‘April Lady’ by Georgette Heyer

By oldenglishrose - Last updated: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - Save & Share - 11 Comments

Oh, Georgette Heyer, how I wanted to like you!  How I wanted to find your writing delightful, engaging and witty and your stories compelling and absorbing.  How I looked forward to returning to the world of Jane Austen’s novels through such a prolific author that I could stay in that world for months of reading without ever having to be disturbed by more modern times and writing.  How disappointed I was, then, when I finished April Lady and found that it was none of the things that I had been anticipating so eagerly.

April Lady tells the story of Nell who is married to the wealthy Lord Cardross.  Nell’s brother is a notorious gambler and, when he finds himself unable to pay his debts, Nell steps in to help him, leaving herself unable to pay the extravagant bills for dresses and hats that she has accumulated out of her quarterly allowance from Cardross.  Unwilling to tell her husband that she has given the money to her brother, Nell leads him to believe that she herself has been gambling, preferring to incur his disapproval at her actions than his anger towards her brother.  He magnanimously pays off all her debts for her, but when Nell discovers another unpaid bill she has forgotten about she finds herself unable to tell him in case he is angry and thinks that she only married him for his money, and so she tries to find ways to raise the money herself with some quite disastrous consequences.  At the same time, Cardross has to deal with his sister Letty who has fallen in love with an unsuitable young man lacking in fortune and status but is determined to marry him, whatever it takes.

I did not get on with this book at all, probably because I find the romantic trope in which hero and heroine are deeply in love but each is convinced of the other’s indifference and neither will confess their love despite no obstacles to said affection incredibly annoying.  It’s a tired plot that needs either strong characters or great writing to make it come alive and seem fresh and sadly I didn’t find either of those features in April Lady.  Instead, what I found was stock characters going through the motions of a formulaic plot, described in lacklustre terms which left me completely unmoved.  There is too little social interaction or introspection which might lead to character development, replaced by too much melodrama and wringing of hands.  There are a few amusing incidents, such as Nell’s brother holding up her coach dressed as a highwayman in one of the more ridiculous schemes to raise money, but the overall impression that I was left with was that this book was just ok, nothing more.  I will say that Heyer has done her research and that the period of the book feels authentic, but I was too irritated at the lack of interesting story to appreciate this properly.

I know that there are a lot of people out there who love Georgette Heyer, and I’m perfectly willing to give her another try if this is considered a particularly poor effort on her part.  If however this is standard Heyer fare then I’m going to have to conclude that this writer just isn’t for me, which is fine.  I also have Powder and Patch and The Talisman Ring waiting on my shelves; am I likely to enjoy either of these any more than I did this one?  Help me out here, Heyer fans.

April Lady by Georgette Heyer.  Published by Pan, 1970, pp. 238.  Originally published in 1957.

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11 Responses to “‘April Lady’ by Georgette Heyer”

Comment from MichelleAnn
Time April 13, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Georgette Heyer wrote a lot, and like most authors who do, her output is variable. I must say that I did not particularly enjoy any of the three books you have! I agree with you that married couples can be irritating, Powder and Patch was too ‘olde worlde’ in language and The Talisman Ring is more of a who-dun-it than a romance. However, at her best she is delightful light reading. I would recommend Frederica, Arabella, or The Grand Sophie to start with. If you don’t like these, she is not the author for you!

Comment from oldenglishrose
Time April 13, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Thank you very much for your help! I want to give her another try, so I’ll keep an eye out for the three that you’ve suggested. It gives me hope to learn that ‘April Lady’ wasn’t one of your favourites either, although it’s a shame that my other two are probably also duds. Ah well, I suppose it explains how the three of them ended up in a charity shop together.

Comment from motheretc
Time April 15, 2011 at 1:58 pm

I’ve only read 3 Heyer books so far, and I thought two of them were fantastic – Regency Buck and Arabella – I wouldn’t give up just yet!

Comment from oldenglishrose
Time April 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm

There seems to be a lot of appreciation for ‘Arabella’, so I’ll keep an eye out for a copy of that one. Thanks!

Comment from Laura
Time May 9, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Fredrica, definitely, or Cotillion – two of my favorites, and arguably her best. I agree that April Lady is poorly done – any time a plot can be untangled by a brief conversation amongst the two principals, get another plot.

The Talisman Ring is probably my all-time favorite, however. I still laugh out loud over the antics and find both the leading couples delightful.

I think Heyer might be someone one reads as much for her style and verve as for plot.

P.S. Very pleased to have discoverd your site!

Comment from oldenglishrose
Time May 10, 2011 at 10:46 am

The general consensus seems to be that I picked a particularly duff one for my first attempt at Heyer. Typical! I’m glad to hear that ‘The Talisman Ring’ might be a bit better and I’ll keep an eye out for the other two you recommend as I feel that she’s an author that I should like.

I’m glad you’re enjoying my site adn thanks so much for your comments.

Comment from sophyalways
Time May 14, 2011 at 8:21 am

Try The Grand Sophy, Friday’s Child, or The Corinthian. They are my favourites of her novels. Of the three you have, The Talisman Ring is probably my preference – there is a lot of humour in it.
Keep persevering – you started with what is probably my least favourite of her novels – except for Cousin Kate!

Comment from oldenglishrose
Time May 16, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Thanks for the suggestions. I will definitely try again as at least they’re short so even if it turns out that Heyer isn’t my thing I won’t have invested lots of time. Just need to wait till the mood takes me.

Comment from Ellie
Time January 8, 2012 at 11:18 am

I think ‘The Talisman Ring’ is a great read. Perhaps you have read it by now oldenglishrose and agree? I concur with recommending Arabella, Frederica, Friday’s Child and Regency Buck. I also recommend The Convenient Marriage, These Old Shades and Devil’s Cub.

Comment from oldenglishrose
Time January 8, 2012 at 5:41 pm

I haven’t read any more Heyer yet, as there are too many other authors that I know I like awaiting my attention at the moment. I’m sure I’ll get round to her again in the future though, and when I do I’ll be sure to try one of the ones that you suggested. Thanks!

Comment from Rema
Time August 15, 2012 at 5:35 pm


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