Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Frederica by Georgette Heyer ****

Heyer's works, dating from 1920 - 1975, are considered classics in the Romance genre, and this one is one of 3 of her titles on the AAR Top 100 of 2007 list. I read one of them, Devil's Cub, which made me wonder what the fuss was about. But then I read another, The Corinthian, which changed my mind and I rated it 5 stars.

I consider this a 4-star read, or maybe 3.75. I did find myself laughing out loud at some of the antics. But the style of writing, and the jargon, are so convoluted that I found myself mostly lost in the prose. I have no clue if how she wrote (clause, after clause, after clause, separated by commas, making you lose the subject some 3 dozen words before) was supposed to be indicative of 19th century thinking, and I also have no clue where in the world all those odd words and phrases come from. I haven't seen any of them in any other of the historicals I've read. And the exclamation marks! After almost every sentence! It made my eyebrows rise! Time after time! Very tiring!

In this one, a young woman of 24 (Frederica Merriville) is the eldest of 5 children, and she was practically their mother and their father since their parents' deaths some years before. She is determined to give her younger sister Charis a London season because Charis is uncommonly beautiful. She sees herself as on the shelf, long in the tooth, over the hill, way past marriageable age. One brother, Harry, is of age and considered the younger children's guardian, but really he is still quite young and not at all responsible. The other 2 are schoolboys, Jessamy and Felix, who are constantly getting into scrapes.

Frederica asks Vernon, Marquis of Alverstoke, to help sponsor Charis into society as a very distant cousin who knew her father. Frederica is really a dear, and very funny and resourceful, and Vernon finds her amusing. Thinking to nettle his sisters with Charis's beauty when his nieces are so plain, he agrees by holding a ball for his nieces and inviting the Merriville sisters.

Really, Frederica gets into as many scrapes as Felix and Jessamy, and Vernon finds himself more and more attending to them - more and more amused - and realizes slowly that Frederica is the one woman he cannot live without. But it takes to the second to last page in the story for that realization to be said aloud, and even then it is said by one of his sisters!

While I did find lots of humor in the story, especially at first, and in the antics of the Merriville's mongrel ("Baluchistan hound" - definitaly Notable Pet!), the language and prose dropped it out of 5 star rating. The length - almost 400 pages - made slogging through the language even more tiresome. Well, if you're a Heyer fan, you'll probably enjoy it. If not, and you aren't doing an AAR Top 100 quest, I wouldn't be in a hurry to locate a copy to read.

4 stars.

No comments: