On the heels of Devil’s Cub, this book is different in tone, characterization, and pacing. It is Jane Austen like and actually three of Austen novels are referred in the book. The set up is also akin to an Austen novel where there is a poor family and marriage as a way out of that. There are some really amusing supporting characters as well which is reminiscent of Austen. Unlike Austen, the protagonist is a Viscount in need of a rich wife.
This book is about a subtle romance or rather should I say, it’s about two people getting to know each other in a marriage of convenience. It was fascinating to watch two generally good young people enter in a marriage of convenience and grow accustomed to one another. I just can’t think of many stories where that happens and of course, it’s no as prevalent as today so modern stories don’t really feature this kind of theme. Though this kind of contrivance and the novel’s love triangle remind me a lot of Korean dramas.
The narration kept referring to how plain, homelely and down right unpretty Jenny the female lead was. She could not have been that bad. Honestly, one can overlook that sort of thing readily, but I guess it is a accurate to that society that they cared so much for her looks and mien. Still, she couldn’t have been that ugly, I’m surprised Heyer didn’t give her some redeeming physical feature other than her smile.
In any case, I don’t think people expecting passionate romance like that of Devil’s Cub will be pleased with this novel. It’s more serious, historically rooted (set at the time of Waterloo) and real. The dialogue and the conflict felt very real between the characters at times. A Civil Contract was published in 1961 some thirty years after Devil’s Club so the author herself had matured.
I liked this novel. It was more slow paced, but it was still interesting. I grew fond of the characters; they were all realistically flawed, but good people. I also like unconventional romances so this was right up my alley. I was impressed with the range Heyer showed in both these novels and it has made me a fan. I am now going to go through the rest of her novels.
Read April 24th-25th 2012.