That was not true. I love everyone who told me it was awesome, but that was totally a romance.
Below: my defense of A Civil Contract as not just romance but Romance, and an awesome goddamn Romance. With farming!
(I have feelings, okay? Paragraphs of them. PARAGRAPHS. With citations! Because...Wednesday?)
Okay, I do get why that denial kept coming up in reviews, actually; it wasn't traditional, classic, or even contemporary. However, I come from a heavy Loretta Chase background where my favorite of her novels was very much first loves are not better or stronger than second (just different), so I get my reading was way different from the get-go (I prepared for vague bittersweetness). I also come from fandom, which can be surprisingly good at first and second loves when they want to be (which is more than I can say for the entire Romance genre who even when trying rarely if ever hits it right).
I love romance that results from ridic amounts of compatibility, where the slow burn isn't people who fight then realize they're in love (though I love that, too), but the slow burn of people who discover in each other the perfect partner (and Adam and Jenny were literally MFEO, it's unreal) that unfolds in stages where you can actually see the pieces click one by one. This whole book was catnip to me in that; Jenny's housewife competence (I love competence like whoa), their adaptability to what makes them different, the way they slowly fit around each other in what they want to become, the way Adam adapts to her father, which was as much for Jenny's sake as the dad being awesome (and vulgar, fine) and shows very clearly Adam's changing as well.
Sense of Humor
(Also, well-known fact: the first stage of a good romance is when they can laugh together. Early on, Adam finds Jenny hilarious and Jenny's admittedly dry sense of humor slowly coming out as she gets more secure only adds to it. They have their own jokes. Adam's got a great sense of humor! He can laugh at anything, including himself, but note, we never see him laugh with or at Julia. Julia has no sense of humor; she has a sense of drama. These things do not go together, ever.
The Greek Chorus
Half the supporting characters (including relatives!) made it clear there was a strong awareness that Adam and Julia were not compatible at all. Many note how well Adam and Jenny get along together.
Adam: "Good God, I never was [unluckiest fellow of Brough's acquaintance]! They used to say of me that I'd as many lucky escapes as Harry Smith!"
"Shouldn't be at all surprised: I've seen one of 'em mylsef,' Brough said cryptically [...], A Civil Contract, page 410
Yes indeed, he was talking about the lovely Julia, not being an admirer of hers and having spent the former evening with her drama. BOOM BROUGH (SAY BRO???? YES I THINK SO!) IS ALL "CLOSE ESCAPE THERE THANK GOD".
Rockhill, Julia's husband: "Dear Lady Lynton, I assure you it couldn't have been better! Do you know, I fancy we have nothing more to worry us? Goodbye -- and a thousand thanks!", A Civil Contract, page 418
The Goal Here
This book was all about building the foundation for a great romance, and the end of the book confirmed they were actually just starting one after over a year of marriage and a kid. For Adam, at least, that couldn't happen until he'd moved on from Julia, which yes indeed seemed to take a book because Adam kept forgetting about her.
Let's be serious here: for a Deathless Romance, Adam had to regularly be reminded of Julia's existence to angst, and sure, he angsted pretty and all, but dude, if you keep forgetting your lost love unless she's either under your goddamn nose looking hot, marrying someone else, or when you're wife's not pregnant and you're so worried you're consulting Julia's mother, or you just made a lot of money and Napoleon's defeated, or something involving farming shows up, or you see your wife with random peacocks and forget allll your angst...just saying.
(Guy's barely interested in his newborn son: ALL ABOUT JENNY, Mom has to be like "KID HERE" and he's like, yep, that's certainly a kid, how interesting, now let's talk about Jenny, mmmkay?)
Let's Make a List of Things More Important than Julia Angst
1.) Jenny's feelings (okay, yes, she's his wife and he's a gentleman, fine)
2.) Saving his home and fortune (he's a responsible gentleman, fine, so sacrifice)
3.) Jenny's hilarious bathtub (okay, that did come out of nowhere so funny, I'll give him that one.)
4.) Julia fainting or throwing a scene at his and Jenny's dinner party aka How to Desensitize The Dramatic Lost Love Thing. (Oh lost love, so painful...please for fuck's sake don't faint, it's so socially embarrassing at a party. Oh Jenny, how could you do this to us...wow, you're becoming a great hostess, go you!) (Yeah, he's...kind of being inconsistent there.)
5.) Finding out Jenny is pregnant. (Oh lost love our tragedy you will marry soemoen else no!!!!!!!!! Hold up, Jenny looks sick brb) (...an heir, I guess?)
6.) Jenny being pregnant and ill. (Oh hi lost love, nice to see you. Hey, Mom of lost love what should I do to help my pregnant wife again?)(...right.)
7.) Farming (Lost love let us walk together in the portrait gallery and end up outside while I talk to someone about farming and forget you are there!) (...I'm sure that happens with true love all the time.)
8.) Sees wife confronting random peacocks. (Yeah, I got nothing.)
10.) Making fortune all on own! (fine, that might be natural)
11.) Thinking how Julia's kind of a stranger and maybe selfish regarding her stepkids. (Yep.)
12.) Napoleon's defeat! (Still, yes, natural.)
13.) Breakfast (...doesn't want to really discuss lost love because...hungry? Seriously?)
14.) Jenny's jokes about Lambert. (...you need me to keep going?)
Frederica Is My Interpreter of Love, So There
I have read the entire Georgette Heyer Catalogue available on ebook, and I just read Frederica, and ask me--GO AHEAD ASK ME--what Frederica (aka Georgette Heyer) defined as love? I'll tell you.
(Just as soon as my online Amazon kindle cloud reader opens.)
(WTF Amazon just open already.)
(Okay, trying in Chrome now. BOOM GOT IT.)
Frederica: "...But I am not blind to your faults, and I do not think that everything you do or say is right! Only -- Is it [love] being -- not very comfortable -- and cross -- and not quite happy, when you aren't there?"
"That, my darling," said his lordship, taking her ruthlessly into his arms, "is exactly what it is!" Frederica, page 434
But Jenny Said at the End...
I love Jenny, but she is about as objective as a loaf of bread when it comes to Adam because she's desperately in love and can't imagine she's ever competition for Julia; she's used to being second choice due to money; of course she's not going to believe yet. Adam spends a paragraph doign the equivalent of 'eh' regarding marriage to Julia and he's willing to talk about Julia to her.
Adam and Jenny by the end are just starting to redefine romance for themselves. They don't call it that--Jenny's too practical to realize what this is, and Adam's only just learning what's happened to them, and the words for both of them aren't there--but think of it this way. This isn't fireworks, there and gone. This is a bonfire; they start slow, but you build your fire on a strong foundation and set the pieces right, once it catches, it can burn forever if you give it enough fuel, and their lives are the fuel that will never run out.
Their bonfire has just begun.
My Final Thoughts on the Subject
Sorry, I think the bonfire metaphor kicked so much ass I need no more here. Bonfire, people. My work here is done.
I am willing to take contrary arguments, but they're wrong, telling you right now. Romance, people. All the romance. With farming!
(Also, note: this entire plot was used by another author in To Catch an Earl by Rosina Pyatt, and when I say plot, I mean Harlequin version. If you've read it, compare and contrast to A Civil Contract; it's kind of hilarious, though yeah, it goes Harlequin very quickly, it still sticks to the outline (the differences are very, very Harlequin-additions). Like a lot.)
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