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A Civil Contract Paperback – 2 Jun 2005
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"My favourite historical novelist - stylish, romantic, sharp, and witty. Her sense of period is superb, her heroines are enterprising, and her heroes dashing. I owe her many happy hours." (Margaret Drabble)
"Wonderful characters, elegant, witty writing, perfect period detail, and rapturously romantic. Georgette Heyer achieves what the rest of us only aspire to." (Katie Fforde)
"A writer of great wit and style.... I've read her books to ragged shreds." (Kate Fenton, Daily Telegraph)
"Georgette Heyer is unbeatable" (India Knight)
A brilliant Regency romance full of spirited heroines and dashing heroes, by the queen of the genre.See all Product description
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I have a soft-spot for stories about arranged marriages, and this was amusing and compelling at the same time. I really liked the setting on the Lincolnshire Fens; this is one of those stories where the setting is a character. As Adam Deverill says, 'you have to be born on the Fens to love them,' and having some Fen blood myself I know what he means.
I loved the hilarious Jonathan Chawleigh, Adam's father-in-law, and in particular, Heyer's faultless knowledge of the period - not just the fashions and rather empty pursuits of the ton, but also the terrifying progress of the war that should perhaps have been called WW1, a century before the one we think of now. In many Regency novels, the war is left out; although it was fought abroad to me this is a bit like writing a WWII with nothing but descriptions of men wearing trilby hats and girls in turban headscarves.
There is humour, pace, pathos, great characterisation and in-depth knowledge in this story.
Romantic, sensual writing but no explicit sex.
One thing which particularly struck me was Jenny's reflection that she had previously accepted boredom as her lot as a woman;her life as mistress of Fontwell gave her the scope to develop her talents and learn new skills. The married couple really began to develop as a partnership as they learn how to care for and improve the estate.
The way in which the original pair of lovers grow apart, change and eventually settle into their new lives is beautifully shown- almost Austen-like in its depiction of an excess of sensibility (with its dangers).
This story is a cut above the usual Regency romance- and possibly the best Heyer story of all.
I sympathise with readers who find it lacks a little of the high romance of some of Heyer's other novels - but it must never be forgotten that all her novels are based on the attractions of solid worth - even if most of her heroines are also raging beauties! Here she makes the lesson more explicit by making Jenny plain, and forcing a marriage on the couple before they well know each other. But the result is the same - worth ultimately calls to and is recognised by worth.
I come back to this book because of the very real picture it paints of the quiet joys of marriage - the shared jokes that can be exchanged in the gleam of an eye ("Lambert says ..."), the overwhelming fascinations (uncomprehended by ones friends and family) of a shared daily routine, the pleasure of quiet evenings, or an unepxectedly early returning spouse. These joys, so lovingly described, bring a smile to my face again and again.
And also - Jenny is an object lesson in reminding us that a smiling face and interest in one's spouse's affairs are greater producers of domestic felicity than any amount of money, romatic sighings or witty remarks ...
Adam has to abandon the love match he planned and dreamed of during his years as a soldier. He's in love with Julia, and has been for years. She's of his class, aristocratic to her fingertips, and exquisitely beautiful. But however much he loves her, he simply cannot afford to marry her. He can offer her only ruin.
Plain rich little Jenny and handsome, noble Adam marry for money: he needs it, she has it. But what he doesn't know is how passionately she loves him. Although she was often present as Julia's school friend, Adam never noticed her.
Their story is beautifully and sensitively portrayed. The happiness this ill-assorted couple eventually achieve is due to the efforts they both make to make their marriage work, and to the innate goodness of both of them. Their characters are lovingly portrayed, and I felt a deep admiration for both of them.
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