Venetia, by Georgette Heyer, read by Richard Armitage (Naxos AudioBooks): A Review & Giveaway

Did you know that Georgette Heyer is British author and literary critic Margaret Drabble’s favorite historical novelist? I know! High praise from an author who has written eighteen novels, introductions to all of Jane Austen’s major and minor works, been awarded a Doctorate in Letters from Cambridge University and the CBE and DBE by the Queen of England. Drabble is a living national treasure, as Heyer should have been if her novels had been taken more seriously during her life-time. However, she has always been highly esteemed by her faithful readers for close to ninety years and out of her thirty-eight Regency romance novels Venetia is one of the most beloved.

Set in the countryside of the North Riding of Yorkshire three years after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Venetia Lanyon is not your conventional Heyer heroine. Unmarried at age twenty-five she has never been in love, is close to being on the shelf and has resigned herself to the narrow fate of spinsterhood. Raised by her reclusive father since her mother’s death fifteen years prior, Venetia has seen little of life beyond the family estate of Undershaw Manor or an occasional country dance at Harrogate. Since her father’s death shortly after the Battle of Waterloo she has been overseeing the household of her younger brothers: twenty-two year-old Sir Conway, a soldier overseas with the Army of Occupation in Cambray, France and sixteen-year old Aubrey, a brilliant scholar studying for Cambridge who abhors his physical limitations from a pronounced and ugly limp. Also within her small sphere are two improbable suitors who would like to win her hand: Edward Yardley, a dull, pompous egoist who thinks NO is a YES, and Oswald Denny, a bumbling teenage wanna-be rake who idolizes Lord Byron. Life as a maiden aunt in her brother’s household seems a far preferable fate until a chance encounter with an estranged neighbor, the “Wicked Baron” of Elliston Priory, leaves a surprisingly favorable impression.

Others tell her the Baron, Lord Jasper Damerel is scoundrel, a rake and a libertine and not a suitable association for any young lady who does not want her reputation ruined. Their first encounter while she walks alone near his estate is one of Heyer’s most famous scenes. (I will not reveal spoilers – but it is very praise worthy.) Damerel is as brazen and unprincipled as his reputation proceeded him, but instead of swooning or running from his advances Venetia firmly holds her ground and pelts him with literary retorts challenging his intelligence and temporarily belaying his dishonorable intensions. Their verbal sparring snaps and sparkles like dry kindling to a hungry fire confirming Heyer’s brilliance with characterization and dialogue. Venetia does not hesitate to say what she thinks and that makes him laugh, a refreshing change for this world-weary social outcast. Tall, dark and disreputable, everything about rakish Damerel tells her to check herself but Venetia does the exact opposite, she befriends him. He is intrigued and continues to seduce her until the green girl before him earns his true respect and deep affection. He is in love and wants her for his wife. Venetia secretly feels the same and awaits his proposal until Damerel suddenly becomes chivalrous and will not sully her reputation by marrying her. Meanwhile her brother Conway’s young bride arrives unannounced from France with her surly mother to take possession of Undershaw displacing Venetia who quickly accepts an invitation to stay with her aunt and uncle Hendred in London. Her family hopes that the change of scenery will help her forget the unsuitable Lord Damerel, but she only fears she may never see him again. However, Venetia is a realist who knows how the world works and a newly discovered family secret spurs her into action. She will need all her wit and guile to challenge propriety and to prove to Damerel that their social standing has nothing to do with keeping them apart.

Venetia Lanyon is one of Heyer’s most liberated heroines and Lord Damerel one of her darkest rogues. They seem a most unlikely pair, but Heyer’s skill at devising impossible obstacles for her hero and heroine is like syllabub and sunshine, we just can’t get enough if it. Upon their first meeting Damerel quotes Shakespeare, ‘How full of briars is this workaday world!’ which is an important theme throughout the novel. Both Venetia and Damerel face the challenges of social stricture – the briars of the workaday world – and overcome them in their own way. The plot is simple and secondary to the romantic tension, scintillating dialogue and playful sparing which is so much sexier than any modern bodice ripper could hope to generate. Cleverly, Heyer’s Venetia does not reform a rake, she discovers that a knight errant is what she needs.

This new Naxos AudioBook abridged recording of Heyer’s classic Regency romance read by renown British stage and screen actor Richard Armitage is a perfect pairing of witty humor and smoldering syntax. His reputation for bad boy roles such as Sir Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood and John Thornton in North and South transition smoothly into his characterizations in Venetia. Classical trained, his velvety voice resonates all the dash and splash that a great rake like Lord Damerel should display in the most seductive and sultry tones. His characterization of upbeat Venetia Lanyon accentuates her intelligence, casual frankness and sarcastic humor beautifully. After listening to this recording of Venetia his legion of fans will be clamoring for another libertine with a “well-informed mind and a great deal of kindness.” A tall order to fill, unless you’re on to the next Georgette Heyer Regency romance.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Venetia, by Georgette Heyer, read by Richard Armitage
Naxos AudioBooks, USA (2010)
Abridged, 4 CD’s, 4h 49m
ISBN: 978-1843793793

Giveaway Contest

Enter a chance to win one copy of Venetia, audio CD or digital download by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about reading a Georgette Heyer novel or who your favorite Georgette Heyer hero is and what actor you would like to see in the movie role by midnight PT, Monday, April 12th, 2010. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, April 13th, 2010. Digital download internationally, CD shipment to continental US addresses. Good luck!

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53 thoughts on “Venetia, by Georgette Heyer, read by Richard Armitage (Naxos AudioBooks): A Review & Giveaway

  1. I adore Georgette Heyer novels and have a number of favorites, including: These Old Shades and Devil’s Cub, Cotillion, Friday’s Child, The Masqueraders, The Nonsuch…

    Although Freddie (Cotillion) is one of my favorite heroes, I would probably choose to cast Devil’s Cub. Vidal is such a mixture of rake and puritan and definitely sexy. I’d kind of like to see Australian actor Alex O’Loughlin in the part. Not an obvious choice, at first glance, but he can definitely smoulder and he can do humorous — this character needs to demonstrate both pragmatism and humor. Loved him in Moonlight and in Mary Bryant and I’d like to see him as Dominic.

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  2. Oh my goodness, how I love Georgette Heyer. Venetia is one of my favorites and I just read it again a bit ago. :)

    I adore Georgette Heyer’s novels because they have all the elements I love in books: superb wit & humor, interesting & original characters, outstanding plots, and all the little Regency touches that make it feel authentic like language, customs, clothing, etc.

    I have so many favorite GH heroes that I cannot name just one favorite.

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  3. Pingback: Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for April 2010 « Austenprose

  4. I adore Georgette Heyer. Venetia definitely ranks as one of my favourites, along with The Grand Sophy and Frederica. But despite those being my favourite novels, my favourite Heyer hero is Robert Beaumaris from Arabella.

    While I’m generally opposed to the idea of film adaptations, I would love to see Richard Armitage cast as Sir Waldo Hawkridge from The Nonesuch.

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  5. Oh, I absolutely love Georgette Heyer’s work. Frederica will always hold a special place in my heart since it was my first Heyer read, but beyond that I find it nearly impossible to pick a favorite. However, I would absolutely love to see a film version of Sylvester with Richard A. in the lead role. :) Thanks for the contest opportunity!! Keeping my fingers crossed. :)

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  6. I’m a HUGE fan of Georgette Heyer’s books. One of my favorites is April Lady.
    What I like about them is that they are light and romantic with dramatic elements, just great fun.
    Who I would like to see as the Earl of Cardross? Hmmm Richard Armitage would be great or Rupert Penry-Jones.

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  7. I am relatively new to Heyer stories. I knew they were out there, but I hadn’t read any until I read The Devil’s Cub recently. It was a good foray into the territory of a new-to-me author and I read it in about two and a half days! I could see someone like Richard Armitage playing the hero. Or even Matthew MacFadyen. The possibilities are endless.
    Margay

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  8. I discovered Georgette Heyer’s work b/c of a post on one of my favorite Austen sites (I forget which). I enjoyed Sylvester but Venetia will always be my favorite – perhaps b/c it was the first one but most likely b/c of the verbal sparing between hero and heroine. Also, personally, I hate labels – and so enjoy both Venetia and Damerel ignoring society’s casting and following their hearts. As an aside, I’m curious to hear how Venetia is actually pronounced…as with most of my reading, I don’t always get words pronounced correctly in my head and am therefore doomed to the wrong pronunciation in all future conversations! :)

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  9. You don’t need to enter me, LA. Of course I’ve got my copy of Venetia, but I couldn’t resist commenting when I saw this post peeping in my blogroll. Heyer is a recent , very pleasant, discovery to me and I’ve only read and listened to 2 of her books Sylvester and Venetia. My favourite hero is Lord Damerel (so far) and would love to see Richard Armitage in that role. He was brilliant in the audiobook so … why not to give him the chance to prove himself a perfect Damerel on screen?

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  10. Venetia is my absolute favorite Heyer novel! There is something so light and sparklingly witty about her writing; she has been compared to Austen quite a bit and there are some similarities, but she has a style uniquely her own.

    Actually, my favorite hero IS Damerel, hands down. Before I had heard Richard Armitage was going to read “Sylvester” for Naxos, I decided that he would be the perfect actor to play Jasper, should we ever be fortunate enough to get a film adaptation. When I heard about THIS audiobook (only a few days ago, actually), I was overjoyed!

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  11. What an awesome giveaway!*_* I love most in her novels the society, the people and the manners. I like to be brought in that elegant world, with beautiful balls and intrigues! The characters she can create are unique. I haven’t read Venetia yet, and it would be wonderful to have the audiobook. Thank you for the chance to win it!

    Giada M
    fabgiada @ gmail.com

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  12. I love, love, love Georgette Heyer! I’ve read so many great books the past few years. It would be really hard to pick a favorite, but Devil’s Cub comes close to the top for me. I love the way Heyer does characters–making them so complex, so memorable. And I love the humor! Of course some are funnier than others. (Some being almost laugh-out-loud funny).

    Becky

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  13. Venetia wasn’t one that I particularly enjoyed reading, but this abridgment and Richard Armitage’s reading made me appreciate it more. With that golden voice, who wouldn’t fall for a repentant rake? =)

    I still prefer his reading of Sylvester. It afforded him a wider variety of characters that really showed off his range of voices. The misadventures of Sylvester and Phoebe was a more enjoyable read for me. And Mr. Armitage’s reading of Fotherby was just laugh-out-loud funny! =D The Duke of Salford will always have a special place in my heart. Who do I see playing this role? Hmmm… perhaps Dominic Cooper, especially with those winged eyebrows.

    Although I just finished reading Faro’s Daughter and Mr. Armitage would make a great Max Ravenscar! =)

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  14. I was introduced to Georgette Heyer about a year and a half ago. I have read 3 of her novels and listened to Sylvester. I have a long list of her books on my “to be read” list. She captures the Regency time period so well.

    I would love to see Richard Armitage play any of the male characters in her books. To see him in a cravat again would be swoon-worthy!

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  15. Not long ago I bookmarked a website about her that listed her books in the subject order, so I decided to start with the Alastair trilogy from the beginning. What is interesting to me is that she was able to write about different genres with her novels, the mysteries, etc. usually a writer has the talent for only one. Yet all the research she poured into her work amazes me, etc but from what I’ve found she didn’t do interviews or travel to promote her books, although that was rare anyway for a woman. But my favorite line…. “You’re only a man! You’ve not our gifts! I can tell you! Why, a woman can think of a hundred different things at once, all them contradictory!” from Powder and Patch! ha ha So true, so true!

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  16. I think what I love about Georgette Heyer is her dialog–tons of cant, of course! & I love it, but also seeing how often the hero & heroine develop their friendship that deepens into love. And all her books are clean, but still with passion!

    favorite Heyer-o: tough one. Maybe Freddy Standen, because he’s such an outstanding guy. Also like Sir Gareth from Sprig muslin. I think JJ Feild from the recent northanger Abbey would be greta as Freddy Standen & sure, Richard Armitage as Sir Gareth or Sylvester!

    thanks for the giveaway!!!

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  17. I have to be honest here and say that I have never read Georgette Heyer, but that I’m intrigued by her work because every Austen reader seems to love her. And not only Austen lovers, but other classic-readers as well. There must be something about her works that appeal to people that read books like me. I’m sorry that I cannot give you more of an answer.

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  18. I enjoy Heyer for her easy writing style, and the fact that most of the time I have a silly grin on my face..
    My favorite Heyer was Arabella, and my favorite heroine.. And to play Arabella I would like to see someone totally absolutely new to me.. I am tired of seeing the same actors over and over and over again such Keira Knightley.
    But if she is quaint and with an English accent I would like that! For a hero I enjoyed The Nonesuch. To play Sir Waldo I wouldn’t mind a young Sean Bean Look-alike.

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  19. I confess I have not yet read any Georgette Heyer, but I am entering because I would listen to Richard Armitage read the ingredients on a cereal box. I can’t think of any better way to be introduced to this author!

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  20. Love, love, love Georgette Heyer and Richard Armitage. (Who ever came up with that combination deserves a medal!) I just love her witty and humorous style of writing and the language is a pure delight. Still, there is sort of a depth to most of her books as it touches on various social issues and situations.

    My absolute favourite G.H. book is Frederica. I can’t even begin to count the times I’ve read it. Frederica is just one of those heroines that one cannot dislike. She sets her mind and she acts, even though it means nestling her family into the life of the Marquis of Alverstoke for the sake of her brothers, completely turning it upside down.
    …and yes, Richard Armitage or perhaps Mark Strong would be good candidates to play Alverstoke.

    Although, I would however say that my favourite hero is the Marquis of Rotherham in a Bath Tangle. I just love the chemestry he has with the heroine, Serena. Sparks fly when they fight. But who would I like to see play the argumentative, blunt and striking Marquis? Well, Richard Armitage could probably do Rotherham as well.

    Why not just cast him as the hero in all of GH’s books and be done with it?

    Also The reluctant widow and a Bath tangle are high on my list. I really like the fact that G.H never portrayed the same sort of basic heroine in her books, but showed different kind of women from different walks of life. It just adds to her greatness, giving 19th century women a multifaceted face.

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  21. I think my favorite Georgette Heyer was The Convenient Marriage. Who could play that role in a film is a difficult question, as I don’t watch much and don’t know many actors. Toby Stephens, maybe?

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  22. The first Georgette Heyer I ever read was The Grand Sophy. Soon after, a friend and I started buying up more Heyer books and loaning them to one another.

    The one that stands out for me is a title that’s not as madcap and silly as many of her others: A Civil Contract.

    I rooted for the heroine, Jenny, whose father pushed her into an arranged marriage with a Lord who is desperate for money to shore up his estate. She’s practical, humble, hardworking and plain.

    Adam, her noble husband, grows to appreciate Jenny’s first rate qualities and so much more. He’s my favorite of the Heyer men. He’s not the least bit rakish, but I like him anyway.

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  23. What intrigues me about reading a Georgette Heyer novel?
    Her ability to take some of the most off-the-wall characters and plot devices, tie them all together into a perfectly reasonable package by the end, and keep me laughing the whole time. What more could I ask for in the way of entertainment? I’m very glad I found her!

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  24. LA, I’m a long-time Heyer fan and have already got the Venetia audiobooks so don’t enter me into the draw, but I want to compliment you on a fabulous review.

    What intrigues me most about GH novels? Three things: that I can always find something new to enjoy when I re-read; the way she managed to ring the changes within the constraints of genre; the sublime characterisation, sparkling dialogue and masterful plotting. (Er-that probably counts as more than three, but never mind!)

    My favourite Heyer hero? Sir Waldo Hawkridge from The Nonesuch.

    Who would I like to see in the movie role? – Who else but Richard Armitage?! *g*

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    • Hi Elizabeth, Thanks for your complement on my review. I really thought and wrote and relistened before I completed it. The combination of this particular Heyer novel and Armitage was electrifying. I hope everyone can experience it also.

      There are many things I am looking forward to in reading all of Heyer’s Regency romances, but the fact that there are 38 to choose from is almost overwelming in comparison to Austen’s 7 novels. The number seems so decadent.

      Cheers, Laurel Ann

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  25. I have only read two Heyer novels and I loved them for the wonderful comedy and laugh out loud moments! My favorite Heyer expressions so far is “thunder and turf!”

    Out of the two I read I like Dominic Alistair, the Marquis of Vidal, from Devil’s Cub as my favorite hero, that might change as read other novels by her though.

    Thanks for the wonderful opportunity!
    Meredith
    merry816@aol.com

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  26. I protest! John Thornton is not a bad guy! ;-)

    I was re-reading Venetia a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t finish it, it was just something I picked up for a minute after I heard about the audiobook, but what I read was interesting. It’s never been one of my favorite Heyers, but it really has some wonderful, evocative prose that is not present in the (also thoroughly delightful) books GH was banging out because the taxes were due. It’s more of a writer’s work. The scenes in which Venetia is falling slowly into love are just beautiful; when she has dinner at Damerel’s and they talk into the evening is a great example. I think it is the next morning when she wakes up and lies in bed and feels like a child who has had a treat promised. It’s just beautifully done. I think I need to re-read the whole thing, in my copious free time, mind you.

    (P.S. Don’t enter me in the contest–I already bought it.)

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    • Like I said, don’t enter me in the contest, but just for fun:

      Freddy Standen is probably my favorite Heyer hero. He is just delightful in every way, and complements Kitty Charing so well. I don’t know who I would cast! A young unknown who looks exquisite (if not necessarily handsome) in Regency clothing, I suppose.

      I’ve often thought Richard Armitage would make a fine Duke of Avon.

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    • But, but John Thornton is a meany at the beginning of N&S. Not the end though, so I forgive him. ;-)

      If Venetia is not one of the better Heyer novels in your estimation, then I have other better novels by her to look forward to. Squee.

      The dinner scene with Damerel is lovely. The scene in the barn with the kittens and Oswald mauling her and Dameral recusing her is great too. Just about all of their scenes are memorable, but their first meeting is my favorite. Heyer is so wonderful. *gush*

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      • Not so much not one of the better Heyer novels, just not one of my favorites. But I might change my mind on a re-read. It’s been a while.

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      • Thornton is autocratic at the beginning of North & South (and throughout, for that matter). He loses his temper when his worker endangers the lives of others and the safety of the mill itself, and gives him a beating. But he is NOT a baddie. He’s actually rather amazingly good.

        Oh, and I just got Venetia from Audible, and his narration is wonderful and very versatile.

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        • Hi Gerp, thanks for your comments. I used ‘baddie’ as a figure of speach. His actions were bad, but he is not a bad person. He changed by his association with Margaret and redeams himself in the end. Same can be said of Austen’s character Mr. Darcy.

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  27. My first encounter with Georgette Heyer was Richard Armitage’s reading of Sylvester, which I will come out and admit straightaway that I bought simply because of my love for the reader. ;) However, I enjoyed the story and writing style quite as much as the voice reading it, and have since started another of her novels, ‘Cousin Kate’.

    Probably my favorite element of her writing is her humor. She is able to create such vivid characters and settings that one can just see the situations playing out. Another large part of the entertainment for me is the phrasing, dialects, and slang itself, even in the ‘ordinary’ situations.

    I also enjoy the historical context. What I have read from her so far gives a good, solid idea of the era, without reading like a text.

    I look forward to reading/listening to more of her works! Thanks so much for the great article and a chance at winning a copy of Venetia!

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  28. I think Venetia was the first Heyer novel I read, and one of the best! I haven’t read too many of the other novels as of yet (I would say 5 or 6). I found those others amusing and interesting, but I really did like Lord Damerel as a hero. I think I will probably re-visit Venetia at some point in time.
    As for a movie version, wouldn’t Richard Armitage do just wonderfully in the role? I have no doubt that he could pull out the drama and the danger! I am very, very keen on having this audiobook read by him!

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  29. Not one of her heroes, but I recently re-read Cotillion and found Freddy Standen’s dad, Lord Legerwood, pretty attractive – like a nicer Duke of Avon. I think Ralph Fiennes, circa The English Patient, would be a good fit.

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      • Ooo – Isaacs does creepy very convincingly. I have not read Cotillion yet, but I know you value it very highly among Heyer’s RR’s. It is top of my list TBR. Is Lord Legerwood as satirical and outspoken as they say?

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  30. I enjoy GH for her witty voice. It’s smooth and easy to read.

    She’s got a wicked yet subtle sense of humour. I wish I could write like her.

    Also, I like how her female characters aren’t the insipid “come rescue me” little girls that often characterise too many historical romance novels. (Also, none of that stupid speaking in ellipses.)

    I vote for Richard for the role of hero in a film adaption of pretty much anything of her historical romances. Meanwhile, I hope they re-do the whole of GH’s historical romances with RA.

    What I don’t like are her murder mysteries. I read “Behold, Here’s Poison” and thought it sucked, primarily because the characters were so downright unlikeable. Maybe that was just a one-off and I should try some of the others before making absolute judgement.

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  31. When I had read every Georgette Heyer novel, I began writing my own Regency stories. She was my inspiration. Venetia, Frederica, and The Grand Sophy are among my favourites of her novels. I could see Richard Armitage as the hero in each of those stories–the debauched Damerel, distant Alverstoke, and uptight Charles. What a wonderful actor he is–I’m enjoyed his Guy of Gisborne in the British Robin Hood series right now.

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  32. Pingback: Winner announced in the Venetia giveaway! « Austenprose

  33. I’ve only recently become enthralled by Ms Heyer’s wonderful stories, and would love to listen to one of my favourite English actors, Richard Armitage, narrating one of her stories!

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  34. Georgette Heyer is a wonderful read. The first of her novels that I read was actually the last one that she wrote before her death “Lady of Quality” which I picked up at a used book sale about four years ago. It was published in 1972 and still had the original paper book cover on it with a picture that caught my eye because it looked like it would be set in the Regency period and perhaps even in Bath. I thoroughly enjoyed it and being a huge Jane Austen fan that had reread her books over and over so many times I welcomed something new set in the period, though GH also has a few romances that a set pre-Regency. Since that time I have read as many of her books as I could find. I have had a difficult time finding some of the older novels, locating a number of them in our main library’s “stacks” section (so some of them are 70-80 years old and have that wonderful old book smell!), but I have managed to find and read all of the romances, including The Black Moth which was her first novel, a couple of the historicals and a few of her mysteries which are set in the early 20th century. Her writing style and humor are just wonderful. Some are so much fun that I’ve already read them two or three times. My very favorite is The Foundling, closely followed by The Unknown Ajax, also Black Sheep, Faro’s Daughter, Devil’s Cub, The Corinthian and The Masqueradors (this one is actually set pre-Regency). About 20 of her more recent novels (meaning 1950’s on) were reprinted in paperbacks in the last couple of years. If you haven’t read GH yet, give her a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how good they are. Another author worth checking out is Carola Dunn who has done about 20 Regency period novels but now focuses on mysteries, in particular the Daisy Dalrymple series.

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  35. Oh, I almost forgot to mention as I was so carried away with gushing over Georgette Heyer. I think great roles could be found for all of Richard Armitage, Rupert Penry-Jones, Matthew McFayden, Clive Owen, Alex O’Laughlin, Jonas Armstrong, just to name a few, in the characters in her books. And there are superb heroine roles as well. Would love to see any of them made into movies or productions similar to BBC’s Jane Austen adaptions.

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  36. Just wanted to comment that I though I thought the release in paperback of a number of GH’s novels were from her later novels (50’s on), as I have been reviewing to reread her older novels I am mistaken and that really a good number of the releases that are from her very earliest novels from the 1920’s and 1930’s. And again really recommend her wonderful novels in whatever form you may find them!

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  37. Pingback: My Top 20 Jane Austen Books of 2010 « Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog

  38. I’m lucky enough to have collected almost all Georgette Heyer’s novel, read and re-read so many times they are dog-eared. Now I’m collecting the audio books, and love Richard Armitage’s reading of Sylvester and Venetia. It is easy to sit and listen any time and be transported to another world. I like books where I can really like the heroine.

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  39. Pingback: Venetia, by Georgette Heyer – A Review « Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog

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