Guest review by Susan Holloway Scott, of Two Nerdy History Girls
I read my first Georgette Heyer years ago, when I discovered a long row of her books on a shelf in my school’s library. I ripped right through them, one after another, in the kind of focused excess that only adolescents possess. This was not only my introduction to Heyer, but also to Regency England, and by the time I’d reached the end of that shelf, I’d discovered both a new favorite author and an era to match.
But that was a long time ago (another century!), and I’ve had many other favorite authors come and go since then. When Laurel Ann asked if I’d re-read Regency Buck for the Austenprose Heyer Event, I hesitated. First loves are usually better left in the hazy glow of the past. I needn’t have worried. Everything that had first captivated me about Heyer’s work was still there: the wit, the detailed recreation of another time, the cameos by famous folk, and the trials of a young lady searching for the perfect gentleman, and love as well.
Heiress Judith Taverner and her impulsive young brother Peregrine (the “buck” of the title) travel from their Yorkshire home to London to meet their new guardian and join fashionable society. Along the way they stop to watch a boxing match (one of the book’s most famous scenes), where an odious gentleman mistakes Judith for a disreputable woman. Of course the gentleman turns out to be their guardian, Julian, Earl of Worth. Of course he continues to be insufferable, refusing every gentleman who offers for Judith’s hand. Of course, too, Peregrine continues to tumble into every mishap that a young buck can, only to be rescued by Bernard Taverner, the sibling’s charming cousin. But nothing (and no one) in London is as it seems, and by the time every secret is revealed, Judith has discovered not only the truth, but true love as well.
First published in 1935, Regency Buck was Heyer’s first novel set in the Regency, an era that became so closely associated with her that her books defined the genre of Regency romances. (It also spawned a sequel, An Infamous Army, published in 1937.) Regency Buck has justly remained a reader favorite for seventy-five years.
But what struck me most about rereading Regency Buck was how much it reflects its own times as well as the early 1800s. Heyer is often suggested to readers who love Jane Austen, yet in a way the comparison is an uneasy one. When they were written, Austen’s books were contemporaries rather than historical recreations. Her heroines are respectable gentry, bound by the conventions of their time, station, and often dwindling economics.
Heyer’s Judith Taverner, however, is a bold, spirited lady endowed with a sizable fortune that gives her a place among the aristocracy. She’s deliciously outspoken and assertive, and challenges the restrictions placed on ladies. Unlike Judith, none of Austen’s heroines would be seen at that boxing match. The Bennet sisters never hobnob with the Prince of Wales at Brighton, nor do they have the luxury of a guardian like Judith’s Lord Worth who, on her behalf, turns down one suitor after, freeing her finally to marry for love alone. Judith seems more a 20th c. lady than a 19th c. one, which makes her much easier for modern readers to embrace. In this way, she’s less a sister to Austen’s heroines than a descendant, and a direct ancestress of today’s best historical romance heroines. And that, to me, makes for a very fine family indeed.
Susan Holloway Scott is the author of over forty historical novels under several pseudonyms. Her next book, “The Countess & the King: A Novel of the Countess of Dorchester & King James II”, will be published in September by NAL/Penguin. Susan also loves to procrastinate by blogging, and posts all manner of historical tidbits and observations as one of the Two Nerdy History Girls (with historical romance novelist Loretta Chase.) You can also follow Susan on Facebook.
Regency Buck, by Georgette Heyer
Trade paperback (396) pages
Celebrating Georgette Heyer – Day 05 Giveaway
Enter a chance to win one copy of Regency Buck, by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2008) by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about the plot or characters, or if you have read it, which is your favorite character or scene by midnight Pacific time, Monday, September 6th, 2010. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, September 7th, 2010. Shipment to continental US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!
Day 05 Aug 08 – Review: The Talisman Ring
Day 06 Aug 09 – Review: An Infamous Army
Day 06 Aug 09 – Review: The Spanish Bride
Day 07 Aug 11 – Review: The Corinthian