Book Review: Frederica by Georgette Heyer

I picked up Frederica out of a desire to explore more of the author’s work—seeing that Georgette Heyer is one of the more important (if not the most important) Regency romance authors around. This is only the second book of Heyer’s that I’ve read, and I was hoping to enjoy it a bit more than I did The Grand Sophy—unfortunately, I think I liked it even less, as I was disappointed to notice that some of the same weaknesses of the one book were also in the first, leading me to suspect that they might be just common traits of the author’s books that, unfortunately, I will not enjoy particularly much.

Firstly, I don’t find that Heyer’s prose is easy to read or enjoyable—honestly, it gives me a headache. It’s very well-done, in the same style of the early 19th century, and I can’t deny that it’s authentic. However, it’s very dense and cumbersome, which, when contrasted with an admittedly silly romance plot, does not make for a good combination. I almost want to say that it feels like the author is trying too hard, but that’s not what it is, really. Regardless, I think that the very wordy, period-appropriate narration is, surprisingly, not a strength in Frederica.

Another problem that I had with both this book and The Grand Sophy was how infuriatingly silly and melodramatic all of the secondary characters were. It’s very much like Frederica and Lord Alverstoke are the only sane people in all of London—everyone is childish, self-absorbed, and moronic. I understand that it’s done to add a sense of humor to the proceedings, but I find it frustrating rather than amusing in most cases. (There were a few moments in Frederica that made me laugh, but only a few.)

Thirdly, and lastly, I did not enjoy the way the romance in this book resolved itself. It seemed to me to be a bit overwrought and contrived. I did, actually, like Frederica and Lord Alverstoke and their relationship quite a bit, but so theatrical a conclusion was off-putting. In romance novels, I like to be pleased and delighted with the eventual Happily Ever After, not annoyed.

Altogether, I’m not entirely sure that Georgette Heyer’s romances are quite the ones for me. I find her books a slog to get through, for one thing, though I don’t think she’s necessarily a bad writer. I also didn’t particularly like any of the characters or how they turned out in the end. Frederica was difficult to get through, and the few moments where I laughed didn’t really make up for the rest of it, unfortunately.

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