Book Discussion: Georgette Heyer

As I mentioned on Tuesday, Emily and KarenMC requested a Heyer discussion, so tonight at 8:30 EDT, the window below will go live and we’ll discuss all things Heyer. We’ll chat for about 90 minutes, and you’re welcome to email me questions you’d like me to ask – or come on by and ask them on your own. Everyone’s welcome. I hope you’ll join us!



General Bitching...

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  1. 1
    Karenmc says:

    I finished Faro’s Daughter last night and started The Grand Sophy, so I think I’ll have something to say. And if I’m a bit late, it’s only because the dog has a nail trim appointment twenty minutes before the chat starts ;)

  2. 2
    SB Sarah says:

    AWESOME! Hi to your dog, and my sympathy on the manicure. My dogs hate having their nails trimmed.

  3. 3
    Karenmc says:

    She loves getting her nails trimmed because it’s at the vet’s office; everyone there loves her and she behaves like a slut, begging for belly rubs (probably not something that ever happens in a Heyer book).

  4. 4
    Faellie says:

    Not having AgTigress’ stamina, I missed the chat last night, but it still makes fun reading.

    If I had made the chat, I would have said that I think Heyer’s books are more feminist than many of her modern, more sexed-up followers.  She has a number of “older” heroines who manage to make their own way in life (or plan to) while still working within the constraints of their society.  It’s also clear that heroes in books such as The Black Sheep, The Talisman Ring and The Toll Gate have absolutely no interest in marrying for the purposes of procreation, but have found the one woman they don’t want to live without, with or without children.

    By contrast, it is interesting that a lot of later regency authors, even those writing today, fall instead into the trope of “powerless young woman/rescued by powerful male/a destiny of child bearing for dynastic reasons”.

  5. 5
    AgTigress says:

    After my determination to stay up till the small hours, I was ultimately undermined by some damn computer thing.  Probably would have done better to use Firefox rather than IE.  Anyway, it became impossible to keep up, or to type at the speed required, with or without typos.

    Reading back over it, I think I see an interesting Brit/American divide on some points.  Just different preferences, and different perceptions. 

    Faellie, I agree with you about H’s strong heroines.

  6. 6
    Terrie says:

    Curious: what are the Brit/American divide points of division you see?  I hadn’t thought about it but it sounds intriguing.

  7. 7
    AgTigress says:

    The Brit/American differences came out to a great extent in the separate threads on the reviews of The Grand Sophy and Venetia, but some were hinted at again in the online chat.

    The earlier points included the perception of cousin marriage, and the fact that, though the outrage about the offensive depiction of Goldhanger was universal, the Brits were rather more inclined to cut Heyer some slack on the basis of her generation, and to feel that the passage was a flaw, albeit a nasty one, in an otherwise excellent novel, rather than something which totally ruins the whole book.  I think that reactions to Venetia’s acceptance that even if Damerel were to be physically unfaithful in the future, she could handle it and forgive it, also divided roughly along UK/US lines.

    In the chat, I think there was some return to the fact that features which irritate many American readers, like a slow lead-in, and a lot of conversation amongst secondary characters, are not merely accepted by British readers, but are actually relished by us as a major part of the whole Heyer experience.  There will probably be generational differences involved here, too, and I have to keep reminding myself that I am not merely a Brit, but an old Brit. 

    Also, I’m not sure that the different responses are really UK/USA:  I think they may be more Europe/America.

  8. 8
    Rebecca says:

    Sorry I missed the chat.  I was out running errands, which ran into late dinner, which ran into – “oh, crap, the chat happened already.”  (Saw a nice Met production of Capriccio on tv last night though.)

    I think I’m an outlier for AgTigress’ posited divide, as I’m a mid-thirties American who generally enjoys the slow lead-ins (and, as mentioned elsewhere) LOVES the secondary characters.  But I’m an outlier for a lot of things.  I was sorry/surprised that The Nonesuch didn’t get more love.  As a teacher who comes from a family with a number of members in social services (many of whom work with kids), I personally love both the premise and the whole idea of the extended Hawkridge family.  And file Tiffany under “students I have met.”  (As a side note, the extremely modern sounding “Tiffany” is actually the period “Theopania” which I also think is brilliant.)  That said, I’d still probably come down with Venetia as my absolute favorite.

    Completely on a side note about KarenMC’s dog: Her vet story reminded me of a scene I witnessed last year.  Three students (a boy and 2 girls) were hanging out after school in the hallway, carefully bouncing each other a blue rubber handball and chatting.  The following is I swear a transcription of the conversation:

    Boy: I have a very keen sense of smell.  Honestly, I recognize most of the girls I know in this school by their smell.

    Girl 1 (scornful): You mean their scent!

    Girl 2: Yeah, smell makes it sound like you’re a dog.

    Boy (carefully watching bouncing ball): I really am like a dog in lots of ways, though.  I recognize people by smell – I mean scent.  And I play catch.  And dogs like having their tummy rubbed.  I like having my tummy rubbed.  (Looks hopefully at girls, who exchange disgusted looks at this subterfuge.)

  9. 9
    AgTigress says:

    Rebecca, The Nonesuch is one of my favourites, too. The Big Misunderstanding is a bit contrived, but thenm that device often is.  And again, really vivid, fully realised secondary characters.  Tiffany is just so awful she is unbelievable — yet you say you have met girls like her!

    Another of my favourites that has not come in for much discussion is Black Sheep.  I’m also very fond of Bath Tangle and Lady of Quality.

  10. 10
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    Also, I’m not sure that the different responses are really UK/USA:  I think they may be more Europe/America.

    Maybe not even just Europe/America. I’m an American who grew up in Mexico, and I love the slow build-up and well-developed secondary characters. I admit to being a bit squicked by the idea of cousins marrying (having suffered through a family reunion whose low point was my cousin hitting on me), but I’m with AgTigress in reading the prejudices in Heyer’s works as more a product of her time than an active desire to offend. This, too, may be a product of my education; I’m working my way very slowly through an English degree, so I’m accustomed to recognizing that texts are very much a product of their time, and my reactions to texts are equally products of my time.

  11. 11
    Rebecca says:

    @DreadPirateRachel – I think Mexicans and “Estadounidenses” have lots more in common with each other and less with Europe than either would like to admit.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time at the Semana Negra, a literary festival in Spain with a rich sprinkling of Mexicans and Spaniards (as well as random other Europeans, and Latin Americans, plus the odd gringo).  There are some things that are definitely an Atlantic divide as opposed to a linguistic one.  (And a lot more that are simply personal, not national preferences.)  In fact, I’m simply not sure that the generalization “Americans prefer faster-paced than Europeans” is accurate.  Consider the difference between watching soccer/football and baseball.  The latter is EXCRUCIATINGLY slow and static, the former all movement all the time.

  12. 12
    Jessica Thompson says:

    So sorry I missed last night but just couldn’t stay up (am in awe of the Brits that did!). But there were just 2 things I think I could have added…
    the first, yay! There is great Freddy love, once I loved the Rakes, Worth, Avon (until I left my teens, now I can’t read These Old Shades) of course I still love Vidal but Freddy is the sweetest, most surprising hero and I adore him. Cotillion is probably my favourite book and his transformation is the reason.
    Secondly – there was no mention of Rufus Sewell in your Heyer heroes? Seriously, have you seen those cheekbones and that mouth?

  13. 13
    Terrie says:

    Wondering. Another American who loves the slow build up and the side characters.  I recognize the first cousin thing is historical. 
    To the books: I really enjoy the Nonesuch as well.  A silly silly misunderstanding but it’s still fun.  Black Sheep is one of my all time favorites.  It makes me laugh aloud every time.  I love it when Miles tells her that he wants to kiss her.  I love the Unknown Ajax as well.  And I really don’t believe Damerel would be unfaithful to Venetia. 
    Other favorites: Friday’s Child, Cotillion (of course), These Old Shades, Devil’s Cub, Frederica.

  14. 14
    AgTigress says:

    Rebecca:  I don’t know how slow baseball is, but I bet it’s a lot faster than a traditional 4-day cricket match!  ;-) :-)

    No, of course generalisations are dangerous, because there are so many factors involved, and many preferences are simply personal rather than cultural or generational.

    I like The Unknown Ajax too, and the final scenes are mostly hilarious, but I just feel so sorry for the poor riding officer, who was a perfectly nice bloke who was only doing his job, that my enjoyment is derailed somewhat.

  15. 15
    kkw says:

    Sorry I missed the discussion, but it was great fun reading through the comments.  I was a terrible student and latin was a long time ago, so probably misremembering, but I had thought the roman numbering names were based on the month you were born, not the birth order.  We do that with lots of months still (April, May and June anyway, and I’ve met a February, and there’s January Jones…).  The roman name that I always thought was a bummer was posthumous.
    I really love all of Heyer’s romances, but my least favorite are easily Beauvallet and The Black Moth, which both have their moments but are pretty stilted.  Her detective novels I found quite fun although largely obvious and ultimately forgettable, and the historicals are rather chewy.  But it doesn’t seem to me you can go wrong with any of the romances.  I am longing for a BBC production of Cotillion.  Any of them, really.  Regarding the sexxxoring, Vidal certainly never got it on with Mary’s sister.  I’d bet some liberties were taken, but I doubt there was opportunity for much beyond kissing – particularly as Sophia is holding out for marriage, and only really ever attracted to his money and position.  I don’t have an opinion on Damerel (or Venetia’s) future fidelity because I find it irrelevant.  They’ll be happy together regardless.  I absolutely think that Adam and Jenny had fun getting pregnant and that he loves and values her far above his earlier romantical notions – and that those feelings will only increase.  I think one of the problems with Sherry’s handling of his marriage is that he probably doesn’t have sex with Hero initially.  He sees her as so young and helpless, so he doesn’t really think of her sexually, and he’d think it was the decent thing to do to give her more time, and then never found a way to initiate things until after the crisis.  If they do have sex from the beginning, I imagine it’s pretty business-like, in an attempt not to embarrass her.  Adam would know and care about a woman’s pleasure, whereas Sherry would divide woman into types, and feel Hero was Not the Type, until her learns better. What I do not know, although I would love to, is what went on between Rule and Horry in the beginning stages of their marriage.

  16. 16
    Terrie says:

    I also assumed Rule and Horry had sex and that Sherry and Hero probably didn’t.  I agree that originally Sherry is treating Hero like they are both still ten years old.  The fun is in his realizing he’d actually rather prefer to be a grown up.

  17. 17
    Anna says:

    I missed the chat, but had a lot of fun (and wasted lots of time) reading it now.

    I am not sure about Europe/ US divide. I am from Russia, and I always felt uncomfortable reading about marriage between first cousins in English literature (Austen’ Persuasion, Collins’ Moonstone) I knew it was the norm, but for me first cousins were close family. On the other hand I was willing to overlook bigotry moments I hated, if I liked the main story well enough. I’ve been thinking about it for the past several days, and I think that I’ve trained myself over the whole life to jump through offending or annoying bits if I could enjoy the book without them. I used to jump through lot of communist crap in order to read about adventures and cool heroines. Sometimes the piles of crap are too big to jump over them, and then it is at the wall-throwing time.

    Also: Frederica and Cotillion are probably my favorite Heyer’s romances. Freddie is the best un-romantic hero in a romance.  and I very much love Sprig Muslin – for its quiet and proper hero and heroine in silly madcap adventures.

    False Colours are lots of fun, and I always thought that the mother is the true heroine, not her grown-up sons. She and Sir Bonamy are delightful.

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