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A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer

A Civil Contract (original 1961; edition 2009)

by Georgette Heyer

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1,101427,536 (3.95)78
Title:A Civil Contract
Authors:Georgette Heyer
Info:HQN Books (2009), Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, 20th century, english, novel, regency, georgette heyer

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A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer (1961)


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Adam Deveril is a captain in the British Army, fighting under the Duke of Wellington in France, in the waning days of the first Napoleonic War. Shortly before Napoleon abdicates and peace is declared, Lynton is forced to sell out and return home. His father, Viscount Lynton, has died in a hunting accident and left a severely debt-ridden and mortgage-encumbered estate, along with two young daughters who need husbands and a wife to whom the word 'economy' is unknown.

Deveril's financial advisor and others urge him to consider marrying a rich merchant's daughter to ensure his family's future, but he had earlier fallen in love with a beautiful young noblewoman and can't imagine life with anyone else. It doesn't take long for him to realize that he has no choice, and so in short order he winds up married to Jenny Chawleigh, a shy, plain, plump young woman whose father is both the richest man in London and a vulgarian whose blunt ways set Adam's teeth on edge.

This is Heyer, so we know there will be a happy ending. But it's not the one you might have expected at the outset, and there's much less of the author's trademark slang-soaked slapstick along the way. A Civil Contract presents a view of the aristocracy and the merchant class of Regency London that virtually none of her other books do, and it's deeply satisfying to see familiar character types from different angles. The hero is not perfect, and neither is the heroine, but the author's plotting and personality profiles are as close to perfection as she ever got, in my opinion. Enthusiastically recommended. ( )
2 vote rosalita | Jul 10, 2016 |
Adam's a snob and not worth it. ( )
  Helenliz | May 30, 2016 |
My favourite Heyer of all! ( )
  AlisonClifford | Apr 25, 2016 |
Not too bad - a twist on the usual "marriage of convenience becomes True Love" story. I could have done with Adam not clinging quite so tightly to his "lost love" notion - she's presented as a silly flutterby addicted to drama, and I kind of expected him to tell her to grow up (or at least think it) at some point well before the end of the book. He does finally realize he's better suited with Jenny...but that's all, he never really turns away from his dream. Despite being an adult, more interested in his farm and his house than in Drama and True Love - he doesn't seem to realize what he's got. Kind of a let-down. Oh, one amusing note - most Regency romances are stuffed full of cant and slang, spoken by nobles (ok, just the young ones) as well as commoners. Here Adam, and Jenny for that matter, don't use slang at all - nor any of their friends. The only one using it is Jenny's avowedly vulgar father - and he can't form a sentence without half a dozen words of cant. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Mar 11, 2016 |
Adam Deveril inherits his family estate only to find it horribly encumbered by debt. Of course in such a situation he can no longer dream of marrying the woman he fell in love with years ago, Julia. Even worse, his only chance to keep his beloved family home and give his sisters good dowries is to marry a rich man's daughter. Although he shies away at such a mercenary marriage, he is at last persuaded to marry plain, unexciting Jenny Chawleigh. They both enter into their marriage knowing it to be a marriage of convenience--Adam gets money from Jenny's doting and immensely wealthy father, while the Chawleighs' get to move up in the social world.

But while Adam enters into the arrangement as though it was purely a civil contract, Jenny has more on the line. Jenny actually knows Adam from years ago, when she was one of Julia's many friends hanging around in the background as Julia and Adam had their epic romance, and she's been in love with him ever since. She knows he cannot love her back, but she is determined to be a good wife to him, and make his life comfortable even if she cannot be who he actually wants to marry. Over the course of the novel Adam sees some of what she does for him (although not all--most of her attempts to please him in even small ways, such as going to parties she hates or having his favorite pastries made every day in case he comes home from traveling that day, remain unnoticed and are never recognized as the abject offerings of love that they are) and realizes that he actually likes their joined families. Over the course of the novel he realizes that Julia would have been a clinging wife who needed constant reassurance and attention, and wouldn't have helped him resurrect his estates' farms, and even starts to fall out of love with her. By the last chapter, the stage seems set for Adam to finally realize that he's in love with Jenny, with whom he shares so many little jokes, with whom he's created a family he loves, who makes his life comfortable and pleasant in a million different ways--and he doesn't. The very last pages have Jenny realize that her best efforts have gotten her a relationship of companionship, but that he will never love her.


This was the very first Heyer book I've read in which I really wanted the couple to fall in love, and also the only one in which they haven't. Adam is easily my favorite of Heyer's male leads: he tries so hard to do what's right and be kind to those around him. Even when he'd rather tear his hair out and go screaming into the night, he makes a soft little joke instead to lighten the social mood and keep his guests comfortable. And I really liked Jenny, although her pitiful attempts to please Adam in every way possible got a little sad. If he'd ever noticed them, or realized what effort she put in, I would have felt less uncomfortable with it. But still I wanted them to get together--they seemed like a couple that would actually work well together. They both have learned to respect each other, unlike the numerous Heyer romances in which the masterful man takes over for the fainting heroine, or the few in which the clever heroine out-maneuvers the naive hero). And they seem well-suited: they are both family-loving, pragmatic homebodies.

So close to being everything I want in a Heyer, and then the ending ruined it for me. As a commentary on marriages of convenience, it's a wonderful breath of fresh air. As a romance (which is what I thought it was) it is a horrible let down.
( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Georgette Heyerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nash, PhyllidaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The library at Fontley Priory, like most of the principal apartments in the sprawling building, looked to the south-east, commanding a prospect of informal gardens and a plantation of poplars, which acted as a wind-break and screened from view the monotony of the fen beyond.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099474441, Paperback)

Adam Deveril, a hero of Salamanca, returns from the Peninsula War to find his family on the brink of ruin and the broad acres of his ancestral home mortgaged to the hilt.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:53 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Adam Deveril, the Viscount Lynton, returns from the Peninsular War to find his family on the brink of ruin and the broad acres of his ancestral home mortgaged. He soon realises that the drastic measure of marriage is the only answer.

(summary from another edition)

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