Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Sublime Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer started it all for me. In high school, I found one of her books in the library, and I was hooked. For the next ten years I searched out every Georgette Heyer book I could find; it became an obsession. I had to own every title.

I have them all now, at least all the ones I wanted, beginning with The Masqueraders set in 1746 through to Venetia set in 1818 excepting only Cousin Kate. I've half of them in hardcover, the other half in paperback. I'd like to have them all in hardcover, and I pick them up when I see them in used bookstores or used book sales. I got thinking about Heyer's books again the other day, when on they started to talk about Heyer books that they disliked.

That was a surprise to me. You see, I never before thought anyone would/could dislike a Georgette Heyer book. Well, I didn't like her now dated contemporaries, didn't read her mysteries, and didn't care for Cousin Kate, which is basically a Gothic. But I'm talking about the historical romances here--the Georgians and the Regencies. Oh, there are some I like better than others, but none that I dislike. Each and everyone has a character I love, or a situation I like, or a plot line I adore.
The folks on were talking about disliking False Colours. That is one of my favourites. Yes it moves slowly, but the twins, ah the twins, are lovely, and mistaken identity plots always grab me.

Someone didn't like The Tollgate because of the cant. The cant was a necessity given the setting. And for a dependable hero, a feisty heroine in an untenable situation, and a gentle murder mystery it can't be bettered.

I don't know why they didn't like Lady of Quality. For me the hero is strongly reminiscent of the hero of The Black Sheep, but I love The Black Sheep so why wouldn't I like Lady of Quality?

Bath Tangle is a bit problematic. The continuing confrontational attitude of the hero and heroine was cited as a reason for dislike. I can understand that. Yet both characters are so well drawn, and their long-standing relationship so clearly delineated that the passion and the reason for their verbal sparring is obvious. They are strong people, with opinions and attitudes to match.

The Masqueraders was singled out for disapprobation. But the people who didn't like it, admitted to a bias against 'secret identity' or 'identity swap' type plots. They didn't like False Colours either. As I said before, mistaken identity will hook me every time. We all wear masks; Georgette Heyer took the mask to the limit.

Cotillion and Charity Girl are probably my least favourite Heyers. Cotillion I must read again; when I read it first it disappointed me for it had no dashing hero. I'm older and wiser now Charity Girl I found derivative--one of her last books--and apparently written at a low point. But still I would be happy to pen such a work.

Georgette Heyer still enchants readers and is still in print thirty-five years after her death. No author could ask for more.

To explore Ms. Heyer's work further go to:
- Definitive Fan Website
- An Appreciation of Georgette Heyer by Jay Dixon (a very good bio and bibliography)
- The Romantic Novels of Georgette Heyer (an excellent, if occasionally condescending, article)
Which is your favourite Heyer? Why?
Till next time,


Angie said...

What I like about GH is the narration. (I often wish life had a narrator.) Cotillion has such great commentary--at one point Kitty sympathizes with Dolph's mother when she realizes that Dolph is really quite trying sometimes--and such a great accidental love story, besides wonderful views of London, that it's one of my favorites. I always like the ones where they try on dresses. And Meg is such a ditz.

Charity Girl *is* very deriviative. Ignore the main plot and concentrate on the secondary characters.

GH had a way with words and a way with character. Even her lesser books (well, maybe not the contemporaries...I did try two of them and being a woman then must have been a real trial) have great delights in language. Cousin Kate is nice until the nasty aunt shows up.

And the mysteries; well, if you don't, you don't, but Duplicate Death and Death in the Stocks are fine. Envious Casca is another one of my favorites and sometimes it's funny.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

OK, I am going to try Cotillion from a mature perspective! And I'll try the mysteries...I'm getting more and more interested in historical mysteries. Can't wait to read "The Language of Bees" by Laurie R. King. Never read the classic Sherlock Holmes but I love Mary Russell.
Thanks for your suggestions and your comments, Angie!