Georgette Heyer and Me
Monday, April 4, 2016
I am still in the midst of a rereading binge. I have (probably temporarily) moved on from Mary Stewart and currently I am deeply committed to Georgette Heyer.
I remember the first time I read a Georgette Heyer novel. It was Friday's Child. I came across it in the library, checked it out, and loved it. I kind of smuggled into the house, I was about twelve, because my mom deeply disapproved of romance novels. She had no problem with me wandering through the adult section of the library and trying Shakespeare and Dickens and Austen but romance novels were not really acceptable. My grandmother used to get Good Housekeeping magazine. Is that even around anymore? Anyway, in the back there was always a condensed novel, usually a romance. My grandmother used to save the magazines for me. I loved the short stories and condensed novels, my mother didn't. I can see her point now that I have a ten-year-old. She probably thought there were better things for me to be reading than sappy romances in a woman's magazine. She was probably right but that didn't stop me from reading them. When I found Georgette Heyer in the library I thought my mom would react to her the same way she reacted to those sappy romance stories. Hence the sneaking her into the house. I managed to work my way through quite a few of her novels before my mom came across her at the library, tried her for herself, and loved the books as much as I did. As a kid I couldn't really see why she loved these books when she hated the other romances but I can see her point now. These are witty and charming and well-researched and well-written. They are not your run-of -the-mill romance novels. Though I must admit they were a gateway drug to a lot of poorly written Regency romances in my teenage years. I don't read any and all Regency romances anymore, my taste obviously changed as I grew up, but I still have a deep and abiding love for Georgette Heyer.
Currently I am reading These Old Shades. It isn't really one of my favorites but that means I have read it less often and therefore I can't recite the plot point by point. I think I am going to have to order a copy of Devil's Cub. It is one of the only Heyers that I don't own and it is connected to this book so obviously I want to read that too. Any excuse to buy more books.
You might possibly be wondering which are my favorite Heyers. Well, so am I. I went over to the bookshelf and started pulling off ones I particularly liked and ended up surrounded by books. I am just going to pick three that are appealing to me today.
A Civil Contract does not seem to be universally beloved, probably because it is not a typical Heyer love story. Adam Deveril needs to marry money in order to take care of his family. He gives up the woman he loves in order to marry plain, prosaic, Jenny. She brings money to the marriage, he brings social position. It does end up being a love story, but it is a quiet love instead of a Regency romance type love. I always enjoy it and Jenny's father makes me laugh out loud.
Cotillion is the story of Kitty Charing. She will inherit a large fortune if she marries one of her guardian's nephews. She is beset by willing and unwilling suitors and finally concocts a fake engagement in order to make the object of her affections jealous. Chaos, drama, and true love ensue.
In The Foundling the Duke of Sale is tired of having every moment of his life and every decision that comes his way overseen by his loving but over-protective uncle. He finally rebels and decides to vanish from his life and his responsibilities just for a little while with predictably chaotic results. He runs into blackmailers, kidnappers, a beautiful but silly girl, and yes, of course, true love. On the way, he discovers just how much he is capable of.
I am having trouble resisting the urge to mention all my favorites. What about The Unknown Ajax or False Colours or Black Sheep? I have a sentimental attachment to all of Heyer's novels. In fact, I went on Goodreads out of curiosity because I wanted to see which of her novels were the most popular. I ended up getting annoyed with the reviews by people who didn't love any and all of Georgette Heyer's novels. Slightly unreasonable? Maybe, but that is just the way it is.
Reading this over I realize that a description of Georgette Heyer's novels does not do them justice. They have been imitated to such a degree that they sound like clones of themselves. They are not just sappy romance novels. If you haven't read them, do so now and thank me later.
Meanwhile, I will be sitting on my couch surrounded by piles of Georgette Heyer books, spending a happy evening dipping in and out of my favorite bits.