Brit Lit: Georgette Heyer and the Regency Romance

Georgette Heyer, photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Since childhood, I can hardly remember seeing my mom reading anything for fun that wasn’t a Regency Romance.  More often than not, She was reading something by Georgette Heyer.  Since I began writing these reviews a month ago, my mother has been telling me some interesting facts about Georgette Heyer and the Regency Romance genre.  I decided that I would research her, her writing career, and the Regency Romance genre to provide some information for those, like me, who didn’t know much about her or the genre.

Regency Romance is a subgenre of historical romance novels.  According to Wikipedia (which in turn refers to “The Romance Novel” in The Reader’s Companion to U.S. Women’s History), Regency Romance is distinguished by a particular time period, as well as by intelligent, fast-paced dialogue among the protagonists and very little discussion of sex. (source)  Georgette Heyer was born in London in 1902.  She released her first novel, The Black Moth, in 1921, when she was just 19 years old.  She originally wrote the story for her brother, and it is now considered to be a Georgian Romance novel.

In 1935, Heyer released Regency Buck, which essentially established the Regency genre.  Though the British Regency lasted from 1811-1820, Heyer’s novels were set between 1752 and 1825.  Twenty-four of Heyer’s more than 50 published novels were set in the Regency period.  Her work was inspired by the stories of Jane Austen.  While Jane Austen lived through the Regency era herself and could write to an audience that would understand social phenomena of the time, Georgette Heyer was writing of this period more than 100 years later and was very careful to research the details of the times so she could write as accurately as possible.  Upon her death, it was discovered that she owned more than 1,000 historical reference books, including obscure references like the history of snuff boxes. (source)

One particularly interesting fact about Georgette Heyer that my mother mentioned and I found online as well is that although she was beloved and well-published, she never gave an interview or appeared in public. (source)  Her readers did not even know her married name (Rougier) until they read it in her obituary in 1974.  Additionally, Heyer’s books were never reviewed in serious newspapers, despite her popularity with readers.  Despite her lack of critical acclaim, many of Heyer’s novels, including  her first book, The Black Moth, have never been out of print.  For more information on Georgette Heyer or her books, check her out on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk – many of her books are available there as well as several biographies on the author herself.


Comments

  1. avatarDianne Sharples says

    I read a number of Georgette Heyer books several years ago and within the last two years have started reading (and listening) to them again. Her historical understanding of the times is excellent and gives one a wonderful view ot that era. She is an superb writer and has a wonderful, understated sense of humor. Lately I’ve been listening to her books while driving and find that they are some of my favorites. For the most part, the readers are also good “actors” or “actresses,” and because they are all British, I get much more out of them by listening rather than reading, and I am an avid reader.

    • avatarTora Chung says

      Actor Richard Armitage (soon to be in The Hobbit) read Heyer’s Sylvester, Venetia, and The Convenient Marriage. His performances are spot on. Fantastic for any Heyer fan or anyone looking for a lively introduction to her work.

  2. avatarPeggy Wright says

    As an avid and repeat reader of Georgette Heyer’s work, I was glad to read this review. She is better when she writes a story than when she writes history and throws a little story in between. She loves military history and goes into such detail that I am not surprised she collected over 1,000 reference books. Her real forte’ is in characterization. When you read one of her books, you can picture people you know today who are of a type with her characters. This ability to evoke timeless character types can strike a chord with today’s readers who enjoy and appreciate the foibles and strengths of their fellow human beings.

  3. avatarKaren says

    It’s my understanding that Ms. Heyer’s books about the Napoleonic wars were used by the Sandhurst military academy in the U.K. for training purposes. (“A Spanish Bride” is about the Peninsular campaign and “An Infamous Army” is about Waterloo.) We studied her works in my college history classes, too. She’s highly regarded by many historians for her meticulous research.

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