Charity Girl

by Georgette Heyer

published 1970

3486146   Alrighty, first things first:  Is this cover creepy, or is this cover creepy?  I mean, seriously.  Everything about the girl in this picture is completely disturbing, and (surprise) not at all like what happened in the book.  (You know, it’s bad enough that movies destroy good books without the covers getting in on the game).

Anyway.  So life has been crazy per usual.  If you want to know what I’ve been doing with my life, feel free to check out the house blog…  my kitchen is currently very much under construction!

Today I’m off work.  A really bad head cold is giving me the excuse I need to hang out on my bed surrounded by my computer, books, and a cat.  I’m slowly getting caught up on emails and reading people’s blogs, and am already planning my post-lunch nap.  A head cold is really only a pain when you have to leave your house.

So – on to Charity Girl.  I’m slowly working my way through all of Heyer’s regency tales, and Charity Girl was a new read for me.  While it was a fine little story, it’s not my new favorite or anything.  A pretty solid 3/5.  The characters are likable but not memorable, and it lacks that witty dialogue that so often makes Heyer’s books delightful.

Lord Desford aka Ashley Carrington (probably aka something else…  I mean, really, why does everyone in the Regency period have to have fifteen names apiece?  I understand the technically why, but it certainly can make a story  hard to follow at times, sheesh) has a very good life.  Well off, good looking, kind, with loving parents, a nice home, a pleasant family, and, of course, the prospect of the earldom heading his way sometime in the future.  Although Desford’s parents hoped he would marry his friend and neighbor, Henrietta Silverdale, even that danger was navigated, leaving them both still single yet good friends, just the way they claim to like it.

Well, in our story (which picks up a few years after the avoided marriage), Desford heads off to visit an aunt.  While there, the family attends a party at a neighboring estate.  During the party, Desford happens to come across Cherry Steane.  Abandoned by her family, Cherry is living one step above a servant with her aunt and cousins.  Though a lovely young lady, she suffers the fate of most poor relations – love and money are showered on her cousins, but Cherry will never even get a Season.

Desford is sympathetic towards her plight, but knows of no real way to be of assistance.  (This conversation, by the way, takes place through the stair railings, hence the creepy cover picture.)  Next day, however, as he is driving back to London, whom does Des discover walking along the road??  Yep, Miss Cherry, who has run away from home.  By agreeing to give Cherry a lift to London to meet up with her grandpa (who, by all accounts, is a miserly rapscallion), Desford finds himself entangled in Cherry’s drama.  Her grandpa isn’t home, so Cherry ends up at Henrietta’s while Desford dashes about the countryside seeking Cherry’s missing grandpapa.

The story is, frankly, a bit slow.  It’s rather obvious that Desford and Henrietta are going to end up together, despite their earlier-aborted courtship, yet we don’t get much of an opportunity to see the development of that relationship, or the realization that they want to be more than friends after all.  Cherry is a bit too innocent to be interesting, and while there are a few funny scenes here and there, the whole story feels a bit impractical.

Also, while Heye’s use of Regency slang/terms is often what makes her stories enjoyable, she does sometimes go a bit over the top, and this book was stuffed with “cant” phrases –

“…if my lord ain’t cut his stick I’m a bag-pudding!  Which I ain’t!”

“You may not be a bag-pudding, but you’re one of the worst surly-boots it has ever been my ill-fortune to encounter!  …  I know very well what made you turn knaggy …”

Or –

“I am neither a noddicock nor a souse-crown, young man …  I perceived, in the twinkling of a bedpost, that he was under orders to fob me off! …  Do not be mislead into thinking that because I am not, thank God, a muckworm, I am lobcock!”

While entertaining read in short spurts, this book seemed to have more than its fair share of slang (maybe because the book focused more on a man than a woman?), which sometimes bogged me down a big.  Plus, reading any Heyer book makes me spout phrases like “I say, doing it a bit too brown!” in my general conversation, which can be awkward.

In the end, while I felt that Desford and Henrietta would, as they say, deal well together, I was disappointed in the overall lack of a love story, especially since the two main players had been separated throughout the majority of the book.  While the story was fun, it was a bit too fluffy, even for Heyer, to become a favorite.