Heyer, Georgette. April Lady.

NY: Putnam, 1957.

In nearly all her Regency romances, Heyer showed herself to be a master of character portrayal. This one, unfortunately, is something of a failure in that regard. Well, no one gets it exactly right every time.

Nell is the young bride of the much older Lord Giles Cardross, and though she fell in love with him at first sight, she’s still not exactly sure why he chose her. He had had a mistress for years, so it must simply have been a matter of convenience for him, right? But she’ll try to be blasé about it, not hang on his sleeve and demand anything more than polite civility. That’s how things are done at her level of society. And, of course, Nell has everything completely wrong. Giles is very much in love with her, too — but his dignity, apparently, won’t allow him to say so, and her carefully maintained distance convinces him she only married him for his fortune. Nell, meanwhile, has turned out to be a terrible spendthrift with no sense of economy, spending three hundred pounds on a single party dress. And she’s been giving money to her gambler brother, against her husband’s strict instructions. Moreover, Giles’s kid sister, the totally self-involved Letty, still a minor and therefore her brother’s ward, is even worse than her sister-in-law when it comes to not controlling her spending, and she’s also determined to marry a proper young secretary at the Foreign Office, who is of good family but has no money at all. Then Nell turns up a dressmaker’s bill that she had forgotten to give to Giles and becomes terrified that he’ll do something terrible if he discovers that she had apparently held out on him. The rest of the story concerns Nell’s continuing panic as she tries to come up with the money to pay the dunning creditor, and her attempts to keep Letty from doing something truly stupid, and to get her brother to help her raise the funds she needs. The thing is, none of these characters, with the possible exception of Mr. Allandale (the diplomat-in-training), is at all sympathetic. Nell and Giles could solve all their problems they don’t even realize they have by simply trusting each other and talking for an hour. Letty is unremittingly selfish and needs to be sent off to a seminary until she’s of age. Her conspiratorial girlfriends are even worse. Nell’s brother would benefit from a spell in debtor’s prison. The old Heyer, the one whose writing sparkles, finally shows up only in the last fifty pages, but that isn’t enough to redeem the book. It’s quite a disappointment.

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Published in: on 13 May 2012 at 6:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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