Thursday, August 5, 2010

The original

I am amazed that I haven’t yet waxed poetic about Georgette Heyer on this blog. It’s not snobbery, because I have no qualms admitting to anyone that she is one of my favourite authors, critically acclaimed or not.

My first Georgette Heyer was Lady of Quality, a book I read when I was about 12 or 13. My mother and sister were most disparaging, but I was fortunate that I had a great aunt who loved her books. To anyone who dismisses them as mere romance fiction, I would like to humbly say that they are a lot more. They are romances alright, but not particularly romantic. Quite realistic in fact, with characters, who even if they conformed to type, were still well-drawn. I have read loads of shoddy historical fiction and regency rip offs – Mary Balogh etc and even M & B’s own legacy of love series. Forget actual anachronisms, these books make their characters behave in ways that a Heyer fan would instantly recognise as anachronistic.

Heyer wrote both intense romances and the light-hearted ones. It’s hard to say which I enjoy more: the frothy yet meaningful romps or serious ones with the ever persistent vein of humour.

My favourites undoubtedly are Friday’s Child, False Colours, Cotillion, Devil’s Cub, Venetia, Lady of Quality… although I have enjoyed all and most many times over.

But what makes me bring up Heyer now, two decades after I first read her? I guess I always underestimated the pleasure she brought me. Or in what esteem I, a so called serious reader, hold her. I recently introduced her to a friend via Friday’s Child, but she hasn’t enjoyed the subsequent Heyers she picked up as much – although those were the admittedly less enjoyable ones like April Lady and An Infamous Army. I am deeply tempted to force her to read my favourite Heyers, and to say ‘but she is credited with inventing the historical romance genre’ as though it would validate her! I am surprised at myself, really.

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