A Civil Contract

A Civil Contract, by Georgette Heyer

 When I run into a Georgette Heyer novel I haven't read, I usually grab it and put it on the shelf for when I want a light, relaxing read.  I wasn't necessarily going to write a post about this story, but it turned out to be unusual for a Heyer Regency novel, and very interesting.

Captain Adam Deveril has been off fighting Napoleon in the Peninsular War, but upon the sudden death of his father, he becomes Viscount Lynton, owner of a landed estate and a truly astounding amount of debt.  His father, an optimist and big spender, has left everything neglected and heavily mortgaged too.  Adam needs to provide for his sisters and get his mother settled somewhere affordable, and it looks like he'll have to sell all of the family property to do it.  He and the enchanting Julia Oversley are madly in love, but their marriage is now out of the question.  Adam is left with a choice: he can sell everything (rendering his relatives miserable), or he can marry Jenny Chawleigh.  She's the daughter of a wealthy merchant, plain but practical and kind, and her ambitious father wants her to marry up.  Adam decides to sacrifice himself for the family -- partly to stop his little sister from trying to do it.

So Adam and Jenny marry.  Both are trying hard to navigate this marriage of convenience and be kind to each other.  Jenny sets out to be a comfortable and undemanding wife; she understands Adam's quirks, feeds him well, and never complains if he's late.  Adam chafes under the necessity of accepting money from a father-in-law who is very nice, but completely lacking in tact or taste.  How these two -- and their extended family and friends, even Julia -- find their places and fit their lives together makes for an enthralling tale that combines Heyer's comedy with more realism than is generally found in Regency romances.  It's more like domestic historical fiction than a standard romance.  Plus there's lots about Napoleon and other matters of the day.

I enjoyed it tremendously.  I always like a Heyer comedy, and was surprised to find this to be a little heavier and more realistic than usual, but that's an improvement to my mind.


Comments

Lory said…
Yes, this was an interesting departure...it would have been nice to see more in this mode, but I think the demand for Regency fluffiness was high.
My mum really likes this book, but I found it so frustrating. They're so mean about Jenny's father, and I just! wanted them to find love. I am not going to Heyer for realism. :P (Also, I believe Rose Lerner's first novel, In for a Penny, is by way of being a reworking of A Civil Contract. If you're into that!)
Cleo said…
Wow. I'm very curious as to how the relationships of Adam, Jenny and Julia settle. I haven't read this one but I'm going to look for it right now!
Jean said…
Mr. Chawleigh is a lovable and incredibly aggravating man! I thought that on the whole they did pretty well. And I think they did find love. They didn't find LOOOOVE!!1! (you have to sing that) but I don't think Adam and Julia would have been happy in the long run.
Joy Weese Moll said…
I could see this working well for me in the right mood. It will help me to go in knowing not to expect the standard romance.

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