Historical Musings #41: Reading Georgette Heyer

Welcome to my monthly post on all things historical fiction!

The author I have chosen to feature this month is one who, I’m sure, has the widest appeal of any I have written about so far in this series of posts. I know there are plenty of readers who don’t usually read other types of historical fiction but love her Regency and Georgian romances, which are so distinctive they belong in a sub-genre of their own. She is, of course, Georgette Heyer.

Heyer was born in London in 1902 and died in 1974, having published over fifty novels, including the romances I’ve already mentioned, six straight historical novels, four contemporary novels and twelve detective stories. I only started reading Heyer relatively recently (in 2010) so I haven’t read all of her books, or even most of them; I know there will be people reading this post who have read – and re-read – a lot more of them than I have, so I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on her work. However, I have read enough to be able to say that, whichever Heyer novel you pick up (of the Regency/Georgian ones, anyway), you can expect historical accuracy, witty, sparkling dialogue, engaging characters and an entertaining plot.

Here are the Heyer books I have read so far, with links to my reviews:

Romances

The Black Moth
Powder and Patch
The Masqueraders
The Convenient Marriage
Regency Buck
The Talisman Ring
The Corinthian
Friday’s Child
The Quiet Gentleman
April Lady
Snowdrift and Other Stories
Black Sheep
Cousin Kate
Charity Girl
Faro’s Daughter – review coming soon

Mysteries

Footsteps in the Dark
Envious Casca
Duplicate Death

If you’ve never read Heyer before, you may be wondering which of her books would be a good one to start with. Well, the first one I read was The Talisman Ring, and although I’ve read others since that I enjoyed more, it was obviously a very successful starting point for me! I also loved The Quiet Gentleman for the sense of mystery, The Masqueraders and The Corinthian for the adventure, The Convenient Marriage for the humour and Black Sheep for the hero and heroine! Really, I would recommend any that I’ve read, apart from maybe Powder and Patch.

You can find out more about Heyer and her work at Georgette-Heyer.com.

I will be looking at more historical fiction authors in future posts, but for now I would like to hear your thoughts on Georgette Heyer.

Have you read any of her books? Which are your favourites – and which would you recommend to readers who are new to her work?

35 thoughts on “Historical Musings #41: Reading Georgette Heyer

    • Helen says:

      The Convenient Marriage is a great one – it’s so funny, and I love the hero, the Earl of Rule. I haven’t read The Grand Sophy yet, but I’m looking forward to it as I know it’s supposed to be one of her best.

  1. Café Society says:

    I’ve always placed Heyer firmly in the box marked ‘Not for me, thank you’ but I trust your instincts and taste Helen, so maybe this summer I will try one. Perhaps one of the mysteries would be a good choice given my love of crime fiction.

    • Helen says:

      I never used to think she would be for me either, which is why I only started reading her books relatively recently. Her mysteries are good (Envious Casca is the best of the three I’ve read), though quite different from the historical romances.

    • Helen says:

      I’m sure they will stand up well to being re-read. I’ll probably want to revisit some of them myself – after I’ve finished reading them all for the first time!

  2. Pam Thomas says:

    I was brought up on Heyer, my mum was a massive fan and I regularly bought her the latest one for her birthday or Christmas. She remembered hanging out of her dormitory window at boarding school to catch the last of the light so she could finish ‘These Old Shades’. That’s the first of a sort of trilogy, which continues with ‘Devil’s Cub’ and ‘An Infamous Army’, all about members of the same family, and all well worth reading. My other favourites are ‘The Grand Sophy’, ‘Venetia’, ‘Frederica’, and ‘The Spanish Bride’, which is based on fact. My mother thought that the earlier books were better, and once commented that Heyer only had two types of hero, the ‘good but boring’ or the ‘bad but interesting’. It’s a while since I read any, but she is so much better than any modern proponent of the genre, and well worth a look if you haven’t tried her before. Unlike many of her US admirers, she knows the intricacies of British aristocracy inside out!

    • Helen says:

      Our mothers can be such a big influence on our reading. Mine wasn’t much of a Heyer fan, which is maybe one of the reasons I didn’t start reading Heyer earlier. I haven’t read any of your favourites yet – it’s good to know I still have so much to look forward to.

  3. Calmgrove says:

    I remember Heyer being very popular among older female readers when working in branch libraries in the early 70s so like Café Society I decided Not For Me. Now that I’ve learned not to be so ignorantly opinionated I’m more inclined to give her the time of day.

    • Helen says:

      I had also dismissed her books as not for me, until just a few years ago. When I finally decided to try them, though, I was pleasantly surprised as I hadn’t expected them to be so much fun to read.

  4. Lark says:

    I love The Quiet Gentleman. (Probably because it was my first Heyer.) And I just checked out the Grand Sophy…because A Convenient Marriage wasn’t available, and I do want to read both this year. I’ll have to look for Black Sheep, too. 😀 She’s such a great author.

    • Helen says:

      I think the first book we read by an author does often hold a special place in our heart. The Quiet Gentleman is one of my favourites too, though. I hope you enjoy The Grand Sophy. I haven’t read that one yet but I’m looking forward to it.

  5. piningforthewest says:

    I started reading Heyer’s books within the last ten years I think. I had avoided her for years because I had the impression that her books would be just too light and frothy for my liking. Also the elderly ladies who borrowed them from the library that I worked in put me off reading them. I was so superior in those days! Annoyingly about 30 years ago I turned my nose up at my Granny’s collection of Heyer books when her home was being cleared. You live and learn!

    • Helen says:

      You’re the second person to mention being put off by the elderly readers in the library! I think I also used to have the impression that they would be light, frothy books, so it was a nice surprise when I started reading them and discovered how well written and witty they are.

  6. April Munday says:

    I haven’t read any Heyer. When I stayed with my grandparents as a child, I read my nan’s Jean Plaidy books rather than her Georgette Heyers. I think it might be time to try her.

  7. FictionFan says:

    She’s my go-to when I feel I need a bit of literary chicken-soup comfort on blue days. Cotillion! You must read Cotillion! It’s the best and I’ll fight a duel with anyone who says otherwise! 😉

    • Jennifer says:

      Yes! I scrolled down to leave a very similar comment. I love Cotillion and it is the Heyer I always recommend as a starting point. Though really, you can’t go wrong with any of them. I also really like A Civil Contract.

        • Helen says:

          I’ve been reading Heyer’s novels at random as I’ve come across them in the library/second-hand bookshops, but I will definitely look out for Cotillion – and A Civil Contract as well. 🙂

  8. Liz Dexter says:

    I love love love her and the love has survived from my early teens until now, my mid-40s, and will continue. The Grand Sophy, the These Old Shades trilogy and Cotillion would be my reccs. Never read the mysteries: they just don’t appeal. The short stories are dear, too.

    • Helen says:

      I haven’t read any of your recommendations yet, but I’m looking forward to them as so many people name them amongst their favourites. The mysteries are good but not as good as her romances!

  9. cath says:

    Favourites? All of them, even Powder and Patch. They’re just such fun.

    They filled long quiet evenings of baby-sitting when I was a teenager, at a house where the owners had a large book-case of Heyers. I don’t know if they had all her titles, but I worked through a lot, before they got divorced.

  10. whatmeread says:

    I’ve read them all. My favorites change as I get older. When I was young, I liked the more romantic ones, like These Old Shades and The Devil’s Cub. Now I prefer the funnier ones, like Friday’s Child and The Convenient Marriage. You should give The Reluctant Widow a try. It’s sort of a combination of a Regency Romance and a mystery.

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