Archive for the ‘Georgette Heyer’ Category

Thank you, Rebecca, for this absolutely charming set of stories! I just finished the last one and as all of them did, it left me smiling. True, every story was predicable, the plots already used in one or other of the full length books, but that detracted nothing from the delight. Little delectable cream puffs, each one delicious. The adorable heroine with her curls and dimple–the impeccably dressed hero with his elegant cravat–the chance encounter at the Inn–the thwarted trip to Gretna Green–oh my! I love this stuff.


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We have here the usual ingredients for a tasty Heyer confection–the elegant bored millionaire/nobleman, the impetuous not-beautiful-but-nonetheless-adorable young lady, the wise older woman. And clothes, of course there are clothes. Also horses!

But there is more, and the characters are by no means cardboard. Sylvester, the wealthy cynic, is still mourning the loss of his twin brother, whose death devastated him. He adores his charming mother–who is an invalid. She is slightly shocked by his coldly sensible decision to marry whoever seems most suitable of a set of candidates: five genteel young women of good family.

And then–pandemonium! His choice, for a multitude of complicated reasons, falls on the tomboyish Phoebe–who is HORRIFIED. Because why, because she has written a scandalous roman a clef based on her horrible experiences in London society and Sylvester was her model for the villainous COUNT UGOLINO! Very recognizably the model, alas. Plot occurs–snowfall trapping characters together, accident and incident and a flight to Calais. All in all–extremely entertaining. And, need I say it, it all ends happy.

Wicked Count Ugolino

PS I just discovered that there is in fact a Count Ugolino–I had thought it a diverting fabrication, but he figures in Dante’s inferno : Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, who is damned for political crimes and betrayals, and also–cannibalism. He snacked on his own SONS .

Sylvester is NOTHING like him.

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I have just read another of Georgette Heyer’s charming regency* romances–the genre which she basically INVENTED, and which gave rise to a million imitators and some actual plagiarists–Barbara Cartland, I’m looking at YOU. Jane Austen was certainly an inspiration for Georgette Heyer, but the former wrote about her own time, whereas the latter’s books were historical, about time gone by.
Georgette Heyer did an astonishing amount of research for her books, and was an acknowledged expert of regency language and vocabulary –but what people loved–and love still!–is the wit and charm, not to mention the completely engaging stories. Jack shall have Jill and naught shall go ill! The fabulous and frothy historical romances were an amazing hit the minute they were published.
She well knew that they were considered silly stuff:

“I think myself I ought to be shot for writing such nonsense. … But it’s unquestionably good escapist literature and I think I should rather like it if I were sitting in an air-raid shelter or recovering from flu.”

The one I just read, The Corinthian, is one of her earlier regency stories–she wrote a bunch set in other eras, including one about William the Conqueror–but the regency seems to have suited her best, and after 1940, when she wrote the Corinthian, she focused on that world, not straying for over 30 years (though the very last book she wrote–published posthumously–was set in medieval times). The regency clothes, the language, the fashions provide a glittering backdrop to her charming fairy stories.

The Corinthian starts with our elegant hero, the Corinthian–so called not only for his peerless style but also for his excellence as a sportsman– perceiving someone climbing out of a window–naturally, a beautiful young lady dressed as a man! And what do you know, one thing leads to another and soon they are on the mail coach escaping not only the young lady’s horrid relatives (who are trying to marry her off to her fish faced cousin) but also the Corinthian’s horrid family, who are engaged in a similar effort on his behalf. Adventures! Stolen necklaces! Amusing low lifes! And as always, magnificent horses and witty conversations–ah, it is such effervescent entertainment! And, how delightful that she was so prolific!

*The regency was that period when the Prince of Wales was regent owing to the quite shocking madness of King George.

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I have just finished an anomalous Georgette Heyer–not at all in her usual vein, much more of a solid novel exploring real world behavior than the delightfully frivolous fairy tales that are her stock in trade–of which I am extremely fond; I was at first slightly taken aback to find I was not to have my expected treat.
A Civil Contract starts with our hero, Viscount Adam Lynton, forced to return from the Peninsular war–and a bright military future–to become head of his family upon the sudden death of his father. He is greatly distressed to discover that the estate is deep in debt (thanks to his father’s improvidence) and all must be sold in order to keep the wolf from the door. HOWEVER. He could marry an heiress! Distasteful thought–but, practical. The girl he loves–and now cannot marry, having not the money to support her–is an enchanting and totally beautiful young woman, who is a teensy bit romantic and floaty in her ways, but so very lovely, it breaks his heart. But stern duty calls, and when a wealthy merchant –extremely reminiscent, by the way, of Pratchett’s Harry King (“King of the Golden River“, remember him? He made a huge fortune collecting refuse for manufacturing uses)–offers him the chance of marrying his plain but sensible daughter, he overcomes his initial distaste and says yes. The story, which grew more and more engaging as I read on, is about how he learns how to conquer his initial repugnance and self doubt–he is a generous and thoughtful man, sensitive to others, and though at first very ashamed of what he has been forced into, he is able to think clearly and responsibly, and do the right thing by his new wife and his overpoweringly vulgar father-in-law. Who is a hoot!
Jenny, his new bride, has been well educated, and is by no means common or inelegant. Just, she is not beautiful, not filled with romance like the beauteous Julia, and certainly not an aristocrat. Which Adam certainly is. But she is immensely competent, good hearted, and sweet, and she has a sense of fun and humour. Over the time of the novel–which encompasses the exciting years when Napoleon is first captured, then escapes to rekindle the terrible war–London is swept with rumours and fears–Lynton  grows to love and respect his plain little wife. And she learns how to act in her new position, and does very well–I relished her every triumph! Most particularly the fine moment when Julia is revealed as a little too silly even for Adam–very satisfying!
Anyway, I was charmed by the story, well written and delightful as always–and not a dangerous Corinthian in sight!

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