Thursday, June 21, 2012

Top 5 Georgette Heyer historical romances

List by Annie

"My style is really a mixture of Johnson and Austen - what I rely on is a certain gift for the farcical. Talk about my humour if you must talk about me at all!. . . I don’t know about my historical feeling: I’d prefer a timely word about my exact detail. Talk about my books as being just the job for people who are fed-up with kitchen sinks and perverts, and want a gay romance, with authentic period detail. I know it’s useless to talk about technique in these degenerate days - but no less a technician than Noel Coward reads me because he says my technique is so good. I’m proud of that."
~ Georgette Heyer, quoted in The Private World of Georgette Heyer. 1984. 152-153

Oh Georgette! Mention her name in any given group, and there will be a number of people (not just women) who will come over all fangirl / fanboy. If you asked for their favourites – debate would be vigorous. Positions and opinions would be heartfelt. But, at the end of it, we would all agree that reading Georgette was life changing. I’m serious here.

When it comes to moulding your future reading tastes and inclinations, one author will often stand out. For romance readers, particularly historical romance readers, it will be Georgette. Oh, we’ll have flirted with others. Maybe we have current favs and raves, but… our hearts will always belong to Georgette. And, if we think about it, our current favs will have Georgette-like qualities. (Seriously – I <3 Julia Quinn. Witty. Great supporting cast. Quips. Jaded heroes. Opinionated heroines. All found in Georgette.)

Can’t you tell I WAAAYYY-more-than-<3 Georgette? Normally my Top 5 intros are so short. I can rave and rave and rave about Georgette for days and days and days…

Instead, I’ll move on and rave and rave and rave about my favourite books instead.

‘Well, Tony, you are come nigh on a hundred miles to rescue me, as I suppose, and now have you nothing at all to say but that you have missed your dinner?’

‘That thought has been absorbing me for the last twenty miles,’ said Sir Anthony imperturbably.

Quite a bit of gender-bending in this one, as the ‘Merriot’ siblings dissemble and disguise themselves after the Jacobite rising. Prudence is a wonderful heroine. There is no way she’s your typical historical romance petite debutante. She is, after all, doing a damn fine job of being a man for a large part of the novel.

Robin enjoys duping the world, but chafes against the restrictions his female persona imposes.

Sir Anthony is a fine example of one of Heyer’s hero-moulds: a big man, considered a bit slow / quiet by the world, but hiding a sharp mind and a temper.

‘He didn’t hold with a man’s marrying out of his own order, and, taking it by and large, I’d say he was in the reet of it. What with him on the one side, hammering it into me I was Quality-born, and Grandfather Darracott here looking at me as if I was porriwiggle, I don’t know what I am!’

Hugo is a hero in the same mould as Sir Anthony – big, quiet, seemingly oblivious to slights, hints and insults. However, Hugo has even more reasons to keep his family in the dark. He is the unexpected, and just discovered, heir to the Darracott title and (little) fortune. Raised by his maternal grandfather, a Yorkshire weaver, he acts as his Quality family expect: with broad Yorkshire accent and dim. There’s smugglers and romance, and family feuds and politics…

‘… You will allow, however, that in this prosaic age it is certainly unusual to find oneself suddenly in the middle of what promises to be an excellent adventure! I have spent the better part of my life looking for adventure, so you may judge of my delight...’

Another tall and strong hero, another Peninsula War vet (like Hugo). However, Jack is much more.. ‘bouncy’ is the word that springs to mind. He’s a madcap, who’s never quite fitted in with his family, and is so taken with Nell, he falls in love on the spot. Yes, Hugo and Jack are very similar – but the supporting characters are completely different, and set the stories apart. No smugglers here, but still nefarious doings…

‘But I do not always want to be a lady, Monseigneur! If I may learn to fight with a sword I will try very hard to learn the other silly things.’

Sparkling dialogue, with a hero just as bad as he should be and a heroine who can actually stand on her own feet (even if she's only 19). I adore Avon, the hero. He has the perfect mix of tenderness and suppressed violence – and a shady past. He is the character I base all romance heroes upon. Leonie, the heroine, is a wonderful mixture of innocence, wisdom and world-weariness. I know this is most people’s fav-ever Georgette. And Avon is MY hero – for now and always. I love Leonie. I love the repartee. I love Hugh. Fanny is pretty wonderful, too… But… as a book, it isn’t my #1.

His plump, commonplace little wife came down the stairs to meet him, treading across the hall with her firm step. She was neither beautiful nor graceful; she was even a little incongruous in so gracious a setting; but she was infinitely comfortable. She smiled at him, saying placidly: ‘That’s nice! Here you are, just in time for supper! We’ll have it in the Blue parlour, to be cosy.’

THIS is the Georgette book that has my heart. Because… it is so very different from the usual romance, particular historical.

Adam, a Peninsular War veteran (aren't they all?) is forced to make a marriage of convenience to save the family estates, although his heart is already given. Jenny's father is a banker and his sole aim is to marry his daughter into the peerage.

What is so refreshing is the way the two make their marriage work, although they are from such different backgrounds and beliefs, although living in the same country. And how truly lovely the ending is. How very real it all is.

1 comment:

Danielle said...

I want to put my vote in for 'Cousin Kate', which I see has two stars on the catalogue :) It's not the most satisfying of romances in some ways, but I love Kate - she reminds me of a grown-up Pippi Longstocking. No dissembling and a deep-down good humour, courage and willingness to laugh at her own mistakes.