There’s Got to be Heyer Love! (Part 1)
As many of you know, for the last five years, I’ve been a monthly columnist on the Romance Dish blog where I’ve reviewed books, old and new, that particularly appealed to me. Sadly, because of other commitments, this month is my last Second Helpings piece there. I’ll miss PJ and Andrea who run the Romance Dish, and I’ll miss the crowd who come to comment and recommend wonderful books – and I’ll miss the chance to revisit classic romances that I haven’t read for years, the books that made up the majority of my reviews.
You don’t get any more classic than the works of doyenne of Regency romance, Georgette Heyer. One of the pleasures of my years at TRD has been a chance to revisit my favorites from her oeuvre. Over my 60+ columns, I’ve reviewed 12 of her books – so she definitely got her share of attention!
I thought I’d talk briefly here about these books in case you missed the longer reviews – and even if you did, it’s always fun to pay another visit to the great Georgette.
The first book I reviewed was the full-blooded adventure, Devil’s Cub (1932), featuring the rakehell son of Leonie and the Duke of Avon from These Old Shades. This one’s seriously sexy and seriously funny. I hadn’t read Heyer in a long time – I’d read them all multiple times as a teen and then I’d read them all again in my early 30s when a friend of mine set out to collect them all. I’d forgotten quite how sharp and sparkling her wit could be. Devil’s Cub features a number of memorable scenes, including a corker where the heroine shoots the hero. Don’t miss it!
The next one was Venetia (1958), remembered as one of my favorites. Lord Damerel, the hero, is among GH’s best heroes, a jaded rake who finds a chance for redemption with the beautiful Venetia but who believes he’s not good enough for her. Sighs all round! I’d forgotten the twists and turns of the plot after the early, breathtakingly lovely scenes where Damerel and Venetia fall in love. Amazingly romantic!
Then I turned to The Grand Sophy (1950) which I know is a lot of people’s favorite. It contains wonderful characters, sparkling dialogue and funny scenes, but I found myself uncomfortable with one short scene that is vilely anti-Semitic, and as a result when I finished the book, thought I’d probably never read it again. Other than that one scene (which really could have been cut!), it’s a rip-roaring story with an appealingly feisty heroine and a great stick-in-the-mud hero.
The next one I read, Frederica (1965), was an absolute hoot, featuring a huge cast of eccentric characters and a Baluchistan hound who will have you in stitches. You’ll fall in love with the stiff- necked Marquis of Alverstoke as he finds himself tumbling head over heels with the charming and unpretentious Frederica.
Then came Sylvester or The Wicked Uncle (1957), which I didn’t remember at all well, but which might be one of my favorites from this crop of re-reads. We have another very high in the instep hero, the Duke of Salford, who thinks he’s just too cool for school. His vanity takes a hit when the young girl he’s decided upon as his bride, Phoebe, runs away to escape the marriage. The plot thickens when Phoebe’s romantic novel is published, featuring a wicked uncle who sports Sylvester’s distinctive winged eyebrows. The ton is convinced that the novel of a wicked uncle trying to steal his nephew’s inheritance has to be based on truth. I won’t spoil the story by telling you more, but this one’s a real gem. And the ending is just lovely!
The Unknown Ajax (1959) is a story I remember more fondly than perhaps I should have. When the snobbish Darracott family are forced to acknowledge the huge and apparently stupid Hugo as heir to the title, they are not pleased. Hugo’s mother was a weaver’s daughter and they expect (and receive) a man of low manners. But Hugo is considerably more than he seems and he’s not above teasing his stand-offish relations while he surveys the lay of the land. On this land, the only person he takes an immediate liking to is his cousin Anthea. There are some lovely scenes in this – especially when Hugo is playing the yokel. But the romance seems to be over in a few lines and the story concentrates on how Hugo sorts out the family’s numerous problems. Worth reading but no longer in my top tier.
Come back next month when I’ll be talking about the other six Heyers I read – Black Sheep, Faro’s Daughter, Lady of Quality, Bath Tangle, Cotillion and Arabella.