Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester – A Review

During her prolific fifty-three year writing career, British author Georgette Heyer (1902-1974) wrote fifty-six historical fiction, historical Regency romance and detective fiction novels.  She was a pioneer in Regency romance, and is generally attributed by many for establishing the sub genre that is flourishing today. Stylish, witty and historically accurate, her humorous plots and memorable characters serve as the benchmark for new Regency romance writers.

In her lifetime Heyer publisher twenty-six Regency-era novels, many of which are again available in new editions by Sourcebooks and Harlequin Books. Renowned for her historical detail, to read a Heyer Regency romance is to be truly entrenched in the bon ton lifestyle in England from 1811 to 1820. Even though readers can enjoy her novels without understanding the entire historical context or nuanced meanings behind social customs and colloquialisms of the time, it is even more entertaining if you do. Georgette Heyer’s Regency World: The definitive guide to the people, places and society in Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels , by Jennifer Kloester offers an incredible resource for Jane Austen fans, Georgette Heyer enthusiasts and Regency-era novelists. Here you will find detailed cultural information on the aristocrats and gentry that populate her drawing room comedies. Learn the importance of social strata and the right connections, where to live in Town and the country, how to dress, eat and conduct yourself properly in polite society, where to shop for a fashionable frock, what type of carriage to tool down St. James Street in, which pleasure haunts to frequent in London, and, most importantly, who to be seen with and who to avoid socially. Also included are appendixes on de rigueur Regency era cant and common phrases that Heyer’s characters frequently use, a very helpful historical timeline and other pertinent information.

What elevates this book beyond a collection of historical facts is its organization and that the author places many of Heyer’s novels and characters in context to the categories and descriptions within the text. For example, Hero the young and naïve bride in Friday’s Child soon learns the importance of proper language when she asks her husband Lord Sheringham about his ‘opera dancer’ and is quickly informed on the ways of the world by a brotherly friend. Unbeknownst to Hero who had received a negligent upbringing, young ladies vocabulary was strictly regulated and a slip such as asking her husband about his mistress could ruin her reputation if the conversation had been overheard outside the family. If you do not know what an ‘opera dancer’ is or their reputation for becoming the mistresses of the bon ton, then you missed an important aspect of Hero’s personality and Lord Sheringham’s position in society. The book is full of similarly helpful insights and I found myself learning more about Regency culture and developing a greater appreciation for Georgette Heyer’s skill as a writer as the book progressed. What a treasure!

Originally published in the UK in 2005 and reissued in 2008 by Arrow Books (Random House UK), Georgette Heyer’s Regency World is an import and not readily available in North American bookstores. I purchased my edition from Paperbackshop-US via Advanced Book Exchange, but I was happy to discover that Sourcebooks will be printing a new edition that will be available this August. Gentle Readers, since Sourcebooks is re-issuing it, we know it is more than worthy and the definitive guide to all things in Heyer’s world.

4 out 5 Regency Stars

Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester
Arrow Books, London (2008)
Trade paperback (382) pages
ISBN: 978-0099478720

Addtional Reviews:

This is my contribution to The Classics Ciruit: Georgette Heyer on Tour March 2010. Join in the celebration as bloggers participate in a month long tour in March featuring reviews of novels by the Queen of Regency Romance, Georgette Heyer. Here is the tour:

March 01, 2010 One Librarian’s Book Reviews Review: Frederica
March 01, 2010 Austenprose Review: Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester
March 02, 2010 Enchanted by Josephine Review: Beauvallet
March 03, 2010 Books and Chocolate Review: Behold, Here’s Poison
March 03, 2010 Michelle’s Masterful Musings Review: Devil’s Cub
March 04, 2010 Sparks’ Notes Review: Friday’s Girl
March 05, 2010 Tales from the Reading Room Review: The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge
March 06, 2010 BookNAround Review: The Grand Sophy
March 07, 2010 Windy Ridge Books Review: Why Shoot a Butler?
March 8, 2010 A Striped Armchair Review: The Unknown Ajax
March 8, 2010 A Book Lover Review: The Convenient Marriage
March 9, 2010 First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice Review: The Black Sheep
March 10, 2010 Bibliosue Review: The Unfinished Clue
March 11, 2010 Fleur Fisher Reads Review: No Wind of Blame
March 12, 2010 Reviews by Lola Review: Frederica
March 12, 2010 Reading, Writing, Working, Playing Review: Envious Casca
March 13, 2010 Life Is a Patchwork Quilt Review: My Lord John
March 14, 2010 Jenny’s Books Review: The Grand Sophy
March 15, 2010 Booklust Review: Penhallow
March 16, 2010 Carol’s Notebook Review: Cotillion
March 16, 2010 Musings Review: These Old Shades
March 17, 2010 Reading Adventures Review: Devil’s Cub
March 18, 2010 Blog Jar Review: Royal Escape
March 19, 2010 Reading, Writing and Retirement Review: Friday’s Child
March 20, 2010 Staircase Wit Review: The Grand Sophy
March 21, 2010 Medieval Bookworm Review: Corinthian
March 22, 2010 Bibliolatry Review: Footsteps in the Dark
March 22, 2010 Linus’s Blanket Review: Frederica
March 24, 2010 Kay’s Bookshelf Review The Grand Sophy
March 26, 2010 A Few More Pages Review: The Nonesuch
March 27, 2010 A Reader’s Respite Review: The Conquerer
March 28, 2010 Tell Me a Story Review: Faro’s Daughter
March 29, 2010 Sasha & the Silverfish Review: Arabella
March 30, 2010 Becky’s Book Reviews Review: Sprig Muslin
March 30, 2010 Shelf Love Review: A Civil Contract
March 31, 2010 book-a-rama Review: A Lady of Quality

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15 thoughts on “Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester – A Review

  1. A lovely review. It’s been a few years since I read Georgette Heyer’s Regency World but I remember being impressed by what an excellent resource it is. Really looking forward to this entire month and its celebration of one of my favourite authors!

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  2. Great review. I am new to Georgette Heyer’s world since I only read one of her novels (Sylvester) and I’ve got a second one on my TBR list (Venetia) . As you say in your review, reading her Regency novels without knowing much about the era is all the same a delight, but with a better knowledge it could become very interesting, too. I have to look for this essay. Thanks, Laurel Ann!

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  3. I disagree, in that I’ve read much better books on Regency life, and this one only works if you’ve read a lot of Heyer, as it references the plots of her novels every paragraph of so.

    But it does seem accurate.

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  4. Definitely sounds like a helpful guide for Regency lovers! I read my first Heyer just last year — The Grand Sophy — and would probably have benefited from a resource like this. As it was, I found myself Googling all sorts of things while reading, like a “curricle” and a “phaeton” (yes, I was blissfully ignorant back then!).

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  5. Perfect way to kick off the Heyer tour, March, and Spring! I’ve been wanting to read this book for awhile, but didn’t acquire it for fear it would turn out to be a dud. Glad to hear it’s worth getting.

    And this is what really sold me…
    >What elevates this book beyond a collection of historical facts is its organization and that the author places many of Heyer’s novels and characters in context to the categories and descriptions within the text.

    Great review.

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  6. Oh the cover of this book is just lovely! This sounds like a keeper of a book too that definitely is helpful in expanding our knowledge of Heyer. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. I followed through to order the book, and found an interesting range of opinions among the reviews. Lauren Ann, does this book distinguish that much of the slang was Heyer’s own devising? Heyer was a diligent researcher who filled sketchbooks with her research in English libraries, then used it as a launching pad to create a world of her own devising. I am curious if the author supports this thesis.
    (And I really enjoy Heyer’s books, which are more comedy of manners than romance novels.)

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    • Hi Cozydell, great question. No, Georgette Heyer was not “shamming it” or make things up nor am I selling you a “bag of moonshine” or a lot of nothing! She uses phrases culled from her research of the period used by “upper-class men to integrate into their everyday speech the language of certain of the lower classes.” pg 319 of GHRW

      You can also read further about Heyer’s use of Regency cant at Janeite Deb’s great review of Heyer’s novel Frederica at her blog Jane Austen in Vermont. Deb is “all the crack” (an expert) on Regency history and a former librarian and I trust her without hesitation. Heyer was such a stickler for historical accuracy that your first instincts were correct. I hope you enjoy the book. I found it a fascinating and insightful resource.

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  8. This sounds like a great overview of what is so important in the era. I just started my first Heyer novel so it’s good to hear there are things like this to help me along!

    Thanks for joining the Circuit.

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  9. Very helpful review! I’m adding this book to my wishlist since I plan to start reading Heyer’s books later this year and figure I’ll need the help. So far the only book of hers I’ve read is The Talisman Ring. I missed the sign-up for this Classics Circuit Tour, otherwise I’d have loved to join in. :)

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  10. This looks like an interesting resource for books during the regency period, but especially the ones Heyer wrote. I wonder if there is a similiar resource for other time periods she covers — I’m reading “My Lord John” which takes place during the War of the Roses (I think….I’ve just started it) and already there’s a lot of slang from that period that I’m not familiar with.

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  11. I just loved Georgette Heyer’s! I’m going to share about it tomorrow at my Jane book club. I’m part of JASNA here in the central valley where there are lots of Janeites!
    We even have our own local Austen author, Sharon Lathan, who we adore! http://www.sharonlathan.net/
    She started a site for Jane Austen Writers, here’s the site if your interested.
    http://www.austenauthors.com/

    Again, I really enjoyed your book! I’m adding your blog to my favorites list if that’s okay?

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