Heyer, Georgette. Frederica.

London: Bodley Head, 1965.

This is one of Heyer’s later Regency romances and the plotting is somewhat more sophisticated than in many of her early works. It’s also one of her funniest books.

Frederica Merriville, now in her early twenties, often feels a good deal older, having had the responsibility of raising her younger siblings since the death of their mother a number of years earlier. Harry, next youngest to her, is off at Oxford and has reached his majority, but Charis, age seventeen and jaw-droppingly beautiful, is in need of being introduced into London society. Then there are Jessamy, age sixteen, a book-worm and rather strait-laced — except when he’s around prime horseflesh — and twelve-year-old Felix, who is fixated on everything mechanical, especially if it involves steam. Frederica brings the youngest three to the Metropolis, determined to see to it that Charis has her best chance, but she needs a sponsor. Enter their distant cousin, the unmarried Marquis of Alverstoke, who is bored with everything, never puts himself out on anyone’s behalf, and avoids the company of his two demanding and shrewish sisters. When Frederica seeks him out for assistance, he allows himself to be convinced to hold a coming-out ball not only for Charis but for his two nieces, as well. It’s a way of getting back at his sisters and he expects the whole thing will provide him with amusement for a few months. Of course, things don’t go anything like as smoothly as he assumes they will. Felix, especially, gets into a series of sometimes dangerous scrapes, and the large family dog has problems with the big city, too. And then the Marquis’s heir, the inoffensive but rather brainless Endymion Dauntry, falls head over heels for Charis, who returns his ardor — not at all what Frederica had in mind for her.

Heyer often made use of two parallel romantic plot-lines, depicting each from the perspective of the other, a narrative device which is very successful here. The Marquis’s change of feelings regarding people in general and Frederica in particular is also convincingly portrayed as a slow process, as he develops an affection for the two boys. And Frederica’s eventual abandonment of her assumed spinster status is very well handled. I put this one in the top half-dozen of Heyer’s books.

Published in: on 21 February 2012 at 9:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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