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A Civil Contract
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Group Reads > A Civil Contract Group Read September 2019 Spoilers thread

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Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 4120 comments Mod
For open spoilers & final discussions.


message 2: by Moloch (last edited Aug 31, 2019 03:19AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Moloch | 194 comments This is not the usual romance book for sure. I remember this was exactly what prompted me to read it. The (view spoiler) too was unexpected for me given what I had read before by this author.

It's a fascinating concept although, in the end, "nothing much" happens in this book (plot-wise), so I have the memory it became a bit more "boring" eventually, compared to other books of hers with more twists and humor.


Critterbee❇ (critterbee) | 2572 comments Mod
I liked pragmatic Jenny, who truly gives without demands.


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 1275 comments I admire her and she deserves better than Adam! I hate Adam.


message 5: by Critterbee❇ (last edited Aug 31, 2019 09:46AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Critterbee❇ (critterbee) | 2572 comments Mod
Being rather selfish myself, I aspire to be more like Jenny, but fear that I am solidly an Adam! He did redeem himself somewhat, towards the end, don't you think Abigail? At least became a little better?


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 1275 comments I haven't finished my read this time around, so I don't yet have a final judgment on him. But I hated his snobbery from the start--the sort of instinctual repugnance toward certain aspects of Jenny's behavior that in the USA we associate with racism, here translated to classism. And he loathes his father-in-law's generous impulses while accepting whatever parts of that generosity suit him.

Where he really lost me, however, was in chapter 12:

The arrival of the Oversleys coincided with that of Brough; and in the confusion of greetings no one noticed that Adam and Julia stood handlocked for longer than was customary, or heard Julia say: "This was not of my contrivance!"
"Nor of mine," he returned, in a low voice. "You know that I cannot, must not say to you--" He checked himself, and pressed her hand before releasing it. "Only tell me that you are better! The anguish of that moment, at my aunt's, will haunt me all my life, I think."
"Oh, don't let it do so! I shan't mortify you again, I promise you! We shall grow accustomed, they tell me--forget that there was ever anything but friendship between us. I must wish you happy. Can you be?" A tiny head shake answered her. She smiled faintly. "No, your heart is not fickle."

Of course, Julia is a strumpet (later she offers to have an affair with him after she is married). But even on the non-sexual front, she has no character! What does Adam see to admire in her other than her looks? As a soldier he's had too much experience of the importance of character to see anything to value in a person like her unless he is just as shallow as she is.

He's spoiled and self-indulgent and has the nerve to sit in judgment on his wife and father-in-law, who are much better people than he is. He plays on their limitations of perspective for the benefit of himself and his famil, just like a scam artist.

So maybe he'll do something to redeem himself in my eyes, but it would take a lot. I'm in chapter 19 and he's still hurting his wife.


Critterbee❇ (critterbee) | 2572 comments Mod
Men often are moved by their eyes rather than their hearts or brains, and I can totally see him lusting after Julia's beauty and falsely assigning her positive traits.
Julia does not grow; she remains like standing water: stagnant, unchanging and without potential for improvement. Adam finally sees what how she is, and luckily for Julia, she has someone who loves her for her true, selfish, over-dramatic personality. Although I doubt that he would be as taken with her if she were not beautiful.


Critterbee❇ (critterbee) | 2572 comments Mod
Rockhill, that is the name of Julia's suitor.


QNPoohBear | 1235 comments If my memory is correct, Adam loves Julia because she's his Florence Nightingale. He thinks she nursed him while he was injured and she's a beautiful angel who brought him back from the brink of death. In reality, it was Jenny who sat by him and did the nursing.

I like practical Jenny but she's a bit too good for me.

I think Adam redeems himself once Jenny becomes pregnant. At first his thought is for his heir but he does show concern for her and some sympathy for his father-in-law. By the end, Adam's major flaw is that he's proud. I do like the end when they're sitting together comfortably. It shows mature love. What Adam feels for Julia isn't love and they would never have a successful marriage. I do think Adam loves Jenny by the end. They're not IN love but they can be comfortable and happy together.


Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 3335 comments QNPoohBear wrote: "If my memory is correct, Adam loves Julia because she's his Florence Nightingale. He thinks she nursed him while he was injured and she's a beautiful angel who brought him back from the brink of de..."

And as Jenny so wisely says, “men like to be comfortable!” Very well put, I agree with your sentiments, and also feel Adam loves her by the end - a mature and lasting love.


QNPoohBear | 1235 comments Susan in NC wrote: "
And as Jenny so wisely says, “men like to be comfortable!” Very well put, I agree with your sentiments, and also feel Adam loves her by the end - a mature and lasting love. "


Yes and given the time and situation, that's more than what most people of Adam's class have and more than either Adam or Jenny expected at the outset. The problem with that is that Georgette Heyer set us up for romantic love in all her other novels so when we get to the end of this one, it's a bit unsatisfactory.


Sheila (in LA) (sheila_in_la) | 341 comments I, too, wanted more for Jenny than what she has at the end, although it probably worked out much better for both of them, as QNPoohBear says, than it did for many others in their situation. I found myself wondering throughout this book--how plain is plain? And how beautiful is Julia, really--she seems so unbearably narcissistic (I know that is not how it works). I don't get the sense that Jenny's inner beauty ever comes through to Adam--maybe in the scene at the end when she's feeding the baby.

This book is 3.5 stars for me, like Frederica and The Convenient Marriage. My only true 3 star GH is April Lady. It's well-written, no doubt, and I did enjoy all the details about the house. Jenny is a born historic preservationist!


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 4120 comments Mod
Critterbee❇ wrote: "Men often are moved by their eyes rather than their hearts or brains, and I can totally see him lusting after Julia's beauty and falsely assigning her positive traits.
Julia does not grow; she rem..."


I wonder if Rock will still love Julia if her beauty fades?


Critterbee❇ (critterbee) | 2572 comments Mod
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ wrote: "I wonder if Rock will still love Julia if her beauty fades? "


I think he might have passed on by that time, given that he is so 'elderly' ;P


Theresa | 108 comments I haven't seen anyone discuss Jenny's decision to marry a man she deeply and passionately loves whom she knows loves another, and even at the very end knows that the love he has for her is not the love she truly wants. But she settles.

She thought, and was comforted, that though she was not the wife of his dreams it was with her, not with Julia, that he shared life’s little, foolish jokes. ... After all, life was not made up of moments of exaltation, but of quite ordinary, everyday things. The vision of the shining, inaccessible peaks vanished; Jenny remembered two pieces of domestic news, and told Adam about them. They were not very romantic, but they were really much more important than grand passions or blighted loves: Giles Jonathan had cut his first tooth, and Adam’s best cow had given birth to a fine heifer-calf.

It was so clear to me from very early in the book that Jenny's story is about unrequited love, but one given a twist as only Heyer can do.

Jenny's civil contract is very different from Adam's. Yet in the end they merge into one.


message 16: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 652 comments Theresa wrote: "....even at the very end knows that the love he has for her is not the love she truly wants. But she settles. ..."

But so much of life and love really is about settling, and at life's end about resignation. Yet there is often joy to be found in that settled state.


message 17: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 652 comments Theresa wrote: It was so clear to me from very early in the book that Jenny's story is about unrequited love, but one given a twist as only Heyer can do...."

I wonder if Heyer deliberately chose Jenny's name for that reason--Jenny is short for Guinevere (of Arthurian fame) who had her own tragic love triangle.


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 1275 comments This discussion is really helping to crystallize my objections to this book. Life is about settling, indeed, which is exactly why I don't want settling in romantic fiction. I read escapist novels to be lifted out of reality into optimism! I want hope and certainty and belonging in my fictional worlds--at least when not reading high-end literature. With a hero I can't respect and all the sadness and disappointment, this book really defeats my expectations for what I will get when I pick up Georgette Heyer.

And as others have said, very little humor.


Theresa | 108 comments Hana wrote: "Theresa wrote: It was so clear to me from very early in the book that Jenny's story is about unrequited love, but one given a twist as only Heyer can do...."

I wonder if Heyer deliberately chose J..."


Would not surprise me if she did. So many classical and classic references are found throughout her work.


QNPoohBear | 1235 comments I really like that passage Theresa quoted above. That to me is a real marriage. Adam would never have shared anything with Julia like that and she wouldn't let him. ". After all, life was not made up of moments of exaltation, but of quite ordinary, everyday things. " Julia would expect life to be made up of moments of exaltation and not ordinary things. She'll always be am immature drama queen.

I, too, find this novel a little too realistic and somber to want to reread.


message 21: by Theresa (last edited Sep 02, 2019 11:54PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Theresa | 108 comments There is another moment a few pages before that quote that I also find key, one between Adam and Brough where they discuss whether Adam is lucky or not. Adam comments that his men thought he had more lucky escapes than Harry Smith. Brough agrees because he says cryptically that he witnessed one. Reader has no doubt Brough is talking about Adam's infatuation with Julia. But Adam is at that point still clueless as he has not yet had his final scene with her.

By the way, Heyer gives us the story of Harry Smith, a real British soldier of some note, in The Spanish Bride.


message 22: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 652 comments QNPoohBear wrote: "I really like that passage Theresa quoted above. That to me is a real marriage. Adam would never have shared anything with Julia like that and she wouldn't let him. "

I also liked that passage. I have several friends whose marriages were 'arranged'--i.e. suggested by friends and family and not preceded by long periods of Western-style dating. They all have very happy marriages and have come to love their spouses deeply but all have told me that it took about a year before they realized that they were 'in love' with their spouses. Love grew with giving and time.


message 23: by Hana (last edited Sep 03, 2019 11:15AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 652 comments Theresa wrote: "There is another moment a few pages before that quote that I also find key, one between Adam and Brough where they discuss whether Adam is lucky or not. Adam comments that his men thought he had mo..."

That was an illuminating moment. Adam seems to me very lucky in another way--he has several very sensible, caring friends in his life, including Brough and Lord Overley.

P.S. I loved The Spanish Bride!


message 24: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 652 comments Just a note to the group to be sure to read Kim's review of A Civil Contract. Kim has read Jennifer Kloester's biography of Georgette Heyer and shares insights from Heyer herself on ACC.
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Jenny H (jenny_norwich) | 626 comments Hana wrote: "I wonder if Heyer deliberately chose Jenny's name for that reason--Jenny is short for Guinevere (of Arthurian fame)..."

Not in this case: the use of 'Jenny' as a short form of 'Jennifer' is C20th; it was practically unknown outside Cornwall until it was adopted and popularised by film star Jennifer Jones. 'Jenny' was previously a form of 'Jane' (it's what Harry Smith's sisters call Juana in The Spanish Bride) and the letter Adam gets from one of his relatives on his engagement makes it clear that the announcement referred to her as 'Jane'.

If there's any significance to it, I think it's more likely to be as an ordinary, unexciting, commonplace sort of name. It was common enough to be used to refer animals and machinery ('jenny wren', 'spinning jenny', a female donkey) and crops up in folk song as a distant third behind 'Polly' and 'Nancy'.

I don't think comparing Jenny Chawleigh to a queen who destroyed a kingdom by her infidelity is very fair!


Critterbee❇ (critterbee) | 2572 comments Mod
Jane as in 'Plain Jane,' hmm.


Jenny H (jenny_norwich) | 626 comments QNPoohBear wrote: "If my memory is correct, Adam loves Julia because she's his Florence Nightingale. He thinks she nursed him while he was injured and she's a beautiful angel who brought him back from the brink of death. In reality, it was Jenny who sat by him and did the nursing...."

No, I don't think that's right; 'nursing' implies sitting by his bedside and no lady not a close relative would do that! Adam calls on Julia after he's up and about but still not ready to return to his military duties and on meeting Jenny in her own home remembers her as 'the commonplace female he had all too often found with Julia' on these occasions. But neither of them actually nursed him.


Sheila (in LA) (sheila_in_la) | 341 comments Critterbee❇ wrote: "Jane as in 'Plain Jane,' hmm."

That's what came to my mind...


message 29: by Hana (last edited Sep 03, 2019 11:05AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 652 comments Thanks for the clarification on Jenny's name, Jenny :) Who should know better?! And you are entirely right about the unfairness of comparisons to that faithless Queen!


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 1275 comments Finished it yesterday. My review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 4120 comments Mod
Jenny wrote: "

Not in this case: the use of 'Jenny' as a short form of 'Jennif..."


Jenny is called Jane at one point in the book too.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 4120 comments Mod
There were some real people in this particular title.

Mr Coke https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_...

Doctors Sir William Knighton & Sir Richard Croft (this blog looks interesting but I haven't properly perused it yet) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_...


Theresa | 108 comments Jenny wrote: "Hana wrote: "I wonder if Heyer deliberately chose Jenny's name for that reason--Jenny is short for Guinevere (of Arthurian fame)..."

Not in this case: the use of 'Jenny' as a short form of 'Jennif..."


Them maybe it is really alluding to "Plain Jane". I'm now curious as to when that expression came into being.


Theresa | 108 comments Hana wrote: "Just a note to the group to be sure to read Kim's review of A Civil Contract. Kim has read Jennifer Kloester's biography of Georgette Heyer and shares insights from Heyer herself on..."

Thanks for this! Wonderful review Kim!


Theresa | 108 comments In case anyone else is wondering about the origins of 'plain jane' - here's a link I found: https://wordhistories.net/2018/11/01/...

While it may have existed before 1900, it is pretty much agreed among the various sources I read that it became a popular expression after about 1912.


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 1275 comments What a fascinating Web site, Theresa! Thank you for sharing that! I'd look it up in my OED but that worthy tone has moved to my new abode and I don't follow it till next week.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 4120 comments Mod
Margaret said she would be interested in some quotes from reviews of GH's works from Georgette Heyer: A Critical Retrospective How about this one?

Readers who recall that georgette Heyer once wrote exceptionally amusing and puzzling murder mysteries may be tempted by opening hints of hanky-panky in the hunting field, to essay her latest novel. They will be disappointed. It is woman's-magazine pastry with an elaborate Regency setting. Togetherness in a curricle, you might say.


Anyone else think that Phoebe Adams from The Atlantic Monthly didn't read the book? 😀🤣😅


message 38: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 652 comments Mr. Coke is fascinating!


message 39: by Hana (last edited Sep 05, 2019 10:00AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 652 comments Coke eventually was made 1st Earl of Leicester. His decendents still live at Holkham Hall (built by 'Mr Coke's' great uncle) and it's spectacular https://www.holkham.co.uk/visiting/th...

Coke concentrated his efforts, as GH tells us, on the farms and the park. There was a herd of deer! https://www.holkham.co.uk/visiting/th...

Papa Chawleigh would approve of both. Can't you just picture him and Adam on a weekend visit to Norfolk?


Karlyne Landrum | 3895 comments I'm drooling over the libraries! And the chapel and the kitchen, too, although I cannot even imagine living in such a pile.


Critterbee❇ (critterbee) | 2572 comments Mod
Oh that library! So much stuff, how do you manage the dust and taxes? But beautiful.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 4120 comments Mod
Critterbee❇ wrote: "Oh that library! So much stuff, how do you manage the dust and taxes? But beautiful."

Yes, I think I would have to choose the house tour option.

Reading Georgette Heyer: A Critical Retrospective I was reminded that this book is over a longer time period than is usual for GH's Regencies. This one takes place over 17 months.


message 43: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK Hello, fellow GH fans. I have just joined this group which I hope is OK by everyone!

It's interesting to consider A Civil Contract. I have all GH's Regency/18thC novels on my keeper shelf, and re-read them periodically when I want to improve my mood (!). But thinking about it, ACC is not one I've re-read for years and years and years. It has to be one of my 'least favourite' alas.

And the reason is that it is, to my mind, an 'anti-romance' romance. Obviously, deliberately so, as if GH were knowingly inverting the tropes of romantic fiction, playing with the stereotypes, asking the 'what if' question - 'what if' there weren't a typical HEA ending, 'what if' the hero couldn't marry the woman he loved, 'what if' the heroine had to put up with unrequited love 'for ever', etc.

In that sense ACC is far more of a realistic novel than romantic, and I think it helps to read it in that light - partly to avoid the disappointment I can still remember feeling when I first read it - I was waiting for Adam to 'see the light' and realise how deeply he loves Jenny 'after all' and just how wrong for him Julia would have been.

Partly, too, to have light shed on what so many 'real' marriages turn out to be - comforting, affectionate and loyal.

I've only just thought this, but in a way, there are echoes in ACC of Cotillion to an extent! Freddie is the male counterpart in many ways of Jenny, with the heroine 'besotted' (!) with the dastardly Jack. But the difference is that at the end, we can truly see that she has genuinely fallen completely in love with Freddie, who, in turns, becomes truly heroic (knocking Jack flat for insulting his true love!)


message 44: by Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ , Madam Mod (last edited Sep 06, 2019 03:58AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 4120 comments Mod
Welcome Beth - we hope you enjoy posting with us.

Just one thing - if you want to post about other Heyer titles, if you could please use spoiler tags as not all of our members have read every title. :)

This is their formatting. <*spoiler> your text <*/spoiler> but without the asterisks,

I do think Adam does come to realise how wrong Julia would have been for him and his love for her has faded. he loves Jenny but it is not a romantic love.


message 45: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK Thank your for your welcome. I was delighted to discover this group!

My apologies for not marking spoilers - I thought it would be OK as it says at the top of this thread that it's for those who have read ACC - but of course that doesn't apply to other titles as you point out.

I guess I am not used to realising there are folk in this world who haven't read every GH RR over and over and over again!

(Oh, what fun, to read GH for the very first time - bliss!)

In future I will take more care re spoiler warnings. So sorry.

(Just a thought, but do I need to put in spoiler alerts for any cross-references to Austen?)

(I agree Adam does bond to Jenny 'in the end', but I suspect he will always feel his life turned out not the way he wanted alas.)


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 4120 comments Mod
With Austen I will discuss with my fellow moderator tomorrow, but if you are discussing "the big six" in Austen's writing I'm inclined to "no" as the plot lines are so well known.


message 47: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK OK - thank you - I'll wait to hear!


message 48: by Beth-In-UK (new)

Beth-In-UK I think another 'trope-contesting' element of ACC is that Jenny never really undergoes a makeover!

In a typical 'ugly duckling' romance, an initially plain heroine, often poor and dowdy and crushed by overbearing relations, who is initially ignored or disdained by our dashing hero (!), undergoes an amazing transformation from ugly duckling to swan, and then, hey-presto, the hero suddenly notices her and immediately fancies her along the 'How could I have been so blind!' lines.

This never happens to Jenny (therefore far more true to life, sigh) (just think, gentlewomen couldn't even resort to make up - eek!), so there is never 'sexual-attractiveness parity' between Adam and her.


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 1275 comments Welcome, Beth! I am entirely of you mind when it comes to this book. For me, it feels like an intellectual exercise Heyer undertook for her own satisfaction, because she was tired of her formula. But many of us read her work precisely for the formula! I can appreciate those who value this book for its realistic qualities, but can't share their appreciation.


message 50: by Jackie (new)

Jackie | 1201 comments Beth in UK, that is what was so surprising to me the first time I read ACC - you keep thinking Jenny is going to transform into a swan and she remains the real person she always was instead.
once I got used to that, I liked it!


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