Georgette Heyer’s Georgian and Regency novels have long been marketed as “women’s romance fiction,” which means that men are unlikely to pick up one of her books. When originally published, however, the books achieved a broader audience. Heyer had male fans (latter-day enthusiasts include Stephen Fry) and wrote on many subjects of masculine interest: the Napoleonic Wars, sporting activities (riding, driving, boxing, hunting, shooting), the criminal underworld (including smugglers), mystery and adventure.
Indeed, her first book, The Black Moth, was an adventure-romance written for her brother Boris. Furthermore, in my opinion at least, Heyer was so adept at depicting male relationships that the brothers, brothers-in-arms, fathers and sons, and male friends in her books seem more fully realized than the women. I believe that this is one reason (among many) that the books have remained perennials, nearly always in print. On the one hand, women enjoy a glimpse into the world of masculine camaraderie; on the other, they recognize the emotional authenticity in the relationships she describes.
That said, for her heroes Heyer returned over and over again to certain models of masculinity which are not necessarily realistic, but express ideals of female desire. According to Jane Aiken-Hodge’s biography, she classified her heroes in two basic categories: the Mark I hero, who is “the brusque, savage sort with a foul temper” and the Mark II hero, who is “suave, well-dressed, rich, and a famous whip.” I hate to contradict Heyer herself, but having re-read all of her Georgian and Regency romances over the past year, I can say with certainty that her heroic landscape is more complex than this. Furthermore, only a very few of her heroes could accurately be described as savage and foul tempered, while a large majority of them are suave, well-dressed and rich. Some interpreters have understood Mark I as a commanding or dangerous type and Mark II as the more sweet and gentle type, yet many of her suave, rich, and well-dressed heroes are also what the romance trade calls Alpha Males, while her good-tempered, humorous men may lack the Mark II characteristics of elegant speech, impeccable dress or riches.
Glass and Mineo (1986)* suggest three basic hero types: (A) Darcy-Rochester, who is proud, aloof, intolerant and sarcastic; (B) Rochester-Darcy, who is blunt, frank, humorous and a reformed rake; and (C) Knightley, who is serious, calm, reliable, unobtrusive, and paternal. Yet they give few specific examples, and their tripartite scheme does not withstand close scrutiny. Hugo Darracott in The Unknown Ajax, for example, is frank and humorous, not a reformed rake, and also calm and reliable. Robert Beaumaris in Arabella is unmistakably based on Darcy, but he is hardly intolerant or sarcastic, and his sense of humor is gently self-deprecating.
Kerstin Frank describes the “thermodynamics” of Heyer’s depiction of upper-class life, in which the “coolness” of her heroes, (representing the rigid dictates of polite society) is challenged by the “warmth” of her unconventional heroines. I find the temperature metaphor useful in describing the emotional affect of Heyer’s heroes across the spectrum:
“Cold” indicates self-control and masking of the emotions, as well as a cruel streak (e.g. Justin Alastair in These Old Shades).
“Cool” is a milder version, the type who is bemused and droll rather than harsh and sardonic (e.g. Sir Gareth in Sprig Muslin).
“Warm” describes a sweet-tempered, frank, humorous man, who may be boyishly mischievous or capable and mature (Capt. Staple in The Toll-Gate).
“Hot” applies to the brusque, short-fused, passionate personality (Max Ravenscar in Faro’s Daughter).
Here is my own classification of Heyer’s hero archetypes, which I present with the caveat that any rigid scheme is bound to fail. Heyer was more subtle than she was willing to admit (given her habit of pre-emptively deprecating her romance books), and while she revisited certain patterns, she took care to vary them.
Dandy or Corinthian. This hero is the idol of London society, either an arbiter of fashion who rules over Almack’s and determines the success or failure of newcomers to Town, or a sporting man, a member of the Four Horse Club who drives to an inch, “strips to advantage” in the boxing ring, and is an excellent shot. Either way, he collects an ardent following of young men who imitate every detail of his dress and pastimes. He cultivates a cool, bemused persona. If a dandy, he follows Brummel’s style and his dress is tastefully sober and restrained, yet perfect in every detail. Rich, handsome, and of impeccable birth (but in his pure form, not titled) he is the most coveted prize in the “marriage mart.” Typically he has grown bored with the superficiality and shallowness of society life, and falls for a youthfully unspoiled provincial, or a woman with financial disadvantages but unusual grace and strength of character. He is a descendant of Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. This is presumably what Heyer called her “Mark II” hero. Temperature: Cool.
Examples: Robert Beaumaris in Arabella, Sir Gareth Ludlow in Sprig Muslin, Sir Richard “Beau” Wyndham in The Corinthian, Sir Waldo Hawkridge in The Nonesuch.
Variations: Julian, Earl of Worth, in Regency Buck is a Corinthian with a strong dose of Cynical Sophisticate. Gervase, Earl of St. Erth in The Quiet Gentleman, is a Dandy with a dash of Capable, Self-Made Man. Philip Jettan in Powder and Patch is a Dandy with a difference; he has some characteristics of both the Youth Coming of Age and the Capable, Self-Made Man. Viscount Desford in Charity Girl disclaims the name of either a dandy or Corinthian, but fits the general profile.
Capable, Self-Made Man. This type is a man of action, perhaps with a military background or much time spent abroad. If of noble birth, he may be a younger son, or he may have suffered some misfortune which caused him to be outcast. He is more resourceful and intelligent than he gets credit for, and may seek out adventure for its own sake, bored with life in England. Though he does not shrink from using force where necessary, he is sweet-tempered and cheerful rather than cool and sardonic, and he has a good sense of humor. He dresses well but is not necessarily a fashion plate (especially if he is a very large man like Hugo in The Unknown Ajax), and he may lack sporting skills (such as being an expert whip). He falls in love, almost at first sight, with a woman who is “above his touch” or otherwise unavailable, but finds a way to win her. Temperature: Warm.
Examples: John Carstares (Earl of Wyncham) in The Black Moth, Captain Charles Audley in An Infamous Army, Hugo Darracott in The Unknown Ajax, Captain John Staple in The Toll-Gate, Kit Denville in False Colours.
Variation: Miles Calverleigh of Black Sheep is a Capable, Self Made Man in terms of plot, but rude and informal like the Volatile Irascible Male.
Cynical Sophisticate/Cool Customer. Heyer began her career with the Cynical Sophisticate and he remained a favorite. This type includes both the rake who has ruined his social reputation, and the more discreet gentleman of worldly experience. He is invariably titled (usually an Earl) and able to depress pretension with the lift of an eyebrow. His most salient personality trait is being completely unflappable. If respectable, he is a confirmed bachelor with a long tally of mistresses (he prefers married women and widows) who finally recognizes his responsibility to beget an heir. If a rake, his cynicism is deep and bitter. Whether or not he himself has behaved badly, he insists that his family members (especially the females) avoid scandal and will go to great lengths to protect the family name. He may have fought a number of duels. He has despotic tendencies like the Volatile Irascible Male, but is not “foul tempered” and never suffers a loss of self-control. In his world-weariness and boredom (and usually in his exquisite dress) he overlaps with the Dandy/Corinthian, but he has little to no interest in setting fashions or being part of an admired “set.” He surprises himself by falling in love with a much younger or very unconventional woman, but fears he is too old or too wicked for her. A variant of this type is the Cool Customer, who lacks the Sophisticate’s checkered sexual history. Temperature: Cool to Cold.
Examples: The Duke of Avon in These Old Shades, The Earl of Rule in The Convenient Marriage, the Marquis of Alverstoke in Frederica.
Variations: The disgraced Baron Damerel in Venetia is a hybrid of the Cynical Sophisticate and the Capable Self-Made Man, with a touchingly vulnerable side. Lord Carlyon in The Reluctant Widow is a Cool Customer. Tracy Belmanoir, the Duke of Andover in The Black Moth, is a Cynical Sophisticate who takes over the story even though he is not “the hero.” The Marquis of Rockhill in A Civil Contract is a classic Cynical Sophisticate, although a secondary character.
Volatile Irascible Male. This passionate man may be young or mature, but has an aura of danger and does not always behave like a gentleman. Above all, he has a temper and cannot bear to let anyone (male or female) get the better of him. He tends to be titled, extremely wealthy, or both, but (like the Cynical Sophisticate) he doesn’t give a damn about being a leader in society. Ruggedly masculine rather than handsome, he is careless of his appearance and may dress in a style so casual as to be considered eccentric for one of his rank. He needs a woman he can respect, with the same high spirit, and therefore ends up in an intense Battle of the Sexes. He is the brooding descendant of Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre (but even more rude, and less romantic). His profile is closest to what Heyer called her “Mark I” hero, but the pure type is somewhat rare in her oeuvre. Temperature: Hot.
Examples: Max Ravenscar in Faro’s Daughter, the Marquis of Rotherham in Bath Tangle.
Variations: The Marquis of Vidal in Devil’s Cub and Charles Rivendell in The Grand Sophy are both Volatile Irascible Males with a dash of Youth Coming of Age, yet their stories are completely different (Vidal being a rakish VIM, while Charles is a comic version of the VIM type, with rigid, authoritarian tendencies). Oliver Carleton in Lady of Quality is rude and despotic like a VIM, but with the unflappable, perspicacious traits of a Sophisticate.
Youth Coming of Age. This is a man who has not matured enough to possess the self-confidence, polished address, authoritative aura, and resourcefulness of a true gentleman of the ton. He may be arrogant and stiff, feckless and selfish, or meek and passive, but has qualities to balance his flaws: sweetness, generosity, loyalty, kindness, or (in some cases) mischievous charm. He often has an older mentor, a father or cousin, who models the behaviors he needs to learn, or lacking these, a friend with good breeding but limited intelligence. Over the course of the book, he learns to take responsibility for himself and to protect the vulnerable. When this process is complete, he realizes that there is Someone (often a childhood friend) he has been in love with all along. Heyer wrote two stories of this type about Dukes, who are given personality flaws to counterbalance their extremely high rank; the Duke of Sale is too meek and humble, while the Duke of Salford is too arrogant. Temperature: Cool to Warm, varying with the hero’s experience and age.
Examples: Viscount Sheringham in Friday’s Child, the Duke of Sale in The Foundling, Freddy Standen in Cotillion. The Duke of Salford in Sylvester is an older version of the Coming of Age hero, with a dash of VIM.
Variation: Viscount Lynton in A Civil Contract has a few features of the Coming of Age hero, but his story is darker and more complex than Heyer’s usual efforts, which emphasize the comic aspects of the hero’s inexperience.
Manly Country Gentleman. This hero is a variant of the Capable, Self-Made Man, except that he suffers no social disadvantage—in fact, he may be a bit too respectable. He is neither fabulously wealthy nor of high birth, but a member of the landed gentry or minor nobility, perhaps a knight or baronet. He is very much the gentleman, mature and authoritative. Like the Self-Made Man, he falls in love quickly and appoints himself his lady’s protector, often getting a chance to demonstrate his physical prowess in her defense. Temperature: Cool to Warm.
Examples: Sir Anthony Fanshawe in The Masqueraders, Sir Tristram Shield in The Talisman Ring, Philip Broome in Cousin Kate
Many critics have accused Georgette Heyer of recycling plots and characters. As my analysis of the hero-types shows, there is some truth in this, and indeed, she was keenly aware that her readers expected “the mixture as before”: more of the same, yet different. She worked hard to satisfy their expectations while meeting her own high standards, and within the general framework of romance plots feasible in the context of Regency upper-class mores, she manages considerable variety. The same is true of the heroes. In future posts, I’ll share my reviews of Heyer’s Regencies, with special attention to her ideal(s) of masculinity.
*E. R. Glass and A. Mineo, “Georgette Heyer and the Uses of Regency,” in Mary Fahnestock-Thomas, ed., Georgette Heyer: A Critical Retrospective (Prinnyworld Press, 2001), 421-34.
Thanks for the overview, a handy reference for when I finally get around to reading Heyer. 🙂 The Cool customer interests me most, I think, but the volatile irascible and the self-made man sound good too.
I like those two best as well. There are certain books I paid less attention to when I started, because of the hero type. But when I re-read them all, I appreciated the variation more.
Gabi Coatsworth said:
What an excellent analysis – you’ve obviously spent time thinking about it. It’s given me a new way of reading the books (for the umpteenth time), so thank you
Many thanks, Gabi! I am so grateful for these books. They’ve gotten me through some hard times.
Gabi Coatsworth said:
Me too. You’d think I might associate them with personal tragedy, but in fact they’re always a ray of sunshine when the world goes dark for a while…
Jane Dunn said:
Oh Linnet, thank you! You made me smile so much reading about these irresistible Bad Boys. And I think your classification very accurate, funny and helpful. I’m currently re-reading Georgette Heyer, the absolute passion of my youth, and I am blown away by her wit and authenticity, her tight plotting, marvellous characters and sheer brilliance and brio. She deserves to be held in the highest regard, alongside our other great comic wordsmith P G Wodehouse who like her created his own parallel universe of joy.
By the way, I have still to find a Heyer hero who can hold a candle to Justin Alastair, Duke of Avon in These Old Shades and then in a compelling cameo as reformed rake and proud/despairing papa in Devil’s Cub. What a man! (Cynical Sophisticake/Cool Customer)
Jane, thank you so much for your comment! I remember when I first discovered Georgette Heyer by picking up some paperbacks at a used book sale. I immediately freaked out and scoured the region for more! Back then we weren’t able to search on the internet, but I kept looking until I had them all. I tried her detective stories, but they just weren’t the same. They have remained my go-to books whenever I find myself in dire need of comfort and pleasure. (By the way I love your description of Wodehouse’s world as a “parallel universe of joy.”) And yes, the Duke of Avon is one of my favorites too!
Jane Dunn said:
The pleasure is amplified because I’m now infecting all my sisters (I have a lot) and friends with Heyer fever. Indeed she is the antidote to Lockdown Blues and your contribution adds to the comfort and joy.
I’ve also felt outraged on GH’s behalf at the shoddy way she is currently published in the U.K. with ghastly covers with photos of modern misses. This so undermines the Heyer craft and brilliance and the fact that men and every age of woman read and rate her so highly. I’ve written to her new publishing director to make a plea for a classy relaunch – to take advantage of the huge increase in desire for period romance since the success of the (meretricious, 2-dimensional but fun) Bridgerton novels on Netflix. What treasure her UK publishers sit upon! and yet don’t seem to properly value. But I do not wait with baited breath! (I feel inclined to toss in some Capital Letters and choice French swear words a la Georgette Heyer…..)
That’s a very good observation about the new recognition of romance novels, following on Bridgerton and prior to that, Outlander. Whatever their flaws, these are woman-centered shows. I haven’t read the Bridgerton novels, but I appreciated the “parallel universe” of the show, which allowed for a more diverse cast.
Now, I have always wondered why Heyer’s books have not been turned into films or miniseries, given the massive success of the Jane Austen adaptations. Heyer is the next best thing and indeed offers pleasures not found in Austen. So bring on the higher-quality covers, and bring on the adaptations!
Jane Dunn said:
I so agree about the Bridgerton dramatisation. Enormous fun and the diverse cast being the most refreshing and natural thing about it. It’s gratifying how right it seemed.
Having spent 20 years living in a once-derelict Georgian villa in Bath, built by a Lady Miller with the express purpose of capturing literary lions and lionesses during the Season – Fanny Burnley and Hugh Walpole being but two – it was also a pleasure to see Bath so deliciously tricked out. (Wisteria was never quite so neon-coloured and certainly it’s divinely-scented racemes don’t hang around for months!)
But the Quinn novels, or rather the only one I read, was very thin and derivative and, to an English ear rather jarring, but the idea was clever. To have a loving family of 8 and then spend each book marrying them off is a good conceit. And I’m very glad that they have been taken up and taken seriously in such mischievous style. It’s about time good romantic historical fiction was treated on a par with thrillers as a part of mainstream entertainment. I just wish that Georgette Heyer could be so lucky.
Agree–I would rather see Heyer dramatized than Quinn, but Bridgerton has its pleasures. I thought that the sets were also a bit “parallel reality” where everything looked so perfect and wisteria bloomed all the season. It was unrealistic but gorgeous eye candy.
How fortunate you are to live in Bath! Goodness–perhaps you should write a romance novel yourself : )
Jane Dunn Ostler said:
Ha! You’re close to the mark. When at 14 I ran out of Heyer’s romances to devour, in desperation I started to try and write my own, but very quickly faltered to a halt. Instead I decided to live my romance novel – and the Beloved Villa, as I called it, in Bath was very much part of the dream!
As for writing, I turned instead to biography.
And for fun, I’m off now to finish reading Frederica. Bliss!
Living the dream! Brava! PS: Alverstoke is one of my faves.
Jane Dunn said:
Linnet – Alverstoke is lovely and the book so witty. I love the two younger Merriville brothers too and the delightful ways they impinge on Alverstke’s exquisite, bored existence. And the conversations are so clever I long to read them out to a friend and chuckle together. In fact I trapped my husband into hearing a page or two and he agreed it was entertaining, but perhaps it was as much that I was enjoying it so much!
Just to clarify, I sold the fabulous house in Bath 4 years ago (after 20 brilliant years, a writer’s income was not quite up to the maintenance and heating costs…) and moved into John of Gaunt’s demesne at Hungerford in Berkshire. I don’t know if you ever read that great book Katherine by Anya Seton. John of Gaunt was a medieval Heyer hero!
You certainly find the most interesting places to live, Jane! You’ve inspired me to read Seton’s novel, which I own but haven’t attempted. It’s been sitting on my shelf for ages. The Heyer comparison is the best motivation : )
Jane Dunn said:
My breathless headlong re-readings continue. What perfect Lockdown Reading!
I used to be interested in the news but British politics is all COVID and American politics has been cover-your-eyes-block-your-ears-MAD (the divinely talented Randy Rainbow’s version of Evergreen capturing part of it) so the delicious certainties of Heyer’s World is essential for the soul.
As I read on through her work, your categorisation of the heroes becomes more and more interesting – and your pointing out the great and subtle variety within these broad types. For instance Sir Tristram in The Talisman’s Ring (what a rollicking and witty adventure) is your Manly Country Gentleman but called upon in a crisis to become Cool Customer.
But to return to the original and most cold of your Cynical Sophisticate/Cool Customer types, the Incomparable Duke of Avon in TOS. I think you might like to look at his inspiration, Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel.
This character possibly didn’t take America by storm in the way it did here at the turn of the 20th century but her fabulous aristocratic character Sir Percy Blakeney, seemingly a wealthy and not very bright dapper-dog fop, is transformed into a supernaturally audacious swordsman and escape artist in order to rescue French aristocrats from Madame Guillotine during the Reign of Terror. There is no doubt Georgette Heyer as a girl was gripped by this fascinating character and it certainly informed her own early writing and our own dear Duke of Avon.
Sir Percy’s heroic dual identity went on to inspire so many of the subsequent superheroes, like Zorro, Superman and Batman. I can still remember the first time I discovered The Scarlet Pimpernel – voracious reading of that lead me directly as a girl to the richness of Heyer and her heroes – and my joyful re-reading now.
Jane, I have read “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and enjoyed it, but I never realized how directly it inspired Heyer’s work. You’re right, of course, and this paradox of the dandy/fop who is also a man of action recurs with so many Heyer heroes. I always enjoyed the gender-bending aspect of it, and I think that the Georgian period gives more scope for this–a time when men could dress resplendently. However elegant he was, Beau Brummell put a stop to that.
Jane Dunn said:
Linnet, so true. Brummell’s sartorial discretion did put a stop to all that peacock finery, the powder and paint – and patches! Remember the Duke of Avon’s gold court dress? The fan? Even though I’m sure he used it ironically to irritate Leonie.
There is a really touching and memorable portrait of Beau Brummell in Regency Buck when his kindness and notice establish the young country-bred heroine as the creme de la creme. Tragically the real Beau died in exile in France, penniless and insane with syphilis. Thank heavens for modern medicine and healthcare!
By the way, do you happen to know the artist who painted that phenomenal portrait in yellow, you credited as from MOMA. I wrote to them to ask and have yet to hear. (He’s the spitting image of Vidal in Devil’s Cub.)
And finally – you are a wonderfully witty and insightful writer. Loved your review of Persuasion with Ciaran Hands. And you’re right Irish is different!
Yes, Regency Buck is one of my favorites for the sympathetic portrait of Brummell. The first Heyer I read was Arabella, and I always thought that Mr. Beaumaris was based on Brummell too, in terms of his temperament. Sadly I don’t know the artist of the Man in Yellow, but he is quite beautiful, isn’t he? I credited it as the Met rather than MOMA, but when I try to google it, I cannot find the portrait. I do recall how much fun I had searching for portraits to match the Beautiful Men!
Thank you for the compliment. I haven’t been able to write much in quite a while, but when circumstances permit, I would like to return to the blog.
Jane Dunn said:
Arabella is such a joy! I’d love to see it dramatised. And I think it very interesting – and not so usual – that GH conjures up over a couple of pages or so the most clear-eyed and affecting portrait of the brutality of life for the climbing boys of everyday chimney sweeps. Also her sharp but sympathetic eye for the miserable life of gin-soaked prostitutes in the slums of London. It’s such a special book I think and Beaumaris is divine.
Yes, “Arabella” will always be one of my favorites. I agree about her portrait of the social conditions (this is one sense in which GH actually improves on Jane Austen). Plus, you never forget your first : )
By the way, Jane, I have just finished “Katherine” by Anya Seton. Very enjoyable, especially for her research on medieval life. And the portrait of John of Gaunt was delectable!
Jane Dunn said:
I’m so pleased you enjoyed Katherine, and as you imply John of Gaunt is a superb hero. I am intrigued though by the fact that Anya Seton is a contemporary of GH – although American – and this towering novel was written in the 50s. I wonder if Heyer’s facility with irresistible men had some effect on Seton’s depiction of an already Princely hero as someone so erotically magnetic too.
I have never seen the Ciaran Hinds Persuasion but have ordered a DVD on your recommendation (I do love the fact it sounds so authentic with grubby clothes and no make-up and artificially whitened teeth! – And also am not a great fan of Kiera in costume – except she was rather wonderful as Colette)
With best wishes in all your enterprises.
I predict that you will enjoy the CH Persuasion. To me it is the best Austen adaptation, but then I’m a bit partial when it comes to Ciarán Hinds. Amanda Root is about as perfect in her role as one could ask. I look forward to hearing what you think of it.
I am contemplating my next Anya Seton, but not sure which one to select–she spans a wide range of history.
Jane Dunn said:
Linnet, I’m so grateful to you for recommending the 1995 version of Persuasion and as you asked me to let you know what I thought this is on your head – and it’s the abridged version!
I found the film utterly absorbing and intensely emotional. The constraints on women’s lives! Most painful is how Anne Elliot’s regretful longing for Capt. Wentworth over 8 1/2 wasted years is contrasted with Wentworth’s own adventurous life during that time in which he has grown in favour and fortune. And Oh! – the painful clutch at the heart when they finally meet and it is reported to Anne ‘you were so altered he would not have known you again’, implying her beauty and spirit had been leached by the years of futility and lack of agency. But then the unfurling of hope and beauty is just heart-stoppingly lovely – but nerve-wracking to see…
The casting is inspired, as is the film. I loved both Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds: she so small with a face full of intelligence, eyes dark with the pain of loss; he so big and raw-boned he fills the screen with his monumental charisma and a presence so erotic you can well believe all those years of heartbreak and pent-up desire. And wholly delightful is Fiona Shaw (Irish too) as his sister and wife of the Admiral. As is her embodiment of a really happy naval marriage.
Bath itself could not have been more truly itself (I’m sure you have seen it thus, it’s certainly the Bath I know) – vistas of creamy, symmetrical stone under milky grey-blue skies, the streets wet and leaf-strewn, the motley crowd of pleasure seekers with real rough faces and wonky teeth (perhaps the last less so in the 21st century).
As you’ve pointed out, Ciaran Hinds totally upends the hierarchy of Austen heroes in film. Wentworth is a warrior, blooded by war, a man of action who has suffered so much loss and death. On the other hand, beloved Darcy, a disillusioned Beau and Corinthian, is a man of property. Much as I love Colin Firth, he has none of the coiled-spring sexual magnetism of Ciaran Hands. Emma’s Mr Knightly has a certain slow burn – I do love Jeremy Northam’s interpretation but he is perhaps too handsome (and Gwyneth too irritating!).
But Wentworth portrayed by CH is built on a larger scale, utterly compelling and forged through fire: he towers over the rest, in fact he overpowers them. And Amanda Root’s internalised passion, growing courage and emotional authenticity is a match for his grandeur.
So thank you for this recommendation. As you see I liked it!
And by the way, if you discover another stonkingly good Seton I hope you post a review.
Jane, thank you for this ravishing tribute to the movie, and most of all, to the inimitable Mr. Hinds! I will share your perceptive and delightful review with the Ciarán Hinds fan message board, and I know that they will enjoy reading this assessment of the film. Coiled-spring sexual magnetism indeed : ) That’s absolutely right–as seen also in the BBC version of “Ivanhoe” which I also recommend. But getting back to “Persuasion,” what did you think of the final kiss, which caused such a kerfuffle with Jane Austen purists?
Jane Dunn said:
The ridiculous thing is I have turned around and watched the film again – something I never usually do – but there was so much nuance it helped to see it again. (Also I wanted to see Captain Wentworth’s eyes when he watched Anne talking intensely to Capt. Benwick about poetry and grief.)
I would think Jane Austen purists would get in a kerfuffle quite easily and of course the kiss in the middle of Regency Bath would never have happened, but oh how the film needed some sort of release of the tension. We had been loving them both, willing them on, thwarted by mis-timings, misunderstandings, half-spoken confessions and stifling convention: we the audience had to be able to relax at last. It was a wonderfully discreet kiss (none of your Heyer bone-crushing embraces!) but the kiss of equals, full of meaning and still-contained desire.
My one cavil is the final scene. How lovely to see Anne has gone to sea with her Captain and will experience something of the world, but I longed for there to have been a little more glow between them. This may be my childish spirit – but after all those years apart longing for each other, we all know that by the time they set sail they would have been married and had some days and nights alone together – and I believe this can only have been transformative for them both. I suppose I hoped they’d exchange a speaking glance or touch each other’s hand, but I realise they had to behave very correctly, as in fact they would, not wanting to remind the rest of the crew, denied their women on board, just what they were missing!
Linnet, could you by any chance be Irish?
Pierce Brosnan, another Irish actor, is scrumptiously full-on Viking and Grumpy Icelandic (and fertile) Dad in the wonderfully silly but heartwarming Fire Saga, the Eurovision Movie, on Netflix. Worth seeing for him, Rachel McAdams, the music and Dan Stevens, once the disabled heir of Downton Abbey, tearing up the scenery as an outrageously camp but generous-hearted Russian diva. If anyone has every watched Eurovision (and most of us do and have Eurovision parties too) the film is not very far from the truth!
Mr. Hinds excels at brooding and smoldering!! It’s very funny because in real life he is a very sweet and soft-spoken person. (I have met him a few times after a performance.) But some men’s physiognomy simply projects this kind of charisma and sexiness. I think it’s partly his big eyes, and then the cheekbones, plus whatever fey magic he has as an actor. Anyway, I completely agree with you about the necessity for the kiss, as a substitute for the usual Austen method of having the two principles talk out their feelings at the end. A kiss is the visual way to handle that. I am neutral on the ship scene–based on what I’ve read of the Navy at that period, her presence would not be welcome–but we do have the evidence of Sophia Croft in the novel, so admirably played by Fiona Shaw, as you observed.
Nope, I haven’t a drop of Irish blood (so far as I know). My background is English and German with a touch of Welsh. But, I strongly believe that the Irish cultural heritage is for the world–they have given us so many brilliant poets, especially, and so many gifted actors. I’ve been a Hibernophile since college.
Jane Dunn said:
Those eyes are extraordinary – quite light, greeny-hazel and lozenge-shaped. He also has a really wonderful voice.
I wondered if you’d seen The Man in the Hat – all Mr Hinds in search of lost love, but not much of a speaking part apparently. Gorgeous views of Southern France, and of CH no doubt. In UK it seems only available on Amazon Prime (released Oct 2020). So something I’m looking forward to.
You’re right about the cultural contributions of the Celts – the Scots and Irish per capita pull much more of their weight. My mother’s family is the usual mix or English, Irish and Scottish but my father’s were Norwegian emigrees to South Africa in the 19th century (hence a familial romance about Vikings…) I’m married to a red headed, blue-eyed man who looks as Irish as they come, and being a linguist began learning Irish Gaelic for fun (even more difficult than Japanese he says). In fact, he’s the spitting image of the generic old toper that used to be propped outside an Irish pub in many of those heritage postcards!
Oh to be able to travel again…..
Yes to The Man in the Hat–it is delightful, just the thing to lift one’s mood in these dark days. True, he doesn’t speak, but he looks great and has a rare chance to do comedy. I have described this as one part Albert Camus and one part Monsieur Hulot. It’s quite charming, and a good substitute for travel, with its gorgeous views of rural France. (Plus: an excellent performance by Stephen Dillane, wonderful music, and some poetry by Baudelaire.)
My “Long Suffering Husband” has all Swedish grandparents and looks like a huge blond Viking, clean shorn of long hair and beard : )
I have tried to learn some Irish using Duolingo. It didn’t work, but I needed to apply myself more–and yes, it is difficult. No doubt Welsh is even worse!
Jane Dunn said:
Oh lucky you Linnet – having your own Viking at home. My first husband certainly looked like a Viking (my crazy teenage heart thought him a Scandi God!) but sadly he behaved rather too like a Viking, and not in the High Courage and Supernatural Seamanship way. But it left our darling daughter with a penchant for Scandi actors – Claes Bang’s Dracula and now Mads Mikkelsen in ‘Another Round’.
But why are these gorgeous men, Mr Hinds included, getting so old?
With your European sensibility have you ever caught the French series ‘Call My Agent’ on Netflix? It’s so ridiculously Parisian it’ll make you nostalgic.
I’m currently reading Heyer’s The Masqueraders – I’m more than a little in love with the Man Mountain (and surprisingly good swordsman) Sir Anthony Fanshawe. Thank heavens, Georgette Heyer’s heroes never grow old.
Mads is too androgynous for me–I like the ones with craggy faces : ) And as for them getting older, I think of them as fine wines! Certain things do improve with age. Mr. H. didn’t even hit his peak period till his forties. And as for now, well, he’s mellowed, but more complex : )
I haven’t seen “Call My Agent” but will give it a try. I need to work on my French. I listen to a few minutes of “The News in Slow French” every day, but it’s not enough to improve my listening skills. It only helps to maintain them.
Thank heavens for Georgette Heyer and her immortal heroes : ) I have never found any other author like her, despite so many imitators.
Jane Dunn said:
Thank you again dear Linnet for your enthusiasm for the Croft/Hinds dramatisation of Persuasion. It has sent me back to the book and what a masterpiece of sensibility it is. This is a novel that is completely wasted on the young, when most of us first come across it. You have to have suffered and lost and longed for what seems unattainable to really appreciate its delicate delineations of the human heart.
I am so gratified by the last pages when both Wentworth and Anne retrace the misunderstandings and ruptures of the past and then the failing heart and flickering hope, the anguish of longing, and finally the rapture of true understanding. It is a beautiful book.
I followed it with GH’s Cotillion and was so overcome with some of the witty conversation and superbly funny situations I was actually snorting with laughter. It is her most Wodehousean I think. Why isn’t she more celebrated for her unique genius?
Thinking of your heroes, Freddie would never make your heart beat faster (ahem! The Duke of Avon!) but he is the nicest, sweetest, funniest and most noble of spirit, with hidden depths of intelligence and surprising competence. He’s just who one might love as a best friend or brother. It is a fantastically clever and witty confection of a book.
Sadly I fear I have run out of those delicious Cynical Sophisticate heroes (although I still have Black Moth to read). But thanks to your and Mr Hinds’ auspices I am delighted to have discovered Capt. Wentworth as a lovely and sexy example of your Capable Self-Made Man. A much better bet in real life than the Duke of Avon!
Jane, thank you for your thoughts–delightful as always–on “Persuasion” in both forms. That Austen convention of having the hero and heroine talk through their relationship at the end is always so satisfying. I do agree that certain books have more savor when one has experienced more of life and understands the meaning of the road not taken.
When I re-read Heyer, I often compare her to Wodehouse because they both have such sprightly wit and facility with language. Both authors are the ones I reach for when I am ill and resting in bed.
The Cynical Sophisticates are my favorites too, but I appreciate how she leavens her work with other types of heroes like Freddie. To each heroine, her own correct match : )
About the suitability of the Capable Self-Made type in real life, I could not agree more. I have just finished Anya Seton’s “Dragonwyck” which cannot compare to “Katherine” in quality, though I did enjoy the elements of New York history and old Dutch families. I followed it up with the Victoria Holt classic “Mistress of Mellyn.” This is a light gothic romance set in Cornwall, with echoes of “Rebecca.” I admired how Holt manages to do something original with the Jane Eyre governess scenario, and she gives an original twist to the “wife in the attic.”
Jane Dunn said:
On your recommendation I have just taken possession of a secondhand Mistress of Mellyn. I can hardly believe that I have never even opened a Victoria Holt (or indeed Jean Plaidy, another of this prolific novelists alter egos). If this has caught your eye I’m hoping there’s a compelling hero…also that this may be another rich seam to mine of comfort reading.
You mention Rebecca. How that book has entered our cultural landscape! But Daphne was so lucky to have the young Hitchcock as a family friend – through films he made her creations (Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, The Birds) global and eternal. I wrote a biography of Daphne du M and her sisters (sisters are a recurring theme for me) and found her a chilly customer – someone who found human connection difficult and probably should never have had children. But how many women artists are like this and how harshly we judge them. We allow male artists to be terrible partners and negligent fathers but there’s always a shock when a woman fails the test of human empathy and self-sacrifice.
The no-nonsense Djuna Barnes sternly asked her friend Antonia White (author of Frost in May) ‘Are you a writer or a weeping woman?’ In fact Antonia had much to weep at for she suffered from undiagnosed and untreated bi-polarity that made a nightmare of her closest relationships (her daughters paid a particular price). Reading her waking and dream diaries (for a book) I came to appreciate the contentment of the unexamined life!
But back to the bliss of GH. I am surprised how terrific The Quiet Gentleman is. Such a sensible, plainish heroine and the hero a dandy and Corinthian (superb swordsman and horseman naturally!) but also with the kindest, most equable temperament. After an attempt on his life, he was more distressed than anything else by the heroine’s attempt to save him that necessitated some rough handling of his carefully-tied Stagecoach cravat! What a man. As you say, Heyer’s heroes are so individual and various – there’s nothing stock about them. And they live on in the imagination. I missed the Earl of St Erth for at least a day after closing the book. But not as much as I missed Capt Wentworth!
I am very fond of Drusilla in “The Quiet Gentleman,” and yes, the stylish Gervase too! That book has a bit of mystery mixed in. I keep thinking that I ought to try more of GH’s mysteries, but after starting one or two of them, I have found that they lack the magic–for me, at any rate.
It’s difficult for any other romance writer to compete with GH. I have only sampled the one Victoria Holt book, but to my mind the heroine has quite a memorable character, more so than the hero (this may simply be due to the first-person narration). The hero, Connan, almost takes second place to the children in the story, which is something I’ve not seen before. There are excellent scenes of Cornish customs and especially of dancing. I found it to be a satisfying read and I prefer Connan to the hero (or anti-hero) in Seton’s Dragonwyck.
GH sometimes writes about children, but as her genre is light comedy of manners, one doesn’t see the kind of emotional involvement that Holt portrays in “Mistress of Mellyn.” It’s very psychological, though not as deep as Du Maurier. I do have some criticisms of the book, but I will wait to see what you think.
The Birds is a particularly disturbing piece of work. Conor McPherson adapted it as a play with Ciarán Hinds–oh how I wish I could have seen that! He was at his peak of gorgeousness in 2009 : ) Sinéad Cusack was in it, and Denise Gough. Conor changed the story, for the better I think. He added an almost unbearable sexual tension, where competition for Nat between the older and younger woman was a matter of life and death. The surprise ending is quite satisfying!
There is a new filmed version of Rebecca with Armie Hammer as the very good-looking Maxim. I haven’t seen it yet.
I quite agree with you that women are judged more harshly than men. I am childless by choice and regularly encounter the opinion that this is “selfish.” I also have no sisters, and I don’t know whether to mourn or be glad, given the intensity of the sisterly relationships I have observed.
It is interesting that Du Maurier kept a dream diary. I often have vivid dreams and remember them, at least in part, when I wake up. They become the kernels of stories and are strangely compelling motivations to write.
Jane Dunn said:
It’s wonderful to have dreams that spur the creative spirit. Lucky you. I think of Mary Shelley dreaming of Frankenstein in the Villa Diodati and then discussing it with Byron and Shelley over breakfast. She too was lucky – in that at least. And then sisters – what a fascinating and complex force they can be. As the eldest of 6 (with 2 brothers, but they’re not the same) all born in under 10 years, I could write a book on the subject….
But oh I have failed with Mistress of Mellyn! I abandoned it just a third of the way. Perhaps my mistake, as you warned, for how can anything hold its own with Georgette Heyer? I found it so clunkily written, full of tell and no show. And although there was a good sense of place, the heroine to me seemed so emotionally incoherent – prickly and plain and full of self-pity on one page, thinking herself a desirable focus of the peculiar hero’s lust on the next. I suspect there are interesting plot twists to come but I cared so little for any of them, except for the children, that I gave up. In fact so dispiriting was it I had to leap out of bed to grab another of my dwindling pile of GH to elevate my mood before sleep!
I had just finished False Colours. Even Heyer’s second division has so much to admire and love. Not least the secondary characters. The beautiful, lovable, alarmingly spendthrift Dowager Lady Danville, Mama, who adores her twin sons, who adore her back – and each other. There is a dragon of a matriarch (of course) and wonderfully loyal retainers who have indulged the twins since birth. Also the hilarious, benevolent, enormously fat and astoundingly rich old Beau with the best name ever. Sir Bonamy Ripple. My heart skips a beat each time I say it. The chapter where the exquisite Lady Denville, whom he has loved all his life (but not as much as his hedonistic bachelordom), persuades him that he really wants to marry her at last, is a comic tour de force.
But under all this wit and polish is a beating heart that makes her characters so richly drawn, affecting and totally authentic. If reading is above all to remind us of the joy and humour of life, then I shall re-read GH until I die!
All too true that nobody can compete with the divine Miss Heyer, whether in her command of the language, or her intricate plotting! But a Gothic is quite a different genre. For myself, I rather liked the personality of the protagonist in “Mellyn,” who seemed to me intelligent and perceptive in her evaluations of others’ motivations and feelings. I loved her interactions with the great aunt who lived on the moor, for example. But I found the hero a bit colorless, and the book tried too hard to have the heroine conform to her proper gender role by demonstrating so much care for the children (she is a perfect mother-in-waiting, hint hint). This was the virtue which eventually won Connan’s heart! It seemed a bit saccharine, even if the stories of the children, and especially Gilly, are in fact heartwarming. I prefer the tart, unsentimental quality of a Jane Eyre. But then, who can write a Gothic to compare with the divine Miss Brontë?
Ah, False Colours! I well remember the indolent and lovely Lady Denville and her Beau, as rich as Golden Ball : ) Truly, Heyer’s comic characters are delightful, another similarity with Wodehouse. I was trying to think whether she ever adopts the more Austenian kind of satirical approach, where the characters (like Anne’s horrid family in Persuasion) are almost unbearably selfish and petty. With Heyer there is less of a sharp edge, but this keeps the books light and pleasurable.
Jane Dunn said:
You make me feel I’ve given up far too soon on Mellyn. I think I lost my sympathy for the heroine when she first meets her charge – admittedly a rude and challenging young girl – but her first reaction is that this child only needs discipline and she intends to administer it. Now I know I should have allowed that she is meant to be a Victorian governess and is not a 21st century empathic psychoanalyst but I would have hoped she might have realised this little girl’s behaviour had something to do with having recently suffered her mother’s scandalous death, living with an adored but cold and largely absent father in a spooky house, with a succession of dubious governesses..but I should have read on and had more patience with the lack of style.
But what an interesting point you make that Heyer, unlike Austen, does not have any irredeemably awful characters, like the shallow and mean-spirited Elliot family in Persuasion. Austen’s tough-mindedness on this occasion is so necessary in giving a reason for Wentworth’s seven years of bitterness that Anne should be swayed by the pretensions of these ghastly people rather than his deep and abiding love for her.
Despite Heyer’s own tough-mindedness in life, like you I cannot think of any irredeemable Heyer villains. Even the out and out rogue Sam Liversedge in The Foundling who is prepared to have our gentle hero killed for £50,000 (5 million) is made witty and extraordinarily ingenious, irrepressible and competent. Instead of prison or deportation, he is sent off to Strasbourg to set up a gaming house with a draft from our hero’s own account to speed him on his way! But even though uncle Lord Lionel is outraged, this reader at least thinks it rather a satisfactory end.
But how intriguing your point about Jane Austen’s villains. Is there anyone else she portrays quite as unfavourably as Sir Walter And Elizabeth Elliot?
Hmmm! Wickham is shown to be a cad, but Austen is not as cruelly satirical about him. Perhaps Mr. Collins? She really makes one feel the horror of being maritally bound to such a spineless, toadying specimen–and yet we also see why, for Charlotte, this is not a bad bargain. (This is the genius of Austen. How sad the lot of women in that culture, forced to depend upon men unless they were independently wealthy!) Lady Catherine de Bourghe is dreadful, but hilariously so.
And yes, I enjoyed Sam Liversedge and the fate devised for him.
If you didn’t like “Mellyn,” don’t bother finishing it–life is too short! That said, whatever the flaws in Holt’s writing, I still find the writers of her generation to be more skilled than virtually anyone writing romance fiction today. I am fond of romances, but it has been a lifelong search to find authors who meet high standards. Heyer is the best. I also enjoyed Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander,” but after the first couple of books, she ended up like J. K. Rowling or George R. R. Martin–in dire need of an editor to make cuts and demand a clear story arc.
Jane Dunn said:
You’ve made me think of another big difference (of many) between Austen and Heyer. Austen is peerless in her understanding of women and their relationships as mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and lovers. No doubt her beloved Cassandra informed some of that.
But Heyer loved her men. Not in the least ‘missish’ herself, she delighted in a masculine world; encouraged by her father, with two younger brothers and eventually her own non-pareil son. She ended up living in Albany, a famous set of grand but old-fashioned Georgian bachelor apartments off Piccadilly, home to Byron and various Prime Ministers and other eminent gentlemen. But it is her fictional men, as you pointed out so insightfully in this review of her heroes, who leap from the page,
She’s particularly good on brotherly and male friendships, particularly among young blades, as shown so brilliantly in Friday’s Child, The Foundling and Cotillion. Also superb male servants and family retainers who are devoted to their reckless young masters. Lord Sherry’s thieving Tiger in Friday’s Child who relieves his guests of their shiny things and has to return them when they leave is just wonderful. And of course he saves the day in the finale.
And how great is Heyer with brothers – the lovable Denville twins in False Colours and the more complex step-brotherly relationship in Quiet Gentleman. Heyer particularly appreciates lively, unruly schoolboys like Tom in The Foundling and the unforgettable brothers in Frederica who plague the lazy, bored and delicious Alverstoke to discover at last his heroic, self-sacrificing soul.
Yes indeed. I remember reading Regency Buck early on in my discovery of Heyer, and wondering about all the boxing and racing and snuff! And then there’s her legendary research on Regency era slang–used by men and normally off-limits to women. I savored all of this, but it struck me as very unusual for a piece of romance fiction to delve so deeply into masculine interests.
Felix, the plaguey Merriville boy in Frederica, is one of my favorite child characters in her books. I love it that he’s so precocious, and his interest in anything mechanical rings true. It’s in the spirit of the age, and something Alverstoke could be drawn to. And then the balloon ascension and crash. I do see here a link with Austen, in that the hero becomes chivalrous during a time of crisis and renders every service to his lady–like Darcy when Lydia runs off with Wickham. It would be worth an essay to describe the code of the ideal gentleman in Heyer’s books. Some of it is explicit, like always paying a debt of honor promptly. But much more is implicit.
Jane Dunn said:
That’s such a good point about Darcy stirring his stumps in order to play the hero for the woman he loves. His sense of aristocratic morality is also piqued. These deeper layers of principle and knight-errantry perhaps are part of his enduring sexiness in the pantheon of Austen heroes.
I’m loath to take more of your time but there is a small GH conundrum on which I’d so appreciate your insights. I’ve just finished The Convenient Marriage and enjoyed it much more than I expected – mostly due to the Earl of Rule – one of her wonderful, cool, sophisticated, omniscient men whose impassive elegance hides a devilishly keen mind and a passionate, even vengeful, heart. So far very Duke of Avon! Hurrah! But whereas Avon’s love for Léonie is completely understandable and takes some time to evolve, I cannot quite understand why Rule agrees to marry Horatia Winwood after about half an hour of meeting her.
He is really mature by Heyer hero standards at 35, immensely rich, attractive and highborn, and she is not far beyond a schoolgirl of 17. She is not beautiful although she is quirky and has a childlike frankness – and a stammer which has undermined her self-esteem. She also belongs to an equally if not more high born family, but impoverished by her father’s and brother’s addiction to gaming. I think Rule’s love for her in the end is believable, after she has proved her mettle and resourcefulness, but he has had to endure a great deal of apparently thoughtless and off-putting behaviour before we get there.
So my question to you dear Linnet who knows and loves these men – why, when he had the pick of eligible women, did Rule choose to accept the extraordinary marriage proposal, after this unexpected and inauspicious meeting, from an uppity young chit? She’s not even a sensible choice for a man who needs a grand hostess with impressive houses and estates to run.
Surely it couldn’t have been merely boredom?
But also, I am intrigued – did they have marital relations from the beginning – she does tell her sister after her honeymoon in Paris that married life is so agreeable she can only wish the same for her. (Interesting Léonie come back from her honeymoon with the divine Avon and tells her sister in law how much she loves being married) After his marriage, Rule’s visits to his mistress did diminish and at a later rapprochement he does ask his wife to postpone her appointment with her sister in law – and the next we know, this redoubtable lady has been kept waiting in her carriage for half an hour 😉 There’s certainly some kissing and crushing embraces but with Rule masquerading as the villain. Somehow GH’s early Georgian romances are more sexually explicit than her subsequent Regencies, I wonder why?
But one last delicious detail to share – over the back of our heroine’s chair, awaiting the evening’s dressing is a pelisse of satin ‘of that extremely fashionable colour called Stifled Sigh’.
Take more of my time, dear Jane? But I am enjoying our correspondence mightily!
I have just popped downstairs to consult my beloved 1971 thrift-shop paperback of “The Convenient Marriage,” and here is my theory. (1) Rule already wished to ally himself with the Winwood family. He had chosen the prettier sister, but for his purposes, it did not signify if he accepted Horatia instead. He wanted a woman of equal family background to bear his legitimate heirs while he disported himself with his mistress(es). (2) Horatia put him in his place immediately. First she informed him of her elder sister Charlotte’s view that “nothing would induce her to marry you.” Then, having softened up her victim with this blow, she delivered the coup de grâce: “I am afraid Charlotte shrinks from the idea of making such a sacrifice, even for Lizzie’s sake!” In Heyer’s world, men of great power enjoy being taken down a peg by a female who speaks naïvely and frankly. It surprises him, not to be simpered at or lured with coquetry. He appreciates her candid opinion. And I suppose that her naïveté could also be taken as a sign of her sexual innocence. So the stammering virgin competes against his sophisticated mistress and has a difficult task indeed; but she p-p-prevails!
I do think that they slept together as soon as they were married, but it is hard to be certain. This is one of the most interesting aspects of the book. Stifled sigh, indeed!
That is an interesting point about Heyer’s Georgian vs. Regency books. I wonder if it is to do with the time period itself being more given to bawdy jokes and ribaldry? The Regency seems to have been more buttoned-down.
And now if I may make my own request? Granted that nobody can satisfy us like Heyer, what would be your other recommendations for either romantic fiction or light, witty comedies of manners?
Jane Dunn said:
Thanks so much for revisiting Convenient Marriage. I’ve just checked Aiken Hodge and she agrees with us too (about the sex). The book (CM) really is interesting on the erotic dynamics in a relationship – not something usually put at GH’s door. I agree the Winwood family are the attraction as far as producing an heir (and in Heyer-world these arrogant men do react romantically to being wrong-footed by naive young women) but dear Rule does seem remarkably relaxed about his teenage wife’s junketings before she has produced the unimpeachable heir and spare. Of course he is omniscient! but the attempted rape by his arch enemy Lord Lethbridge comes close to sullying his plans. He is also sexually careful and tender with Horatia (in the very few times we see them together) and only on the last page (of course) is she crushed in the Heyer-hero embrace with the promise of a much more passionate time to come.”’Oh!’ gasped Horatia. ‘Oh, I n-never knew you could k-kiss like that!’”
What peculiar quirk of evolution has meant so many intelligent, independent, competent and highly-educated women born in the 20th century feel a tremor of excitement being faced by fictional men like this? Admittedly, in the primitive battle to survive, a cool head and terrific martial skills can only help – as does loads of money and rolling acres of prime English countryside. But it is their emotional and sexual character that seems so compelling. Why? When we all agree we would not want to live with such a man, even if we could find one in real life.
The more explicit Georgian novels may well be partly due to the rambunctious age but perhaps as much to do with Heyer’s circumstances and the liveliness of her libido at the time – they were written from her late teens to early thirties. Faro’s Daughter, also one of her sexier Georgians, was written when she was in her mid-thirties.
As for a suggestion of another novel of manners, have you ever read Elizabeth Jane Howard? I’ve never really got into her but that’s my fault. Her Cazalet Chronicles are considered quite brilliant and I shall dive in after I’ve sadly finished my GH re-read.
Lighter and more comic is Mary Wesley. I had to interview her for a book on Antonia White and, glamorous and redoubtable old lady of 80 that she was, she scared the living daylights out of me driving at breakneck speed round the narrow, bendy Devon roads on the verge of Dartmoor where she lived.
More modern and astringent is a terrific novel from your Viking’s compatriot, a very clever and successful Swedish journalist Lena Andersson. Called Wilful Disregard, it is bleakly, brilliantly witty and true about a woman’s facility to misread the signals in order to pursue her own romantic narrative. I have thrust it on my sisters and friends with varying results. There is a very good review in the Guardian (still online) that led me to it.
It reminds me of divine Lynne Truss who wrote the introduction to the Vintage Classic edition of Persuasion. “Anyone who has yearned forlornly for another will recognise the agony of reading the portents to arrive at a wrong conclusion. ‘He waited three whole days to text me back. I think he loves me!’”
Jane, thank you for these suggestions–I haven’t read these authors and will gladly give them a try. I’m struggling through Seton’s “Green Darkness” at the moment and finding plenty to dislike. “Katherine” must be her high point!
As for the strange appeal of alpha males to the modern woman, I have often asked myself this question. I attribute it mostly to cultural factors, in that we are still conditioned to admire powerful men, but I also believe that there is an evolutionary element. In the natural state, females had little choice but to depend on males to physically protect them when they were pregnant and/or caring for young children, nor did they have any means of controlling their fertility. I do not subscribe to the “man the hunter” theories, as many theorists of hominin evolution have suggested that female gathering activities (in addition to hunting of smaller animals) provided most of the calories available. So while the males were providers, so too were the females. But there would have been danger from animal predators and from other humans, perhaps groups of males looking to steal mates. Sadly, even today most violence is committed by men, and aggressive men remain a daily danger to the safety of women all over the world. Fortunately we have come on a bit since the worst days, thanks to modern technologies and more evolved concepts of human rights, but one can still see the usefulness of having a Large Gentleman at one’s side when walking home late at night. The power and social status of men like Rule are later versions of this. But what a sad bargain, to have to surrender one’s freedom to a tyrant, even a benevolent one, in order to be safe.
Jane Dunn said:
Hi Linnet, if you ever have the time to review Heyer’s novels (as you suggest at the end of this blog) can I promote The Convenient Marriage to be among your first? It’s not one of her most popular and certainly it was at the bottom of my pile of re-reads but I think it is SO interesting and layered. I’d so appreciate your take on it as I think I love it. (But I know you may not yet have the time or desire for another re-read.)
The Earl of Rule is one of her really attractive and intriguing heroes (our favourite cool sophisticate, omniscient – indeed omnipotent – type) and his nemesis Lord Lethbridge is like his Shadow side – they even share a mistress! – who after the most dramatic and violent sword fight earns Rule’s respect, despite his utterly dastardly behaviour. The male code of honour eh?
Horatia becomes an appealing, spirited heroine, although her extreme youth and recklessness makes her a bit of a trial for us and her husband in the early days. Her sisters are rather individual and her rakish brother Pelham and his friend Pommeroy are classic Heyer – hilarious, madcap young blades/fools in need of employment. Rule’s secretary is also deftly done. And of course, as we’ve discussed, there is the sexual tension.
It’s really odd – coming to the end of my re-read I feel a certain grief. I think this enterprise has given me back the gift of reading for pure pleasure. University and then work, when reading was for information, forced me out of the habit. But in reading Heyer back to back I have spent 3 months of unadulterated joy and laughter.
I’ve not been so full of joyful anticipation since I married my first husband – at the ridiculous Heyer-heroine age of 18! All these years later I now go to bed early, but this time excited at what awaits me between the pages of an old paperback, and I wake up with the excitement of the galloping story to come. (I also felt a similar thrill during the restoration of the lovely Georgian villa in Bath – a kind of ‘how could I be so lucky?’)
Loath to lose the exhilaration of a love affair, I’ve now stacked up a pile of Vintage Classic editions (they are lovely) of Jane Austen and the perennial go-to for laughter, Wodehouse. Just reading the blurb makes one chuckle and glow with warmth. But I doubt even these true masters of their arts will give me quite the headlong, breathless joy I get from Georgette Heyer.
Jane, if only there were world enough and time! My problem is that I have burdened myself with a great many tasks. The free time I used to spend on my blog has disappeared. But I do hope to get back to it and write more about Heyer–particularly her concept of the gentleman. In the meantime, perhaps you missed my post with brief reviews of the Georgian novels? It’s here: https://linnetmoss.com/2017/04/19/devils-delight-georgette-heyers-eighteenth-century-romances/
The Convenient Marriage was always one of my favorites, for the reasons you cite. Lethbridge is a scary villain, not merely a comic caricature. I like your formulation that he is Rule’s “shadow side.” What a thought! But they both represent the masculine privilege of the time.
I fully sympathize with your joy at re-reading Heyer, and your sorrow at reaching the end of that journey, for now. To me it is like visiting London. When a woman is tired of Heyer, she’s tired of life!
Now, the search is on–who, besides Austen and Wodehouse, can provide comparable delight?
Jane Dunn said:
Oh thank you so much! I hadn’t found that and shall print it out and read (and chuckle) at my leisure.
I’m so sorry you are overborne with other demands – I hope they are at least as much fun as your blog which is so elegant and insightful – and sets up all kinds of fascinating hares.
Enjoy your search…and report back from the trenches!
Thanks Jane : ) If you find anyone whose wit and command of the language approach Heyer, I hope you’ll let me know! And also whether you agree with my review of “These Old Shades” : )
Jane, here is one more which you will enjoy: https://linnetmoss.com/2017/05/17/georgette-heyer-and-jane-austen/
And this one has another discussion of The Convenient Marriage (clearly this book has been a favorite of mine!): https://linnetmoss.com/2013/12/06/bedtime-stories-for-ladies-read-by-richard-armitage/
Beyond that, I have written a substantial piece on Jane Austen, but I don’t want to be too self-referential here.
I just had a thought about another book that meets my standard for pleasure reading when ill and confined to bed: Dodie Smith’s “I Capture the Castle.”
Jane Dunn said:
Oh good! And don’t fear being self-reverential when what you have to say is so full of insight and heart. I had forgotten I Capture the Castle – lovely funny clever and part of a rite of passage. There was a terrific BBC Radio 4 dramatisation.
I’ve just got back from walking my whippet with a Bath friend around Avebury – slightly stretching lockdown rules. Have you ever been to Avebury? Neolithic circles of massive stones within which has grown up a perfect English village with ancient manor, barn, church and pub. It’s much more atmospheric and beautiful than Stonehenge and is one of my favourite places on Earth. I’ve infected this friend with a dose of GH and rabbited on to her about my latest theory – inspired by your perceptions of the Georgian romances. Sadly she’s not yet in high fever so I stopped, not wanting to bore her – so I’m going to bore you instead!
Reading your piece it suddenly occurred to my biographer’s brain (although having not read the biography this may be a stale idea) that Justin Alistair, Duke of Avon, is the love of Georgette Heyer’s life – or of her writing life which is pretty much the same. She first conjures him out of her teenage heart with the charismatic villain Belmanoir in Black Moth. But she can’t forget him and brings him back, ennobled to the highest degree as the Duke, the elegant, dangerous, omnipotent hero who bestrides These Old Shades.
But even after this triumph Heyer longs to bring him to life again in Devil’s Cub, ostensibly about Avon’s outrageously behaved, almost criminally bad son (by the age of 24 he has shot 3 men and killed 2) the Marquis of Vidal, but it is also about Avon’s own youth (Your beautiful Met portrait of the man in yellow is surelyVidal?)
Vidal is a dangerous, reckless rakehell whose sport is sexual conquest and Heyer has such a ball writing about him. But she also makes him psychologically authentic. It’s clear the boy is in competition all his life with his incomparable father and his mythologised reputation as Satanas. How can you be a successful son of a man like Avon? How can you ever hope to knock him from his perch? There’s the curricle race to Newmarket where, driving while drunk, he risks his neck to beat his father’s record by minutes.
And to cap it all, Avon turns up at the end of Devil’s Cub and, as you say, it is so brilliantly written – and Avon now elderly still as masterful and exciting as ever – that this section sets the pages alight. Then as the old devil quietly takes his leave, he looks back at Vidal and Mary and says ‘By the way, Vidal’s morals are somewhat better than mine’! Even in his 60s he wants to retain his pre-eminence, his son’s excesses haven’t yet managed to eclipse Satanas.
Georgette Heyer was still young when she wrote this last book about Avon. I wonder if you agree that sensible, strong-minded, high-principled Mary, who becomes a match for the almost uncontrollable Vidal by shooting him, is actually the alter-ego of her creator? At the end, Mary succumbs as a keen partner to a marriage based on a tsunami of erotic passion and power dynamics and we can only hope her heart and spirit can withstand it. Love for the divine Léonie tamed the Duke of Avon, but he was already 40. Their son is still only 24…..oh Mary!
Yes, I quite agree that Avon is GH’s “first love,” so to speak. Personally, I think that the best romantic and erotic writing must draw upon the author’s own sensibilities in these areas. With experience one can branch out to other types of heroes, as Heyer does, but the presence of Avon in her earliest work is compelling. Now, what about the “Cool” vs. “Hot” distinction? Is not Avon cool while Vidal is hot? And is this simply a matter of age, such that a young hot-head will eventually become more self-collected, or is it a fundamental difference in personality?
Jane, have you thought of penning a new biography of Heyer? I truly think that you could do her justice!
As to Avebury, I haven’t visited there, but I have always thought that I would prefer it to Stonehenge, especially now that the latter site is more inaccessible. My trouble is that I get so wrapped up in London (theatre especially) that I don’t make time to see the rest of the UK, and my trips by necessity have to be under 10 days in duration. Still, I have aspirations!
Jane Dunn said:
I had forgotten about the temperature gauge. It does rather quash my theory that Vidal was a way for Heyer to explore Avon’s character as a youth. However, Vidal is hot in his passions but cool in the execution of his will – his excellence at duelling for instance, and his ability to put a complex plan into action. Whereas his cousin Juliana is merely hot and driven by impulse throughout. Of course Léonie is proud her son has inherited her temperament and Vidal does say at some point that his grandfather (Leone’s or Avon’s father is not made clear) had a dreadful temper.
Is it a sign of madness in me or just of Heyer’s brilliance at bringing memorable characters alive? – but I would so like to know what Avon was like as a youth. Certainly reckless, disdainful of restraint and wilful – so far, so like his son – and distinctive too for his untrammelled sexual appetites. As Mary points out Vidal is no gentleman, merely a nobleman! But I do think Avon, despite his nobility, grew to be gentlemanly. That youthful heat became channelled. And perhaps his enduring attraction is this sense that there is a very hot heart beating beneath that icily controlled – and controlling – exquisite exterior. Léonie found it and their son suspects it. I like to think Vidal is his young self.
And I really feel Heyer loved writing about him. As you mention in your Georgian Romances there’s that leisurely episode, that runs over pages, where Vidal’s valet rhapsodises about the strength, proportion and beauty of his master’s body and his professional pride in dress it. It’s witty and charming, but I’m sure it’s also Heyer’s indulgence of her own sensual delight in her hero’s physical self.
There is also an interesting comment Mary (and therefore Heyer) makes about Vidal’s character, which would be as true of Avon: “She began to understand that Comyn, for all his prosaic bearing, cherished a love for the romantic, which Lord Vidal, a very figure of romance, quite lacked.” In Heyer World this is a good thing. She famously said of herself, I am no romantic. But boy! was she good at creating figures of romance…
I am flattered that you think I could do GH justice in another biography. Partly why I haven’t even read Judith Kloester’s is I fear her life, like most hard-working writers, would be rather lacking in distinction. Her life, her love, her intellectual energy, her humour and desire is all in the novels. And of course that wonderful body of work tells us there’s something much more fascinating and complex beneath her rather austere, snobbish, discreet and conventional face. Her son described her as so square she was positively cubed!
But without some illuminating letters or self-aware diaries or gabby friends that unlock the connections with her fiction, the biographer is rather foxed – frustratingly left with mere speculation. So different from Mary Wesley’s life, for instance – when her son read her biography ‘Wild Mary’ and was so astounded by what she’d got up to he did not speak for a week!
But the economy of Heyer’s lived life allowed her to pour her genius into her work, to the unending joy of us all.
You make a good argument for a modification of the “temperature” theory to accommodate more complex characters. And surely you’re right that Avon is not cold-hearted, merely controlled and unwilling to reveal what lies beneath, except in the most intimate of circumstances, with his darling Leonie.
I suppose you’re right about Heyer, that without letters or journals, it would be difficult to add to what has already been observed about her outer life. It’s the inner life that is so fascinating. One thing that amazes me is the way she treated the romances as mere nothings, not serious work. Perhaps she did so as a pre-emptive way of deflecting criticism. But they must have held a special place in her heart, in that inner world–otherwise I do not see how she could have produced them.
Jane Dunn said:
It is shocking and upsetting that she dismissed the books she spent a lifetime writing, but perhaps she was mirroring the snobbery of the masculine literary world at the time (still prevalent now I fear) which thought her works barely worth serious attention. And I’m sure you’re right she was pre-empting this dismissal. She was proud and she was conventional and valued male opinion – and therefore more likely than many women to accept the orthodox viewpoint. But how could she have produced such varied and multifaceted stories with such ageless appeal if she hadn’t given them her all, and loved them and been secretly proud?
Daphne du Maurier, less conventional but probably almost as snobbish and also valuing the male, expressed her irritation at this state of literary affairs which dismissed her novels too, for being popular and written by a woman she thought, whereas popular novels by men like John Buchan were praised to the skies.
Yes, there was undoubtedly a double standard, which still exists. There is a great deal of poorly written romance literature, but the same is true of certain other genres (I always think of John Grisham and “The Pelican Brief” which I found shocking, as if written for 12 year-olds). Men excuse this in books written for their pleasure, but books written for female reading pleasure are dismissed as trash–although the romance genre subsidizes much of the “literary” publishing industry. On the positive side, I have noticed that the New York Times takes romance literature more seriously these days (at least as an economic force) and does romance reviews. Also, it has become a huge hit on the small screen, between “Outlander” and “Bridgerton.”
I believe that Heyer enjoyed writing the romances, and that they were probably her favorites, if only privately.
Jane Dunn said:
It is done. I’ve just finished The Black Moth, the last of my GH re-reads. I’d put it off, not wanting to be disappointed by some sub-optimum juvenilia. But I am astonished! This is stunning, written by a teenager and her first book. All the delights and complexity of Heyer’s genius is already there, if at times a little raw. It’s as if she exploded fully-formed into her writing life. Here is the saturnine hero/villain, the exquisitely dressed, courageous, sword-fighting, pistol-toting, noble hero, the lovely secondary characters, the adventures, the sophisticated, witty conversations, the Latin tags, the historical accuracy and complex plotting.
I believe this book is the closest we’ll get to the unfiltered creative soul of Georgette Heyer. It shows us an extraordinarily talented, passionate, tender and hopeful young woman, before the protective veil was drawn and the formidable persona assumed. Black Moth is purely about love and redemption; the love of brothers and male friends, the happy marriage of the wonderful O’Haras, the love the hero has for Jenny his little mare, the love of his servant Jim, the dawning love of a maddeningly volatile and spoilt wife for her decent husband, the beauty of the Sussex countryside, the longing for home, and most memorably, the power of love to redeem her memorably wicked and cynical villain, ‘Devil’ Belmanoir (who of course later becomes the Duke of Avon, the imaginative love of Heyer’s life).
She was so young, she was yet to know what sex and love meant in the average Edwardian marriage and her fervent heart and romantic hopes were poured into this book. It makes me protective of this brilliant, sensitive girl and I hope that she found her hero in real life. I fear not, hence the glories of her imagined worlds that we are lucky enough to share.
So dear Linnet, I want to thank you for your wonderful insights and unerring instincts that have added so much to my enjoyment of these books. It has been lovely to share your thoughts on the creative process and of Georgette herself, the enigma at the heart of so much joy.
Thank you, Jane, for sharing your matchless appreciation of the Heyer oeuvre, and your many insights as a reader. It’s not often that I meet someone who truly enters into Heyer’s private world and looks holistically at her achievement in writing these enduring books. As public librarians know, they are perennial favorites, and the precious recommendation is handed down from one generation to the next, or the books are rediscovered by serendipity. I am looking forward to the day when I can sit down and do a full reading of all her romances in the order they were written. The Georgian ones remain my favorites, together with “Arabella” (my first) and “Frederica.”
What a lovely article! Thoroughly enjoyable, and so very true!
Many thanks Chiara! So glad you enjoyed!
Reblogged this on Bluebell bibliotheca.
Thank you for this detailed and nerdy analysis of Heyer’s romantic types (I reposted it on my tumblr for the world to enjoy.) In the nine years of my Heyer fandom I’ve read 11 (by my count, I know I read Cotillion but cannot for the life of me remember the plot) of her historical romances, and this is a helpful guide for what I might go for next based on hero type. My two favorite Heyer heroes are Charles Rivenhall and Dominic Alastair, so I was not surprised to discover I like the Volatile Irascible Male best (I might have to read Bath Tangle next, knowing now there’s one to be found there.)
I’ve heard it discussed on the Heyer Today podcast that Heyer had a Mark I and Mark II type heroine. Would you ever consider writing a follow-up posts categorizing her leading ladies?
Thanks for the comment, and for re-blogging, Isabelle! Yes, it would be fun to write about her heroines as a companion piece. For starters there is the capable “managing female,” the innocent ingenue, and the bold “original” beauty, but they are all delightful. I am intrigued to investigate which heroine types are matched with which heroes. Sadly though I am swamped with other tasks, or you would see more blog posts from this virtual pen!
PS I love “The Grand Sophy” and the dictatorial Charles too : )
One of Heyer’s biographer’s described Charles as a Mark I who thinks he’s a Mark II, which I think is perfect. I recently heard that he’s a divisive hero in her oeuvre (some people think he’s a humorless prig?) The last time I read the book it occurred to me that despite Sophy being the title character, it’s actually Charles who changes and grows—it’s almost more his story than hers.
There’s definitely a “sensible/practical” heroine type—I think Mary Challoner and Drusilla Morville have to be grouped together in any schema one would do, but they obviously end up with very different men. Deb/Max and Sophy/Charles are examples of the bold heroine/aggressive hero combos. I hope one day you will get around to something of that nature. Or maybe I’ll just have to read the rest of her books and do it myself! But that will take awhile, though.
You haven’t read the rest? Oh, I so envy you! You have some delightful experiences ahead. Enjoy, and let me know what you think of all her heroines!
Jane Dunn said:
Hi Isabelle, can I join this thread to recommend The Convenient Marriage? I left this almost to the last in my great re-read but I think it’s one of the best.
Georgian, like TOS and Devil’s Cub, it has a gorgeous hero, the Earl of Rule (Linnet’s Cynical Sophisticate/Cool Customer) and an individual, feisty and very young heroine, Horatia. There is also the most protracted and erotic sword fight where Rule extracts the truth from an equally sexy villain about his abduction and attempted rape of Rule’s incorrigible young wife. Heyer’s so good on male friendship and there are a pair of hapless but good hearted young men. It’s a delicious read.
As Linnet says, lucky you, with so much delight still to come!
I’ve read Devil’s Cub, These Old Shades, Faro’s Daughter, The Grand Sophy, Venetia, Frederica, Arabella, The Quiet Gentleman, Cotillion, Sylvester and The Unknown Ajax. Any obvious tier-1 novels I’m missing? I’d love recommendations for where to go next. I’ve heard Friday’s Child was her favorite of her romances which intrigues me.
Isabelle, I heartily agree with Jane regarding “The Convenient Marriage.” Another top tier novel is “Regency Buck,” with the fruits of all Heyer’s research on the masculine world of that era and a very “Worthy” hero : ) “Friday’s Child” is a delight, especially if you enjoy a young hero who matures over the course of the novel.
Another one I highly recommend is “Bath Tangle.” It has a great battle of the sexes between Lady Serena and Lord Rotherham.
I’ve wanted to read Regency Buck for awhile, isn’t Prinny a character in it? Also Beau Brummel?
Yes, but they’re only cameos.
I just read Bath Tangle! I don’t get why so many people dislike this one, I loved it. I found Ivo and Serena to be one of the most believable Heyer couples in terms of long-term compatibility. Thank you for writing this blog post classifying the hero types, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if I didn’t know it had a VIM. 🙂
Isabelle, I hadn’t realized that many people dislike “Bath Tangle.” I enjoy stories with strong characters who meet their match in each other. Glad you enjoyed it!
There’s a community of people on twitter who do Georgette Heyer communal read-alongs and within that community, Ivo and Serena seem to be generally thought unpleasant (BT is not a book they plan on reading as a group.) I noticed there’s quite a few people on Goodreads who rank it low, as well. I agree with you about the strong characters thing–I found the political angle with Rotheram being an MP and Serena being very into politics unusual for Heyer. She must’ve been reading all about the Whigs and Torys in 1816 when she wrote it. Personally I found the two of them a more plausible couple than Arabella and Beaumaris, the book I read right before this one.
Interesting about the political angle–I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re quite right. It makes Serena unusual, and all the more admirable in my eyes! As for Arabella, it was my very first Heyer book, and immediately I became enthralled by Heyer’s wit and facility with language. Also, I adored Beaumaris. Perhaps he and Arabella are not as clear a love match–it seems to be a case of the older, sophisticated or even jaded man who finds himself charmed by the fresh and unpretentious out-of-towner, but they are not equals as Ivo and Serena are. I have to confess that I love Heyer so much, I hunted down every last one of her books and I treasure them all! Some are A-list and some are B-list, but each has its own delights.
Jane Dunn said:
Apologies! my post, that’s arrived on the page just above your last one Isabelle, should have been posted below as it’s in response to your request for recommendations.
It’s okay, I got the message. Thanks for the rec, I’ve never really considered reading the Convenient Marriage but I dig the premise. 🙂
I have just spent such a lovely half hour reading this post and all these comments and the exchange with Jane Dunn was like listening in on a delightful conversation. May I put in a plug for A Civil Contract, really quite different many of the others and one I’ve been drawn to more as I get older. I can also tentatively recommend Avalon as another Anya Seton. I can’t remember it all that well, but I feel like it had a similar dreamy quality to Katharine.
Mim, thank you for the comment! I very much enjoyed A Civil Contract. It’s a romance that goes against the conventions, and I enjoyed that. I expect that it more accurately reflects the few upper-crust marriages that were actually happy ones, given that arranged marriages were the norm. Yet if Lynton had been allowed to pick the partner he wanted, he would have ended up miserable. Thanks too for the tip on Avalon. I will check it out!
So true about him making the wrong choice initially — he would never have got his tea & muffins just right.
Jane Dunn said:
Oh Mim, I entirely agree with you and Linnet about A Civil Contract. I think it stands alone in Heyer’s oeuvre as an immensely touching, slightly melancholic novel about the limits of romantic love. It’s the complex and realistic other face of the galloping escapist romances with which she made her name. Her characters are wonderfully and tenderly drawn (dear Jenny and her intrusively-generous industrialist father spring to mind) in what is a quiet masterpiece of unrequited longing and affectionate compromise.
My correspondence with Linnet was forced into the open as I don’t do social media and this was the only way to have the pleasure of sharing with a fellow enthusiast my appreciation of Georgette Heyer and her genius. It so enriched my re-reading of the novels, I’m glad it amused and enthused you too. Linnet is an insightful and rare soul and everything she writes is worth reading.
Agreed on all points — will definitely be following this blog from now on.
And may I say to Jane that I have rarely enjoyed such a delightful online conversation as ours!
Jenny Blakeley said:
Love this – and particularly love the way you’ve expanded it past the Mk I and Mk II ideas. I think your well thought-through post shows that there’s more variety than one might initially think – but I think that the characteristics we like most and dislike most leap out at us so we mentally characterise those heroes as similar, without paying so much attention to the differences. I was particularly interested in the way you’ve filed Sylvester, who’d I’d always thought of as similar to Alverstoke because he’s quite socially commanding. You’ve made me look a bit deeper. Thank you!
Thanks so much for your comment, Jenny. I was just thinking about Sylvester and how I liked that book and its hero more on subsequent readings. It seems that Heyer was very conscious of her fans’ desire for more of the same, but she worked hard to introduce at least some variety, especially in her brilliant minor characters. Yesterday I visited a Barnes & Noble and found four Heyer novels on the shelves (Arabella, Frederica, The Grand Sophy, and the Modern Library Torchbearer edition of The Transformation of Philip Jettan, which is the original version of Powder and Patch). This is an amazing accomplishment for a romance author whose heyday was in the 1940s.
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Elise Curran said:
I know this discussion occurred a while ago, but I saw that Linnet (or was it Jane) was looking for someone else to read who used language so wittily and so well as Heyer, Austen, and Wodehouse. I’d like to recommend Dorothy Sayers as another great writer in this special club, and her Lord Peter Wimsey is a wonderful hero!
Many thanks Elise! I agree with you about Dorothy Sayers and I own a complete collection of vintage Lord Peter paperbacks! Like Heyer, it’s some of the best reading if one is sick in bed or needs comfort–charming and witty.
Elise Curran said:
And I reread all of these great authors–Austen, Heyer, Wodehouse, and Sayers–every year! Once I discovered Pride and Prejudice in my teens, I would read it over and over, and had to make myself stop! So I set up a yearly schedule to read them all. It has been about 50 years now….
A wonderful custom, Elise. You have very good taste : ) What do you think of E. F. Benson’s Lucia books? I am reading the whole series and finding them delightful.