Saturday, February 8, 2020

Review - April Lady

Original Title: April Lady
Series: -
Author: Georgette Heyer
Published: 1957

Publisher: Arrow (2005 edition)
*THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*

No. Just no. I tried, but I just couldn’t with this book. I really wanted to like it. After all, I’ve seen Georgette Heyer being praised as the Queen of Regency novels, but, so far, Her Majesty is proving that she’s not up to the title. With this one, there’s two of her books I’ve read (the other one was Arabella), and although, yes, granted, she has a special writing style, it was completely impossible for me to get past the stupid plot and characters in April Lady.

I should probably tell you, first of all, that if you come to this book looking for a romance, you can turn away and look somewhere else, because you are not going to find it here. It’s not a romance. It’s supposed to be a romantic comedy about a misunderstanding between husband and wife, with quirky characters and all that stuff, but it fell so flat, with such a lacking plot, and stupid characters, that it was irredeemable.

I’m actually angry at this book. It’s not the worst book I’ve ever read, but it’s definitely a strong competitor in the category.

Let’s start with the writing. As I said before, Heyer definitely has a particular way with words that distinguishes her, as she’s often sarcastic, and very good describing both places, and people. But the narration in April Lady is utterly and completely maddening. For starters, the title is never explained, and the chapters are so long, that more than once I found myself drifting away as I read. But actually, what caught my attention was the use of certain terms, like “queer”, and “ejaculated” (on dialogues), that, definitely, are not used for the same thing in contemporary literature, and reading them all the sudden was a tiny bit shocking. After all, today we use those terms in completely different contexts, and with different purposes. But that was not the only thing that bothered me. Dialogues in general were irritating, useless, and plagued with slang. I had to stop every few sentences to try to translate some words, because the paragraphs are so full of them that I didn’t understand a single thing, and much less, what the whole thing meant, like when Dysart is explaining to Nell how he won the money on the horse race. Completely irritating, and difficult to follow. I just wanted him to shut up!

Ok, the plot. Sorry, I mean “plot”. The whole storyline is as shaky as the flame in a candle. And my apologize to the author’s fans, but one single debt over an unpaid dress is too weak an idea to sustain an entire book. And, as I said before, the romance does not exist. The couple in question is already married at the beginning of the book, in what they think it was a marriage of convenience for the other part. Nell, the heroine, thinks Cardross only married her because he needed a wife and she was young and pretty, so that’s why he chose her, and nothing more. And Cardross thinks she only married him because of his fortune, because of her penniless family, who had their hopes on her good match. Classic misunderstanding, that could have been solved if they just talked a little more. But that is impossible because, for a romance to be told, basically there has to be two people involved, and Cardross is completely absent from the book (even being the protagonist’s husband and supposed love interest!). He’s always either dining out, traveling, or simply, not there. And that’s a romance that goes wrong right from the get-go. If the author is trying to develop some sort of relationship, they basically have to be in the same room for more than two or three pages in a fifteen-chapter book. No development, no dialogue, no nothing… Except disappointment from my part.

Nell is a completely helpless heroine. There’s a hint of her trying to be her own person, but not because of conviction or strength, but because she doesn’t want her husband to think badly of her. Her entire life revolves around Cardross and what he will think of her, and her shopping habits. And it ends up giving the poorest image of women in general, as, apparently, according to this book, we have only one purpose in life, which is being extravagant, shopping, and catching a wealthy husband that will pay for everything. That’s sad, and makes the feminist inside of me want to start punching things.

I mean, Cardross offered to pay for every single thing Nell decided to buy, right? He gave her the green light to spend as much as she wanted, but one dress, combined with stubbornness and stupidity, led to this book’s entire story. And actually, a single word from Nell would have solved everything. I understood that she meant to pay for it herself, but she was never truly willing to assume the responsibility, and much less to do the sacrifices it required. Dysart –her even stupider brother– kept telling her that to get a money she didn’t have, she had to sell some of her jewels, but she kept refusing, writing to him, going to see him, and in general, waiting for him to solve all her problems. Granted, Dysart owned her a great deal. But she definitely could have been more active in her insistence over him to finally pay back, and rescue her from her difficulties, as she did with him and his gambling debts.

Oh, my God, Dysart! I couldn’t stand him at all. I spent the whole book wanting to punch him in the face, and not only because of him being an idiot, but also, for the way he talked! If he wasn’t written to be her brother, I would have assumed he was the love interest, because he is a lot more present in the story than the actual husband. And the last couple of chapters in which he is there with his friend, Mr. Fancot, who is drunk and starts singing nonsense, made me want to flush the book down the nearest toilet! I can tell it was meant to be funny, but for me, it was completely irritating, and impossible to understand with that cursed dialogue filled with slang Dysart uses!

The characters in general are plain depthless, they have no personality, nor a life, apparently. But none as much as Lady Letitia, Cardross’ half-sister. She’s a Regency stereotype. She’s a young woman who’s only interests are shopping, and get what she wants. She’s absolutely self-centered, and by the end of the book, she gets what she wants, but she doesn’t change at all. She has zero reasoning capacity. What she wants, she gets. She doesn’t care about anything, or anyone, else. She stole the necklace without a second thought about how it would impact on Nell, or Cardross, but there were no consequences for her. She is the biggest brat in the world. And the worst part is that so her story starts, and so it ends. She does not get better, nor learns anything… No lessons whatsoever. But, yes, she got what she wanted. And actually, her love interest, Mr. Allandale, was the best character, as he proved to be a full gentleman, honorable, and ready to do the right thing no matter what. But with one, secondary person that is what a Regency character should be, it’s not nearly enough. And it never will be.

As for the other characters, there’s not a lot to say. Selina, Mrs. Thorne, and Mr. Hethersett are basically background noise. In any case, Mr. Hethersett is the most relevant one, saving Nell from the usurer, and going after Dysart to make him pay his sister back. Oh, and another thing. When Mr. Hethersett ventures into the gaming den to find Dysart, and sees him in the middle of a bet, what followed made me want to skim a lot of the book, as it was paragraph after paragraph describing the game, how the dice rolled, how this, and that… Too many details on something I couldn’t care about in the least, and actually, if a reader is here for the romance, I don’t think it matters too much to get so many details about gambling. It makes no difference if each movement is described, or not.

The sudden final resolution in which Cardross finds out about the debt and tells her that she should have told him about it, had me rolling my eyes. So that means the whole plot could have been solved if husband and wife would have sat to have a conversation? Oh, my God.

*face-palm*

I guess even that was too much to ask from this novel.

And then, they tell each other that they are actually in love with each other and that their marriage was not a complete waste of time and money. How surprising. It warms my… Oh, no wait. It doesn’t. I couldn’t care less.

So, in short, the third time’s the charm. I will give the author another try by reading one of those titles that are said to be her best work, like The Grand Sophy, or Frederica. Literally, anything, will be better than this. And yes, in despite of everything, I’m still curious about what makes her books classics, and Heyer herself, the Queen of Regency novels.

Am I being an idiot? Yes, completely. But who cares? There must be something there I haven’t discovered yet, and I guess one more try will do the trick. I just hope those are as great as the general opinion says they are.

Thank you so much for reading! 
See you soon!

2 comments:

  1. AFTERR I read G.HEYER'S chapters,the author reminded me of a FRENCH PHYLOSOPHER of the 5th century who came to the conclusion that between two lovers one loves and the other let himsel or herself to be loved.

    O.MATT'S blog:edisonhttps//www.goodreads.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I don't know how he got to that conclusion but I honestly don't agree

      Delete