Books, Recountings

why i love ‘frederica’ by georgette heyer (and you totally should too)

No one quite does it like Georgette Heyer. When I pick up one of her books and dive in, that’s it – I’ll disappear for a wee while, completely buried. Perhaps I’ll come up for air, but more often than not, it’s to grab another one of her works.

And here’s one of her books that’s a favourite of mine. (Most of them are favourites. Picking an absolute favourite is nigh on impossible. I do have least favourites *quelle horreur!!!* but that’s for another time.)

THE PLOT DOESN’T STOP FOR A MOMENT AND IS SPARKLING AND WITTY AND HYSTERICAL

So we have this rich bloke – a Marquis – in his ivory palace who gets everything he wants and is terribly bored with it. (I’m sure EVERYONE relates to this. *cough*) His relatives want him to introduce their daughters into society with lavish balls – at his expense, of course – but he’s all ‘lemme think about … ha! ha! No’ (but in FAR more distinguished and witty tones).

“Wretch! I shan’t allow you to take a rise out of me! I want to talk to you about Jane!”
“Who the devil is—Oh, yes, I know! One of your girls!”
“My eldest daughter, and, let me remind you, your niece, Alverstoke!”
“Unjust, Louisa, I needed no reminder!”
“I am bringing the dear child out this season,”[…]
“You’ll have to do something about her freckles—if she’s the one I think she is,” he interrupted. “Have you tried citron-water?”
“I didn’t invite you to come here to discuss Jane’s appearance!” she snapped.
“Well, why did you invite me?”
“To ask you to hold a ball in her honour—at Alverstoke House!” she disclosed, rushing her fence.
“To do what?” 

Enter Frederica Merriville who wants just a tiny favour from him. He is Not Bored By This. And offers to help her and her family (she has a Beautiful Sister and Frederica is determined that such Beauty is Not To Be Wasted) enter into society. And then suddenly – in almost a blink of his languid eye – the Merriville family is plunging him into one scrape after the other, and he’s got people banging on his door about a dog disturbing some Picturesque Milking Cows in central London, there’s the Merriville brother who is Convinced that the Marquis is VERY MUCH INTERESTED in the latest technology (he’s not), and a Fateful Hot Air Balloon ride.

And then, indignity upon indignity, his esteemed personage has to look after someone. On a sickbed.

Oh how will he cope?!

HOW WILL HE SURVIVE????

THE HEROINE IS PRETTY DOPE

There are several different types of Heyer Heroines, and Frederica falls amongst the ranks of Pheobe Marlowe (Sylvester) and Venetia (Venetia). She’s sensible, but she’s plucky and she has a sense of humour. She’s not as staid as some heroines, nor as silly as others.

I approve.

THE MARQUIS OF ALVERSTOKE IS ALMOST AS COOL AS THE COOLEST DUDE TO EVER DUDE

My all-time FAVOURITE of Heyer’s characters is one that barely appears in his book. (BUT WHAT AN IMPRESSION HE LEAVES!!) Imagine my joy and surprise when I realised that there was another character almost as wonderful as he!

“Perhaps,” murmured his lordship, “I yielded to a compassionate impulse.”
“A what?” gasped his best friend. 
“Oh, did you think I never did so?” said his lordship, the satirical glint in his eyes extremely pronounced. “You wrong me! I do, sometimes—not frequently, of course, but every now and then!” 

My brain sort of fuzzed over when I Saw The Truth in a reread.

‘HE IS LIKE HIM!!!!!!!’ I thought calmly. “THIS IS AMAZING!!”

FREDERICA’S YOUNGEST BROTHERS ARE THE BEST THING EVER

I have a soft spot for siblings in novels. Particularly when they are so SINCERE and OBLIVIOUS to everything else.

And her youngest brother, Felix – he’s da actual bomb (not in a Lord Legerwood way but in his own irrepressible ‘let me join this Hot Balloon adventure whatdoyoumeanIcan’tgoupwiththem??!’ way.) He *somehow* gets Alverstoke to do things that Alverstoke really doesn’t have the slightest inclination of doing. Like, going around a foundry. Alverstoke has never even thought of it. He’d probably rather recite the dictionary backwards whilst dining with ALL of his beloved relatives than- No. He’d probably hate both of them equally.

In a lazy kind of way.

ALSO, THE DOG

There’s this scene – hySTERICALLY FUNNY OF COURSE – where some of the Merrivilles are attempting to get out of a scrape by the actions of their dog.

All the outraged tradesmen are like: this dog is a coMMEN MUTT AND PROBABLY TERRIBLE AND SHOULD BE DESTROYED becauSE IT ALARMED OUR COWS AND PUT THEM OFF PRODUCING MILK!!

And the Marquis and his DOPE secretary are like: mmmMM THIS DOG? This dog that is a priCLESS BREED?? This dog from a FOREIGN COUNTRY?? o.0 YOU WANT TO DESTROY THIS DOG?

“I didn’t smuggle the dog into the country; I merely caused him to be smuggled out of Baluchistan.” 

ALSO, THE OTHER CHARACTERS. ALL OF THEM

The whole cast. Are. The. Best. Even the two characters that are just MY GOSH UGH THIS IS FUNNY BUT I WOULDN’T WANT TO STAY IN THE SAME ROOM WITH YOU.

Even if it was an internet chatroom. ARE THOSE STILL GOING BY THE WAY???

This novel is a sheer, rippling delight from page one. It’s charming. It’s nigh on perfect. I love it. Read it. You just might love it too.

goodreads // open library

Books, Recountings

recountings: not-quite-georgette heyer and i’m a plant killer now

Now, you know I like Georgette Heyer. And I like everyone else who likes Georgette Heyer. And I especially like authors who like Georgette Heyer. And most of all, I like authors who write books inspired by Georgette Heyer. 

So – here I find a book – and I demand from the all the world to know: how did I not find this before?!!! 

THE WEAVER TAKES A WIFE

by SHERI COBB SOUTH

LET’S BE REAL … 

It wasn’t perfect. But most things in life aren’t. My azaleas, for instance, are slightly wilting. Is it because I placed them in the sun too much? Probably. Is it because I haven’t wooed them with Mozart? Most likely. I’m not perfect. They aren’t perfect. This book isn’t perfect. It doesn’t quite reach Georgette Heyer’s glorious heights – but there’s so. much. to. love. Anyway. 

(And She wasn’t perfect either. I’m listening to Sprig Muslin at the moment – it’s my ‘room cleaning’ book. I have many books for many different occasions. My ‘I’m sitting on the loo’ book is about the Romonovs and lemme tell you Peter the Great was WILD. But I digress … Sprig Muslin? Not my favourite. Possibly because of the narrator. Possibly because I’ve read negative reviews about it. Possibly because I’m not approaching it like C.S Lewis told me to – with an open mind.) 

Other things that aren’t so perfect:

  • the heroine’s father is basically selling her off for money to pay off his debts. So. Ew.
  • while there is character development with the heroine – she does a complete 180, but I wish it had been … slightly slower. Some things require time. For instance: your entire world view changing.
  • MY AZALEAS ARE BASICALLY DEAD OKAY?!!
I mean so is the other plant. oh my gosh. i’ve killed TWO PLANTS THIS IS BAD THIS IS VERY VERY BAD

Mr. Brundy. Mr. Brundy is the bomb.

I’m going to be straight up and honest with you: I’ve vast plans about marrying Mr. Brundy. Yes. They are a little inhibited by the tragic fact that he’s fictional … and also fictionally married [dang it] but true love always finds a way. Just like Mr. Brundy. And his heart. 

He takes one look at the heroine and BAM! Cupid’s dart doesn’t just strike him. Oh no! It bloomin’ well drops a nuke on his poor little heart pumping organ. Think Paris and Helen but with less … bloodshed, immorality, Greek gods, and arrows-in-heels happening. 

[As a side note … there’s this BBC adaption of Troy and I loathe Paris. He’s just so bleh and ugh and argh and *smash face on desk*-esque … if you know what I mean.] 

He – Mr Brundy, not Paris. Yuck and BOOO! – looks at his beloved and locks on her with all the focus of one of those dinosaurs from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. You know – the killing ones: where you’d put a lasor on the target and pull the trigger and the dinosaur would just. Hunt. It. Down. 

He does that. But in a less dinosaur-y fashion. 

It’s a TAD unrealistic but … for this book? I’ll take it.

Mr. Brundy is an illegitimate orphan who’s worked his way up from the workhouses. He’s now one of the richest men in England. He’s honest and hardworking. He also can’t pronounce his ‘h’s. 

“Mr. Brundy,” she said with a nod, making the most perfunctory of curtsies to her father’s guest. 
He made no move to take her hand, but merely bowed and responded in kind. “Lady ‘elen.” 
“My name is Helen, Mr. Brundy,” she said coldly. 
“Very well- ‘elen,” said Mr. Brundy, surprised and gratified at being given permission, and on such short acquaintance, to dispense with the use of her courtesy title.” 


THE CHARACTERS AREN’T ALL DUMB (!)

I was worried. I’m not going to lie. At one point, I was cringing. You couldn’t tell. It was 2:00am and my kindle light was on low but my gosh, I was worried and cringing and inwardly mildly screaming. (Picture Darth Vader with his ‘NOOOO’ but he’s a disappointed but resigned mother hen looking at her son. She knows he’s not all there but she’s so invested in his life that she can’t help cringe and he’s hopping in slow motion and she’s all: nooooo, Kevin.]

But FEAR NOT … there’s a character with his head metaphorically on his shoulders and he Gets Help! so it’s okay.

[There are mild spoilers for the book. I’m sorry. I should have warned you.]

ONE WORD SUMMARY: 

Adorable.  

Pinch-its-cheeks-adorable. I adore it. You’ll adore it. Sometimes it’s a little too simplistic, but I was reading it at 2:00 am, so some of my impressions may be a leeetlle askew. (Also I wrote the majority of this review at a similar time on a different night. It’s when I do my best work. You probably can’t tell. HAHAHAHAHA.)

If you’re familiar with any of Georgette Heyer’s books – you’ll be familiar with some aspects of this storyline. You’ll forgive this book because this is such a wonderful take on a woman realising that it’s not all about appearances, and a man who learns to dance for his wife and ARGGHHH BE STILL MY BEATING HEART!!

kindle / goodreads

Books, Characters, Quotables, Recountings

Recountings: how do you reform a rake?

Instead of sorting out bookshelves, I’m reading what is on other bookshelves. Dashing and arrogant heroes? Abductions? Intrepid and brave, take-no-nonsense heroines? Fabulously funny side characters? Hilarious dialogue? It can only be a Heyer.

***This Post is Lengthy But Contains a Life-Changing Answer.***

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Devil’s Cub

by Georgette Heyer

The Marquis of Vidal (whose father is the ‘hero’ of These Old Shades) is forced to leave England due to nearly killing someone. His morals lie in the rakish direction and so he decides to take the young Sophia Challoner with him. To France. With no marital ties involved.

How outrageous! How immoral! But fear not –  Mary Challoner is to the rescue. For the message that comes to her house is for her sister but is addressed to ‘Miss Challoner’.

“It’s a letter, miss, brought by a footman. For you,” added Betty, in congratulatory tones. Betty did not think it was fair that Miss Sophy should have all the beaux, for Miss Mary was a much nicer-spoken lady, if only the gentlemen had the sense to see it.

(Too true, Betty, too true.)

Mary is no fool and has been Suspicious of the Marquis’ intentions all along. She opens the letter. She sees her sister’s fate. She thinks. She acts. She takes her sister’s place!

“… it is plain he has no thought of marriage. I have a plan to show him she is not to be had so easily.”

– from a note to her Mamma

I like her already. She pops a mask on and with a mingling of fear and brave resolution heads off to show Vidal who’s boss. All is going according to plan – he suspects nothing as he bundles her into the carriage. And then they ride. And ride. She finds a pistol and bags that pistol. They go on. And then she sees that they’ve travelled to the sea.

He was going to take her sister to France? Of all the-! The time to act is nigh. At the inn by the sea, she takes off her mask.

The smile was wiped from his face.

She pretends that her deceit was a part of a jest with her sister.

“You need not think, my lord, that you can seduce Sophia so easily. She led you on finely, did she not? But when she found you’d no thought of marriage, she determined to teach you a lesson!”

It … doesn’t go down the way she expected. Vidal sort of shrugs his shoulders and says ‘fair ’nuff – I’ll have you instead.’

Proving that – at this point, at least – he is Without Conscience (and is basically a jerk) he forces her on board the boat. And then he turns his wicked gaze to her with a threatening ‘And now, Miss Challoner …”

wriggling eyebrows are not stated, but I like to believe that they’re implied.

However, Mary has other plans. Or rather, Mary’s stomach has other plans.

“I do not care whether you go or stay, but I desire to warn you that I am about to be extremely unwell.” She pressed her handkerchief to her mouth, and said through it in muffled accents: “Immediately.”

(Trust Heyer to flavour a scene of High Peril with a bout of seasickness.)

They arrive in France. Vidal has been indulging in the cups. They are alone. Poor Mary’s virtue is at stake. She is in a strange country with a dangerous man. She has no one to help her and only her courage to rely on. Well. Her courage … and a pistol!

“My lord,” she said desperately, “indeed I am not what you think me!”

He burst into one of his wild laughs, and she realised that in this mood she could make no impression on him.

He was advancing towards her. She brought her right hand from behind her, and levelled the pistol. “Stand where you are!” she said. “If you come one step nearer I shall shoot you down.”

He stopped short. “Where did you get that thing?” he demanded.

“Out of your coach,” she answered.

“Is it loaded?”

“I don’t know,” said Miss Challoner, incurably truthful.

He began to laugh again, and walked forward. “Shoot then,” he invited, “and we shall know. For I’m coming several steps nearer, my lady.”

Miss Challoner saw that he meant it, shut her eyes and resolutely pulled the trigger. There was a deafening report and the Marquis went staggering back. He recovered in a moment. “It was loaded,” he said coolly.

With a single shot of a pistol, Miss Challoner’s honour is saved and a Rake is set on his way to Redemption and True Love (and bit of time bed-bound. After all one cannot be shot without a few trifling annoyances.)

Later on, this book contains one of my all time favourite Heyer scenes: take a misunderstanding, throw in a few swords, toss in a Marquis, add a large dose of melodrama and a dash of absurdity and it’s deliciously exciting.

“Mr Comyn would have been killed,” Miss Challoner admitted, “but I stopped it. I thought it was time.”

The gentleman surveyed her with distinct admiration, not untouched by amusement. “Of course I should have known that you stopped it,” he said. “What means did you employ this time?”

“Rather rough-and-ready ones, sir. I tried to catch the blades in a coat.”

And now, my friends, to the question of ‘how do you reform a rake?’ I put a single, simple answer:

Shoot him.