Sunday, May 22, 2011

Frederica, by Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer varies more widely in the quality of her writing from book to book than any other author I've read. I've found a good indicator of how much I'll enjoy any given novel of hers is the number of insults (in the case of her Regency romances, period insults) per page: the fewer the number of "you bacon-brained, bird-witted coxcomb!"s flying about, the more I'll enjoy the novel. (She seems to enjoy having her characters insult each other so much, it makes me wonder what her home life must have been like. But I digress.)

Here is a sampling of period insults from the first few chapters of Frederica:

"What a very hubble-bubble creature you are!"
"She must be a wet-goose!"
"Will you bite your tongue, you abominable little bagpipe?"
"Anyone would take you for a regular shabster!"
"Really, cousin, you are too shatterbrained!"

At first I was a bit worried that this one was going to rate on the low end of the Heyer spectrum. But eventually the insults settle down and I really enjoyed the story, about an unrepentant rake who eventually comes to care about our levelheaded heroine and her extremely entertaining younger siblings. Also, the conventional weepy, angsty, love-at-first-sight romance gets a severe thrashing, which earns the book several points in my estimation. It shares a few themes with my favorite Heyer to date, A Civil Contract (which I'll review eventually): a sensible heroine and a hero who falls in love by degrees and not all at once. It's also the story of a person becoming a better human being in spite of himself, which is not everyone's idea of a thrilling narrative, but suits me just fine.

There are one or two oblique references to extramarital sex, and as I mentioned, a lot of insults being flung about (although the heroine is the kind of person who catches herself saying mean things and apologizes immediately, which I love).

Age I'd let Z read it: 12 or 13, with a dictionary at hand to look up some of the more uncommon words. (Even I had to look up lucubration).

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