If my fascination with the Regency era began with Jane Austen’s novels that were actually written in the Regency, it was further cemented by reading Georgette Heyer’s Regency and eighteenth century-set historical novels. I still remember my first introduction to Heyer’s books. I was nine-years-old, and though I was reading to myself, my mom still read outloud to me as well. One evening we were at a bookstore, and I asked what we were going to read next. She held out a book with a cover showing a dark-haired young woman with side curls in a high-waisted pale green dress and said “let’s try this and see if you like it.” “This” was Heyer’s “The Grand Sophy” one of my favorite novels to this day. From the first chapter where Sir Horace Stanton-Lacey calls on his sister Lady Ombersley, I was entranced by this vividly created world. Over the next few years, I went on to read most of Heyer’s historical romances and several of her contemporary mysteries, some outloud with my mom, some to myself.
I reread her books frequently, and I’m hard-pressed to pick favorites, though I do have a fairly consistent top three. “The Grand Sophy” which has a wonderfully tough, independent heroine, a nicely understated love story, a sharply-detailed cast of secondary characters, laugh-outloud humor, and an hysterically funny ending in which all the characters and plotlines converge (the inspiration for the finales of several of my mom and my Anthea Malcolm Regencies). “Veneita”, which beautifully captures the wonder of finding a friend and lover and manages at once to be deeply romantic and yet have a keen edge of reality (I also realized writing this that Venetia and Damerel toss quotations back and forth, which is probably yet another reason why Mélanie and Charles do the same). And “An Infamous Army”. set in Brussels in the weeks before and then during the Battle of Waterloo. “An Infamous Army” started my interest in the Napoleonic Wars (definitely another influence on my Charles and Mélanie stories) and introduced me to a collection of real historical people who figure in the book and who I’ve gone on to use in my own books (Wellington, Fitzroy Somerset, the Prince of Orange, the Duchess of Devonshire, Georgiana Lennox). And its rebellious heroine and quietly honorable hero are a fascinating pair.
Those are my favorite three, but they leave out so many others I love–“Sylvester”, “Arabella” (after whom I named my Madame Alexander doll when I was ten), “Frederica”, “These Old Shades”, “Devil’s Cub”, “Friday’s Child”…
Have you read Georgette Heyer? Any particular favorites? What makes those books stand out for you?
I just posted a new letter in the Fraser Correspondence, in which Lady Frances answers Geoffrey Blackwell’s letter and talks about the gossip in the beau monde surrounding Charles and Mélanie’s marriage (perhaps appropriately for a week when I’ve been blogging about Georgette Heyer). I’ll post a new video clip later this week, so be sure to check back. And Thursday (August 16), my friend Monica McCarty (who just made the U.S.A. Today list with her first book!) will be interviewing me about “Secrets of a Lady” on the Fog City Divas website. Do stop by and ask me questions!