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A Civil Contract

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  3,351 ratings  ·  289 reviews
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.
Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 2nd 2005 by Arrow (first published 1961)
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This is the fifth Heyer I've read, and it's my favorite to date. Given that Georgette Heyer wrote dozens of books, I still have a way to go before I can claim it as my favorite of all, but I think I've sampled enough to get a feel for the type of books she wrote and the character styles she favorited.

A Civil Contract is a departure from the Heyer romantic plotlines. Although marriages of convenience are standard regency romance fare, Heyer takes this and stands it on its head by keeping the hero

This review contains some spoilers

I know from reading Jennifer Kloester’s excellent biography of Georgette Heyer* that A Civil Contract was not an easy novel for Heyer to write. Before starting work on it, Heyer wrote to a friend that she wanted to write a new kind of novel that would be “neither farcical nor adventurous”. Heyer wrote that the novel would depend for its success on whether she could make the hero as charming as she believed him to be and also on whether she “could make a quiet st
Grace Tjan
Having just read a god awful Pride and Prejudice ‘sequel’, I wanted to read a bona fide Regency romance, and picked one by no one less than Georgette Heyer, the originator of the genre, and perhaps the only romance novelist who comes with glowing recommendations from A.S. Byatt. Not being a romance reader, I didn’t know what to expect, but I thought that this book is one decidedly odd romance. Imagine pitching it as a rom com/costume drama script to a Hollywood studio executive:

Studio Executive
(view spoiler)

I've read quite a few of Heyer's novels and this one struck me as particularly interesting. Heyer is a legend among romance readers--her characters have depth, the events make sense, and while these are books with more talk than action, that talk is lively and always well written.

Heyer's novels fall into a few categories: silly, young heroine marries worldly hero and the two agree to a "French" marriage, only to discover they are in love; older, independent, soph
Jane Stewart
Settling for someone you don’t love, and then finding value, and it’s good. And your life is better.

Readers in the mood for “true love” with passion and seduction, will not want this. Some find it sad. Although I wasn’t sad. I felt calm and pleased at the end.

Adam’s father dies leaving huge debts. Adam needs to sell the family’s London house and possibly the ancestral home. A friend arranges a meeting between Adam and Jonathan a wealthy business man. Jonathan wants a title for his daug
Mary Ronan Drew
I have a friend who, when darkness comes and pain is all around, resorts to re-reading her collection of Georgette Heyer novels. I did not really understand what she saw in these, the best of the Regency romances (unless you count Jane Austen's novels, which of course were also Regency romances) until a couple of years ago when I read some of the best-known of them, The Corinthian, The Nonesuch, and Charity Girl. These books sparkle. Forget Harlequin. These are first-rate novels.

So when someone
This is a different sort of Georgette Heyer novel. It's almost an anti-romance, where instead of falling deeply in love, our hero and heroine settle for good enough. It's an interesting plot variation.

We have a heroine who isn't a beauty, and whose many self-deprecating comments are not contradicted by her friends, who perhaps see no reason to deny an obvious lack of advantage. We have a hero who is infuriating not because he's an arrogant ass in the mold of Mr. Darcy, but because he is kind and
Aww, Georgette Heyer. How come I never review her books? I became a huge Heyer fan in my romantic teens, and I have to say, her books never pall; if anything I enjoy them even more now that I am wallowing in my middle years. I remember being disappointed when I read this book first: it's about Adam, whose profligate father dies, leaving him penniless and unable to marry the beautiful and romantic Julia. Julia's father, sympathetic to Adam's dire financial straits, puts him in the way of marrying ...more
This is the first time that I've read a Georgette Heyer novel and I loved it. It was like stepping back in time to live with real people. The way Heyer supplied so many small details that give you such a complete picture of what life must have been like in the Regency period in England.
The romantic plot centres on a Viscount who reluctantly enters into a marriage of convenience with a wealthy commoner's daughter due to his father's death and substantial family debt he has inherited.
For much of t
Jul 31, 2008 CLM rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to CLM by: SLM
Shelves: regency
This is a book that is hard to love as an impressionable adolescent but is highly valued by more mature fans of GH and gains appeal with every reread. Yet it has a tinge of melancholy throughout due to the fact that Adam sacrifices himself for his family/estate by marrying Jenny for her money, and he (at least initially) believes she is marrying him for his title, whereas in fact, although she is in some way willing to please her father (who wants her to marry into the aristocracy) she secretly ...more
I liked this book because it was filled with such believable characters. I liked the unlikely heroine Jenny. She is awkwardly dressed, stout and not beautiful. But she is very practical, caring, devoted, a great housekeeper and unpretentious. Her husband marries her solely to save his financial future from ruin but finds her to be wonderful and soon loves her. I just love a good ended story like this. Thanks Laura!
The realness of some of the bursts of negative emotions experienced by the characters, the bile sometimes expressed, made me somewhat uncomfortable at times while reading this. This is why it is not my favorite Heyer. It's slightly dark overtones means it really isn't a relaxing read.

Love the historical details. As always I learnt something new about the period. The glimpse into the life of a cit was intriguing. And she somehow managed to make a completely vulgar character affable and charming
Excellent characterization. Not exactly a romance, this is heartwarming fiction set in the Regency period in England. An admirable nobleman returns from the Peninsular Wars to find that his father drained the estates. Deadbeat dad is dead, and Adam is desperate. He marries for financial gain, setting his chin to treat his borgeous wife with kind respect. But Adam grows to truly regard Jenny. Together, they slowly realize that life is good. No Byronic passions, no soul bonds, but these good frien ...more
Jun 02, 2007 Res rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: romance
The one where financial ruin forces Lord Lynton to marry rich merchant's daughter Jenny instead of his true love Julia.

This is the first time I've read a Heyer book -- or for that matter any Regency -- that was about marriage rather than about courtship. I liked it very much.

Adam is both warm and good, but immature -- another thing that I haven't seen in other Heyer books -- and so he has a lot of changes to go through over the course of the book. It was a pleasure to see him find a good balanc
Heyer's other masterpiece (I've already called An Infamous Army Heyer's masterpiece, but I hadn't re-read this one in several decades when I said that). Amazingly good characters, lots of interior dialogue and character development, lots of humour (and the Dowager character totally reminded me of my mother). Probably her most "realistic" book in that many of the scenes are not just from an imaginary Regency England fairyland.
Clare Cannon
A gentle romance about an impoverished young gentleman who is encouraged to marry a rich heiress who though not beautiful is eminently sensible, and who happens to be the former best friend of his beautiful first love.

I'm always impressed that Heyer's good characters constantly struggle to improve their virtue, overcoming anger and pride and trying to be of service and to make life pleasant for others. This is contrasted with the self-centred, subtly petulant attitude of the social belle who al
This is the only Heyer novel I've read where the hero and leading lady develop a lasting relationship based on love rather than being in love. It makes sense to me that he becomes attached to her as a result of a series of loving actions. (As part of my Catholic upbringing, I was taught that love is about what we do, rather than what we feel. :-)) In fact, she made him love her; he didn't wanna do it; he didn't wanna do it. He has no romantic notions about her, and she has to relinquish her ssec ...more
Jul 31, 2010 Veronica rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
I had no clue about ‘A Civil Contract’ when I took it from the library. I was shocked to find a completely different treat awaiting me. It was not the customary elopements or falling in love matters but the convenient marriage axiom where the relationship follows the fulfillment of a bargain on both the sides. Heyer spins the tale with the parody of Adam on the brink of financial ruin with only a handsome face to recommend be paired opposite the unsightly but moneyed Jennifer. Adam who is head o ...more
I have read a couple of Ms. Heyer's books and when I saw this on sale, I scooped it up. After reading comments that the author found this a difficult book to write: a marriage of convenience that does NOT end in a full out, show stopping love, I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy it. I did. Heyer's character development, historically relevant details and her unusual take on what makes love "love", kept me entertained and intrigued.

I was fully engaged with all the main and many of the secondary
RH Walters
Throughout much of this book I thought "Heyer is as good as Austen." She turns the typical story on its head by writing from a more masculine point of view as Adam Deveril schemes to save his family estate and provide for his sisters by marrying plain, "sensible," rich Jenny Chawleigh. Thankfully, he eventually realizes her worth, and thankfully, her expectations are so low that she's pleased simply to be of service. All the same, I couldn't help wishing for some dramatic gesture on Adam's part ...more
This is the departure from/ of the usual light-hearted Heyer fare of Regency relationship. It was written in her most dire personal hours too, no coincidence. It holds almost the anti-thesis plot/core of the multitudes of her others labeled "romance". Here the marriage contracted and completed is not one of a romantic nature, but a legal and suited arrangement. One that is civil contracted to insure a gentleman's inheritance and solvency under dire circumstances. It's excellent, as good- if not ...more
Not the typical Heyer at all! This was half Thomas Hardy, half George Elliott, with all its agriculture and broodiness. The story is vastly more somber than her other Regency romances, highlighting the downsides to life in the Ton: the realities of wealth, titles, war, economics, and of course, love and marriage.There is also a lot more history thrown in, as well as some surprisingly open talk about toilets and pregnancies! Not my favorite of her books by any means, but I admire that she chose t ...more
Lady Wesley
A masterful job by Georgette Heyer that deserves to be liberated from the "Regency romance" ghetto and considered as serious fiction. It's not really even a romance, given that the main characters marry for money and nothing else. We watch them grow, however, into a sort of love based upon their strong commitment and sense of honor. Very touching, with a dose of humor delivered by the bride's impressively vulgar father.
Aslaug Gørbitz
This book will appeal to anyone who wishes to read about:
-imperfect heroes
-the reality of marriage vs. star-struck lovers
-heroes who grow and come to learn a thing or two about real love and about themselves
-real life can be way different from what we imagine

While reading this book I thought that I knew best what the characters needed, when I finished the book I realized that I was in just as much error as the characters in the story. Far from Jenny deserving more than what she got with Adam, in
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 b ...more
Mar 01, 2009 Sheree rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sheree by: Alaine
I enjoyed this book because it was just that little bit different but I can't say I was bowled over by my first Georgette Heyer.

Adam Deveril returns from the Napoleonic Wars to find his father has died, the family fortune has been lost & Fontley, the ancestral home is at risk. Adam must sell the family estate or marry an heiress, so forsaking his sweetheart Julia he marries Jenny Chawleigh, the plain, stout daughter of a wealthy but vulgar merchant.

This is a believable tale, rich in detail
Probably my fifth reading of this book and I enjoyed reading it just as much as last time round.
This is not a romance but an exploration of love, passion, marriage, friendship and what they meant for a certain class of person in England in the early part of the nineteenth century.
The contract of the title is the arranged marriage between Adam, an aristocrat who has inherited a wasted estate and urgently needs a lot of money in order to fufil his duties as a landowner and head of his family, and
in another review about another georgette heyer book i wrote i would not go seek out her books again - i am glad i did though curtesy of a review in a blog. it was favourable reviewed there and although this was not a brilliantly sparkling and fluffy book - for want of a better word - it was a good solid novel.

the premise: not romantic, his lordship does have to marry to keep his beloved estate thus forsaking his love to a pretty lovely poetry-loving beauty. tough. he won't get my pity. better t
It's a Heyer so it's better then average but it's not what I would recommend to the first time Georgette Heyer reader. It has some laughs and tender moments but the Hero and Heroine are so dull it's painful. The secondary characters take over completely otherwise this would just be a sad story about a marriage of convenience where the Hero gives up his youthful passionate love and dutifully learns to appreciate his heiress wife even in spite of the fact that she is a 'Cit' and comes from a less ...more
Kate E
Jan 20, 2008 Kate E rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to read a romance about real people
This is one of Georgette Heyer's best novels. Ms. Heyer typically writes regency romance, and this book is no exception, although it is a most unique romance. It tells the story of Adam Deveril and his marriage to the heiress Jenny Chawleigh. Adam has returned from war against Napolean to find that his father has died, leaving behind him an overwhelming amount of debt. The only way that Adam can be rid of the debt is to 1) sell his family home (more like a castle), Fontley; or 2) marry an heires ...more
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Georgette Heyer was an amazingly prolific writer who created the Regency England genre of romance novels.

Georgette Heyer was an intensely private person. A best-seller all her life without the aid of publicity, she made no appearances, never gave an interview, and only answered fan letters herself if they made an interesting historical point. Heyer wrote very well-researched historical fiction, fu
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“They used to say of me that I'd as many lucky escapes as Harry Smith!'
'Shouldn't be at all surprised: I've seen one of 'em myself,' Brough said cryptically.”
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