Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Review: A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer

Title:  A Civil Contract
Author:  Georgette Heyer
Genre:  Regency romance
Pages:  422

Rating:  A-

Synopsis (from  Adam Deveril, Viscount Lynton, returns home from war to find his family in financial ruin. To help his family, he sacrifices his love for the beautiful Julia and marries plain Jenny Chawleigh, whose father is a wealthy businessman determined to marry his daughter into a title.
Adam chafes under Mr. Chawleigh's generosity, and Julia's behavior upon hearing of the betrothal nearly brings them all into a scandal. But Jenny's practicality and quiet love for Adam bring him comfort and eventually happiness. And over time, their arranged marriage blossoms into love and acceptance across the class divide.
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For Christmas this year, I asked for a bunch of books by Georgette Heyer, and I got them!  Of the Heyer books I got, A Civil Contract was the first one I read.  Unlike most of Heyer's other books, this book is much more serious in tone, and its love story isn't a whirlwind, swoon-worthy romance.  Adam Deveril and Jenny Chawleigh marry for convenience, and they face their ups and downs together, eventually realizing that they do love one another.  It's not the typical passionate, breathtaking love that comes and goes, but a deep, steady love that's grown out of mutual respect and companionship.

Heyer's heroine in this story is very different from her typical female leads.  In most of Heyer's books, the girl is beautiful but poor; Jenny Chawleigh is the opposite.  Neither poor nor beautiful, she does possess a good head on her shoulders and a dry sense of humor.  Her "hero," Adam Deveril, doesn't deserve the title.  He's often rude to Jenny, and sometimes fails to hide his feelings for his first love Julia whenever she's around.  Lucky for him, Jenny is a very understanding and patient woman.

I really enjoyed how Heyer looked at what might be the outcome of an an arranged marriage.  The disbelief and awkwardness at first, followed by the slow acclimation to one another's personalities, and finally the realization that what the two of them share is much more enduring than the feelings of being "in love."  Heyer never becomes unrealistic by having either of her characters suddenly wake up one day and say, "I can't believe I didn't see it before! I'm madly in love with him/her!"  I admit a little part of me was hoping for that breathtaking aha! moment, but in the end, I'm glad it didn't happen.  It would have seemed forced and unreal.  What Heyer portrays in A Civil Contract is a real love, which was a refreshing change from the typical romance.  A-

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