Thursday, November 5, 2009

Oh Georgette Heyer, My Queen (of Witty Regency Romances)

I am ashamed to admit that I barely knew who Georgette Heyer was until Kerry convinced me to read one of her novels (thank you, Kerry!). Georgette Heyer is amazing: engaging, witty, extremely knowledgeable regarding historical accuracy, and best of all, prolific. There is nothing better than discovering an amazing writer--and then discovering that she has written over fifty novels. Heyer reportedly wrote her first novel, The Black Moth, as a teenager to entertain her ill brother, and her writing only gets better and better from then on.

I completely agree with Kerry that The Talisman Ring and The Corinthian are some of her best works and thus the perfect Heyer novels to begin with. I particularly enjoy her strong-willed heroines and the pervasive humor of her novels. Some of my favorites titles are:

The Grand Sophy
This book manages to contain a young woman who eagerly and easily threatens moneylenders, lovingly meddles in her family's affairs, carries a firearm, and would most likely intimidate Napoleon himself. . .and best of all, a pet monkey. You will fall in love with Sophy--or at least learn to respectfully fear her.


Heyer's answer to Austen's Pride and Prejudice is a bit more serious in tone than some of her other novels (for example, good old Sophy) but farce and mistaken motives makes this one of her most humorous books, as well. The hero and heroine initially despise one another but learn to despise the ridiculous people around them even more (there is a hilarious scene in which the heroine, Phoebe, consoles a dandy who is literally despondent over the loss of his beloved gold boot tassels, which have been mauled by a puppy). So enjoyable.

Speaking of ridiculous people, this book is populated by them. Because I love Heyer's contain strong-willed, intelligent characters, this book was a bit of a shock. While heiress Kitty Charing and her cousin Freddy Standen may be strong-willed, they are incredibly ditzy. I literally kept waiting for the main characters to show up, convinced that Kitty and Freddy had to be secondary characters purely for amusement--but oh no, they are the main characters. And amusing main characters they certainly are. A change of pace for Heyer, and pure entertainment for the reader.

I recently scoured Powell's Books in Portland (if you've never been to Powell's you are seriously not living life to its fullest; I could easily sleep every night there and be happy) for Georgette Heyer titles and was ecstatic to many 1960s paperback copies complete with cheesy covers and, as Kerry mentioned in her post, completely inaccurate jacket descriptions. It was like discovering gold. I guarantee that once you read Heyer, it will be hard to stop.

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