The Civil Contract
by Georgette Heyer
Formats available: Paperback, Electronic, Audio
Pub Date: 11.1.11| Pages: 432
REVIEWER: Sophia Rose
When his father, the Viscount Lynton, dies unexpectedly, Adam Deveril abandons soldiering to return to his ancestral home only to find the estate plagued by debt and the abundant land wilted with neglect. He must either sell everything and leave his family impoverished or find a wealthy bride.
Raised in privilege, Jenny Chawleigh is the only daughter of a doting, self-made financier who’s determined to elevate his daughter’s status in society. But to do that Jenny must marry into nobility. And the new Viscount Lynton seems quite suitable.
But while society politely applauds the fortuitous marriage, Adam is still possessed by the thought of another woman the one he couldn’t marry. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6313994-a-civil-contract
A Georgette Heyer Regency Romance unlike any other she wrote. It’s one of the most hotly debated about of Heyer’s stories because it is hated and loved in equal turns. She, herself, hated it — at least in the middle of writing it. Personally, I think it is one of her best and delves deep into the unromantic side of romance, unrequited love, secret love, friendship, class differences, and marriages of convenience all in one.
The characters are still colorful and sparkling. There are the witty dialogues if not as frequent and some humor. There is also a bittersweet flavor.
A heroine who is a decided underdog in personality, appearance, and ability must find her way against a rival for the affection and respect of a man who married for necessity and resents his situation. I loved seeing shy, awkward Jenny paired with the dashing, disappointed Adam.
I read this one for the first time when in my thirties. I point this out because I think it makes a difference where one is at in age and life as to how this book will speak to them. I never was a dreamy romantic teen, but I don’t think I would have understood enough about relationships to appreciate this book if I had read it then. I would have liked it because when all is said and done; it’s a good story, but, I might not have loved it and praised it as one of her best like I do now. It’s not light, flirty, and easy as most. It’s more akin to her historical novels like The Spanish Bride or An Infamous Army of which it’s a contemporary story as it is also set during the end of the Napoleonic Wars.
Heyer really put in the time with how a marriage of convenience, particularly with partners from a different class, would work out for them and their families. There are nuances in this one and little bits of discovery. Jenny’s motives all along are deliberately kept vague until near the end. Characters on the peripheral like Lord Rockhill and Lord Brough see things so much more clearly than others who are close to the source. The hero, Adam, is so lost, defeated, bitter, and angry. I liked that she brought him along slowly until he came into his own learning his own worth and that of Jenny.
The book ends at the place that some might describe as more open-ended than happily ever after. It leaves things at a point where it is easy to see the direction for the future depending on how the reader understood the vague subtleties. Much of the obvious, open conflict is resolved, but yet, it leaves off without making any big, solid declarations about the future as the beginning of something new has started.
All in all, I think it shows another facet to the writer’s storytelling. This one is a not-so-obvious gem and great if the reader is looking for marriage of convenience and class difference tropes all in one.