A Regency Romance

4 Apr

Georgette Heyer.  There, I said it.  She’s my slightly secret weakness.  My go-to, comfort-seeking, on-the-couch-with-hot-chocolate-and-a-blanket, read-’em-like-candy series of books are all written by quick-witted and amusing Georgette Heyer, and set in England between the mid 1700s and early 1800s.  Inspired by Jane Austin, Georgette Heyer established an entire field of writing: the historical romance — most especially the regency romance.  Don’t roll your eyes:  this author forgot more about the Georgian and Regency periods than many historians ever know.

Decorative detail in a Regency-era building … gorgeous, like the detail in Heyer’s novels.

But she’s not dry: her characters live with smart and funny dialogue.  If you like any kind of modern romance novel at all,  thank Georgette Heyer.  I don’t know how many times (zillions) I’ve read a new steampunk novel, or paranormal fantasy,  or ‘chick-lit’ label-whatever, and thought to myself: except for the zombies (or vampires, or werewolves, or aliens, or ghosts) Georgette Heyer did it better.  And she was successful with almost zero publicity, and as far as I can tell she never gave an interview.  When asked to give details of her own biography she reportedly said, “You will find me in my work.”  Love it.   Here’s a fan site.  Here’s her Wikipedia entry.

The, um, pillars of Heyer’s genius, underpinning modern romance writing?  Sure, I’ll go with that.

Much of her novels’ action takes place in London, but a not insignificant number of books and scenes are here in Gloucestershire, in Bath or in the Cotswold countryside — or even here in Cheltenham.   I don’t think I can explain my delight when I discovered that the Cheltenham Assembly Rooms, where dulcet maidens and dashing cavaliers once met and danced, still exist — repurposed and beautifully restored as a bank.

The triple-domed roof of the old Assembly Rooms.  To the bank guards eyeing me as I took photos inside the bank: No worries,  I’m a blogger.

I re-read my Jane Austin before we moved — of course — but have to admit I’ve had more joy from re-reading my Georgette Heyer collection.  Most of her novels are now out on Kindle.  If you want to try one, start with These Old Shades, and follow-up with the sequel, Devil’s Cub.  For frothy fun and droll wit, check out Friday’s Child.  Or Arabella, or The Grand Sophy.  If you make it that far, you’ll be hooked, and should come sit with me in a Regency tea room overlooking this beautiful spa town and talk about our favorite slightly secret weakness.

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8 Responses to “A Regency Romance”

  1. Jeanne April 4, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    Okay, you’ve talked me into trying another one. I read one and wasn’t hooked. But your helpful guide of which to begin with will be my guide as I struggle to quit crying out in terror!

    • Monique April 4, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

      Oh, I’m on the spot now! Hope it’s neither terrifying nor awful, but at least amusing.

  2. Zazzy April 4, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    I love Georgette Heyer and make a point of buying her books at every library sale. Except for Devil’s Cub as I had to special order it. I think she was ahead of her time. Given that they were written in the 40s for the most part, her female characters were strong and funny and smart. And far, far more likable than Austen’s characters. I enjoy the way some background characters are repeated so that you feel you know the real life characters populating the era. Whether or not they are anything like their real life counterparts.

    • Monique April 7, 2012 at 8:39 am #

      Yes! She brings life to an entire world. It makes me laugh when the hero of one story has a friend in common with the hero of another story – but they don’t seem to know each other. I read my mom’s hardbacks ragged, it’s been great to have my own collection on kindle.

  3. haitiruth April 4, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    You’re in good company — the highly erudite A.S. Byatt has a whole essay on how much she loves Georgette Heyer! I haven’t read any Heyer in years, and obviously I need to start again!

    • Monique April 7, 2012 at 8:42 am #

      I didn’t know that! 😀 I’ve been hiding my love of Heyer under a bushel, never realizing what good company I’m in.

  4. greatscott3 April 4, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    ha! love the “don’t worry, i’m a blogger”. i think that in SO many photography situations. haha! and…i’m not much for chick-lit or chick-films (oddly my husband is…???) but you’ve got my curiosity piqued. i think i might have to give these a try – anyone who doesn’t give interviews and says, “you can find me in my books” appeals to my introverted sensibilities. which one would you recommend for someone that isn’t all that into chick-lit? and…if i make it through, crumpet must meet salad to discuss.

    • Monique April 7, 2012 at 8:48 am #

      We’ll, it’s tough to know if you’d like her or not, but I’ll stick with “These Old Shades” as a first read. It’s a bit more serious than a comedy like Friday’s Child or Cotillion. Would love to know what you think of Heyer!

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