Queue the paper streamers and party hats – today, Tuesday August 16th, is Georgette Heyer’s 109th birthday! We are celebrating the Queen of Regency Romance in style with a great guest blog from our resident Heyer enthusiast Laura Wallace and a ton of fabulous giveaways from Sourcebooks. So put on your best party frock and dancing slippers and let the merriment begin!
When I was about twelve years old, I received a mysterious box for Christmas from one of my aunts. It was an ordinary flat shirt box, but it was heavy. I opened it to find a rather tattered collection of paperback books. The spines were broken, the pages dog-eared, the covers occasionally torn, and the pictures on the covers were of rather dreadful-looking females in high-waisted dresses in atrocious colors with ´60s hairstyles.
With many years´ hindsight looking back, I was not, perhaps, quite as enthusiastic as I ought to have been. But I wasn´t at all disappointed. I was a great reader, and while I hadn´t yet discovered Jane Austen, I had discovered Victoria Holt and similar gothic novels (in the quaint, mid-20th century sense of the word) which would today probably be marketed as young adult fiction. So I was not at all daunted by this large box of what appeared to be historical fiction. This was, it turned out, my aunt´s well-loved Georgette Heyer collection, which she was passing along to me. I don´t remember what she said. I don´t remember which novel I read first, or how long it took me to get around to it. I don´t remember much about them, except that once, a few years later, I went searching through my Heyer books looking for the one about Catherine Morland, who was duped by that jerk John Thorpe who drove off with her when she had promised to take a walk with her friend Miss Tilney and her brother, and hurt their feelings. I never did find it, until I read all of Austen´s novels (some of them for the first time) many years later when I made the acquaintance of Colin Firth´s Mr. Darcy. But by the time I graduated from high school, I was devoted to Georgette Heyer.
I still have all those old paperbacks, which are now truly falling apart. I never passed them along to my own niece because she was uninterested. (She eventually returned most of the ones I tried to give to her, including Heyer, Austen, and Holt-I guess I impressed on her too much how precious they were to me.) A few of them are still on my shelf as my only copy of that particular novel, though most have been replaced. The rest are in a protective box.
Later, on something called BITNET, I discovered both Austen-L and the Georgette Heyer Mailing List, the latter of which was run by Eileen Kendall. There I found like-minded readers who loved these authors and whose discussions of their books enriched my enjoyment and appreciation of them. Although I love many other authors, I have never found any to equal their elegance of prose, gentle manners, and exquisite settings. Both Austen and Heyer literally changed the way I feel about words and about literature, and even about the world. Reading them makes me want to write novels. (I am still attempting to do so.) Reading them makes me study history and even genealogy. Reading them makes me collect books about Regency England and much of the preceding and following centuries. It makes me spend hours studying in academic libraries, and sometimes makes me wish I´d majored in history, or gone back to school for a Ph.D. in history. It makes want to write biographies of Regency-era people as well as novels. It certainly was the genesis for my website on the British system of noble titles.
Reading Austen and Heyer led even to my falling in love with the portraiture of Sir Thomas Lawrence, which I collect avidly in electronic images, books, and prints, and to the study of other portrait artists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and to the study of costume. It placed Beethoven and Mozart in a particular context and enriches my enjoyment of both playing and listening to them, as well as seeking out other composers of the era (and I was a music major, so I didn´t exactly lack context for them).
I could go on, but I think you get the picture!
So, to celebrate Georgette Heyer´s birthday, I give thanks for her life and for her work, which gives me so much pleasure so frequently, and impacts my own world almost every day. I know there are others like me among her legions of fans who value her work for all the reasons she herself valued it: for the meticulous research, the exquisite language, the wit and humour, the memorable characters, and the wonderful world she created that we can go back to again and again, always certain to find something beautifully wrought and something that is new. And most of all, perhaps, always certain to find pleasure and inspiration. Happy Birthday, Miss Heyer!
Laura A. Wallace, is 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).
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Heyer Laura. We all have our own personal Georgette Heyer stories, or you should have if you have not discovered this great author yet.
Enter a chance to win one of the three Heyer ‘Novel Packs’ that have been generously donated by Sourcebooks. Share your favorite Georgette Heyer story with us such as: Who recommended her to you? What was the first novel you read? Which novel is your favorite? Who is the most swoon worthy hero? To qualify, leave a comment by midnight PT, Wednesday August 24th. Winners to be announced on Thursday, August 25th. Shipment to the US and Canada only. Good luck to all.
Heyer Pack #1
- Bath Tangle
- The Reluctant Widow
- The Grand Sophy
- Regency Buck
- The Convenient Marriage
Heyer Pack #2
- The Black Moth
- The Masqueraders
- False Colours
- Black Sheep
- Lady of Quality
Heyer Pack #3
- Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle
- Charity Girl
- Cousin Kate
- The Foundling
- The Talisman Ring
Remember – in celebration of Georgette Heyer’s birthday, Sourcebooks is also offering all 46 of the Heyer’s books that they publish in eBook format for $1.99 from August 15-August 21 ONLY.
Stock up. These great prices may never happen again.
© 2007 – 2011 Laura A. Wallace, Austenprose