Charity Girl

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Charity Girl
CharityGirl.jpg
First edition
Author Georgette Heyer
Cover artist Arthur Barbosa[1]
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Regency, Romance
Publisher Bodley Head
Publication date
1970
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 384 pp
ISBN 978-1-4022-1350-2
OCLC 209794918
823/.912 22
LC Class PR6015.E795 C48 2008

Charity Girl is a Regency romance novel by Georgette Heyer, first published in 1970.

Plot summary[edit]

Charity Girl revolves around the character of the wealthy, athletic Viscount Ashley Desford and his mission to save "charity girl" Charity Steane from a life with her uncaring relatives.[2] The novel also takes up the Viscount’s friendship with Henrietta Silverdale, his neighbour and childhood friend. The narrative opens on a conversation between the Viscount and his father, the Earl of Wroxton. Wroxton asks Desford to look into the affairs of his younger brother Simon. Wroxton fears that Simon has fallen into bad company and will destroy his reputation. Desford declines to interfere in Simon's doings, saying that the last person Simon is likely to listen to is his older brother.[3] In the same conversation, Wroxton also reproaches Desford for having failed to marry Henrietta nine years ago. Desford protests that, while he loves Henrietta as a sister, there is no passion between them and that she cared to marry him as little as he cared to marry her.[4] Later in the novel, it emerges that, at that time, Henrietta had begged Desford not to propose marriage to her, even though it was the wish of both their families.[5]

When Desford learns that Henrietta is wooed by the wealthy Mr. Cary Nethercott, he visits her and meets the man, whom Desford pronounces appropriate but immensely dull.[5]

Later, at a party, Desford meets Charity Steane, who prefers to be called “Cherry.” She is almost nineteen years old, but is basically being used as an unpaid servant by the aunt and cousins with whom she has lived since her father abandoned her and failed to pay the bill at her boarding school.[6] Desford later encounters Charity running away from home and, against his better judgment and the morals of the 19th century that say a man can easily compromise a young unattended woman by being on the road with her, he takes her to her grandfather’s house in London .[7]

However, upon arriving in London, it’s apparent that Cherry’s grandfather, Lord Nettlecombe, has left his London home for the season. So Desford takes Cherry to stay with Henrietta and her mother.[8] The plot thickens. When Desford finally tracks Nettlecombe to Harrowgate, Desford finds that the old man has recently married his housekeeper, as a matter of economy. He also shows no interest whatever in his granddaughter's plight and resents the implication that she is in any way his responsibility.[9]

Wilfred Steane, Cherry’s father, then shows up after an absence of many years, hoping to blackmail Desford into marrying Cherry on the grounds that he has compromised her reputation. Desford is vigorously defended by his younger brother, Simon, who pretends that Desford is engaged to Henrietta.[10] Cary Nethercott, who had previously shown so much interest in Henrietta, resolves Cherry’s problems by proposing marriage and being accepted. On the last page of the novel, Desford tells Henrietta that he has always loved her and will not break off the engagement that his brother invented for them. Henrietta admits she loves him in return and they become engaged for real.[11] Simon, though, has the last words in the novel: "But if you should get into any more scrapes, Des, just send me word, and I'll post straight back to rescue you!"[12]

Characters[edit]

  • Viscount Ashley Desford is the main character of the novel. He is twenty-nine years old, independently wealthy, having inherited the fortune of his deceased aunt. He is an eligible bachelor.[2]
  • Earl of Wroxton is the father of Ashley Desford. He is very old-fashioned, but at the same time tolerant of his sons' individuality. He worries that Desford may marry Cherry Steane, a penniless girl whose father Wroxton particularly hated.[2]
  • Charity Steane is a young woman whose mother has died and whose father abandoned her in a private boarding school. When her school bill went unpaid for several months, the school's headmistress located an aunt who was willing to take Charity into her own home. Charity's new family does not, however, treat her as a full member, but more as a servant. When she attempts to run away to London, Charity incites Desford's gentlemanly insticts to rescue a helpless female. He takes her to the Silverdale home where she endears herself to the older Mrs. Silverdale. At the end of the novel, Charity agrees to marry the wealthy Mr. Nethercott.[2]
  • Henrietta Silverdale is a neighbour to Wroxton who lives with her hypochondriachal mother. At twenty-five, she already considers herself a waning object of romance though she has been wooed by many men and, at the beginning of the novel, she is being wooed by the wealthy Mr. Nethercott. At one point in the novel, Nethercott learns that Henrietta is well aware that her mother is not really sick. Nethercott suggests that perhaps Henrietta needs to be rescued from this situation, but she vehemently and angrily says she does not need rescuing.[13]
  • Lady Silverdale is the mother of Henrietta Silverdale. She is a hypochondriac and a widow who pretends to be more in love with her dead husband than she really is.[14] She has two children though she prefers her son. Heyer writes, "although she might fairly be said to dote on Charles she had only tepid affection for Henrietta."[14]
  • Simon Carrington is the younger brother of Ashley Desford. He appears to be a minor, off-stage character until the last half of the novel at which point he catalyses the engagement of the Viscount and Henrietta.[2] Simon figures in the first chapter of the novel because Ashley's father worries that Simon is living recklessly. At the end of the novel, Simon proves to be a sensible and reliable young man who defends his brother against attempted blackmail.

Critical reception[edit]

A Publisher's Weekly review of Charity Girl describes it as "full of dashing period slang, and it trifles with the affairs of several maids and men with such style and gentle irony that readers of good 'ton,' as Miss Heyer herself might put it, will find reading it a very 'comfortable cose' indeed." [15] Beyond that, Charity Girl has not received a lot of serious critical attention, but it does continue to garner a steady trickle of readers, especially fans of the regency genre. Charity Girl has seventeen reviews, most of them positive, at Google Books.[16] Good Reads posts forty-eight reviews of Charity Girl with an average 3.39 rating out of five.[17] At Library Thing, the novel has a 3.55 out of four rating.[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Regency Art and Regency Artists
  2. ^ a b c d e Heyer, Georgette. Charity Girl. London: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1970.
  3. ^ Heyer, Georgette. Charity Girl. London: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1970. 10–11.
  4. ^ Heyer, Georgette. Charity Girl. The Bodley Head Ltd., 1970. 1–10.
  5. ^ a b Heyer, Georgette. Charity Girl. London: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1970. 22.
  6. ^ Heyer, Georgette. Charity Girl. London: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1970. 40–46.
  7. ^ Heyer, Georgette. Charity Girl. London: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1970. 52–69.
  8. ^ Heyer, Georgette. Charity Girl. London: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1970. 69–72.
  9. ^ Heyer, Georgette. Charity Girl. London: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1970. 131–145.
  10. ^ Heyer, Georgette. Charity Girl. London: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1970. 182–203.
  11. ^ Heyer, Georgette. Charity Girl. London: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1970. 252–253.
  12. ^ Heyer, Georgette. Charity Girl. London: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1970. 254.
  13. ^ Heyer, Georgette. Charity Girl. London: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1970. 105–106.
  14. ^ a b Heyer, Georgette. Charity Girl. London: The Bodley Head Ltd, 1970. 85.
  15. ^ reprinted on Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/1402213506
  16. ^ Charity Girl by Georgette Heyer. Google Books reviews. http://books.google.com/books?sitesec=reviews&id=QNvMB2zEHNwC
  17. ^ Charity Girl by Georgette Heyer. Good Reads. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/311218.Charity_Girl.
  18. ^ "Charity Girl by Georgette Heyer." Library Thing. http://www.librarything.com/work/18575.