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Guest post by JASNA-Vermont member Lynne H.

Our JASNA Vermont reading group recently discussed Georgette Heyer’s Frederica.  A skeptical member asked the question: why should we read Heyer?  Georgette Heyer is a prolific 20th century novelist known for writing Historical Fiction, Regency Romances, and Mysteries.  Frederica is one of the Regency Romances. (Think Harlequin not Hawthorne….)   So, why should a thoughtful group of Austen devotees choose a Heyer Romance?    Below are some of the answers from our group’s discussion.

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Reason # 7: It’s summer.  Let’s face it, we don’t have to read Tolstoy, Dickens, or even Austen all year.  Go to the beach and relax!

Reason #6: Heyer, as mentioned above, is prolific.  If you like one of her Regency Romances, you have 33 more to choose from.

Reason #5: Heyer researched and included wonderful Regency detail.  She described the carriages, dress, and food, for example, in specific detail.   You can read about phaetons and curricles, neck-cloths and laces, and jellies and sauces.  If you have any interest in the Regency period, it is both fun and informative to have such specifics included in the novels.

Reason #4: Ditto for Regency language, cant, lingo, etc.  Heyer used Regency cant in all of her Romances.  What does it mean if someone is a “nodcock”  or a “ninnyhammer”?  What about if someone is trying to “gammon” another person?  Usually the meanings of the expressions are clear from the context; however, members of our group also mentioned further Regency reading to fill in more information about the period.  Two of the books were Jennifer Kloester’s Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, and Carolly Erickson’s Our Tempestuous Day. 

Reason #3: Heyer’s dialogue.  She used dialogue extensively. Her dialogue is witty, but it is also artfully constructed to expose and develop character.

Reason #2: Heyer’s characterization.  While her main characters are usually from the aristocracy (these are Romances after all!), they are not two dimensional ladies and gentlemen.  Within the structure of the Romance, Heyer adeptly fills in the motivations, foibles, and flaws, of her main characters.  Her writing usually depends on the characters to move the books forward.  In the following excerpt, you can see both the characterization and dialogue at work.  This is from an early episode of Frederica in which Frederica and Lord Alverstoke have their first meeting.  Frederica begins by responding to him:

            “I see. You don’t wish to recognize us, do you?  Then there isn’t the least occasion for me to explain our situation to you.  I beg your pardon for having put you to the trouble of visiting me.”

            At these words, the Marquis, who had every intention of bringing the interview to a summary end, irrationally chose to prolong it.  Whether he relented because Miss Merriville amused him, or because the novelty of having one of his rebuffs accepted without demur intrigued him remained undecided, even in his own mind.  But however it may have been he laughed suddenly, and said, quizzing her: “Oh, so high!  No, no, don’t hold up your nose at me: it don’t become you!”

Reason #1: Her books provide both escape and solace.  One of our members mentioned that she read Heyer while she was undergoing chemotherapy.  She said that during this difficult time in her life, Heyer made her laugh and gave her a place to retreat to for comfort and solace.  For Janeites this is very familiar ground!

So…if your interest has been piqued by our reasons to read Heyer, we’d suggest that you start with Frederica.  Just about all of our group members enjoyed it.    And remember, unlike Austen, there are many, many more novels to choose from for those lazy summer days or for times when you just need to escape.  Don’t be a ninnyhammer, try one.

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Frederica
Georgette Heyer
Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2008
ISBN:  1402214766
[originally published 1965]


Further reading:

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book cover-Frederica1st

[Image: 1st edition cover, Bodley Head, 1965 - Wikipedia] – I love this cover!

What is your favorite Georgette Heyer? – i.e, after starting with Frederica, which Heyer would you recommend to our book group to read next?

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

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Those who have read anything of Georgette Heyer, her writings, and her life know about the hushed-up squabble with another romance writer during the 1950s – Heyer chose not to sue for plagiarism, but Heyer had her say and the writer was “politely” asked to just stop it.  Now finally the story is out, Barbara Cartland the offender, all the juicy details to be revealed in Jennifer Kloester’s* new work, Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller, to be released this fall by Heinemann.

Here is the story from Bookseller.com:

Heinemann to explore Heyer’s plagiarism fury

29.07.11 | Benedicte Page

A literary plagiarism allegation from the 1950s is set to be given its first detailed airing in a new biography of much-loved novelist Georgette Heyer.

Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller by Jennifer Kloester (Wm Heinemann, hb, £20, October) reveals the outrage felt by the queen of witty regency romances at the obvious similarities between Barbara Cartland’s historical novel Knave of Hearts and her own youthful story These Old Shades (published in 1926), when they were brought to her attention in 1950.

“I think I could have borne it better had Miss Cartland not been so common-minded, so salacious and so illiterate,” Heyer told her agent, Leonard Parker Moore, in no uncertain terms. “I think ill enough of the Shades, but, good God! That 19-year-old work has more style, more of what it takes, than this offal which she has written at the age of 46!”

Heyer was also indignant at Cartland’s “borrowing” of various character names. “Sir Montagu Reversby”, a character in Cartland’s novel Hazard of Hearts, was blatantly pinched, Heyer felt, from Sir Montagu Revesby, a character in her novel Friday’s Child.

But it was Cartland’s historical and linguistic errors that really offended the writer‚ herself a stickler for accuracy. “She displays an abysmal ignorance of her period. Cheek by jowl with some piece of what I should call special knowledge (all of which I can point out in my books), one finds an anachronism so blatant as to show clearly that Miss Cartland knows rather less about the period than the average schoolgirl,” said Heyer, who told her agent she would “rather by far that a common thief broke in and stole all the silver”.

A solicitor’s letter to Cartland followed, and according to Kloester: “There is no record of a response . . . but Georgette later noted that ‚’the horrible copies of my books ceased abruptly’.”

Kloester’s biography has been written with the backing of Heyer’s son and the late Jane Aitken Hodge, whose own biography was entitled The Private World of Georgette Heyer. The book’s editor, Georgina Hawtrey-Woore, said the book contains much new material, including photos and 400 of Heyer’s letters.

 [Thanks to the Teach Me Tonight blog for the information]

*Dr. Jennifer Kloester’s previous book, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, is an engaging fact-packed compilation of all things Heyer.  She visited the Word Wenches blog last November – you can read her interview here where she talks about this upcoming biography.

For further reading on Georgette Heyer, see my bibliography post here, as well as the link to all the book reviews from Austenprose‘s fabulous Heyer celebration last year.

Copyright @2011 by Deb Barnum, of Jane Austen in Vermont

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Ok, a silly story – but Jane Austen is the reason, so must pass on.

Setting:  Starbucks in Simsbury, Connecticut
Time:  late Sunday morning
Reason:  meeting a friend as I pass through town for a quick cup of tea with a pastry

Order: 2 medium cups of tea, 2 blueberry muffins

Posted Question of the Day:  “In What Country was the Battle of Waterloo fought?”

Prize:  20 cents off each cup of tea

So, I know this answer, say that I do to the young man behind the counter, who eyes me with a quizzical “yea, like pigs fly” look;
 “Yea, where then?” he says;
“Belgium” I say –  he is dumbstruck – says “Not one person has gotten it right all day. “
I proudly comment to my friend “I know this of course because of Jane Austen” -
She gives me the usual, “Oh here comes the Jane Austen stuff roll-of-the-eyes-look” – the young man looks at me as though I am from another planet – but I can tell he is impressed – “everyone says France” he says…

So I get my 20 cents off, then proceed to bore my friend with the whole tale, that if you read Jane Austen, you then must learn about the Napoleonic Wars even though she frustrates all her readers of a historical bent for not even giving a mention to the fact that England and France were largely at war during her entire lifetime [not to mention those pesky colonies] …

['The Line Will Advance' - Image:  BritishBattles.com]

And one of course must confess that if you have come to discover Georgette Heyer just in order to stay connected to Austen’s Regency times, then you will have read An Infamous Army, which teaches more about the ‘Battle of Waterloo’ than most textbooks on the subject…

So you see how Jane Austen widens your world?! and can save you 20 cents in the bargain?

Copyright @ 2011, by Deb Barnum at Jane Austen in Vermont

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Here is the review of Georgette Heyer’s Bath Tangle that I wrote for the “Georgette Heyer Celebration” at Austenprose:

I first encountered Georgette Heyer’s Bath Tangle via audio and I was enchanted – the head-strong Hero and Heroine, not always likeable, at odds with each other from page one – so I was delighted to read the book when Laurel Ann asked me to do this review – another Heyer, another cast of characters, and an abundance of Regency settings to savor!

Serena Carlow, 25, a titian-haired beauty, strong-willed, headstrong, accomplished*, daring and tempestuous, certainly anything but “serene”, has suddenly lost her father, the Earl of Spenborough.  He leaves a twenty-two year old wife, no male heir with his estate passing to a cousin, and a will that provides for Serena’s fortune to be under the trusteeship of the Marquis of Rotherham.  Fanny, now the widowed Lady Spenborough, a young girl, barely out of the schoolroom when she was pledged to the 47 year-old Earl against her will, is well-named – Austen’s Fanny Price looms over this character.  Though of a shy, retiring disposition and propriety-bound, she and Serena, so very different, have forged a true friendship – they move together to the Dower House, leaving the cousin and wife, a la the John Dashwoods in Sense & Sensibility, to take over the Earl’s entire estate. Serena is left with an allowance, her fortune of 10,000 pounds a year to be passed to her only upon her marriage to a man approved by Rotherham …which of course sends Serena “up into the boughs.”

Major back story, as in Persuasion:  Serena and Rotherham were betrothed three years before, her father’s wish, but Serena crying-off shortly before the ceremony because “they did not suit”.  Rotherham is after all a harsh and arrogant fellow, with an “imperious and tyrannical disposition”, “high in the instep”, barely even handsome [but he has great hands! and those powerful shoulders!] – they do their “dagger-drawing” from page one and while they may not think they suit, we know quite differently, that they are meant for each other, everyone else paling in comparison…..[Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew comes to mind!]

Fanny and Serena decamp to Bath for a change of scene during their mourning period – and so enters Major Hector Kirkby, Serena’s “first and only true love” from six years before – and she, Hector’s “goddess”, his dream become real when they once again meet.  Hector is fine and handsome, but a tad frightened of Serena’s strong personality of “funning humours and openness of temper”. They set all the tongues of Bath wagging, embark on a secret engagement [due to mourning etiquette], Rotherham is consulted and approves, then announces his own engagement to the not-yet 18 year old Emily, and suddenly, Everyone Ends Up In Bath: Mothers in the marriage mart; Aunts critical of Serena’s behaviors; Rotherham’s family demanding attention and money; Hector’s dream; Serena feeling 19 again; the fortune-seeking Lalehams, pushing Emily into the arms of the Marquis; and Mrs. Floore, Emily’s grandmother, one very lively jump-off-the-page character, “of little height and astonishing girth”, vulgar and socially stigmatized, with an outrageous sense of fashion; and Rotherham, the jilted lover, who says of Serena “she would have been well-enough if she ever broke to bridle”, he is“blue-devilled” and angry, bordering on the cruel throughout most of the book…

Heyer gives us what we love her for: the witty dialogue; the fashions described; the list of cant terms [ramshackle, clodpole, “the dismals” feather-headed, ninny-hammer, on-dits, bird-witted, toad-eating, etc]; the Hero and Heroine throwing all the barbs known – abominable, wretch, odious, detestable, termagant, etc.]; and Bath in all its glory – the Libraries, Assemblies, name-dropping of real residents [Madame D’Arblay, Mrs. Piozzi, the scandalous Caroline Lamb and her Glenarvon];  the political arena of the time [Rotherham is in Parliament] – all the many details that make this visit to the Bath of Regency England so very real, so very engaging, and with that Heyeresque rollicking Romance, a courtship novel with its Many Tangles to help turn the pages – Delightful!

[*Note:  Jude Morgan’s An Accomplished Woman [St. Martin’s, 2009] literally duplicates this Heyer formula and does so quite well – I recommend it!]

[Posted by Deb]

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As mentioned in a previous post, Laurel Ann at Austenprose has been celebrating Georgette Heyer through the month of August, with various guest reviews of the novels and interviews with Heyer experts.  Laurel Ann had asked me to write a review of The Quiet Gentleman, which is posted today, and Bath Tangle which will be posted August 20th. 

Reading Georgette Heyer is a new experience for me, and the immersion has been quite enjoyable – I most like stumbling upon her Austen echoes, and they are there in her characters, her settings, her plots – Heyer greatly admired Austen amd read and re-read her through the years.  I don’t agree with those who think that Heyer is another Austen [here is a short article on the topic], but it is a lesson in influence to read Heyer’s romances [and her mysteries aren't half-bad either!], and see where Austen touches her.

You can read the review of ‘The Quiet Gentleman’ here  at Austenprose – please visit and comment; I’ll post the full text here next week.

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Laurel Ann at Austenprose announces her latest month-long immersion ~ this time it’s all about Georgette Heyer!  The celebration starts August 1st, to include an interview with Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks Casablanca, thirty-four book reviews penned by various guest bloggers [including yours truly], fabulous giveaways, and invigorating chat on the Queen of Regency Romance.  If you haven’t picked up any of your Heyer books lately, now is the chance to revisit her; if you have never read a Heyer, this is a perfect time to start, as in right now – you are in for a treat!  Don’t risk being be a cloth-headed clodpole – join in the fun and participate!

 

 Further Reading: [see my previous post on Faro's Daughter, my very first Heyer, and so a favorite]

Reference Sources, books:

  • Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester [2005, already out-of-print; newly published by Sourcebooks]
  • Georgette Heyer’s Regency England, by Teresa Chris [London, 1989] ~  impossible to find at an affordable price.
  • The Regency Companion,  by Sharon Laudermilk and Teresa L. Hamlin [Garland 1989] – ditto
  • The Private World of Georgette Heyer, by Jane Aiken Hodge [1983] ~ the biography, available from used bookshops.
  • Georgette Heyer: A Critical Retrospective, by Mary Fahnestock-Thomas [PrinnyWorld Press, 2001] ~ includes Heyer’s short published pieces, reveiws of her books, obituaries and responses, and critical articles and books – an indispensible resource.

 Further Reading: online

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Georgina, by Clare Darcy. 
NY:  Walker and Company, 1971;
NY:  Dell, 1977 [and other reprints]

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The opening scene finds us in a house on Great Pulteney Street in Bath, where a rejected marriage proposal has all the Power family at odds – we quickly see that Miss Georgina Power is not going to be forced into an arranged marriage with one Mr. Smallwoods, despite his prospective title and comfortable fortune – and to avoid the inevitable resulting gossip, she is quickly shipped off to Ireland to visit her father’s cousin, the widowed Arabella Quinlevan, who has her own plans for Georgina to marry her son Brandon.  They reside at The Place of the Oaks, a fine estate, slowing running to seed since the death of the owner, Georgina’s uncle, whose daughter Nuala had recently died and the estate rather than going to the next rightful heir, our Heroine Georgina, fell to Nuala’s “odious adventurer” rake of a husband, Mr. Shannon. [phew! sufficiently confused?] 

Now Mr. Shannon has all the qualities of the Regency Rake – but he has no place in this closed Society, as he is the “natural son” of the Scottish Lord Cartan, and this, coupled with his arrogant air and lack of proper manners and a bad reputation fueled by the gossip-mongers, sets the entire cast of characters off to a rousingly bad start when Shannon returns to The Place unannounced, asserts his rights as owner and expects the Quinlevans to vacate immediately.  

He walked into the book-room with Brandon.  Her concept of arrogance was immediately strengthened by the sight of a tall figure, carried with distinction and set off to careless advantage in a well-fitting drab coat, buckskins, and top boots, and a harsh-featured face with cool grey eyes. [p. 33]

 Georgina labels him a “rag-mannered basket-scrambler” [p.36] and the sparks begin, that ever-present in a Regency Romance “crossing of swords”.  Shannon IS an arrogant, cold-hearted Hero. They both are hot-tempered, she “devilishly obstinate” and persistent, with a sharp and honest tongue, displaying all manner of improper behaviors for a Lady; he showing no emotion, no feelings, but seemingly a hardened rake who had married Nuala for her fortune. But Georgina begins to see that in his fine management of the estate, the respect the servants and tenants show him, his growing friendship with Brandon, his protectiveness of her [like all Regency Heroes, he does have a penchant for showing up exactly when the Heroine has landed in the suds!], that perhaps the neighborhood’s opinion is not so justified after all – her efforts to defend him bring on the tattle-boxes and the damage is done. 

True to this genre, the conventional escapades begin, Georgina in numerous scrapes, masquerades, marriage proposals in abundance – some for love, some for her fortune – balls, midnight runaways, the machinations of a few nasty and jealous Matrons, and like Heyer before her, Miss Darcy’s strong, silent, Hero does indeed have feelings – all conveyed in his Eyes:  “the glad incredulous welcome in his eyes” changing to “an indifferent sardonic coolness”, “the contempt she read in those eyes”, “a look of such bleak unhappiness in those grey eyes”, “those hard grey eyes, strangely softening”, etc…, otherwise we would be at a loss…!

Georgina was Clare Darcy’s first book, though I did not read it first, and I recollect that I thought it more serious than anything Heyer had certainly ever written – truth be told, it lacks that expected humor and even Darcy’s own hand at it improves in her later works.  I wonder perhaps that she was not sure where her Regency era talents would take her in this first book.  There is a certain gravity to the narrative -we have a dark Hero, a mystery in his past about his marriage and the death of his wife, rejected by a Society that seems more mean-spirited than funny, and a Heroine who fights the fortune-focused, behavior-constraining society she lives in, breaking almost every Rule in the Book to clarify what she instinctively knows about this man.  Thankfully, her young cohort Brandon, whose mother is set to have him betrothed to Georgina, is the salvation here – the bookish, Byron-like figure [with the required limp] is quite adorable and amusing, bringing much-needed levity. 

I liked this book very much – and while we again know from the first moment that the name of Mr. Shannon is introduced on the page, where it is all headed, it was great fun.  And one must like a book where the proposing Hero says: “Nay, I’m no hand at speeches!” – even Jane Austen’s Mr. Knightley would approve!

 4/5 full inkwells

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