REVIEW: Frederica by Georgette Heyer
Determined to secure a brilliant marriage for her beautiful sister, Frederica seeks out their distant cousin the Marquis of Alverstoke. Lovely, competent, and refreshingly straightforward, Frederica makes such a strong impression that to his own amazement, the Marquis agrees to help launch them all into society.
Normally wary of his family, which includes two overbearing sisters and innumerable favor-seekers, Lord Alverstoke does his best to keep his distance. But with his enterprising — and altogether entertaining —country cousins getting into one scrape after another right on his doorstep, before he knows it the Marquis finds himself dangerously embroiled.
For all intent and purpose this is my first Heyer. I know I have read a book of hers years ago in Russian, but I cannot for the life of me remember what book it was. I am not a big reader of m/f romance and I am especially not a big reader of m/f historical romance. I was browsing through my humongous TBR on my kindle and I noticed that I had Frederica sitting there, probably sleep shopped on sale couple of years ago. I decided to try it and I am so glad that I did. I also have to admit though that till Frederica makes her entrance I was quite bored. Marquis’ not giving a damn about his two sisters and their offspring, deserving as it may have been (since all they seemed to care about was his money), was also quite off putting to me
Considering that the author was showing how bored the Marquis of Alverstoke was with his life and surroundings, maybe that was her intention – for the reader to become briefly bored. As much as I am not familiar with Heyer’s works, I am aware of course that she is considered a grand dame of historical romance and I caught myself thinking that the set –up of the young woman charming the jaded guy to the point of him falling for her hard had been done before and more than once. Then I realized that Heyer was probably the first or one of the first writers to introduce it.
We first “meet” Frederica and her sister Charis as described by Alverstoke’s secretary:
“‘See to it that I read it,’ supplied Alverstoke. ‘Describe this charmer to me, Charles!’ ‘Miss Merriville?’ said Mr Trevor, apparently at a loss. ‘Well, I didn’t notice her particularly, sir! She was very civil, and unaffected, and –and certainly not what you call a dirty dish! I mean –’ He paused, trying to conjure up a picture of Miss Merriville. ‘Well, I don’t know much about such things, but it seemed to me that she was dressed with elegance! Quite young, I think –though not in her first season. Or even,’ he added reflectively, ‘in her second season.’
He drew a long breath, and uttered, in reverent accents: ‘It was the other one, sir!’ ‘Yes?’ said Alverstoke encouragingly, the amusement deepening in his eyes. Mr Trevor seemed to find it difficult to express himself; but after a pause, during which he obviously conjured up a heavenly vision, he said earnestly: ‘Sir, I have never before seen, or –or even dreamed of such a lovely girl! Her eyes! So big, and of such a blue! Her hair! like shining gold! The prettiest little nose, too, and her complexion quite exquisite! And when she spoke –’ ‘But what were her ankles like?’ interrupted his lordship.”
And I was interested in Alverstoke after I saw that his comments could make me giggle if nothing else.
For some reason he decides to visit Frederica after all and the book became very entertaining for me from that point forward.
“He moved forward, in his graceful, unhurried way. ‘Have I the honour of addressing Miss Merriville?’ he enquired. She got up, and came to meet him, holding out her hand. ‘Yes, I’m Miss Merriville. How do you do? Pray forgive me! –I wasn’t expecting this visit, you see.’ ‘Then pray forgive me! I was under the impression that you desired me to visit you.’ ‘Yes, but I had quite given up expecting you to call. Which didn’t surprise me, because I daresay you thought it a tiresome imposition, besides being, perhaps, much too coming!’
‘Not at all,’ he murmured, at his most languid. ‘Well, I’m afraid it was. The thing is that from having lived all my life in Herefordshire I am not yet perfectly acquainted with London customs.’ An engaging twinkle lit her eyes; she added confidingly: ‘You can have no notion of how very hard it is to conform to propriety, when one has been –you may say –the mistress of the house for years and years!’ ‘On the contrary!’ he responded promptly. ‘I’ve every notion of it!’”
Having decided that Frederica does not bore him and he may as well entertain her request for help and introduce her and her sister to the London high society, the Marquis often has his hands full for the duration of the story unfolding on the pages and his life became significantly less boring and probably not boring at all. And I not just giggled but often laughed out loud while I was reading the book.
See Frederica in addition to Charis has two younger brothers. They are 12 and 16 and they sometimes find themselves in the situations where Alverstoke’s help was needed to extract them from those situations. Frederica and her family also brought their dog Lustra to London with them for the duration of the season since they could not leave the dog alone. One day one of Lustra’s walks around London could have ended in the disaster if the Marquis was not forced to intervene.
“‘Oh, no, he wouldn’t, of course! I do hope he didn’t bite anyone? He isn’t savage, but if he thought anyone was trying to steal him –’ ‘Ah, so that was it!’ said his lordship. ‘He was labouring under a delusion, but I daresay that was Walter’s fault, for not making the matter plain to him. My dear boy, don’t look so concerned! Walter likes being bitten by large dogs, and so does Wicken –don’t you, Wicken?’ ‘The Animal, my lord,’ replied Wicken, with dignity, ‘did not go so far as to bite Me.’ ‘He will, if you keep on calling him the Animal. Well, Felix, how do you do? What brings you here?’”
The romance in the book is very slow burn and I can see them together for the years to come since the author shown us that they enjoyed talking to each other, but more importantly they took care of some important things and did it together. I was not sure though whether Frederica’s realization that she was in love was enough for me. We see her enjoying the Marquis’ company and as I said we see them working together so to speak and more than once, but we hear Alverstoke admitting his love for her and I would have liked for her to figure it out earlier rather than have to jump from “he is a good friend to I love him” so close to the end of the book.