Monday, 10 February 2014

'Frederica' by Georgette Heyer (1965)

Synopsis: The Marquis of Alverstoke is a stylish, wealthy and rakish bachelor. He lives in London. Alverstoke is fed up with women only wanting him for his money and fed up with his sisters' constant attempts to have him fund their already lavish lifestyles. He's become deeply bored and cynical. Alverstoke then meets a distant cousin called Frederica Merriville. Frederica is 24 years old and has been taking care of her younger siblings in the countryside ever since the death of her parents. Frederica believes that she's now passed a marriageable age but is determined to have her stunningly beautiful younger sister Charis marry well. Frederica has taken her family to London for the season and wants Alverstoke's help in introducing Charis to the right sort of people. Usually Alverstoke isn't at all the sort of person who would put himself out for a complete stranger but it occurs to him that this would be an excellent opportunity to infuriate his sisters, who have been pestering him to do similar things for their daughters. Alverstoke cheerfully accepts Frederica's offer. He then spends quite a bit of time with the Merrivilles and finds himself being drawn into their slapstick exploits. As Alverstoke bails them out of various predicaments he's pulled out of his boredom and finds himself growing extremely fond of the family, and most of all Frederica.

Frederica is the third Georgette Heyer novel that I've read in as many months. It's a huge fan favourite and many Heyer fans think it's her finest work. I can definitely understand why. It's hugely entertaining and fun although I would still say that Venetia is my favourite of the Heyer novels that I've read so far. I actually thought Frederica took a little while to get going but after about 80 pages or so I was hooked.

Frederica is quite unusual for a romance novel because it's actually a lot more focused on the hero than it is on the heroine. We get given much more of an insight into Alverstoke's thoughts and motivations than we do with Frederica's. For the most part I found this extremely refreshing although I do wish that Heyer could have us given a little bit more of an insight into Frederica's changing feelings for Alverstoke. I wasn't even convinced that she loved him until the final few pages!

The romance between Alverstoke and Frederica is lovely and sweet but it was really Frederica's younger brothers - the 16 year old Jessamy and 12 year old Felix - who stole the show for me. I loved those two! They're both hugely likeable in their own different ways and I loved reading about their zany hijinks! :D Georgette Heyer is often viewed as a successor to Jane Austen but I see quite a bit of P.G. Wodehouse in her books as well. Felix is ridiculously intelligent and is completely obsessed with science and technology. He can't understand why anyone wouldn't be and thinks it's an absolute treat for Alverstoke to take him around a foundry. Jessamy is very intelligent as well and is passionate about horses. He's also torn between his devotion to his studies and his desire to compete with Felix in the adventure stakes. He's quite earnest and is a bit of an old soul. Oh and there's also the Merriville's dog Lufra, the "Baluchistan Hound". The scene where Lufra chases a herd of cows in Green Park and the scene that comes after that when Alverstoke has to save him are both hilarious! Frederica is so much fun!

Rating: 4.5/5

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