An Exclusive Q&A with Jennifer Kloester, Georgette Heyer’s Biographer

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My regular readers and friends will remember how much I admire and enjoy reading the Queen of Regency Romance, Georgette Heyer. We reviewed all her historical novels during a month-long celebration here on Austenprose in 2011.

While I continue to work through the long list of her books, there are scholars who have read them all and studied her life and work. The first among them is Dr. Jennifer Kloester. Austenprose reviewed her Georgette Heyer: A Biography of a Bestseller when it released in 2011 and have followed her career ever since. I was delighted when she agreed to an exclusive interview. Her extensive knowledge of Heyer and her own talent and brilliance are dazzling.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Kloester to Austenprose today. Additional questions by readers are welcome, so please have your share of the conversation!

What was the first Georgette Heyer book that you read, and what were your first impressions?

The first Heyer novel I ever saw was Cotillion but the first one I ever read was These Old Shades. I loved it! I’d never read anything like it and it only made me long for more. Luckily the tiny YWCA library in the remote mining town where I was living in Papua New Guinea had a wealth of Heyer novels and I soon became immersed in her world. I remember being carried away by the story and characters and the language–– oh, it was wonderful, so alive and fresh and co completely convincing. Even when I didn’t understand a particular word, Heyer’s skill always meant I got the gist of the meaning. Her characters lived for me then and they live for me now.

Why were you inspired to write a biography of her life? Continue reading

12 Terrific Historical Christmas Novels and Short Story Collections for Your Holiday Reading

It’s that time of year again when the holiday spirit takes hold and I am compelled to read Christmas stories in between shopping and baking. I especially appreciate short stories during this busy time and there are a lot of historical anthologies to choose from along with novellas, and novels to get me in the mood and distract me from the craziness at work and home. Here are twelve books in my personal collection set in Regency and Victorian times that Jane Austen and historical romance readers will devour. Be sure to add to them to your #TBRpile. You won’t regret it.

How the Dukes Stole Christmas: A Christmas Romance Anthology, by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, and Joanna Shupe

Make some time in your busy holiday schedule for yourself with a cup of tea, Christmas cookies, and this delightful short story collection by four bestselling historical romance authors that will sweep you away and into the Regency ballrooms of London, to Scottish castles, and to the Gilded Age New York. I always enjoy Tessa Dare’s novels and the other three authors are at the top of their game too.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

“Meet Me in Mayfair” by Tessa Dare

Louisa Ward needs a Christmas miracle. Unless she catches a wealthy husband at the ball tonight, the horrid, heartless Duke of Thorndale will evict her family from their beloved Mayfair home. But when her friend begs to switch dance cards, Louisa finds herself waltzing with the enemy: the horrid, heartless–and unexpectedly handsome–Thorndale himself. Now the duke’s holding her future in his hands…and he’s not letting go.

“The Duke of Christmas Present” by Sarah MacLean

Rich and ruthless, Eben, Duke of Allryd, has no time for holidays. Holidays are for whimsy and charm–the only two things his money cannot buy. Lady Jacqueline Mosby is full of both, even now, twelve years after she left to see the world. When Jacqueline returns for a single Christmas, Eben can’t resist the woman he never stopped loving…or the future that had once been in reach. It will take a miracle to convince her to stay…but if ever there were a time for miracles, it’s Christmas…

“Heiress Alone” by Sophie Jordan

When Annis Bannister’s family leaves her behind in the rush to escape an impending snowstorm, she finds herself stranded in the Highlands, left to fend off brigands terrorizing the countryside, robbing homes locked up for winter. Her only hope falls on her neighbor, a surly hermit duke who unravels her with a look, then a kiss … until she fears the danger to her heart outweighs the danger of brigands and snowstorms.

“Christmas in Central Park” by Joanna Shupe

Women all over America devour Mrs. Walker’s weekly column for recipes and advice. No one knows Rose, the column’s author, can’t even boil water. When the paper’s owner, Duke Havemeyer, insists she host a Christmas party, Rose must scramble to find a husband, an empty mansion, and a cook. But Duke is not a man easily fooled and she fears her perfect plan is failing–especially when Duke’s attentions make her feel anything but professional. To save her career will she give up her chance at love?

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | INDIEBOUND | GOODREADS

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, by Stephanie Barron

Continue reading

A Civil Contract, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

A Civil Contract, by Georgette Heyer (2011)Guest review by Laura A. Wallace

A Civil Contract is an atypical Georgette Heyer novel.  While the setting is firmly Regency, beginning at the time of the Battle of Orthez (February 1814) and ending with that of Waterloo (June 1815), it is neither lively nor witty.  It is a quiet book, with a love story that grows gradually, without any sparkle or adventure.  The eponymous contract is a marriage contract between an impoverished, newly-acceded peer and a wealthy “Cit” (Citizen of the City of London)’s daughter.  It is an inauspicious beginning:  the aristocrat is in love with someone else, the bride is homely, and the Cit is vulgar.

However, what follows is a sensitive, nuanced exploration of human relationships that from today’s perspective may seem almost quaint:  commitment, respect, duty, honor, fidelity, civility, resentment, and generosity.  I say “quaint” because the most cursory glance at current divorce and familial statistics show an absence of almost all of these qualities (saving resentment) to such an extent that a marriage and family where they prevail seems almost naïve, or even alien.  Imagine a marriage where commitment, civility, and respect are more important than passion and romance, even at its inception, yet fidelity and appreciation are also central.  This isn’t a “romance” novel:  it’s an “intimacy” novel, in a non-sexual way.  (The couple does have sex, though the only way you know this for certain is that they have a baby:  Heyer almost never writes about sex directly.)

Money plays a big role in the novel, and a feminist reading would no doubt analyze the connection between money and sex.  But I think that to reduce it to money and sex would fail to do it justice in almost every respect.  Yes, of course, the contract is an exchange of money for a social position that is literally consummated on the body of the woman, but that is the least important aspect of the situation.  The real story is how they grow together and create something new:  a lifetime together based not on physical urges but in common goals and a determination to make it work and find contentment.  When money comes to the fore, it is more usually (though certainly not always) a point of contention between the hero and his father-in-law rather than his wife:  it highlights the differences of class and the meaning of nobility (which, in Heyer’s world, is not always exclusively associated with a character’s station at birth).   With more time and space, I could take it a step further, and analyze the tension between money and power being played out over the pregnancy.

Despite the serious overtones, the novel does not lack for the comic relief or the masterfully-drawn secondary characters at which Heyer excels.  The most notable is the Cit (the father-in-law), who is hopelessly vulgar, but also shrewd, generous, and kind.  (In her new biography of Heyer, Jennifer Kloester describes him as “one of [Heyer]’s comic triumphs” and quotes her as saying that he continually “tried to steal the whole book, & had to be firmly pushed off the stage.”)  The recently-widowed dowager peeress, on the other hand, is languishing but selfishly manipulative, and when these two strong-willed persons encounter one another, she is completely nonplussed, while her elder daughter cannot help but “regard him with much the same nervous surprise as she would have felt at being addressed by an aboriginal.”  Even more entertaining is the clash of titans between the Cit and the hero’s aunt, who presents the bride at court.  She routs him completely, leaving him in the unfamiliar circumstance of having nothing to say.   Further amusement comes from the hero’s second sister, an irrepressible damsel not yet out who initially conceives the idea of saving the family fortunes by becoming a famous comedic actress, an ambition that survives (even after her brother’s marriage) until she encounters Kean’s performance in Hamlet, when she decides that she must become a tragic actress instead, in order to play opposite him.

Many Heyer fans name A Civil Contract as their favorite Heyer novel.  I personally have found that my appreciation of it has grown over the years, and I did not always like it so well as I do now.  I once thought it was a sad book, but I no longer think so:  it is a hopeful book, and ultimately a very positive one.

The Sourcebooks edition is typical:  a lovely (though Victorian) cover, good paper, and an easy-to-read typeface, with only a few “scannos,” one of which is “Playoff” for General Platoff.

4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

A Civil Contract, by Georgette Heyer
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (432) pages
ISBN: 978-1402238772

Laura A. Wallace a musician, attorney, and writer living in Southeast Texas.  She is a devotee of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and is the author of British Titles of Nobility:  An Introduction and Primer to the Peerage (1998).

© 2007 – 2011 Laura A. Wallace, Austenprose

Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller, by Jennifer Kloester – A Review

Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller, by Jennifer Koelster (2011)Guest review by Laura A. Wallace

I must acknowledge that it is well-nigh impossible for me to be objective when it comes to reviewing Jennifer Kloester’s new biography of Georgette Heyer which was released this month in the UK.  Rarely have I looked forward so much to reading a biography.  But be assured, gentle reader, that had I found it sub-standard, I would tell you so.  Instead, I am delighted to report that it met or exceeded almost all of my expectations.

This is a more traditional biography than Hodge’s, which discusses each work Heyer wrote in some detail, creating a dual focus on the events of Heyer’s life and her works, occasionally feeling as though the biographical material is merely a bridge until the next novel.  Kloester’s treatment of Heyer’s workplaces them firmly in the context of the events of her life, with emphasis most definitely on her life.

Kloester had access to more of Heyer’s letters than Hodge (and Hodge generously gave Kloester all of her Heyer research notes).  The bibliography is divided into two:  published sources and archival sources, and the latter is extensive, with letter collections located all over the English-speaking world.  (Oklahoma?  New Zealand?  Who knew?)  Heyer didn’t keep her own manuscripts, and very few letters, but private archives such as the Frere families provided Kloester with dozens of frequent, chatty letters over several decades that reveal Heyer’s personality clearly, as well as some of the more mundane details of her life.

Kloester reveals more details about the incidents of plagiarism that Hodge mentioned.  The first copier was indeed, as Heyer fans have long agreed amongst themselves, Barbara Cartland.  The second, some years later, was Kathleen Lindsay.

One point I found particularly interesting is Kloester’s treatment of Penhallow.  Hodge reported that this was intended as a contract-breaking book.  Kloester’s research revealed that this notion was, in fact, a family legend built up after the fact.  At the time, Heyer had the highest expectations of the novel and hoped it would be well-received in the literary world— and in fact, it was, garnering several positive reviews, but never high enough to satisfy her.  She always yearned for more serious literary recognition, and never felt that she received it.

This biography is interesting (to me, at least) on so many levels, especially placing Heyer’s life in a chronological context.  The Regency setting of her later novels was less than a century before her own birth in 1902.  She personally experienced the transition of the world from Edwardian times— when carriages and servants and indeed much of social and even some technological norms of the Regency were still an ordinary part of life for the upper-middle class of which she was a part— to the new world “after the war” (i.e., World War I) of the twentieth century.  Numerous small details of Heyer’s early life, and even of her antecedents, inform incidents in her novels.  For example, Felix’s obsession with steam engines and his trip up and down the Thames in a steam-boat (Frederica) comes directly from Heyer’s grandfather’s successful tugboat fleet.

Like other biographies of authors, including Hodge’s, this work provides insights into the author’s creative process that other writers will find interesting and informative.

The only minor criticism I have is that some of Kloester’s examples and quotations are the same as Hodge’s.  This is completely understandable as they are perfect choices to illustrate certain points, but I found myself slightly (and unfairly) resenting any duplicate quotations, as I wanted more and new quotations!  (Perhaps Kloester will publish an edition of Heyer’s letters!)

The book itself is produced beautifully.  The pages are stitched, the paper is substantial, and the photographic plates are well-chosen and well-described.  The cover is stunning:  I literally gasped when I opened it, not having seen it online first.  This is a fine book that is aesthetically an admirable complement to the most fastidious collector of Heyer’s first editions or uniform editions.   And substantively it is just as pleasing.  Congratulations, Ms. Kloester, on a job exceptionally well done and worthy of its subject.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller, by Jennifer Kloester
William Heinemann (2011)
Hardcover (464) pages
ISBN: 978-0434020713

Laura A. Wallace a musician, attorney, and writer living in Southeast Texas.  She is a devotee of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and is the author of British Titles of Nobility:  An Introduction and Primer to the Peerage (1998).

© 2007 – 2011 Laura A. Wallace, Austenprose

Announcing the Celebrating Georgette Heyer Giveaway Winners!


 

Without further ado – here are all of the giveaway winners in the Celebrating Georgette Heyer event in August, 2010

Day 01   Aug 01 – Review: Georgette Heyer’s Regency World

Melly S., librarypat, Alexa Adams, Elizabeth, and RegencyRomantic

Day 02   Aug 02 – Review: The Black Moth

Lorrie

Day 02   Aug 02 – Review: Powder and Patch

Katherine

Day 03   Aug 04 – Review: These Old Shades

Sandra J.

Day 03   Aug 04 – Review: The Masqueraders

Nancy

Day 04   Aug 06 – Review: Devil’s Cub

Lady T.

Day 04   Aug 06 – Review: The Convenient Marriage (Naxos AudioBooks)

Jennrenee, Meredith, and Felicia J.

Day 05   Aug 08 – Review: Regency Buck

JaneGS

Day 05   Aug 08 – Review: The Talisman Ring

Julee Johnson

 

Day 06    Aug 09 – Review: An Infamous Army

Karen

Day 06   Aug 09 – Review: The Spanish Bride

Audra

Day 07    Aug 11 – Review: The Corinthian

Dawn

Day 07   Aug 11 – Review: Faro’s Daughter

Cathy Allen

Day 08    Aug 13 – Review: The Reluctant Widow

Becky

Day 08   Aug 13 – Review: The Foundling

Ruth

Day 09    Aug 15 – Review: Arabella

ncgraham

 

Day 09   Aug 15 – Review: The Grand Sophy

Laura’s Reviews

Day 10   Aug 16 – Review: Friday’s Child

Bloggin BB

Day 11    Aug 18 – Review: The Quiet Gentleman

LizM

Day 11   Aug 18 – Review: Cotillion

Meredith Austenesque Reviews

Day 12   Aug 20 – Review: The Toll-Gate

Trish B.

Day 12   Aug 20 – Review: Bath Tangle

Chelsea B.

Day 13   Aug 22 – Review: Sprig Muslin

Vidya

Day 13   Aug 22 – Review: April Lady

Theresa N.

Day 14   Aug 23 – Review: Sylvester

motheretc

Day 14   Aug 23 – Review: Venetia

Tina

Day 15    Aug 25 – Review: The Unknown Ajax

Jayne

Day 15   Aug 25 – Review: A Civil Contract

Kristen Skold

Day 16    Aug 27 – Review: The Nonesuch

Melanie

Day 16   Aug 27 – Review: False Colours

Regency Romantic

Day 17    Aug 29 – Review: Frederica

QN PoohBear

Day 17   Aug 29 – Review: Black Sheep

AprilFool

Day 18    Aug 30 – Review: Cousin Kate

Rhonda

Day 18   Aug 30 – Review: Charity Girl

wisewoman

Day 19   Aug 31 – Review: Lady of Quality

Fatima

Grand Prize winner of 34 Heyer novels is Linda B.

Congratulations to all the winners. If you could kindly contact me with your full name, address, and which book you won by midnight Pacific time, September 14, 2010, I would be most grateful. Please leave a comment acknowledging your win. Because of the number of prizes I will not be able to chase down the winners, so if you do not respond by the deadline, I will draw additional names again on September 15, 2010. Shipment of books to the continental US and Canada only. Digital download on The Convenient Marriage internationally.

Many thanks to all of the bloggers who contributed reviews, and for everyone who participated. It was great fun. Enjoy the books!

‘Celebrating Georgette Heyer’ event wrap-up and poll

This marks the final post of the ‘Celebrating Georgette Heyer‘ event here at Austenprose. It has been a wonderful month of 34 book reviews of her romance novels, guest blogs, interviews and all out Heyer madness. I hope it chased away that fit of the blue-devils.

A big thank you to each of the guest reviewers. Well done. I have learned so much and enjoyed your insights. A big round of applause for Vic of Jane Austen’s World for her wonderful interview, author Helen Simonson for sharing her life-passion for Heyer, the ladies at Teach Me Tonight for their blog on Heyer Heroes and an extra shout out to Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks for her wonderful interview and their donation of the majority of the novels in the giveaways.

Remember, you have until September 6th, 2010 to get your last comments in to qualify for the giveaways and then the winners will be announced on Tuesday September 7th, 2010. Good luck to all. Whoever wins the grand prize of 34 novels is one lucky sod.

Now, one last challenge. Please vote for your top ten favorite Heyer romance novels. I know it’s a tough job to narrow it down, but it is a great way to see who is a diamond of the first water.

It’s been such fun gang. You all were a wonderful partyers and I hope you will come back and search through the reviews before you choose your next Heyer to read.

‘Celebrating Georgette Heyer’ Event Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of all 34 Georgette Heyer Regency romance novels being reviewed here during the event  (YES! THAT’S RIGHT! 34 NOVELS) by leaving a comment during the event in any post during the month of August stating what intrigues you about reading a Heyer novel or who your favorite hero or heroine is by midnight Pacific time, Monday, September 6th, 2010. The grand prize winner will be announced on Tuesday, September 7th, 2010. Shipment to continental US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Cheers, Laurel Ann

Finis

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

Heyer’s Heroes: Immutable Romance Archetypes

As the month-long Celebrating Georgette Heyer event draws to a close, we can look back through the thirty-four reviews of Heyer’s romance novels and see a common thread through each and every one. Her heroes are epitomes, nonpareils, and nonesuches. In the Regency romance genre, they are a delight to read and an archetype for a new generation of writers. Each is unique but vaguely similar. Why are they so intriguing? So compelling? So swoon-worthy?

Please welcome Heyer scholars Dr. Laura Vivanco and Sarah S. G. Frantz from the Teach Me Tonight blog as they touch upon Heyer’s genius in creating her heroes, paragons of romance perfection.

Georgette Heyer put her heroes into two basic categories: the Mark I hero, who is “The brusque, savage sort with a foul temper” and the Mark II hero, who is “Suave, well-dressed, rich, and a famous whip” (Aiken-Hodge 49).1 The main distinguishing feature is presumably their tempers, since the “brusque, savage sort with a foul temper” may also be “well-dressed, rich, and a famous whip.” Lord Worth, in Regency Buck, is a case in point:

He was the epitome of a man of fashion. His beaver hat was set over black locks carefully brushed into a semblance of disorder; his cravat of starched muslin supported his chin in a series of beautiful folds; his driving-coat of drab cloth bore no less than fifteen capes, and a double row of silver buttons. Miss Taverner had to own him a very handsome creature, but found no difficulty in detesting the whole cast of his countenance. He had a look of self-consequence; his eyes, ironically surveying her from under weary lids, were the hardest she had ever seen, and betrayed no emotion but boredom. His nose was too straight for her taste. His mouth was very well-formed, firm but thin-lipped. She thought it sneered. (15)2

Another criterion by which to classify Heyer’s heroes has been provided by Kerstin Frank: how “cold” or “hot” they are emotionally. For her part, Susanne Hagemann suggests that Heyer heroes vary depending on their place of residence: “A considerable number of Heyer’s works are based on an opposition between ‘London’ and ‘non-London.’ ‘London’ and masculinity are in many cases closely linked through the person of the hero, who tends to be a prominent member of high society” (482), whereas “The protagonist of […] The Foundling is described as slightly built, delicate, pale, quiet, and diffident” (481). He is “the Most Noble Adolphus Gillespie Vernon Ware, Duke of Sale and Marquis of Ormesby; Earl of Sale; Baron Ware of Thame; Baron Ware of Stoven; and Baron Ware of Rufford” (Heyer, The Foundling 2) and he perhaps requires one to add at least one more category to Heyer’s own classification scheme, since he, like the heroes of Charity Girl, Cotillion, and Friday’s Child is neither “suave” nor “brusque.” In addition, one might have to create a small category for Heyer’s military heroes who are neither “suave” nor “brusque” but instead have a penchant for behaving in unexpectedly unconventional ways, and which would contain the heroes of Beauvallet, The Spanish Bride, The Toll Gate, and The Unknown Ajax.

Heyer’s novels and her heroes have been so influential in shaping the modern romance genre that the heroes created by modern romance authors either fit or struggle against the molds that Heyer perfected. So the supercilious man-about-town (Worth from Regency Buck), the wild child (Vidal from Devil’s Cub), the villainous hero (Avon from These Old Shades) may all seem like immutable romance archetypes today, but they are that way because Heyer established types that appealed to the romance-reading audience to such an extent that they have been copied and revised and expanded upon in Regency and historical romances for almost a century.

Many thanks to Dr. Vivanco and Ms. Frantz for enlightening us on what makes a Heyer hero, and why they are so compelling. We all have our favorites, *cough* Lord Jasper Damerel, and I challenge anyone to dethrone him. What is your favorite Heyer hero type, Mark I or Mark II? What do you like and dislike about each of the archetypes? Of the heroes that are flawed (in your eyes) how would you improve them? And, why or how does your favorite succeed?

Dr. Laura Vivanco can generally be found blogging about romance at Teach Me Tonight. Last year she presented a paper to the first academic conference on Heyer and her most recently published essay, co-written with Kyra Kramer, can be found online in the Journal of Popular Romance Studies. It explores the relationships between romance heroes and heroines and contains numerous quotations from a range of Heyer’s novels.

Sarah S. G. Frantz is the President of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance and a professor of literature at Fayetteville State University, NC. She is the co-editor of Women Writing Men: Female Novelists and Their Male Characters, 1750-2000 (Lexington, 2009) and the forthcoming New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction. She blogs at Dear Author and at Teach Me Tonight. She is currently writing about her life-long obsession, Alpha Male: Power and Masculinity in American Popular Romance Fiction.

Footnotes:

1. Germaine Greer describes Worth as “a fine example of a stereotype which most heroes of romantic fiction resemble more or less” (175).

2. Jane Aiken Hodge, in her 1984 biography of Heyer, adds that If Georgette Heyer had two kinds of heroes, Mark I and Mark II, this is equally true of her heroines. The Mark I heroine is a tall young woman with a great deal of character and somewhat mannish habits who tends to dominate the plots of the books she appears in; the Mark II one is a quiet girl, bullied by her family, partly because she cannot bear scenes. When a Mark I heroine meets a Mark I hero, as in Faro’s Daughter, there will be fireworks. But Charles, in The Grand Sophy, is a Mark 1 who thinks he is a Mark II. It takes Sophy’s outrageous behaviour to bring out the Mark I in him and achieve the happy ending. (79)

  • Aiken Hodge, Jane. The Private World of Georgette Heyer. 1984. London: Arrow, 2006.
  • Greer, Germaine. The Female Eunuch. 1970. London: Paladin, 1972.
  • Hagemann, Susanne. “Gendering Places: Georgette Heyer’s Cultural Topography,” in Georgette Heyer: A Critical Retrospective. Ed. Mary Fahnestock-Thomas. Saraland, AL: PrinnyWorld, 2001. 480-492.
  • Heyer, Georgette. Regency Buck. 1958. London: Pan, 1968.
  • Heyer, Georgette. The Foundling. 1948. London: The Book Club, 1949.

A new biography of Heyer, written by Jennifer Kloester, is due to be published by Random House UK in October 2011.

Celebrating Georgette Heyer – Day 19 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 and why 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 19   Aug 31 – Event wrap-up

Day 20   Sept 07 – Giveaway winners announced

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