Frederica (by Georgette Heyer)

I regularly re-read the many historical novels by Georgette Heyer. She's my favourite author of this kind of fiction, and I have almost all her works on my shelves. I keep a list of when I last read them all, and try to leave a gap of five or six years in between each re-reading.

However, it's over eight years since I last read 'Frederica', which I recalled fondly as one of my favourites. The reason is that a friend had borrowed it for over a year; so I was delighted to have it returned, and started reading it a couple of weeks ago.

I had forgotten that the start of the novel is actually quite slow-moving. Set, as so many of Heyer's novels are, in Regency times, it introduces us first to the rather bored and arrogant Lord Alverstoke. He is a wealthy single man in his late thirties, who is rather tormented by his sisters. One of them thinks he should hold a ball to present her eldest daughter to society, and he cannot think of any reason why he should do so.

Not long afterwards, he receives a note from an orphaned young woman claiming to be a distant relative, asking for his advice. He is inclined to throw the note away, but for his excellent secretary Charles, who tells him that the young woman has a ravishingly beautiful sister. Having an eye for a lovely woman - and a string of attachments in his past - Alverstoke decides to meet them, and learns that they would like him to help them enter polite society.  He dismisses Frederica as a rather managing young woman, and her younger brothers as potential nuisances.. then sees the gorgeous Charis and realises that if he introduced the sisters at his ball, his own sister would be furious, since her daughter is quite plain.

So with this ignoble motive, he throws a lavish ball where he introduces the two girls to the 'ton'. Charis is an immediate hit...particularly with Alverstoke's nephew and heir, the slightly tedious (but very handsome) Endymion.

After this, the story starts to move faster, with Frederica and her delightful brothers Jessamy and Felix getting right under his skin. This bored aristocrat finds himself accompanying an enthusiastic Felix to a foundry, of all places, to learn about pneumatic lifts.  Worse, he is bulldozed into taking him on an outing to watch a balloon ascension.. which leads to a disaster and then quite a moving section of the book.

The reason I have always liked this book so much is that Frederica is a wonderfully believable person, caring more about her siblings than herself, not even noticing when she starts to fall in love. Jessamy and Felix, too, are delightful children - although Jessamy, at sixteen, is studious and quite serious at times - and then there's Lufra, the large and enthusiastic dog who lands them in several awkward situations.

I don't know that I found this book quite as wonderful as my memory suggested, but I had forgotten several of the subplots and certainly enjoyed re-reading this book. Georgette Heyer had a great gift with her historical fiction, creating wonderful situations, realistic dialogue excellent characters, and clever plot resolutions.

Definitely recommended - and worth persevering through the early, less interesting chapters. This was one of Heyer's later books, first published in 1965, and it's still in print on both sides of the Atlantic.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 4th December 2012

1 comment:

Carole said...

Hi there, there is a collection of book links happening right now at Carole's Chatter. This time we are collecting links to posts about your favourite historical fiction. Here is the link Your Favourite Historical Fiction Please do pop by and link in – maybe this one? Have a lovely day.