Top positive review
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A perfect read
on 21 January 2006
Frederica is without doubt my favourite Georgette Heyer novel – and I like her novels very much! What makes Frederica so good? Simply that she has populated this book with wonderful characters, amusing dialogue, interesting historical setting and a love story which is gentle and fulfilling.
The basic plot is that Frederica, a rather managing girl with three brothers and one sister, all younger than her, is attempting to launch her beautiful sister Charis into society so that she can make a good marriage. Frederica enlists the assistance of her sort-of cousin, the Marquis of Alverstoke, in this – and he agrees to spite his sisters. Alverstoke is an uncaring, flighty rake who doesn’t do anything for anyone else and is hugely selfish. Through his interaction with Frederica and her two youngest brothers, Jessamy and Felix, Alverstoke is brought out of his state of almost continual boredom and takes real responsibility for his adopted cousins.
The power in this story is the exquisite way in which Heyer portrays her characters. We are shown Alverstoke with all his faults, yet we also get glimpses into what makes him in some ways a good man – for example the honourable and fair way in which he treats his secretary, Charles, and in the way that he takes on responsibilities to his adopted wards in order to lessen some of the load on Frederica’s shoulders. Although Frederica initially comes across as a woman without fault, as the story progresses we see her occasional blindness in dealings with her sister and her eldest brother Harry; Frederica wants Charis to make a good match but Charis doesn’t want that for herself. As the story progresses Alverstoke becomes more responsible, more aware of the needs of others and more aware of the effect he has on them. He takes care to hide his interest in Frederica from society so that she is not teased about it. As for Frederica’s feelings for him, we do not hear much of the story from her point of view but it becomes clear by things that she says that she considers him very important to her… until of course the end of the book when they become engaged and she discovers what it is to be truly in love.
There are many other sub-plots running along in the main story – the romance between Alverstoke’s secretary Charles Trevor and Alverstoke’s cousin Chloë Dauntry is one. The various men who offer marriage to Frederica because they see her qualities and the different way in which they are portrayed is great fun. But the central part of the book – the conversations between Frederica and Alverstoke – are a delight.
This is one of those books that you can read again and again and enjoy even more each time. Heyer has masterfully described the way that a bored rake, Alverstoke, can change his whole nature when he finally finds the right person, the woman who is a conversational match for him; I also think that her ability to gradually unveil the faults in her heroine, small that they may be, is also good – it’s annoying to read books with ‘perfect’ people as they are so unlike us.
Like all Heyer books, the historical setting, dialogue and description of places is perfect. This book is just a fantastic read in so many different ways – buy it!