April Lady. Georgette Heyer. 1957/2005. Harlequin. 270 pages.
There was silence in the book-room, not the silence of intimacy but a silence fraught with tension.
April Lady is an enjoyable albeit predictable read. Our hero, Cardross, and our heroine, Nell, have been married over a year when the novel opens.
The book begins with an argument over money. The wife is being scolded by her husband for going over her quarterly allowance. It’s not that he’s not fabulously wealthy. He is. He just wants his wife to be able to account for the money he’s given her, for the unpaid bills that arrive at the house.
After the scolding, Nell is horrified to learn that she missed one bill. It is for a Chantilly lace dress. She can't possibly tell her husband the truth--the bill got buried in a drawer, forgotten. She can't possibly expect her husband to understand this circumstance. Perhaps her brother can help her...
Nell is keeping other secrets from her husband. She is lying about giving money to her brother, Dysart, to cover his gambling debts. She knows she is disobeying her husband by “supporting” her brother like this. But she can’t understand why her husband blames Dysart for being an addict. He should know that Dysart just can’t control himself when it comes to gambling and racing. Being unsure of her husband’s love (and respect), Nell spends much of her time afraid of her husband. She’s afraid to be honest with him, which is all that he is asking of her.
Both husband and wife are deceived. She is certain that he doesn’t love her, that their marriage is one of convenience not love. And he is certain that she doesn’t love him, that she married him for his money. (Her family is always in need of money since her father and brother are gambling addicts.) The reader is the only one who knows the truth: these two do love each other, and have loved each other from the beginning.
Is Nell as silly as she seems? Is Cardross as tyrannical and unforgiving? Will these two ever be completely honest with one another?
While I didn't love the plot of this one--at least as much as other Heyer novels I've read in the past--I did enjoy the characters. Particularly the "minor" characters. Nell has a sister-in-law, Letty, whose troubled love life steals the show, in a way. She's in love with a man, Jeremy Allandale, deemed "unsuitable" by her older brother. (Letty gets one of her many scoldings in the second chapter.) This love affair is "aided" by Letty's cousin, Selina Thorne, a young lady who has read too many novels. This romance provides my favorite scene of the novel!
Dysart, Nell's brother, and Mr. Hethersett, Cardross' cousin who has a way of being in the right place at the right time to aid Nell out of her messes, also add to the novel's charm.
One of the weaknesses of this novel, however, is Cardross. It's hard for the reader to fall in love with Cardross when he's only in a handful of scenes. (He spends most of the novel out of town on a trip.) Especially when most of those scenes show him scolding the women in his life. Are Letty and Nell silly? Yes. But still, that doesn't mean it's fun to read Cardross' condescending scoldings. (Or Dysart's scoldings for that matter!)
Also, I felt the romance between Cardross and Nell to be a little lacking. We're told that it was love at first sight. Yet we rarely see these two in the same room. And when they are in the same room, he's either scolding her or she's awkwardly avoiding him in conversation. These two are uncomfortable in their scenes together. Neither wants to be vulnerable. Neither wants to show too much.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews