Thursday, December 15, 2011

Georgette Heyer

I profess that I have never read one book by Georgette Heyer, but yet I found myself curious as to the staying power of her novels through the years.  Who was this woman who continues to charm women the world over with her light, often witty romance novels?  Although, they are not just frippy romance works, they are often historical in nature, with details that took a lot of research.  Georgette wanted her works to be accurate and had over 1,000 reference books to help with certain facts about clothing, hats, prices, shops, foods, and how people addressed each other.  She even purchased a letter written by the Duke of Wellington to accurately portray his style of writing in the novel An Infamous Army

Ms. Heyer was born in 1902 in Wimbeldon, London and grew up with two younger brothers, Boris and Frank.  She was named Georgette after her father George, who after serving with the British Army in World War I went on to teach at King's College London.  He encouraged his children to read and no restrictions were placed on the titles they chose.  When she was 17, she began a serial work titled The Black Moth to amuse her brother Boris who was often sick and her father felt it had great potential.  He found a publisher for the book and it was published in 1921. 

In 1920 she met a young man by the name of George Ronald Rougier and after her father passed away in the spring of 1925, they became engaged and married in August of that year.  Ronald was a mining engineer and soon after they were married he was sent to the Caucasus Mountains in Russia and Georgetter stayed home and wrote her next novel, These Old Shades.  The book came out in the middle of the 1926 General Strike and no publicity was put out about the novel, but yet it sold 190,000 copies.  She realized she could sell books without having to deal with interviewers and never once gave another interview or helped to promote her published works.  Ms. Heyer also wrote thrillers and detective novels, but those books were never quite as popular as her historical fiction. 

Her books did very well during the Great Depression and World War II as many readers felt her books were great escapist literature that helped them cope with the difficulties of their lives.  Readers in the United States were introduced to her works via mass-market paperbacks in 1966 and many felt she had invented the historical romance and its subgenre, the Regency romance.  She received no mentions from most critics, but it was not something she was concerned with.  As long as her readers liked them, that was good enough for her.  Yet, the many authors today who style their works in the historical romance or Regency genre owe much to Georgette Heyer, who blazed the trail for them to follow.  In fact under "Regency fiction" as a keyword search in the catalog there are over 332 titles listed!

Ms. Heyer passed away in 1974 and at the time of her death, forty-eight of her novels were still in print.  Her last novel, My Lord John was published posthumously.  The library does not own all of them, but there are thirty-two titles in the catalog and others could be ordered through Interlibrary Loan if you wish to challenge yourself to read them all. 

Here are some of the titles that the library has in the catalog:


Devil's Cub

The Talisman Ring



April Lady


Black Sheep

Sprig Muslin

The Masqueraders

While searching the web for information on Ms. Heyer I came across several websites that may be of interest. to the Georgette Heyer section with some quotes from some of her best novels and testimonials by her fans. short article on an appreciaton of her work. link has an extensive listing of her titles provided by her representative and most of her titles are available as e-books. article, with covers of her works is a Perpetual Reading Challenge with no set time or date to complete this link you can send Georgette Heyer e-cards to all your friends! listing of a majority of her titles.


Nancy said...

I love Georgette Heyer! My favorite by her is "Frederica," which I had to buy because the library doesn't have it. :)

donnaj said...

I finished my first one a couple of weeks ago, "The Devil's Cub" and loved it. I am now reading "Sylvester", which I am enjoying as well