Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Civil Contract review

A Civil Contract

On the heels of Devil's Club, this book is different in tone, characterization, and pacing. It is Jane Austen like and actually three of Austen novels are referred in the book. The set up is also akin to an Austen novel where there is a poor family and marriage as a way out of that. There are some really amusing supporting characters as well which is reminiscent of Austen. Unlike Austen, the protagonist is a Viscount in need of a rich wife.

This book is about a subtle romance or rather should I say, it's about two people getting to know each other in a marriage of convenience. It was fascinating to watch two generally good young people enter in a marriage of convenience and grow accustomed to one another. I just can't think of many stories where that happens and of course, it's no as prevalent as today so modern stories don't really feature this kind of theme. Though this kind of contrivance and the novel's love triangle remind me a lot of Korean dramas.

The narration kept referring to how plain, homelely and down right unpretty Jenny the female lead was. She could not have been that bad and honestly, one can overlook that sort of thing readily, but I guess it is a accurate to that society that they cared so much for her looks and mien. Still, she couldn't have been that ugly, I'm surprised Heyer didn't give her some redeeming physical feature other than her smile.

In any case, I don't think people expecting passionate romance like that of Devil's Club will be pleased with this novel. It's more serious, historically rooted (set at the time of Waterloo) and real. The dialogue and the conflict felt very real between the characters at times. A Civil Contract was published in 1961 some thirty years after Devil's Club so the author herself had matured.

I liked this novel. It was more slow paced, but it was still interesting. I grew fond of the characters; they were all realistically flawed, but good people. I also like unconventional romances so this was right up my alley. I was impressed with the range Heyer showed in both these novels and it has made me a fan. I am now going to go through the rest of her novels.

First reviewed Aquatique. I've read a couple of Heyer books since reading A Civil Contract, but it remains one of my favourite Heyer novels so far.


Melissa @ Melissa's Bookshelf said...

While I liked this book, I can't say it's a favorite by Georgette Heyer. I prefer the fast-paced witty banter and crazy over-the-top characters, I guess. My mother actually detested this book, but I did like it for what it was and many of the same reasons you liked it. Great review -- thanks for sharing your thoughts! :-)

Athena said...

Thanks for the comment Melissa. As I read more Heyer, I realize this book was very unHeyer like in many ways which is why it turned off many people. I can like Heyer for the fluffy over the top stuff, but she still managed to be interesting and different in this novel. I don't really a lot of straight romance novels so it's new to me to read all these historical romances in a row. Thanks for your comment!

Nancy said...

I am surprised that your review called A Civil Contract serious,for I have always thought it to be Heyer's funniest work, and her best. She pokes fun of her characters in the delicate style Austen used. Her characters are outrageous and charming in their absurdities. Heyer's best, by far and I love all her books. My favorite author.