From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
Considered the pioneer of Regency romance, Georgette Heyer has been delighting readers with her engaging stories, memorable characters and historical accuracy for eight-nine years. In honor of her birthday on August 16th, we will be focusing over the next month on her romance novels with thirty-four book reviews, interviews, essays by Heyer experts and discussion by her readers.
My Introduction to Georgette Heyer
I read my first Georgette Heyer novel only two years ago. I had been hearing about her for years, but somehow had not delved in. Mind you, most of her titles were out of print here in the US, so I cannot blame the neglect of my education entirely on oversight or ignorance! She came to my attention again when Sourcebooks began re-issuing her novels in 2007. My blogging friend and fellow Janeite, Vic of Jane Austen’s World had been posting monthly reviews as they were re-released. Her praise and enthusiasm was infectious, but where to start? Vic recommended Friday’s Child and that was all I needed. I was off on a new reading adventure and I have not regretted one moment since.
Sharing the Love for Heyer
As a bookseller, I never hesitate to recommend Heyer to readers who like Jane Austen or other historical fiction novelists. I am happy to say that I in turn passed the torch and converted Katherine of November’s Autumn. Happily, she is now hooked too. Hopefully there will be a few more converts from this event who will discover the charms of an author who is worthy of high praise.
Born August 16, 1902 in Wimbledon near London, Georgette Heyer’s writing career began in 1921 at the age of nineteen with the publication of The Black Moth, a story originally written in serial format to amuse her younger brother. It was a romantic comedy set in the mid eighteenth-century and involved many of the elements that would later become her trademark: money, marriage and social machinations of the English Aristocrats and gentry.
Jane Austen Similarities & Differences
Best known for her twenty-six Regency-era romance novels (1811-1820), she is often linked to Jane Austen. Although their styles are similar in basic concept, Austen wrote contemporary novels with little physical descriptions and Heyer wrote historical novels with detailed physical description for a contemporary audience.
Large Fan Base
Even though Heyer was never recognized critically by the press or academia during her lifetime, publicly she was very successful with a loyal following. Amazingly a Heyer new release would sell over half a million copies, a number that would place any modern novel on today’s best-selling lists. Unlike many romance writers of her era, her passion for historical accuracy was quite remarkable. She collected research materials and investigated the eras that she was writing of extensively. Her physical descriptions were so successful that she rarely needs to mention a date, instead placing the reader in context historically. Her account of the Battle of Waterloo was so accurate that is was used as a text for British officers at Sandhurst Military Academy.
A Prolific Writing Career
During her prolific fifty-three year career, she wrote fifty-six historical fiction, regency romance and detective fiction novels publishing sometimes more than one a year to meet the demand of her readers and support her family. Unfortunately, she was plagued with plagiarism woes which she chose not to pursue legally and tax problems pressing her to write the Regency romances the public loved to pay the bills and put aside her “magnum opus of my latter years”, a medieval trilogy of the House of Lancaster. She completed the first novel in the series My Lord John before her death in London on 4 July 1974. It was published posthumously in 1975.
New Editions by Sourcebooks
After eighty-nine years the majority of her novels are still in print thanks to the good folks at Sourcebooks and Harlequin Books. I hope that if you have not had a chance to read a Heyer novel you will be encouraged to take the plunge. I have only come to appreciate her as of late, and I could not be more enchanted. She is “bang up to the mark”.
- Heyer Today Podcast
- Georgette Heyer Website
- Georgette Heyer at Wikipedia
- An Appreciation of Georgette Heyer by Jay Dixon
- Georgette Heyer Archive at Austenprose
ADDITIONAL INFO | ADD TO GOODREADS
Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2010, austenprose.com. Updated 25 March 2022.
*Squeal* Very excited about this!
Just a little note- her last book was My Lord John.
There is a biography of GH. I may have ordered it from England but I read it and found it interesting to get to know the lady behind the characters.
Heyer does include a lot of historical details in her writing that I inadvertently miss on the first reading. So, re-reads always bring to light more details that further enrich the story.
Sourcebooks should consider publishing annotated versions of some of her novels! =)
Yea! it has begun! [should be a great month – a perfect fit for August!] – so thank you Laurel Ann for doing this!
Yes. Let the party begin. Thanks Deb. You are welcome. It is a pleasure to learn and write about Georgette Heyer.
I look forward to your insightful comments and two reviews. Now get reading! ;-)
I love Georgette Heyer and am super excited about this event! My mother introduced her to me and I have devoured all the copies I have been able to get my hands on. I am so glad they have been reissuing her books as my copies are older than I am and most are falling apart from having been read so many times. It never ceases to amaze me how much impact one author had on so many people. Most current historical romance novelists will list Heyer as one of their favorite authors.
I have to admit that I have only read one of her novels (Devil’s Cub). I really enjoyed it, but haven’t had the time to dive into any other ones. I can’t wait to read all the reviews this month and hopefully throw myself into more of her novels! :)
Thanks for joining the celebration Dara. I hope that the reviews help you decide which Heyer to read next.
Cheers, Laurel Ann
Wow, thank you so much for hosting this great event! I started reading Heyers when Harlequin re-released some of her Regencies in mass market size (I believe this was shortly before Sourcebooks started their re-release program). My 1st Heyer read was FREDERICA…and I’ve been hooked ever since. :) So I’ll go with Frederica being my favorite…though I am also partial to Sylvester.
I’ve read and re-read every Heyer novel in existence for more years than I can count; just finished SYLVESTER, OR THE WICKED UNCLE, for perhaps the seventh time. I think my favorite heroine is a toss-up between the Sparrow of that novel, Phoebe Marlow–and Serena from BATH TANGLE. Or maybe I’d have to go with
….whoops…THE GRAND SOPHY. Or Arabella, from her eponymous novel–or Kitty, from COTILLION. There are too many great women to choose from in Heyer–which is why we keep going back, year after year. Who couldn’t love Venetia? Or Faro’s Daughter? Impossible! And the men are even better. I could sell my soul for Ivo Rotherham, or Sylvester Rayne, or Dominique, Marquis Vidal. Heyer split her men into blond and dark–blonds being kind and magnanimous, dark being harsh, unyeilding and intense; give me a dark Heyer hero every time!
What intrigues me about Heyer’s novel is the regency setting and the beautiful language that comes with it. Thanks for the event :)
I think, only 14 books in to Ms. Heyers works, I have found my favorite… for now. Devil’s Cub – ah, Vidal.
What a wonderful contest.
In the past year I have heard and read so much about her. It is nice to see an author who started a genre be recognized and reissued. We got the reissues at the library where I worked, our director was a big fan. I knew I could recommend her to our patrons who liked romance and those who read christian fiction since she is considered a safe read.
I think RegencyRomantic’s idea about annotated editions is a good one. There are those of us who would enjoy it. It would also make them good books to read for history class since she includes so much historical information.
Having only read two Heyer novels I am very excited to learn about some others! I lookr forward to reading all the reviews! Thank you for hosing this spectacular event, Laurel Ann!
You’ve hit the nail on the head in your introduction to Georgette Heyer and her novels, Laurel Ann. Heyer was indeed a master of description and historical accuracy. She is set apart from her many imitators by her ability to create a believeable story set in a time period neither she nor her readers experienced.
Favourite novel: Friday’s Child
Favourite heroine: Sophy from The Grand Sophy
I’m a huge Georgette Heyer fan and I’m so happy about this event!
While I love that her stories were all exhaustively researched, what I appreciate most about her work, is her sparkling sense of humor.
Favorite novel: Cotillion
Favorite heroine: Miss Sarah Thane
Favorite quote: “As for the fan, she agreed that it was a most amusing trifle: just what she would wish to buy for herself, if it had not been so excessively ugly!” – The Nonesuch
My friend recommended Heyer’s books and I am really excited to hear all about them! I am a huge Jane Austen fan and I was told that Heyer ranks right up there with her. I am intrigued about reading someone who can rank up there with Miss Jane!
Yea!!!! It’s here and I’m so excited too. So far my fave is Cotillion although that could change in the future as I haven’t finished reading all her books either.
I’ve loved Heyer since I was in college and have read just about all of her books (I now own but haven’t read the early “modern” ones. I often reread a favorite book and periodically go through orgy periods of rereading many over the course of a couple of weeks. Now that I’ve joined Almacks, I’m reading on a schedule. I own pretty much the entire oevre, but many are kind of ratty (and some are 2nd or 3rd copies. I’ve started buying the Sourcebook versions (lovely!) and am prioritizing according to which ones in my library are in the worst condition. My top 5 (and the ones of which I own more than 1 copy) would be: Devil’s Cub (and These Old Shades, but I lump them together), Friday’s Child, Cotillion, The Convenient Marriage, and The Talisman Ring — but it breaks my heart to leave out Arabella, False Colours, Sylvester, The Reluctant Widow… I still laugh out loud when I read her books.
What an amazing contest! I have only read one Heyer novel so far, but I would love to read more. So I guess what intrigues me most is how she came to get the title of the pioneer of Regency Romance – especially since that is my favorite genre of romance to read!
I have simply got to read An Infamous Army, as I know so little about Waterloo and what better way to learn about it!
Great bio–I hadn’t realized she had problems with plagiarists. Wonder why she didn’t pursue remedy…
I’m beginning to feel like a veteran to Heyer, altough I only knew about her some ten years ago, precisely because she was recommended as something similar to Jane Austen.
Back then I got all her 35 Georgians and Regencies (in this event only Pistols for Two -the book of short-stories- is missing) from second-hand, including some of the so valued hardbound copies with the Barbosa front-cover illustrations (to a certain degree Barbosa is to Heyer what the Brocks are to JA).
One can find more than a handful of favourites among her novels, it is easier to choose which ones are liked the least. There are heroines and heroes to suit all tastes and also memorable and endearing secondary characters.
Last final warning, sometimes one burst out loughing out loud with the comedy scenes that people around might think one has gone insane.
Okay, you guys have convinced me. I have heard about Heyer for years whenever I searched for Austen or Austen sequel, prequel, retelling sub genre, her name would inevitably come up. But I admit I was always a bit nervous that they would be more romance driven (not my cup of tea) and since they were out of print at the time, I had a convenient excuse to look elsewhere. I took the plunge early last year and purchased An Infamous Army. But then I hesitated again because, I have been a let down by inferior Austen sub genre books that either are too flowery, romancey or down right smutty that it just added to Heyer concerns.
I have just finished reading the entire event reviews and kick-off and am ready to fall under Heyer’s spell. The clever, witty dialogue, the masterful historical detail and the villains, heroes and maidens already mentioned in this first several days of Heyer month along with the chance to win a book – oh, my!
Now that you have this newbie on board I hope you don’t mind my asking some questions. What book/books should I start with? Is there some place to find the meanings of terms and slang used in her books? Okay I’ll stop here and leave other questions for other posts.
Thanks in advance! Oh and I found your site and celebration from historical fiction bloggers like Hist-Fic Chick, The Burton Review, Passages to the Past and the like. So it’s all their fault that I am now following you ;-)
favorite heroine: hmmm…maybe Hester Theale, though I wish we could have seen more of her. So sweet, has a good sense of humor, and someone you just want to be happy. Also love Hero from Friday’s Child, though she’s more of an innocent. Glad she’s also made happy by the end!
favorite hero: even trickier. Freddy Standen or Sir Gareth, I’d say.
Ohh! Very fun! I’ll definitely be joining in!
My aunt introduced me to Georgette Heyer when I arrived in NYC to attend college back in the early 1970’s. I devoured all of the “historicals”, back then only available through my library, including “Simon The Coldheart” and “The Conqueror”, in one summer. My mother said that I had “… one foot in the 20th century and one in the 19th”… for months. I reread them every ten years or so. My favorites still are “Venetia” and “These Old Shades”: love those wounded moody-broody heroes. I recommend her books and Dorothy Dunnett’s “Lymond Chronicles” to anyone I meet who has not already discovered them.
I feel it is much too hard to choose a favorite Georgette Heyer. Although it is ironic that as I came across this celebration on novelreaction, I am currently reading False Colours by her and of course it is another great one. I am a huge fan of GH and her great novels!
So happy you are having a month of Georgette Heyer books. She is deserving of it. I started reading GH books when Richard Armitage began reading a few of her books for Naxos. Mr. Armitage has a wonderful speaking voice and is wonderful at giving each person their own voice. I have listened to other readers of GH books, IMHO they cannot capture all the characters as well as Mr. Armitage.
I’ve only read and/or listened to 15 of Ms. Heyer’s books and my favorite to date is Frederica. In addition to her romance novels, I enjoy her mysteries. I’m a big fan of British mysteries and currently reading ‘Why Kill a Butler’. You would think her books would be similar however Ms. Heyer has a knack for putting a different spin on her characters and storylines.
Great introduction to Georgette Heyer! I can’t believe that she wasn’t more honored in her lifetime and isn’t more well known now. I’m glad I just happened to pick up one of her novels at the library five years ago – it was a fantastic discovery. I’m glad that Sourcebooks and Harlequin have reissued her novels, allowing new fans (such as myself) to discover Heyer!
Favourite novel: either A Civil Contract – no malice, no abductions or outrageous conduct, really decent people you believe in; OR Frederica, which has everything – lots of action, a Baluchistan Hound, a child endangered, a balloon ascent, a taking-care-of-an-invalid-in-an-inn episode, a breathtaking beauty, a fabulous hero (Heyero) and more!
Favourite hero: Hugo (the Unknown Ajax) – heroic and funny all at the same time.
Favourite heroine – how to choose? I think Venetia.
This is a crazy giveaway and I keep hearing good things about Heyer’s novels. Can’t wait to read one. =)
I just reread “The Black Moth” which is certainly not her best, but it made me miss the Devil from “These Old Shades.” I went online to find a copy and found this site. I have always loved Austen as well. It looks like a perfect place for me.
Thank you so much for hosting this event, Laurel Ann. A friend and co-worker tried to get me to read The Devil’s Cub a few years ago, but somehow I never did. Thanks to the wonderful reviews you posted, I was enticed to pick up one of her books… and now I’m hooked.
Having only read one Heyer novel to date (The Convenient Marriage), I can’t choose a favorite character quite yet, though I absolutely loved Rule. The comments that intrigued me about her books in general, and the quality that will keep me coming back, was her historical accuracy. When I listened to this novel, I felt like I was actually in Regency England. Regencies are my favorite genre and I’ve done a fair amount of research into the era myself, and Heyer did not strike one false note. Everything rang perfectly true.
Though part of me can’t believe I’m just now discovering her as an author, the larger part is excited that I have so many books still to read.
I try to reread all of Heyer’s novels every several years-but it can be difficult because our local library only has a few. She is one of my all time favorite writers. She creates a world that I love to retreat to for several delightful hours.