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.
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.
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.
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.