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Monday, July 13, 2009

What is it about Heyer?

I have only recently started to read Georgette Heyers wonderful Regency romances and it is quite a stable to work my way through!

So far I have read THE TALISMAN RING and A CIVIL CONTRACT (a book that is no doubt historically accurate but somewhat bleak!). However on the strong recommendations of Heyer fans I launched myself into the 18th century Alastair family trilogy THESE OLD SHADES (the book cover pictured here is clearly historically inaccurate as it must be set in the 1750s/60s not the regency), THE DEVIL’S CUB and THE INFAMOUS ARMY. I confess to reading the last one first, more out of my own interest in the Battle of Waterloo (did you know that until recently Sandhurst used this book as a textbook of the most definitive description of the battle?). So having encountered the Lady Barbara Childe, I turned to her family story beginning with her great grandfather Justin (THESE OLD SHADES) and her grandfather (THE DEVIL’S CUB).
Coming to both these books with 21st century eyes, I have to confess I really wondered what on earth I was getting into with them. When we first meet Justin Alastair he is mincing down a street in Paris wearing high heels and a purple coat. He then proceeds to buy a young boy to use as his page. Hmmm….? As for Dominic, by the end of the first few chapters we have met an immature homicidal maniac with a mother fixation. One of my reading rules is I have to fall in love with my hero… and there is nothing immediately lovable about either Justin or Dominic. So why did I read on? Why couldn’t I put these books down?
I think Heyer’s strength is in her writing. She has a wry , witty style that gives humanity to her characters, particularly her heroines and somehow these truly despicable heroes, who put the BAD into 'mad, bad and dangerous to know', are redeemed. (An example of the wonderful repartee that had me in stitches is found in the scene in THE DEVILS CUB where the truly awful Mrs. Challoner visits Lady Fanny and Lady Fanny gets it into her head that Mary Challoner is some by blow of the Duke of Avon).

I know many of you are Heyerites of much greater devotion than me, so I would love to know what is it about Heyer that not only makes me want to read to the end but makes these heroes worthy of my devotion?