A Civil Contract (by Georgette Heyer)

I do enjoy Georgette Heyer's writing. I have most of her historical fiction, and re-read them all regularly.

I last read 'A Civil Contract' in 2005, so it was more than time for a re-read. It was a busy time so it took me ten days to finish it, but I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in this story once again. It's not greatly exciting - it was easy enough to put down when I needed to do something else, or to sleep - but I had no problem picking up the threads again later.

Unlike standard Heyer Regency romances, this novel features Adam - a young Viscount - who returns from the war to find that his late father's estate is deeply in debt. Due to the conventions of the time, he cannot marry his beautiful childhood sweetheart, Julia. He must care for his sisters as well as his mother, and since his only alternative is to sell the family estate, he is persuaded - very much against his better judgement - to marry Jenny, a shy and rather awkward girl whom he barely knows, but who is a great heiress with an extremely wealthy father.

I wasn't all that keen on this book, when I first read it in my twenties. It seemed somehow prosaic and unromantic, a bit like the marriage that's featured in the book; romantic myself, it felt as if Adam had rather a raw deal, and I didn't really appreciate the growing affection and comfort that he and Jenny brought each other. However, every time I have re-read the book, I find, a little to my surprise, that I like it better. The characterisation is brilliantly done, the portrayal of the marriage works extremely well, and as ever, Heyer manages to show the contrast between the loyal, loving (albeit plain) Jenny and the petulant, flighty (albeit beautiful) Julia.

If I have a complaint, it's that there's a bit too much war talk for my tastes in this novel, and also some financial discussion that went rather over my head. Nonetheless, I enjoyed re-reading it very much, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes light historical fiction of this kind.

I'm delighted to see that this novel is still in print, available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle form; it's also widely available second-hand.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 29th May 2013

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