am so beautiful but also, alas, because everyone believes I am possessed of a large fortune! 
E I expect they will be surprised at my understated looks and quiet manners. The man I love is noted for the dazzling beauties he usually attracts. I hope they never discover the shocking circumstances surrounding my abduction! 
F My beauty is much admired and I have a large fortune, but I can be rather fierce. An attempt to give me an unflattering nickname might almost destroy my reputation but I hope that Mr Brummell would come to my rescue! 
4. The man you love asks for your hand in marriage. How do you react? 
A I tell him he does not need to marry me, I will be his mistress until he tires of me. 
B He’s only asking me so that he can get his hands on his fortune and because the woman he really loves has turned him down. But I love him desperately and it’s better than becoming a governess after all! 
C Well, he said he dislikes me excessively, but I know that means he loves me really! 
D I can’t accept! I love him but I’ve deceived him into thinking I have a large fortune. 
E He is only asking me because he ruined my reputation by abducting me when I pretended to be my sister. I love him but I’ll have to run away. 
F At last! I thought he disliked me and my behaviour had given him a disgust of me but he was waiting until he was no longer my guardian. 
5. You have been abducted. What do you do? 
A Escape, of course! 
B It’s only my husband, isn’t it? Isn’t it? 
C I can’t imagine anyone trying to abduct me! Although, I did pretend that Lord Charlbury abducted me … 
D It’s never happened to me. I expect I would befriend someone and ask them for help. 
E Shoot my abductor to protect my virtue. 
F Lose my temper with my abductor but secretly be nervous and hope that my guardian will rescue me. 
6. What sort of men are attracted to you? 
A Dashing young bucks. Oh, and a prince of the realm! 
B Mostly loose screws who think they can take advantage of my innocence but also a kind, considerate older neighbour. Oh dear, I think I may have misled him! 
C Dashing military men and those I flirted with while abroad. 
D Most men seem to find me attractive … but I suspect that is because they believe I have a large fortune! 
E My staid cousin has always been my most ardent suitor until I met the dashing marquis who captured my heart! 
F My guardian has had to depress the pretensions of many suitors who would like to get their hands on my fortune, including a royal duke! 

Mostly A
You are like Leonie de Saint Vire (These Old Shades). Fiercely loyal, you have had to look after yourself from a very young age and it shows. You'd rather have a sword fight than do needlework and you fight against the restraints imposed on women. You have a quick temper and will fiercely defend the ones you love even at a personal cost. Whether you are in the ragged clothes of a Paris urchin, or in your rightful finery, you stun others with your beauty and courage. 

Mostly B
You are like Hero Wantage (Friday’s Child). Sweet natured, faithful and patient, you hero-worship the man of your dreams from a distance. You know he will never love you in return but you are content to be there for him. You attract friends – male and female - easily and people confide in you. You are naïve and trusting and some people try to take advantage of your good nature. Even so, you never make the same mistake twice and are quick to learn. 

Mostly C
You are like Sophy Staton-Lacy (The Grand Sophy). Strong, determined and humorous, you are more than capable of sorting out any challenges that come your way ... or anyone else's way! You will go to any lengths to help your friends and family when they need it, and you overcome all obstacles with confidence and creativity. You have a heart of gold. Such is your charm that even frequent fights and an annoying fiancé don’t stop the man you love from falling for you. 

Mostly D
You are like Arabella Tallant (Arabella). You are beautiful, charming and strong-willed, and are always considerate of those less fortunate than you. You will stand up for what is right even in the face of possible condemnation from the ton. Your simple style and prettiness make you popular with everyone you meet. You are impulsive to a fault and this can lead you into trouble. You hate injustice and woe betide the man who jumps to the wrong conclusion about you! 

Mostly E
You are like Mary Challoner (Devil’s Cub). You are dignified, stylish and witty and you have a strong sense of humour. Your belief in duty leads you to take drastic steps to protect your family. You are very well educated and this can lead some people to believe you are unapproachable. Your courage is remarkable and you stand up to danger calmly. You are not one to be intimidated. When you fall in love you surprise everyone by choosing a rogue, but you know you can handle him! 

Mostly F
You are like Judith Taverner (Regency Buck). Beautiful, strong-willed and feisty, you will have none of this nonsense about conforming to what society wants! Sometimes you let your temper get the better of you, but common sense usually prevails in the end. You fight against the restraints imposed by convention but you are secretly glad to have the protection of a strong man. You enjoy a good argument! Fashionable society appeals to you because you enjoy being a trendsetter.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Character Interviews

Jack Lindsey, Lord St Anton and Rosie Delacourt are the hero and heroine of ‘The Rebel’s Promise’. These interviews take place half way through the story, when they are both in London and the conflict between them is at its height.

Rosie agreed to be interviewed at the London home of Sir Clive Sheridan’s aunt (with whom she is staying). We caught up with Jack at his club where he was meeting a friend for lunch.

1.     What would we find under your bed?
My brother’s dog, Beau! ‘Twas ever his habit to conceal a bone or two under there!
Until I received the King’s pardon, it would probably have been me … hiding there from the redcoats!

2.     What makes you happy?
Rosie (bites her lip)
Just a few months ago my greatest pleasure was to be found in a delivery of chintz for a new gown, or a pretty bonnet! But now, since I cannot be with Jack, there can be no true happiness for me. I will never, however, regret meeting him and falling in love with him. I just wish that circumstances had been different, or that I could explain things to him.
London life is a whirl of parties and balls, which, would, in other circumstances, be enjoyable. But, since all of these remarkable events have occurred, I am happiest when engaged in simple pleasures such as a quiet hour spent with my dear brother.
Jack (a faraway look comes into his remarkable blue eyes)
Mine has always been a restless, adventurous spirit. I enjoyed the excitement of battle and the intrigue of planning the rebellion. And I have always been at home in a ballroom! Dancing, drinking and flirting – always leading, of course, to a romantic assignation – were once all amongst my favourite past-times.
But, of late, my tastes have changed. Mayhap that is due to my advancing years? I have now reached the grand old age of seven and twenty, after all! I believe my greatest happiness would lie in spending the rest of my life with one woman … the right woman. I thought I had found her but, sadly, I was mistaken about her true nature …

3.     What was the worst moment of your life?
Since that day in December when I found Jack lying unconscious at the road side, I have endured many dark moments. The worst of those, by far, was when I heard that my darling Jack had been killed in battle at Culloden Moor. At the same time, my brother and I were in grave danger and I needed Jack with me then, more than ever.
Of course, I now know that he did NOT die. No matter what he thinks of me (her lip trembles) … a world with Jack in it will always, for me, be a better place than one without him! But, sadly, he may as well have died that day, for he is now lost to me forever.
It was when I returned from exile in France to find that Rosie was to marry Sir Clive Sheridan. The very dastard who betrayed me to the redcoats! How could she?
I promised I would return and she said (he pauses, struggling to gain control of his emotions) ‘If it takes forever, Jack, I will wait for you’. But she did not even wait six months!
Yet … and this makes me sound like the worst kind of coxcomb imaginable … I still struggle to believe she prefers that scoundrel to me! When we are together, I sometimes think, from the look in her eyes, that her feelings towards me are unchanged. But she must love Sheridan … why else would she stay with a cur like him?   

4.     If you could apologize to someone in your past, who would it be?
Rosie (very quietly)
It would be to Jack, of course. He does not understand why I must marry Clive and if I told him the truth, we would all – myself, Jack and Harry – face the gallows. Even if I was prepared to risk my own life, to count the world lost for love and go to Jack … I have a duty to Harry. I dare not … (she looks away and repeats, as if she is trying to convince herself) … I dare not.
Jack (spends a long time thinking about the question)
I did not consider my family name when I joined the Jacobites. I followed my rebellious instincts. Meeting Rosie and falling in love with her – and I fell so fast and so hard that I amazed even myself! - made me stop and think about the future, something I have never done before.
I must one day marry and have heirs … although … (he stops and abruptly changes the subject). I would apologise to future generations of Lindseys, lest any action of mine has sullied our name.

5.     What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Rosie (with a blush and a mischievous smile)
That I had only known Jack a few short days when I asked him to make love to me. He laughed at me and called me a ‘shameless hussy’ … but he succumbed eventually! That night before he left was the most wonderful, magical … Pray forgive me (she rummages for a handkerchief) …  
Jack (with an exasperated sigh)
Well, at the present moment it would be that I am NOT Lady Bella Cavendish’s lover! I will not bore you with the details of how that rumour began but, suffice to say, it has spread around London like wildfire. Even my best friend (he glances up as Sir Peregrine Pomeroy, on cue, enters the room) will not believe me! He is convinced I am – what was the delightful phrase he used? Ah, yes – ‘keeping cully’ with Lady Bella!
Make no mistake, Bella is very beautiful and … well, I have every reason to believe she would be happy for us to become better acquainted. But we are just friends (he sighs) … no, I assure you, there really is no more to it than that!

6.     What one word best describes you?
Rosie (quickly) – Impulsive
Jack (bitterly) - Loyal

7.     Who should play you in a film? 
What, pray, is a ‘film’? (she listens carefully, then laughs) I still have no idea what it means, but it sounds prodigiously entertaining! I am reliably informed that there is an English actress, Miss Samantha Barks, who looks somewhat like me and who would admirably fulfill the role.
I confess I am intrigued by this uncommon notion! It is like a stage-play, you say? Which actor would play me? ‘Twould require a devilish handsome man, of course (he laughs and strikes a heroic pose) … I believe Mr Rob James-Collier would conduct himself well in the part. 

There followed a nightmarish few weeks during which Jack appeared to be at great pains to demonstrate to Rosie that he had, indeed, as he predicted, recovered from his infatuation with her. Since his remedy took the form of indulgence in a series of outrageous flirtations with a parade of very willing partners, he could not have found a more successful method of torturing her. At every ball, rout or party – even strolling in the park – as soon as he espied Rosie, Jack would turn into an unrecognisable philanderer … and there was never a shortage of ladies prepared to indulge him.
On one memorable occasion, Rosie had been forced to endure the spectacle of him taking snuff from the proffered wrist of a plump, little lady of notoriously questionable morals. The lady herself had announced that Lord St Anton was very welcome to take snuff from various other parts of her anatomy.  Jack, sensing Rosie’s outraged eyes upon them, had smiled his wickedest smile in reply.
The following night, on a visit to the theatre, Rosie’s attention was shared between the performance on the stage and the one in the box opposite. Jack and Sir Peregrine had been joined by several ladies who seemed intent on vying to see which of them could behave in the most scandalous manner. Sitting rigidly straight in her chair, Rosie resisted the sudden, overwhelming impulse to storm over there and drag the painted strumpet - who was currently sitting in Jack’s lap and hanging about his neck like a limpet - out by her hair.            
Her misery was compounded during a dance given by one of Sir Peregrine’s flirts who paraded a steady stream of enticing young ladies under Jack’s nose. He obliged by dancing with each one in turn whilst making himself charming to them all. Rosie put on a brave face, whilst wanting nothing more than to crawl away and hide in some dark corner to lick her emotional wounds. Sir Peregrine – who was renowned for his skill on the dance floor – requested her hand, and, for the first time, it cost her a pang to explain to a prospective partner that she could not dance because she was in mourning. Despite the crushing throng, he led her to an empty sofa in a quiet corner and managed to conjure up two glasses of champagne. They watched the dancers in silence before Sir Peregrine said quietly.
“Our mutual friend is not a happy man.” 
Jack was circling straight-backed, with hands behind his back, while casting a roguish glance back over his shoulder at his giggling partner. There seemed to be little evidence in his manner to support Sir Peregrine’s assertion.
“He looks cheerful enough to me,” Rosie replied, with a touch of acidity in her voice.
“Ah, that is exactly what he would have us believe,” Sir Peregrine informed her wisely, “The lady who secures my friend Jack’s heart will be most fortunate, Miss Delacourt. His nature is such that he will, I believe, remain true to her throughout his life.”
“’Tis a happy circumstance that there is no such lady then,” Rosie remarked, as Jack’s partner presented him with a flower from her breast and he kissed it reverently before placing it in his button-hole, “And he is free to play the field. At which, you must admit, he seems very adept. ”
Sir Peregrine sighed, “Have you ever encountered two people whose stubbornness is so great, Miss Delacourt, that it makes you long to bash their heads together?”
She stiffened a little at that and he hoped he had managed to rouse her to anger, but instead she smiled and said quietly, “My father used to call me ‘mulish’ when I was a child.”
“He sounds a most perceptive gentleman,” Sir Peregrine told her gently. Their hostess came along at that moment to claim the dance he had promised her and he rose. Bowing in own his exquisite way, he said in an undertone, “Think on what I have said, Miss Delacourt. Appearances can be deceptive.”
Jack was doing his cause no favours, he acknowledged. At that precise moment, he could be seen, in full view of the whole room, taking turns to sip from a glass of champagne with yet another simpering debutante.   

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Keeping prodigious busy ...

I feel I have been neglecting my Heyer blog recently and must apologise to my fellow GH fans if that does indeed seem to be the case! I have a number of exciting projects in the pipeline - my second novel is close to completion and a young adult novel on which I'm working is also doing well - including 'guest appearances' on other blogs to promote 'The Rebel's Promise'.
My favourite guest blog so far has been today's, which can be found at: Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews. It features a character interview with Jack and Rosie (the main characters) just at the point when the conflict between them is at its height!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Brush up your Shakespeare (2)!

The Unknown Ajax
In this novel, the numerous references to Troilus and Cressida arise not within the romantic plot but from the hostility towards the new heir (the ‘weaver’s  brat’) in the Darracott family. Vincent Darracott, whose nose has been put out of joint  by the arrival of a cousin he didn't know existed, gives us most of these lines.
Hugh Darracott, the heir, is his noble family’s worst nightmare because his father married a weaver's daughter. This explains Vincent’s hostility and his assumptions about Hugo’s intelligence and breeding. He resorts to using taunting references comparing Hugh to the intellectually challenged yet heroically proportioned Ajax in Troilus and Cressida. Vincent's Shakespearean jibes are aimed to insult Hugh on two levels, firstly by suggesting that he is as dim witted as Ajax and secondly by drawing attention to his own superior education.
In GH's novels, however, matters are never quite as they seem. Hugh is not as volatile or as vain as Ajax and he is far from dimwitted, though he is content to play the Yorkshire dullard in front of his newly discovered family.
The heroine of the story is his cousin, Anthea Darracott, who sees through his adopted persona early on. She confronts him about his education and he admits he attended Harrow.
Moreover, when a major event threatens the reputation of the whole family, Hugo uses brains rather than his brawn to resolve the matter.  Anthea takes Vincent’s early taunts and reverses them to tell her giant suitor, "Noble Ajax, you are as strong, as valiant, as wise, no less noble, much more gentle, and altogether more tractable!".  Hugo, with typical humility and humour replies, “Nay, lass!”.

Sprig Muslin
Georgette Heyer invokes Romeo and Juliet's balcony scene in order to highlight how far from the star-crossed lovers is the situation between the wilful Amanda and her would-be rescuer:
"Perched on a stable-ladder, a modern Romeo and Juliet discussed ways and means. It did not take long for them to disgard the trappings of convention. 'Oh, I wish you will not call me Miss Smith!' said Juliet. 'Amanda!' breathed Mr Ross reverently. 'And my name is Hildebrand'".
It seems GH uses a Shakespearean allusion, to demonstrate the farce of the situation rather than create a romantic illusion.

The lovers-to-be quote Shakespeare to each other in their first meeting, when Damerel steals a kiss from the girl he takes to be a country lass:
“How full of briars is this work a day world!” (from ‘As You Like It’).
"And Beauty's self she is". The quotation's context offends proprieties, but so does Venetia's response that he is "a most pestilent complete knave". Her quotation comes from Othello where Iago is maligning Cassio to Roderigo. The end of his sentence in the play reads, "and the woman hath found him already". Since Iago is insisting that Desdemona has been intimate with Cassio, Venetia's embarrassment is understandable, though GH does not explain it:
"Venetia, suddenly remembering the rest of the quotation, replies, 'If you don't know, I certainly shan't tell. That phrase is apt enough, but the context won't do'".
GH does, however, give her readers a clue since Damerel comments that he had better study his Shakespeare. By the end of the page he supplies his own quote from Othello:
"My reputation, Iago, my reputation!".
Since he even gives one of Cassio's lines, it seems clear that both characters know the true reasons for Venetia's earlier comment. Even though there is no guarantee that the reader will get the joke, the bantering of the characters shows clearly that they understand each other and that Shakespeare is a language they share. By the end of their first encounter, Venetia has moved to deflate Damerel’s flowery compliments by quoting Olivia's dismissive list of her beauties in Twelfth Night  - “item two lips indifferent red” -  completing a couplet of "Cherry-Ripe" and remembering an appropriate quotation from Byron.
Shakespeare is not the only writer that this unusual pair share, but he frequently crops up throughout the novel. When Venetia finally proposes to her rakish love at the end of the novel, she takes the cue of wooing from Viola's willow cabin speech in Twelfth Night:
"I warn you, love, that if you cast me out I shall build a willow cabin at your gates--and very likely die of an inflammation of the lungs, for November is not the month for building willow cabins!".
Venetia and Damerel both have a delightful knack of quoting Shakespeare’s more romantic lines and then bringing them down to earth by pointing out the commonplace or inconvenient within them.