History Hoydens

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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

24 October 2008

I must admit, I'm a Georgette Heyer virgin. I know, I know...how could I have never read a single book by the fabulous Ms. Heyer? I started wondering that, too.

So last week I decided it was time. I browsed a couple of Heyers, and decided on These Old Shades.

The first two sentences had me:

"A gentlman was strolling down a side street in Paris, on his way back from the house of one Madame de Verchoureux. He walked very mincingly, for the red heels of his shoes were very high . . ."

And now I'm hooked. Where I have been and why had I not discovered this wonderful author earlier? I have no explanation. But I'm glad I finally met her.

Today the stock market took another tumble. Book sales are sluggish to say the least, and wonder what the economy will do to the publishing business in general. Not good for authors. The bookstores I've visited lately have not been busy.

So I retreat into the delighful pages of TOS. Along the way, I started wondering why do I read and write historicals--historical romance, specifically?

Yes, I love the escape, but as my crit partner put it (and she is very pop-culture hip--you would never guess she is such a devoted Regency fan):

In historicals, there are behaviors and expectations for civility. Today nothing is taboo. I want gentility and manners and consequences if you don't have them.

I paraphrased the above, but I think she's right. I love historical romance--a story where merely "Leaving the company of one man (who sits beside you on a settee in a drawing room) to talk to another was not the custom of the time. . ."-- would set the gossip rags on fire.

Why do you read historical romance? And if anybody want to give me the "best of Heyer" book rec's I'm all ears. I can't wait to start the next one!

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14 Comments:

Blogger Christina said...

If you enjoy These Old Shades, then read the sequel Devil's Cub. It has it's funny moments the heroine, Mary, is strong and smart, and the hero, Dominic, is the best.

5:04 PM  
Anonymous Cate said...

I'll second Christina's rec of Devil's Cub and add An Infamous Army. Avon's great-great-granddaughter, Bab Childe, is my favourite Heyer heroine.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Kelly Bishop said...

TOS my favorite of her dramatic stories. I also HIGHLY recommend:

Devil's Cub - About the son of the couple in TOS & boy is he a handful!

She also wrote several more light-hearted stories that are very witty.

Unknown Ajax - A son of the family black sheep unexpectedly becomes the heir & is "summoned" so that his grandfather can look him over. Everyone assumes he's going to be a disaster, instead he ends up cleaning up THEIR mess.

Cotillion - Young girl is told she must choose one of her guardian's nephews in order to inherit an estate. Jack, the one she wants snubs her so she pretends to pick fluff-brained Freddy hoping to make him jealous. Only Freddy turns out to have more sense that anyone thought. Very, very funny.

Talisman Ring - Young heiress with let's say an overly developed dramatic sense decides to run away rather than marry the man her guardian chose for her. She ends up with all the adventure her little heart desires.

Sylvester Or the Wicked Uncle - Young girl has secretly written & published a novel that is the hit of the season. Only the villian bears more than a passing resemblance to the stuffed shirt who earlier snubbed her. But once she gets to know him, she realizes how unfair she was & can't figure out what to do to keep her authorship "secret" & squash the gossip about him.

Enjoy!

Kelly B.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Read all four of the related books:

These Old Shades (Avon and Leoine)
Devil's Cub (Avon and Leoine's son, Vidal and Mary)
Regency Buck (Worth and Judith)
An Infamous Army (Worth's younger brother and Vidal's granddaughter)

Other favs include Venetia, Sylvester or The Wicked Uncle, Fredrica, The Grand Sophy, The Masqueraders, and Bath Tangle.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Oooo, I almost forgot Faro's Daughter. You have to read that one!

7:28 PM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Congratulations on discovering the fabulous Georgette Heyer! I started reading her novels when I was ten years old. The two little old ladies who lived next door to us in England got me hooked on them. These two were well into their sixties and rode neck or nothing to the hounds on two of the biggest hunters I have ever seen.

All of the above recommendations are wonderful. For dry humor and a great story try THE QUIET GENTLEMAN. Devil's Cub and that entire series are a must read. I love Bath Tangle and The Grand Sophy too.

6:55 AM  
Anonymous Pam Rosenthal said...

VENETIA! Witty, erudite, warm-hearted. And (rare for Heyer in my experience) it has a nice erotic buzz.

7:34 AM  
Blogger La Belle Americaine said...

Never could get into Heyer. Too dry for me.

But I read historical fiction in any form (romance,mystery,fantasy,straight,et al) for the precise reason your CP detailed. The stakes are higher. The "world" is unfamiliar and at times, limitless. And, we can conquer the past through historical fiction.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

Louisa, you beat me! I started reading Heyer at 14. I swear my mother gave me the first one I read and she insists it's the other way around.

I agree with Pam that VENETIA is one of the best in which flawed but appealing characters abound. No one mentioned THE FOUNDLING in which the duke of someplace who has been so protected all his life sets out on his own for an adventure -- and no one will believe this guy is a duke. Not nearly the romance the others are but a great coming of age story.

Also, THE BLACK MOTH should be on the list of books related to THESE OLD SHADES as it features Avon as a villain which is not a stretch at all.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Diane Whiteside said...

You've already mentioned so many of my favorites! I must second FREDERICA, THE GRAND SOPHY, and DEVIL'S CUB.

I confess to a scandalous weakness for THE CONQUEROR and BEAUVALLET.

6:59 PM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Now see, BEAUVALLET is one of my least favorites. I didn't even buy it for my "complete" Heyer collection. I just loathed the heroine. She was entirely unworthy of the hero IMO (an undrage nincompoop). I don't like A CIVIL CONTRACT either. It depresses me. SPRIG MUSLIN is another fav. There's just something swoony about the quiet romance of Gary and Hester (amid the contremps of "the children", Oh how I love Hildebrand!).

Really, when it comes to Heyer it's easier to say which books I'd skip. Personally I don't find her "dry" in the slightest. I find her books witty, funny, smart, and they contain some of the best dialogue/repartee ever written.

7:24 PM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Kathrynn, I STILL have never read any Heyer, but from the 2 sentences you quoted, I can tell that she has a "voice" which is what intrigues me more than anything when it comes to my decision on what to read. Someone left a Heyer novel downstairs in my building's little "library" and I keep meaning to grab it since we're free to borrow anything on the shelves and either put it back when we're finished or replace it with a different book.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Linda Banche said...

I read Heyer when I was in high school. I couldn't understand half of want she said, but I liked the story.

Why do I read Regencies? I find the modern world definitely unromantic. Jingling cell phones, endless boring meetings, and traffic jams. The Regency is far enough in the past so it's not quite modern, yet not so far distant as to be unrecognizable. Of course, if I really lived then, I would probably be a servant and not the lady of the house. But historicals are part fantasy. Real life sits in the TV screaming of yet another stock market down day.

5:05 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Kathrynn, I recently gave a young friend that same edition of "These Old Shades" for the thirteenth birthday. I love Heyer, and TOS is a book a I return to frequently. I normally don't particularly like books with young heroines and some of the stuff about class and birth in TOS really bothers me--but there's something very compelling about the story. The whole cast of characters is so wonderfully vivid. And it's a powerful love story with a wonderful sense of yearning--the scene in which Avon and Léonie finally declare themselves is model of subtle, powerful writing, with beautifully delineated shifts in emotion and objectives.

Like Kalen, I'd have an easier time naming Heyers that aren't favorites than those that are, but my three absolute favorites are "The Grand Sophy" (my first Heyer at the age of ten--an unconventional heroine, wonderful sparring with the hero, great characters, hysterically funny at times), "An Infamous Army" (another rule-breaking heroine, this one more tormented, an appealingly nonrakish hero, and fabulous historical texture leading up a harrowing account of the Battle of Waterloo), and "Venetia" (deeply romantic, quite erotic as Pam says (though there aren't an explicit love scenes), and a great depiction of two characters who are soul mates; Damerel is one of my favorite heroes ever).

12:49 AM  

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