Review 1341: The 1965 Club! Frederica

Cover for FredericaThe Marquis of Alverstoke is known for his elegance, athletic skill, and selfishness. He never does anything that causes the least inconvenience for himself. So, when his sister, Lady Buxted, tries to persuade him to give a coming out ball for her daughter Jane, he does not hesitate to refuse. Mrs. Dauntry, his heir’s mother, hears a rumor about the ball and asks Alverstoke to include her daughter Chloë.

Then Miss Merriville comes to call. Frederica Merriville is a distant connection of Alverstoke’s who has come to London hoping to introduce her beautiful sister, Charis, to society with the object of making her a comfortable marriage. Since she has no acquaintance in London, she hopes Alverstoke can help her.

Alverstoke has little interest in helping Frederica until he sees Charis. Then he decides to throw a ball for Jane and Chloë out of maliciousness toward his sister, making it a condition that Lady Buxted sponsor Frederica and Charis. He knows that she will be furious when she meets the beautiful Charis.

Soon, Alverstoke finds himself embroiled in the affairs of the active Merriville family, which includes two younger boys—Jessamy, a serious sixteen-year-old, and Freddy, a scamp at twelve. After a few weeks and several scrapes, Alverstoke realizes he hasn’t been bored in ages.

Frederica is one of the delightful novels by Georgette Heyer, a writer full of wit and a recognized expert in the period. As is frequently the case with Heyer, I found it funny and touching with a cast of amusing and likable characters.

This was a book I read for the 1965 Club. Here are some previous reviews that also qualify for the club:

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Day 1143: Cousin Kate

Cover for Cousin KateCousin Kate was one of the novels that I could read for the 1968 Club, during which we read books for the year chosen. Since I love Georgette Heyer, I was delighted to reread it.

Heyer’s Regency romances usually fit into one of two categories—straight romance or romantic suspense—both laced with humor and wit. Cousin Kate fits in the latter category.

Kate Malvern returns with some dismay to the home of her nurse, Sarah Nidd. She has lost her position as governess, because her employer’s brother made an offer of marriage. As she continues looking for a new position, she realizes her lack of success is due to both her lack of credentials and her good looks. She begins to talk wildly of taking a job as an abigail or a seamstress.

Kate’s mother’s family cut her mother off when she married Kate’s ramshackle father. But Kate’s father had a half-sister whom Kate has not met, Lady Broome. Unbeknownst to Kate, Sarah writes to Lady Broome hoping she will offer Kate a home.

She does, but shortly after arriving at the stately Staplewood, Kate realizes it is not a happy home. Sir Timothy is in frail health and lives in his own wing. Nineteen-year-old Torquil is also subject to headaches and extremely volatile in his behavior. He is constantly attended by either his man, Badger, or Dr. Delabole. Lady Broome claims to have work for Kate, but the household runs smoothly, and Kate, used to being active, is soon bored. Lady Broome also showers her with gifts, which makes her uncomfortable.

1968 club logoSir Timothy’s nephew, Philip, arrives. At first, he seems disdainful of her, but soon he is urging her to leave. She does not see how she can do so without seeming ungrateful and hopes there will be something she can do for Lady Broome. Little does she know that there is.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve appreciated the truly silly humor of some of Heyer’s funnier novels most. So, Cousin Kate is not one of my favorites. That being said, it still features an engaging heroine, witty dialogue, and an interesting plot. It is hard to go wrong with Heyer for a light, cozy read.

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Day 608: The Convenient Marriage

Cover for The Convenient MarriageThe Winwood sisters are in turmoil. Miss Winwood has gained a spectacular suitor in the Earl of Rule, who has finally decided to marry. He is wealthy, and his generous settlement will save the family from ruin. The only problem is that Miss Winwood is in love with Edward Heron, a mere army lieutenant and a second son with no fortune.

Young Horatia Winwood, not yet out of the schoolroom, thinks she has the solution. Rule wants to marry a Winwood, and it should not matter to him which one. So, she goes to his house and proposes herself as an alternative. She forthrightly points out her unfortunate eyebrows and her stammer and hopes that Rule won’t mind them. Rule is enchanted.

So, Horry gets married without realizing she has made a love match. Since Rule is afraid he may be too old for her, he treats her with a little too much care. She has told him she won’t interfere with him, so she says nothing when she learns about his mistress, Caroline Massey.

Rule has broken with Massey, though, who is jealous and angry. Crosby Drelincourt, Rule’s foppish heir, is eager to make trouble, as is Rule’s enemy, Robert Lethbridge.

Horry soon finds herself very popular. But her efforts to make Rule jealous and the plots of Rule’s enemies land her in trouble, and her scapegrace brother Pelham’s schemes to get her out of it only make things worse.

In Horry, Heyer has created another engaging and feisty heroine. Heyer is an expert on the Regency period, as well as the master of warm and funny romantic escapades, and The Convenient Marriage is one of her best.

Day 82: Cotillion

Cover for CotillionOne of my favorite authors if I want the lightest of reading material and a good laugh is Georgette Heyer. Although I am not a romance reader, for her meticulously researched and comic Regency romances I have to make an exception. Her period pieces are absolutely convincing, as she was an expert on Regency dress, deportment, and speech. In fact, she became such an expert on the period’s idioms that she once was able to successfully sue a plagiarizer by proving that the expression the other writer copied appeared only in some records to which she had been granted private access.

But Heyer was also an expert at creating charming comic characters and situations. Cotillion is one of my favorites of her books, and one of the silliest.

Kitty Charing is an impoverished orphan who has been raised in discomfort by her miserly old guardian, “Uncle” Matthew Penicuik. A great one for manipulating his putative heirs, Uncle Matthew announces that he will leave his entire fortune to Kitty, but only if she marries one of his four grandnephews. Then he invites them all to come calling. Priggish Reverend Hugh Rattney and doltish Lord Dolphinton arrive, and the married Lord Biddenden comes to represent his rakish brother Captain Claud Rattney, but dashing Captain Jack Westruther, whom Kitty has grown up hero-worshipping, does not make an appearance, as he is unwilling to be manipulated.

Kitty is furious that Jack doesn’t appear, but even more furious at being put in this position. She soundly rebukes all of her “cousins,” except Lord Dolphinton, who is too stupid to be responsible for his actions and has been compelled to come by his mama. But then Uncle Matthew announces that if Kitty refuses to marry one of her cousins, he will leave her with nothing. What is a spunky Heyer heroine to do but run off into a snowstorm with only a few possessions and an impractical plan to get a job as a house maid?

She arrives at the local inn to find her cousin Freddy Standen, who has absolutely no idea why he has been summoned. Freddy, not the brightest of bulbs but a kind-hearted young man, is perfectly wealthy in his own right and has no intention of getting married. When he meets Kitty at the inn, she talks him into pretending an engagement with her and inviting her to go up to London so she can acquire some “town polish,” buy some nice clothes, and (she hopes but doesn’t tell Freddy) enchant Jack into a proposal.

Freddy, an expert in deportment and fashion who can always be relied upon to accompany a young married woman to a dance or concert, is not really a lady’s man. When he and Kitty arrive in London to find his harassed mother attempting to care for a house full of children with mumps, he is dismayed to find he is left responsible for a naïve girl who tends to fall into difficulties and odd friendships.

The novel is crammed with comic characters, such as Kitty’s foolish governess “Fish,” who has a turn for quoting romantic poetry; Freddy’s frippery married sister Meg, who wears color combinations that shock him to the core and spends her time trying to avoid her mama-in-law; Camille, Kitty’s real French cousin, who is impersonating a lord; Lord Dolphinton, who is terrified of his mother but strictly charged by her to get Kitty to dump Freddy and marry him; and the silly doe-eyed Olivia, whom Kitty befriends but Jack is pursuing to be his mistress.