Many years ago a friend handed me a book to read. I immediately put it down because it was a romance and I did not read romances. My experiences with the genre had come primarily at the hands of the good folks at Harlequin Publications and I had learned, even as a tender teen, that I can’t abide stories where the plot hinges on the heroine being stupid to a fault. However, I have pushy friends. So, I read Georgette Heyer’s Friday’s Child and was hooked. Her Regency romances were my new passion. All these years later she still is one of my favorite writers and though there are others who have tried to tread the Regency Romance stage (Marion Chesney, Patricia Veryan, Patricia Wrede) they, IMHO as we now say, have been found lacking. Yes, I know. Calm down. You are sitting there screaming “What about Jane Austen!” She is, it should not need saying, magnificent. She is sharp, satirical and a wonderful window to her times and a woman’s lot in them. For all her sterling qualities though, she’s never made me laugh so hard I dropped the book. Ms. Heyer gives us one heroine who accidentally puts off a proposal by requesting Restorative Pork Jelly of her suitor (Frederica, which is currently on order for our collection) and another who shoots her cousin’s jilted suitor in an effort to drum up some sympathy for him (The Grand Sophy, also on order for the collection) and is not at all surprised when her plans actually produce the intended results.
Georgette Heyer was an accomplished historian and I believe it is this fact alone that ranks her work so far above others. Her books are filled with romance and manners but she thoroughly grounds them in the times, providing a sweet counterpoint to Bernard Cornwell’s equally well researched Richard Sharpe stories. It is Georgette Heyer who led me to delve so deeply into the non-fiction section, and frankly, I’d rather get my Regency fix reading a good biography than slogging my way through a pale imitation of Austen or Heyer. Some titles I turn to are:
An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England by Venetian Murray
Social England under the Recency by John Ashton
Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman
Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England by Kristine Hughes