Why we love to read & re-read Georgette Heyer: A birthday tribute

Today is Georgette Heyer’s birthday. I can think of no better way to celebrate the occasion than with a fellow Heyerite and Regency-era authority, Vic Sanborn of Jane Austen’s World. Vic has graciously agreed to be quizzed on her passion and knowledge of the Queen of Regency Romance, so please welcome her and feel free to ask your own questions as well.

Thank you for inviting me, Laurel Ann. Happy Birthday, Georgette! I can’t think of a better way to spend her special day either.

Some critics write Georgette Heyer off as merely a romance novelist. Others praise her for her historical accuracy, witty dialogue and engaging plots. Looking back on her fifty plus novels, why do you think she is still so popular years after her first publication?

When she was a current bestselling author, Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances stood out from the pack. Her humorous but well-researched writing rose above a sea of earnestly written historical romances. In those days, Daphne du Maurier, Jean Plaidy (Victoria Holt), Mary Stewart, and Mills and Boon (Harlequin) authors reigned supreme. While these best-selling authors were popular, none came close to combining humor, history, and romance in Georgette’s inimitable way. Today, GH’s breezy style doesn’t stand out quite as vividly, because there are many other romance writers (Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Susan Andersen, Sandra Hill, Jane Ann Krentz) who publish funny and sassy romances, but back in the dark ages when I went to college, Georgette had the humorous romance field to herself.

One reason that Georgette’s books have survived so well is that the worlds she created for her characters seem authentic. A reader can be confident that her research was accurate and meticulous. She visited museums and the British Library, and filled notebook after notebook with her observations and drawings. In addition, she and her husband lived in Mayfair. In her daily life, Georgette walked in the same streets as her heroes and heroines. GH characters frequently spoke Regency cant, which made their language sound absolutely authentic. Who can forget the rich dialog from A Lady of Quality?:

“It wouldn’t do for you to call him Bangster, for that would be too impolite, but I see nothing amiss with you calling him Captain Hackum, which has the same meaning, but wrapped up in clean linen!”

Mr Carleton grinned, and kindly explained to his bewildered niece that these terms signified a bully. “They are cant terms,” he further explained, “and far too vulgar for you to use! Anyone hearing them on your lips would write you down as a brass-faced hussy, without conduct or delicacy.”

“Devil!” said Miss Wychwood, with feeling.

“Oh, you’re quizzing me!” Lucilla exclaimed, slightly offended. “Both of you! I wish you will not! I am not a brass-faced hussy, though I daresay people would think me one if I called you merely Oliver! I am sure it must be most improper!”

Good stories never die and Georgette Heyer at the very least was a masterful storyteller. As early as the age of seventeen, when she related The Black Moth to her sick hospitalized brother, GH could tell a rousing tale of romance that combined intrigue as well as history. Many of her books involved complicated stories, and she worked hard at weaving one or two main plots in with several subplots. In reading Georgette’s letters to her publisher, I realized that she took her work quite seriously and spent countless hours perfecting her plots. Readers might disagree with the particulars in her books, such as an annoying character or a hero who was not heroic enough, but she threw so many enjoyable elements into the mix that her fans easily forgave her an occasional misstep.

I think there might be one more reason why GH romances are experiencing a resurgence in popularity. When Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Wolf and the Dove burst upon the scene in the early 70s, she changed historical romance forever. Woodiwiss added steamy, sometimes sadistic sex scenes, to what was once a fairly tame genre. I believe that Georgette Heyer’s books have retained their popularity in part because her stories are “family friendly.” You can confidently suggest her books to your daughters, mothers, and friends without the danger of passing on “soft core porn.” Not that I don’t like a steamy novel or two, but I would not purchase them for my younger nieces.

Credited as the pioneer of historical romance, what qualities in Georgette Heyer’s writing do you appreciate? What do you think was her greatest weakness?

I love that Georgette made the Regency era come so colorfully alive! We will never precisely know the smells and sights and sounds of days of yore, but she made us believe that she had recreated that era to a tee.  Through her eyes we can see Mayfair, and London, and turnpike roads, and glittering ballrooms. We shop with her heroines on Bond Street, and meet the “coves “operating in the seamier parts of Cheapside. We join the parade of carriages on Rotten Row, eat ices and sweets at Gunter’s, watch balloons ascend in Hyde Park and cows being milked in Green Park, promenade up and down the Pump Room in Bath, talk to Lady Jersey at Almack’s Assembly Rooms, gamble with Beau Brummel, and join the Bow Street runners as they chase down highwaymen. We enter inns and taverns and grand country houses, and are privy to the way servants took care of their masters, and vice versa. Jane Austen seldom described her world in detail, but Georgette Heyer more than filled in those gaps.

GH imbued her novels with the vitality of that era, with wars and smugglers and highwaymen, and with the inventions of the Industrial Revolution, such as balloon ascensions, new gas lights in Pall Mall, and a raucous ride on the velocipede, the precursor to the bicycle. She capitalized on the improvements of Regency roads by having her characters travel all over Great Britain. The viewer could be assured that if her characters took a number of hours to reach Point B from Point A, then she had the distance correct. GH not only knew her muslins, but she could pinpoint which fashion trends were popular during a certain year. Readers lapped up those details. Since then many authors have imitated her style when writing their Regency romances, but Georgette was the first to do it and she remains the best.

In terms of character, most of Georgette’s heroes and heroines possessed an audacious quality that bordered on recklessness and outright rebellion. In These Old Shades, the dissipated Lord Avon (Justin) takes a virginal and trusting young girl – the natural daughter of his bitter enemy – as his ward. Friends and acquaintances are aghast, until they meet Léonie. In the following passage, you can read how deftly Georgette could sketch a scene and describe a character’s effect on those around her::

“Bit by bit the Court, so long bereft of a mistress, began to wear a more cheerful air. Léonie’s glad young spirit pervaded it; she flung back heavy curtains, and consigned ponderous screens to the lumber room. Windows were opened to let in the wintry sun, and bit by bit the oppressive solemnity of the place disappeared. Léonie would have none of the stern neatness that was wont to reign there. She tumbled prim cushions, pushed chairs out of place, and left books lying on odd tables, caring nothing for Madam Field’s shocked protests. Justin permitted her to do as she pleased; it amused him to watch her gyrations, and he liked to hear her give orders to his expressionless lackeys. Clearly she had the habit of command: unusual she might be, but never did she exhibit any lack of breeding.”

At a ball, in which Avon (Justin) described the guests to Léonie, you can read how effortlessly GH wove history in with fiction:

“There is March,” he said, “who will be Duke of Queensberry. You have heard me speak of him. There is Hamilton, who is famous for his wife. She was one of the Miss Gunnings—beauties, my dear, who set London by the ears not so many years ago. Maria Gunning married Coventry. If you want wit, there is Mr. Selwyn, who has quite an inimitable way with him. And we must not forget Horry Walpole: he would hate to be forgotten. He lives in Arlington Street, child, and wherever you go you may be sure of meeting him. In Bath I believe Nash still reigns. A parvenu, infant, but a man of some genius. Bath is his kingdom. One day I will take you there. Then we have the Cavendish—Devonshire, my dear; and the Seymours, and my Lord Chesterfield, whom you will know by his wit, and his dark eyebrows. Whom else? There is my Lord of Bath, and the Bentincks, and his Grace of Newcastle, of some fame. If you want the Arts you have the tedious Johnson: a large man, my dear, with a larger head. He is not worth your consideration. He lacks polish. There is Colley Cibber, one of our poets, Mr. Sheridan, who writes plays for us, and Mr. Garrick, who acts them; and a score of others, In painting we have Sir Joshua Reynolds, who shall paint you, perhaps, and a great many others whose names elude me.”

Heyer’s heroes have many outstanding qualities. They can act cruelly towards selfish mistresses and avaricious relatives and give no quarter to their enemies, but they are fiercely loyal to those they love. These alpha, or Mark I heroes, often out-dandy Beau Brummel himself. Some drive four-in-hand carriages better than professional Royal Mail coach drivers, and others are able to handle a sword adroitly and outmaneuver their enemies with the ease of a military man. Rough around the edges and a man’s man, Mark I heroes can also be tender and solicitous with dogs, children, and frail women. Georgette’s beta heroes, or Mark II heroes, are the modern equivalent of the capable metrosexual man – supportive and understanding of the female mind and her need for a new dress or bonnet, and warm and fuzzy and kind all over. I admit to preferring Mark I heroes.

Georgette Heyer’s greatest weaknesses, in my estimation, lie in her one-dimensional plots (complicated as they are with events and activities) and the predictability of her characters and endings. Certain character types appear repeatedly: the bored alpha hero whose predictable routine is enlivened by an audacious sprite; the beautiful, spoiled and wilful matron who dresses far too young for her age and has never matured; the jealous mistress who leads the young heroine astray, thereby delaying the inevitable union between hero and heroine; and the young silly dandy who, like Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel, hides his heroic tendencies behind a foppish facade. All her heroes eventually win the heroine’s heart, and one presumes that they live happily ever after. However, GH’s glittery, one-dimensional plots are so similar with their action-packed coincidences, that after some time passes I have difficulty distinguishing one book from another.

From a personal standpoint, I  tend not to like the novels in which Georgette paired a very young heroine with an older, mature hero, and she did this frequently. I know this age discrepancy was common at the time, but I have found that reading a romance about a 16- or 17-year-old and a man approaching his 40’s is not my cup of tea. For this reason, I like These Old Shades less than some of GH’s other novels, even though the book is splendidly written.

Because GH novels are so frothy, they are like rich meringues that produce an instant sugary high but contain very little sustenance. Jane Austen’s six books provide more intellectual heft than all of Georgette Heyer’s 50+ books combined. But I do not mean to quibble, for GH novels have provided me with many a pleasurable hour of reading. The world of literature is large enough to accommodate both Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, and I am happy for it.

Like Jane Austen, Heyer is known for keen sense of the charms and foibles of human nature. Her sparkling dialogues between her heroes and heroines are often eye popping and hilarious. Can you share a favorite passage?

There are so many. Each book is filled with priceless dialog. One of my favorite passages concerns the misunderstanding between Ned Carlyon and Elinor Rochdale in The Reluctant Widow, when he thinks he is hiring a bride for his dissolute and dying nephew, and she thinks she is applying for a post as governess to a small boy. Elinor tells Ned:

“I shall do my best, sir, to fill the position satisfactorily.” She detected irony in his steady gaze, and was disconcerted by it…”Perhaps it would be as well if I were to lose no time in making the acquaintance of my charge.”

His lips curled. “An apt term!” he remarked dryly. “By all means, but your charge is not at the moment on the premises. …If what you must already have observed has not daunted you, you encourage me to hope that your resolution will not fail you when you are brought face to face with him….”

“I was given to understand, I own, that I might find him a trifle — a trifle high spirited, perhaps.”

“You have either a genius for understatement, ma’am, or the truth was not told you, if that is what you understand.”

She laughed. “Well, you are very frank, sir! I should not expect to be told all the truth, but I might collect it, reading between the lines, I fancy.”

“You are a brave woman!” he said.

Her amusement grew….”I dare say he has been a little spoilt?”

Then there are the typical introductions of the hero, who usually makes a grand entrance of sorts, as Avon in These Old Shades (can you tell I am rereading this novel at present?):

“The great front-door stood open, and into the house stepped his Grace of Avon, elegant in a coat of fine purple velvet, laced with gold, a many-caped greatcoat, over all, worn carelessly open, and polished top-boots on his feet. He paused on the threshold and raised his eyeglass to survey the Merivales.”

Many of Heyer’s plots are filled with comedy high jinxes and uproarious plot twists. It is not uncommon to be supplied with no less than a duel, a sword fight, highway robbery, abduction, switched identities, carriage races and all-around scandalous behavior in one novel! How does Heyer do it? How does she take us on such an outrageously wild ride and make it all so believable?

Without a doubt, Georgette’s heroes and heroines all know the conventions of polite society and the rules of etiquette, but something in their characters allows them to abandon any sense of decorum or convention. A few of the young heroines regard themselves as “on the shelf,” and therefore feel free to carry on as if the rules for young virgins on the marriage mart don’t apply to them. This leads the GH heroine into all sorts of interesting scrapes. Others seek to escape untenable situations. Young Pen Creed cuts her hair short and climbs out of a second-story window in the dead of night. The Corinthian first mistakes her for a lad:

Sir Richard was not precisely sober, but although the brandy fumes had produced in his brain a not unpleasant sense of irresponsibility, they had by no means fuddled his intellect. Sir Richard, his chin tickled by curls, and his arms full of fugitive, made a surprising discovery. He set the fugitive down, saying in a matter-of-fact voice: “Yes, but I don’t think you are a youth, after all!”

“No, I’m a girl,” replied the fugitive, apparently undismayed by his discovery.

“But, please, will you come away before they wake up?”

Pen, an heiress, has decided to run away from the fish-faced fiancee she will be forced to marry if she remains in London, and is determined to find her childhood friend, who promised to marry her when they were only children. Not only do Pen’s actions seems reasonable to herself, but our drunk hero decides on the spot to join her and protect her from harm. With much stubbornness, bickering and misunderstanding, Pen and Sir Richard set out on their grand adventure, and another delicious GH novel has begun.

Sir Richard from The Corinthian has many similar qualities to other Heyer heroes. Rich, disillusioned and bored, he decides to break the rules of convention just to feel alive and useful. Many of us can associate with such an ennui, or relate to a desire to break free from the expectations of one’s family and friends. And then there are the cast of supporting players that inhabit Heyer’s fictional world. I love her teen-aged boys, whose enthusiasm for getting into scrapes seem so very life like . Her dogs, too, are spot on and their antics add a playful and believable element that brighten her plots.

I was a Georgette Heyer neophyte until two years ago when your review of Friday’s Child charmed me into taking the plunge. I have now read eight of her novels without regret. If you were to advise a new reader, which three novels would you recommend?

When I was younger I would have said Frederica, Venetia, and the Grand Sophy without hesitation, so I recommend those three for young neophytes. Now that I am a bit longer in the tooth, I favor The Reluctant Widow and Marriage of Convenience for their mature heroes and heroines, and would recommend them to more seasoned readers. I would then urge them to read my first three choices! Wait, I also love The Corinthian, Faro’s Daughter, Friday’s Child, and… (Uh, oh, did I just cheat?)

I must ask the perfunctory questions on every Heyer enthusiasts mind! Who are your favorite hero and heroine, and which is YOUR favorite novel, and why?

Oh, what a tricky question! That’s like asking a food addict to make one choice at a buffet. Impossible, but I’ll do my best. My hero must be a dark and brooding rescuer. Don’t ask me why. And my heroine must have a lively wit, and the intelligence to butt heads with her hero, even if she is dead wrong. She must also possess the elegance of a Mayfair fashionista and the daring do of an out and outer. So here goes – *deep gulp*

  • Favorite hero: Marquis of Alverstoke, Frederica
  • Favorite heroine: Sophia Stanton-Lacy, The Grand Sophy
  • Favorite novel: The Corinthian, no The Reluctant Widow, no Frederica! (Eenie, meenie, minie, moe!)

Happy Birthday, Georgette Heyer! And thank you for this wonderful interview, Laurel Ann!

Blogmistress of Jane Austen’s World and Jane Austen Today, Vic Sanborn has loved reading Jane Austen novels, particularly Pride and Prejudice, since she was in High School. She discovered Georgette Heyer just after she graduated from college. Having run out of new Jane Austen novels to read, she began to search for other regency stories set in similar settings. One day at the library, she stumbled across Charity Girl and Arabella, and her love affair with all things Georgette began. You can also follow Vic on Twitter as janeaustenworld.

Celebrating Georgette Heyer – Day 10 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win the grand prize of all thirty-four copies (yes, 34) of the Georgette Heyer novels being reviewed this month during the ‘Celebrating Georgette Heyer’ event by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about Georgette Heyer or who your favorite hero or heroine is by midnight Pacific time, Monday, September 6th, 2010. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, September 7th, 2010. Shipment to continental US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Upcoming event posts

Day 10   Aug 16 – Review: Friday’s Child
Day 11   Aug 18 – Review: The Quiet Gentleman
Day 11   Aug 18 – Review: Cotillion
Day 12   Aug 20 – Review: The Toll-Gate

Celebrating Georgette Heyer   •   August 1st – 31st, 2010

47 thoughts on “Why we love to read & re-read Georgette Heyer: A birthday tribute

  1. My favorite heroine and hero is Frederica and Alverstoke. Love the book and now it is falling apart after so many rereads.

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  2. Thank you for this great interview! Thanks to Vic I’ve started reading Georgette Heyer a year ago, and thanks to the great reviews this month on this website I’ve already ordered a few more Georgette Heyer novels. Love them!

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  3. What a delicious interview, Vic! I loved this statement: ‘Because GH novels are so frothy, they are like rich meringues that produce an instant sugary high but contain very little sustenance.’ But like a dessert addict, I keep coming back for more! =) In another way, GH novels are also like comfort foods… the predictability, the expectations, the wit, the happy ending… it’s what I turn to when I want to escape and have a warm fuzzy feeling. =) And all zero calories! =D

    So far, favorite Heyero is Sylvester, Duke of Salford; favorite Heyeroine is Deborah Grantham. But I have tons of Heyers to read yet, so I’m sure that will change.

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  4. Oh, yes, I love Frederica and Sylvester too. Deb Grantham is delicious. I think it was most unfair of Laurel Ann to make me choose!! :)

    Vic

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  6. Thank you for the wonderful interview and birthday tribute. I’ve only read about a dozen Heyer novels so far and would agree with Vic’s favorite hero, Alverstoke (loved his interaction with Frederica’s younger brothers) and favorite heroine is Sophy. Favorite book, and it is hard to pick a favorite, is a toss-up between Grand Sophy and These Old Shades.

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  7. I believe that Georgette Heyer’s books have retained their popularity in part because her stories are “family friendly.” You can confidently suggest her books to your daughters, mothers, and friends without the danger of passing on “soft core porn.”

    What a great point! Yes, I agree. I have a lot of younger women who look to me for book recommendations and it is always a pleasure to introduce them to Georgette Heyer. She’s witty and smart, with fantastic characters and engaging plots. And she has a ton of titles!

    Because GH novels are so frothy, they are like rich meringues that produce an instant sugary high but contain very little sustenance. Jane Austen’s six books provide more intellectual heft than all of Georgette Heyer’s 50+ books combined. But I do not mean to quibble, for GH novels have provided me with many a pleasurable hour of reading. The world of literature is large enough to accommodate both Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, and I am happy for it.

    Very well put! I agree. One can appreciate both authors and their unique strengths.

    Thanks for your thoughts in this interview; I enjoyed it. And happy birthday Georgette Heyer! :)

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  8. Thank you Vic and Laurel Ann for this interview – Vic, as always, expressing herself so beautifully and Laurel Ann with such thought-provoking questions!

    I too started reading Heyer only in the last two years – sort of rejecting the “romance” section of the library and bookstore for years [I had read most of Victoria Holt in my early 20’s, but I was pregnant at the time and attributed it to hormones!] – but this late discovery of Heyer has widened my knowledge of the Regency period and made it great good fun in the bargain!

    Your likening the reading of Heyer to a meringue is spot-on – but as I don’t have a sweet tooth, I have been wondering what exactly it is about her books that make ME want to pick up the next one as soon as I have finished one of her confections – we know usually from page two what is going to happen, who will end up with whom and can expect some hair-raising adventures along that way – but what is it that makes these books so endearing and so re-readable?? Heyer made great fun of herself and her romances AND her reading public – yet she churned these out like clockwork every year, largely for the income, ’tis true, and though she shunned the public eye, she knew her readers inside and out. I fear we are the public so lampooned in Austen’s Northanger Abbey – the silly readers of “trash” literature who will be set on a ruinous path, sadly in need of Dr. Johnson to set us aright!

    So I don’t understand this compulsion to get on to the next read – almost like a drug – but it has certainly been an enjoyable ride! I am about halfway through the list, so I am not YET finished with this journey – and choosing a favorite is indeed an unfair question! though Faro’s Daughter, my very first read, remains my favorite…

    Thanks Vic, for sharing all your knowledge!
    Deb

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  9. I’m slowly working my way through some of Heyer’s novels. I’ve only been fortunate enough to read two so far (Devil’s Cub and Arabella). I just picked up a copy of The Grand Sophy and can’t wait to dive in! Out of the two books I have read thus far, I adored Robert and Arabella. Robert’s interactions with Ulysses were wonderful!

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  10. This was a wonderful interview! I appreciate the opportunity to look at Heyer’s body of work as a whole and trace her stylistic tendencies. I must say that I never thought to be bothered by her pairings of very young ladies to older men (I am rereading one such book – Arabella – right now and loving it!), but as the child of a mother who is ten years older than her husband, perhaps I am less sensitive to such distinctions. I find my favorite Heyer heroes are those I would probably hate in real like, like Lord Sheringham and Freddy Standen, simply because they are the funniest.

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  11. Thank you so much for this wonderful interview. Like Regency Romantic I have quite a few more Heyer to read but my favorite hero is Sylvester, Duke of Salford. I’m afraid I don’t have a favorite heroine yet. I think Sophia Stanton-Lacy is a runner up but I’m quite sure I haven’t yet met my favorite girl.

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  12. I love hearing about the plot lines of Heyer’s books ,which sound like romantic comedies,as well as getting more details about the Regency world within the stories. The best part of historical fiction for me is picking up a few facts while having all of the fun in following the characters on their quest towards happiness.

    Vic gave a lovely interview here and if there’s a collection of essays about GH coming out in the future,she’s the perfect person to write the introduction,in my opinion.

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  13. My favorite hero is probably Hugh Darracott, or is it Freddy Standen? and heroine would be Sophy. Or maybe Mary Challoner. Favorite book, that’s a different thing, because they sort of rotate depending on my mood. The Grand Sophy is always in my top 5, along with Cotillion, These Old Shades, and about 8 others!

    GH is a comfort read, because I can relax and enjoy, without a lot of angst. But as far as single-layers go, A Civil Contract and Venetia have a lot more to them.

    Heyer also brings back many memories, because my mother introduced us to her (I wrote something about our family “Heyer moment” in an early review) and to this day, my sisters and I understand each other when we use a heyerism (an actual term in my family) or describe someone as a Freddy or an Alverstoke.

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  14. I have loved Georgette Heyer’s books for years! I read her books when I was in junior high school. I remember when THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER came out-I was in my early 20’s and found it quite shocking and titillating. I have now reached a point where I do not find the sex scenes in most romance novels at all appealing (over-done, too many, and too much description-I don’t need a handbook!). Georgette Heyer’s use of language, as well as her historical detail, keep her books interesting and entertaining. While I also dislike the very young heroine/much older hero concept, in some of her books, it works and it does fit with the period. My favorites are THE RELUCTANT WIDOW and AN INFAMOUS ARMY. I also like her mysteries-I think anyone who enjoys Agatha Christie and Patricia Wentworth owes themselves a read of Georgette Heyer’s mysteries. Very fun.

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  16. So far, I have only read one Heyer and I have to say, Vidal was a good one to start with. I really enjoyed The Devil’s Cub and look forward to reading more of Heyer.
    Margay

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  17. While the Grand Sophy is probably my all-time favourite, like others, my favourites depend on my mood. I think of Heyer as my go-to author. When I can’t find anything else to read, I pick up one of hers and just lose myself. I’ve been reading her books for over 40 years, own them all, and still enjoy reading every one of them.

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  18. Dominic, Marquis of Vidal is my favorite hero. Sophy Stanton-Lacey is the heroine I’d have to go with, though I have a real soft spot for Drusilla Morville, who is as intelligent and reliable as Sophy, but overlooked by some because she is not beautiful or flamboyant. I feel the need to reread these books…but which to choose first?

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  19. I love the fact that her characters are so well written. The actions and words she attributes to them all flow seamlessly and effortlessly. While many of her characters have similar traits, I believe there are differences you can easily pick out. And I love her complicated plots! My very favorite Heyer novel usually the one I’m currently reading.

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  21. I don’t think I’m the only one whose first Heyer is her favorite…I read The Convenient Marriage first and I think I’ve re-read it the most. Of course, I think I’ve only read about five so far. :)

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  22. Thank you, Laurel Ann for this GH month-long tribute, and thanks to both you and Vic for this interview. Although I have read all of GH’s romances in the last couple of years, I have not (yet) RE-read them, and I plan to start THAT very soon.

    I find that the reason I’ve SO enjoyed her books is that they make me laugh out loud, and they take me completely away from the day-to-day world. They are like an instant vacation! What more could one want in entertainment?

    Thank you both again,
    Cathy Allen

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  23. Like some of the others here, my favorite book depends upon what mood I am in — however, I have to say that the one that I end up picking up and re-reading more than any of the others is “The Masqueraders” — and my favorite couple is Prudence and Anthony from that title. What can I say, I love disguise stories!

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  24. I read somewhere that GH said (something like): “I should probably be shot for writing these, but I think I’d like to read one if I was in a bomb shelter.” That’s how I feel about them. They take me away from the dangers and uncertainties of real life! We haven’t yet come to A Civil Contract in the sequence of reviews, but that is one of my all time favourites – it is quite different from the others, and has real people you can really like. I think Venetia is the most intensely romantic – while also being amongst the funniest – and certainly loses nothing for not having any sex scenes!!

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  25. I agree with what wisewoman shared. I have a friend who described Heyer books as candy that you just can’t resist. She read through most of the books with me 2 years ago when I first discovered Heyer, after I’d run out of Jane Austen to read. a bookseller at Barnes and Noble pointed Georgette Heyer out to me. Sourcebooks was just coming out with their new versions and I bought Friday’s Child and Cotillion, I believe. I was hooked. I made it my mission to find everyone of her regency romances and by golly I did, though I had to order some from England via the internet. I was determined! Now I have them to reread at my leisure. Thank you for this month dedicated to GH!

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  26. I was introduced into the world of regency through Austen’s classic novels and after reading reviews on Heyer’s novel, I’m interested in deeply perusing her work. The romantic and historical plots of her stories are many intriguing and her characters interesting, comedic, serious and relatable. Thanks for the interview.

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  27. Thanks for a great interview from a GH neophyte and a long-term Austen fan. I’ve read 5 GH novels so far and hope to get to many more in the future.

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  28. I must disagree on one point. I see the ritualized “one dimensional plots” as a plus in Regency Romance and other genre literature. The ability to ring changes on plots that follow a standard form (much as Agath Crhistie does in her mysteries) is an asset that a genre writer must have. The reader enjoys knowing the predictable end, and watching the ingenious changes and new devices the author uses to achieve it. Robert Alter, by the way, has noted the same play on certain Biblical stories, for example, women at wells.
    Stock characters are also useful. Like the many stereotypes used in drama and comedy, use of stock characters is a shorthand way of creating characters we can identify and enjoy precisely because of their familiarity. And again, the variation on a theme is the particular genus of the genre writer.
    I compare the Regency Romance and other genres to poetic forms. Sonnets, for example come in a limited variety of meter and rhyme schemes and therefore confine the poet.
    The genre writer is confined by the expectations of the readers (which she may have created herself).
    Finally, it’s interesting to note that in most cases the better the genre writer is the more he/she writes. On the other hand few authors of “literary fiction” are able to create more than a few high quality works. Where they write many works, the majority are often inferior. (Faulkner, Fitzgerald and Hemingway, are, in my opinion, examples of this unfortunate truth.)

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  29. I started reading Heyer two years ago, and was very pleased to have come across this website, this week. I love reading about Austen, Heyer, whatever is on PBS’s Masterpiece, etc. etc.

    To choose favorites is very difficult.

    My favorite heroine is Penelope Creed from The Corinthian. I was delighted from the moment she dropped out of a window in boy’s clothes. I have a weakness for “bad boys” so my favorite hero is Vidal of Devil’s Cub.

    I was hooked with my first Heyer, Arabella. That will always be near the top of my list. I adore Friday’s Child. It is comedy gold. (Nemesis!) However, my favorite novel tends to be whichever novel I have just finished, in this case: Venetia.

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  30. Wonderful intervew ladies! Thank you for sharing! I loved learning so much about Georgette Heyer’s collective works and hearing your favorites, Vic! I will be sure to read all your many recommendations! I am also happy to discover that Georgette Heyer and I share the same birthday, as does Madonna! LOL!

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  31. Wow – what a great interview! Wonderful questions Laurel Ann and fantastic responses Vic!

    Vic’s responses gave me a lot to think about and they also made me realize that I still have yet to read some of Heyer’s greatest works . . . a thought that excites me!

    I love the contemporary authors that you mention for Heyer. I first discovered Du Maurier, Stewart, and Holt as a teenager and loved their novels. Strangely I didn’t discover Heyer until a few years ago in the later half of my 20’s. I’m not sure why I didn’t find Heyer novels at my used book sale haunts or in my library as I found the other novels. Perhaps her novels are so well loved that people don’t want to let them go! Luckily my local library had some of the Harlequin reprints and I happened to pick them off the shelf one day.

    I also agree that although I tend to love to read a good romance once in awhile, part of the reason I love Heyer’s novels are that they are good clean fun that focus more on the romance rather than sex. They are novels that I don’t have to be embarrassed to share with others!

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  32. Having to choose just one of anything having with Heyer is extremely difficult! Even picking my favorite of her written dogs would have me second guessing my decision as soon as I’d said it. So, at the moment at least, here’s my list:
    Favorite hero: Marquis of Alverstoke, Frederica
    Favorite heroine: Pen Creed, The Corinthian
    5 Favorite novels (I can’t choose just one. It’s just impossible): Venetia, Sylvester, The Corinthian, Regency Buck, and Cotillion.

    …I also really love the Reluctant Widow, These Old Shades, Frederica, The Grand Sophy…

    I could go on forever, really.

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  33. One of the (many) things I love about Heyer’s writing is how she creates a self-contained world–whether set in the Regency, Georgian, medieval, or (for her) contemporary eras. Yes, her historical research is accurate and interesting and presented seamlessly in the writing…but she is also able to make me happily accept in my heroes and heroines worldviews that in real life I very much object to–such as the firm belief in a natural aristocracy.
    favorite hero or heroine: how difficult! Vidal and Mary…and Sylvester and Phoebe…and…well, I’ll stop there.

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  34. I’ve only read a small fraction of her books, but one of the first ones still stick with me. I read Sylvester: Or the Wicked Uncle first, and I loved Phoebe. I liked the plot, where she wrote a rather transparent satirical book of her experiences in her first season, and demonizes her soon-to-be love interest. It was a lot of fun, and I always enjoy heroines that are not the life of the parties but are not wallflowers either.

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  35. Thanks for having a whole month of Heyer! I’m in the middle of a(nother) GH kick, so it’s perfect timing. There are so many of her books I love- her writing is such a pleasure to read. I particularly like her more-mature-heroine stories, but I don’t like when the heroes are heavy-handed or constantly squabbling with the heroine. I think my favorite is Venetia, because even though I’ve read it I don’t know how many times, I’m still waiting to see what will happen. I love that they’re such close companions.

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  36. I love Arabella and Beaumaris. Maybe because Arabella was the first Heyer novel I read but it’s so far my favourite, and boasts my favourite characters.

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  37. As I have regrettably not yet read Heyer, I am unable to answer as to my favorite. I do however, look forward with great anticipation to reading the ongoing reviews and month long celebration of her work. This wonderful, witty interview, between Laurel Ann and Vic, had me smiling the whole way through. If that is the way Heyer’s books will make me feel, I anticipate much glee when I jump into the frothy meringue.

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  38. I’ve only read a few of Heyer’s books so far but I still love the first one I read the best which was The Masqueraders.

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  39. Indeed this is a great interview. When I began reading Heyer was on the recommendation of other Janeite friends who said her novels were the closest I could get to Jane Austen, although on a lighter weight. I am not precisely a romance reader (yet in my teens I read several Jean Plaidy’s historical novels, which were also particularly useful for learning on the Medieval English monarchy), so I had also been warned that some of the old Heyer paperbacks were issued with somewhat misleading covers.

    So, yes, the love stories might be the first thing that drawns many people to it (and unfortunately the same has been said of Jane Austen’s), but again that is not the only thing that keep us reading. I think it is the good characterization, even with what you consider stock characters, I find it interesting to discover similarities, to find that some secondary character personality in one novel can be turned into the protagonist of another or how some plot is given a twist. Also the comedy of manners and dialogue keeps me entertained. And to discover how very well researched are some of the novels so we have the historicals like An Infamous Army or more serious ones like the upcoming A Civil Contract, which show more clearly that Heyer novels might be considered light-reading but in a few occasions not as light as one may think.

    It is very difficult to chose favourite novel, hero and heroine. Mine is not the first I read (though I still have a special place for my first Heyer), judging from the battered state I have given to some I believe my favourite is Frederica (I own 3 copies: one old hardback and two paperbacks, one of them almost in an dismal state because I have read it many times and that is why I acquired the third copy). I also have a fondness for False Colours, not extremely popular, but still I love it

    As to favourite hero and heroine. I’m also among those who prefer the strong alpha male protagonist over the soft beta type II ones, though I love heroes among both prototypes. I do not mind the age difference between hero and heroine (even high-brow literature has some examples and it was common in the past and it still happens nowadays), but then I still prefer the maturer and sober heroines but with strong personality, yet I can value some of the youngest ones. So, I have to say my top favourites are of course, Miss Frederica Merriville and Vernon Dauntry, Marquis of Alverstoke. But on second place, Miss Cressida Stavely and Mr. Christopher ‘Kit’ Fancot. And I am looking forward to the reviews of both books :D.

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  40. I haven’t read any of Heyer’s books and after reading all these reviews, I think I’m really missing out. =(

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  41. I admire the way she immersed herself in the Regency period and made it hers. I have recently read a lot of her books set in the late 18th century. They were witty and fun, but I do find the Regency ones more interesting.

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