April Lady, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

April Lady, by Georgette Heyer (2012)Guest Review by Laura A. Wallace

Georgette Heyer’s April Lady is the last re-issue by Sourcebooks of Heyer’s novels.  (The very last is Pistols for Two, a collection of short stories.)  Originally published in 1957, it is comfortably set within the Regency period that she had made her own.  The setting is London, and the plot involves money, love, misunderstanding, gambling, debt, and, ultimately, a famous heirloom, the Cardross necklace.

Lady Helen Irvine, the daughter of an improvident peer who has wasted most of his patrimony through addiction to gambling and high living, has been fortunate enough to marry the Earl of Cardross, an extremely wealthy nobleman some dozen years older than she is.  A very dutiful daughter, she had previously faced the unappetizing prospect of being married off to a wealthy city merchant in order to repair the family fortunes, but the unexpected offer from Lord Cardross saved her from this fate.

Nell did not know just what Cardross had done to earn her parents’ gratitude.  It all came under the vague title of Settlements, and she was not to bother her pretty head over it, but to take care always to conduct herself with dignity and discretion.  Mama, declaring herself to be deeply thankful, had made it quite plain to her what her duty henceforward would be.  It included such things as always showing my lord an amiable countenance, and never embarrassing him by asking ill-bred questions, or appearing to be aware of it if (perhaps) he was found to have formed a Connection outside the walls of that splendid house of his in Grosvenor Square.  ‘One thing I am sure of,’ had said Mama, fondly patting Nell’s hand, ‘and that is that he will treat you with the greatest consideration!  His manners, too, are so particuarly good that I am persuaded you will never have cause to complain of the sort of neglect, or — or indifferent civility, which is the lot of so many females in your situation.  I assure you, my love, there is nothing more mortifying than to be married to a man who lets it be seen that his affections are elsewhere engaged.’

. . . Mama had been right.  When Nell had met my lord’s half-sister and ward, a vivid brunette, not then out, but hopeful of being presented by her sister-in-law, that impetuous damsel had exclaimed, warmly embracing her:  ‘Oh, how pretty you are!  Prettier by far than Giles’s mistress!  How famous if you were ot put her nose out of joint!’

Lord and Lady Cardross have now been married a year, and he has been extremely courteous, patient, and generous to her, but Nell has a soft spot for her high-spirited brother, Lord Dysart, who seems to have inherited his father’s penchant for gambling, and is always kicking up a lark.  Naturally, he applies to his sister for money to pay some of his debts; naturally, she gives it to him; and naturally, Cardross forbids her to do it again.  But she does.

So misunderstandings pile upon misunderstandings, with the way enlivened by an entertaining set of secondary characters, including not only Nell’s brother and Cardross’s sister, but that Pink of the Ton, Mr. Felix Hethersett, Cardross’s cousin and Nell’s most faithful ciscebeo, and a particuarly inarticulate friend of Dysart’s, Mr. Cornelius Fancot.  While perhaps not the most spectactular of Heyer’s novels, this one doesn’t lack for entertaining moments, including a very funny scene with happy-drunk Dysart and Corny doing their inadvertent best to perpetuate as many misunderstandings as possible.  Heyer’s style and wit raise what might have been a mediocre book in the hands of a less-skilled novelist to an enjoyable reading experience worth savoring and re-reading.

Since this is the last Sourcebooks novel re-issue and I have commented on the production values before, I want to mention that I’ve done some in-depth comparison of editions, and have come to the conclusion that Sourcebooks did indeed go back to the source books:  the British first editions.  Most of the differences in punctuation between my more recent American paperbacks and the Sourcebooks editions turn out to be in fact restorations of the original British punctuation which had been changed in American editions.  This is particularly true regarding hyphenated words and colons.  The principal difference in the text between the Sourcebook editions and the British editions (to be precise, the Uniform Editions, as I don’t own any British first editions) is that the new editions use single quotation marks (the British Uniform editions used double ones).  The second thing of note is, as I have mentioned before, “scannos” introduced by scanning and OCR technology.  These are perhaps unavoidable but they are also, fortunately, fairly rare; unfortunately, when they do crop up, they tend to be of the stealthy type that can change the meaning of a sentence.  I also think that they are more common than traditional misprints.  But overall the Sourcebooks editions are probably the best compromise possible and they are indeed very beautiful and well-made editions that I hope will stand the test of time, worthy of Heyer’s work.

4.5 out 5 Regency Stars

April Lady, by Georgette Heyer
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (288) pages
ISBN: 978-1402238789
Nook: ISBN: 978-1402273858
Kindle: ASIN: B0068N4C2K

Laura A. Wallace a musician, attorney, and writer living in Southeast Texas.  She is a devotee of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and is the author of British Titles of Nobility:  An Introduction and Primer to the Peerage (1998).

© 2007 – 2011 Laura A. Wallace, Austenprose

9 thoughts on “April Lady, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

  1. Lovely review Laura. Sourceboooks has done an amazing job with Heyer’s re-issues. It is so great now have all 56 of her novels available in print. The last one is Pistol for Two, a short story anthology. I look forward to your insights. Thanks for all of your reviews.

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  2. As an avid Richard Armitage fan, I discovered Georgette Heyer when I downloaded his three audiobooks to my Kindle. If, when I am gone, someone opens up my Kindle they will find most of Heyer’s books there in easily readable enlarged print which I will treasure by rereading over and over. Just began reading Charity Girl last evening; my favorite will always be Sylvester with RA reading in that lovely voice of his . . . .!

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  3. Great review Laura. I must be the “Will Rogers” of Georgette Heyer’s stories: I never met one I didn’t like. I managed to get an ancient copy of Pistols For Two from our wonderfully-stocked library system. Being a sucker for short stories, there are a host of beauts in this anthology. I also read April Lady and this was such a relational, financial as well as a romantic cliff-hanger! Heyer doesn’t let us in on the conclusion until the very last moments. This book would have made a wildly entertaining stage play.

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  4. Many Heyer fans pass over April Lady, but it remains one of my all-time favorites–love the subplot of the heirloom necklace, and the immense pressure Nell feels over her spiraling debts. And Felix is almost as much of a keeper as Freddy Standen. Thanks for the review!

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  5. Dear Readers: I am still experiencing problems with WordPress not posting comments immediately. Please do not let it put you off the conversation if your comment does not appear instantly. They will be retrieved out of the spam folder and posted within 24 hours. I apologize profusely. I have been working to get this fixed with them for over 2 weeks and will continue to try to get is resolved.

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  6. Is April Lady really the last of the Sourcebook GH re-prints? Even though I didn’t know that they were going to go through most if not all of them, I was in a hurry to read them when I read my 1st 2 books so I started ordering them from England using Amazon UK. I was desperate and they’d reprinted hers with new covers, too I even bought some of them while on a trip over there. I will loan these but never let them go. They bring so much pleasure on each read.

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  7. Thanks for the comments! My favorite Heyer is still “whichever one I am reading now.”

    I’d like to point out that there is a formatting error in my review. The excerpt from the novel includes two paragraphs: the one beginning: “Nell did not know” and the next, beginning: “. . . Mama had been right.” The next paragraph, beginning: “Lord and Lady Cardross” is my own text.

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  8. I have to admit I came to Georgette Heyer through Richard Armitage’s audiobooks, but now own a few others. it is wonderful that her novels have been re-issued and enjoyed. I had not heard of April Lady, but will add it to
    my wish list! Thank you!

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