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Friday, January 23, 2015
The Book That Started It All by Victoria Chatham
I class a favorite book as one I will read
and then re-read again and again. The book I have re-read the most is Georgette
Heyer's Frederica and I still find it as fresh and as funny as the
first time I read it.
Georgette Heyer, 1902 - 1974
Frederica Merriville has one burning desire
and that is to see her beautiful younger sister, Charis, introduced to the
London ton in order to achieve a suitable marriage. To this end
she engages the assistance of a distant cousin, the Marquis of Alverstoke -
rich, bored and cynical. Alverstoke gradually succumbs to Frederica's charms,
charms of which she is totally unaware as her family has her total focus. Along
with her sister, Frederica also oversees the antics of brothers Harry (sent
down from Oxford University), Jessamy (determined to be a priest and constantly
berating himself as he falls between boyish pranks and high virtue) and Felix
(who has a passion for science).
Alverstoke has already been approached by one
of his sisters to have a coming out ball for his niece, Jane, at Alverstoke
House. On a whim, he agrees to this providing his sister, Louisa, introduces
Charis into society. Louisa has no option but to agree but is nearly undone
when she discovers that Charis's shining beauty puts her own daughter in the
shade. Tender-hearted Charis gets into one love interest after another
culminating in her elopement. Jessamy's love of horses interests the Marquis,
and Felix's scientific endeavors intrigue him. Harry, being older but
not necessarily wiser engages the Marquis in an entirely different way.
This is one of the best of Heyer's Regency
romances. Heyer exquisitely captures the rough and tumble of family life
with the social mores of the era, and wraps it into an engaging story with
a strong thread of real comedy. The dialogue sparkles as Alverstoke is a
perfect foil for Frederica's wit. One family adventure after another captivates
Alverstoke's lively mind and, when he finally wins Miss Frederica
Merrivllle's hand, it is on the understanding that he accept Jessamy and Felix
Heyer wrote her first book The Black Moth in serial form for her
brother Boris, a young man in ill health who frequently became bored. Her
father, George Heyer, enjoyed the story so much he became instrumental in
getting it published and it was released in 1921.
For many years Heyer took responsibility for
supporting her family, publishing two novels a year, one a Regency romance and
the other a thriller. Her Regency books sold well, her thrillers less so and were
once criticized for having unoriginal 'methods, motives and characters'.
That her Regencies were influenced by the
work of Jane Austen there is no doubt.
Austen rarely refers to details such as dress and manners because her
writing was contemporary. Heyer, in comparison, included rich
detail about fabrics, styles, and décor for her readers to understand the times
and settings in which she placed her characters.
Heyer wrote until her death in July, 1974 and
at that time had 48 titles in print. She lived out of the public eye, stating
that “My private life concerns no one but myself and my family.”
I have read all of her romances and most of
the thrillers, but it is Frederica
that draws me back every time. This book alone gripped me from start to finish
and made me want to create enigmatic characters, sweeping settings and
thoroughly satisfying happy-ever-afters. I’m still working at it.
For more information about Victoria Chatham
and her books, visit: