Sales Continue, and Heyer was PISSED

Sales continue, much to my surprise! Not really.

But this is a surprise: Lord of Scoundrels (BN | Kindle | Kobo)  is still .99c, even though I thought the sale ended on 31 July. As one reader suggested to me in an email, that’s a great price to gift a copy to someone who might otherwise sniff derisively at the romance genre. I’m going to send it to a few people now. Heh heh heh. Surprise Romance!

And if you were curious about the Amish romance phenomenon, Cindy Woodsmall’s Hope of Refuge (my grade: C) is on sale for $1.99.  (BN | Kindle | Kobo) It’s the first of an Amish romance series, and at $2, if you’re wondering what that subgenre is like, it’s not as big a money drop as the paperback, which is $11 in some places.

Book CoverEver wonder about Georgette Heyer’s opinion of plagiarism and of Barbara Cartland? Ponder no more: an upcoming biography reveals Heyer’s comments after she discovered similarities between her book “These Old Shades,” published in 1926 (and back in print), and Barbara Cartland’s “Knave of Hearts,” published in 1950 (and no longer in print).

The reports that Heyer wrote:

“I think I could have borne it better had Miss Cartland not been so common-minded, so salacious and so illiterate,” Heyer told her agent, Leonard Parker Moore, in no uncertain terms. “I think ill enough of theShades, but, good God! That 19-year-old work has more style, more of what it takes, than this offal which she has written at the age of 46!”

But it was Cartland’s historical and linguistic errors that really offended the writer‚ herself a stickler for accuracy. “She displays an abysmal ignorance of her period. Cheek by jowl with some piece of what I should call special knowledge (all of which I can point out in my books), one finds an anachronism so blatant as to show clearly that Miss Cartland knows rather less about the period than the average schoolgirl,” said Heyer, who told her agent she would “rather by far that a common thief broke in and stole all the silver”.

This biography sounds like something well worth reading for Heyer fans, and those curious about the foundations of Regency romance. It’s only available for pre-order in the UK, though.

Graceful curtsey to Billie Bloebaum for the link.


The Link-O-Lator

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  1. 1
    ShellBell says:

    Knave of Hearts! Hmmm I always thought it was Love Me ForEver that was too similar to These Old Shades.

  2. 2
    Ros says:

    Heyer famously sued (and won) another author who nicked some of her own invented Regency slang.  Her writing was the main source of their family income and she was not soft-hearted about people ripping her off.

  3. 3
    Nicole says:

    Through a Dark Mist (Marsha Canaham) is one of the current Kindle freebies…it’s another oldie-but-goodie if you like medievals.

  4. 4

    Heyer never sued anyone, and she didn’t make up her slang. She got it from two main sources, and several volumes of letters and private correspondence from the era.

    This book is going to be a really good one, and I’m looking forward to getting my copy.

    You might like to look into Cartland’s battles in the RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association). Heyer never joined the RNA (she disliked other writers and called them “inkies) so the two queens of romance of that period were Cartland and Denise Robins, two immensely glamorous women. Their battles were legendary. Oh to be a fly on the wall!

  5. 5
    SusannaG says:

    Thanks, Nicole – I do like Medievals.

  6. 6
    Susan says:

    Amish romance?  Seriously?  If today was April 1, I’d wonder.

  7. 7
    ashley says:

    wow I didn’t know georgette heyer was so old.  but wouldnt that mean shes no longer a reliable source?

  8. 8
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    wow I didn’t know georgette heyer was so old.  but wouldnt that mean shes no longer a reliable source?


  9. 9
    Marsha says:

    I’ve heard and read numerous times about the slang and faux-historical detail that Heyer allegedly made up and later tracked in others’ work.  None of those mentions, though, included actual examples of that happening.  Does anyone know?  Lynne Connolly’s quote above leads me to wonder if the stories are apocryphal.  Does anyone know if Heyer ever did find some of her “made up” content in other books?

  10. 10
    Joanne says:

    Didn’t anyone else have to look up the word “offal”? I had to and now it’s going to be my new favorite word.
    Thank you once again Ms Heyer.

  11. 11
    LG says:

    @Susan – Judging by my Walmart’s book section, Amish romance is fairly popular in my town. I had no idea it existed until I moved here and spotted the small shelf of them. Incidentally, Love Inspired seems to be trying to take over the Harlequin area of my Walmart’s book section. I worry that one day I will no longer be able to find Harlequin Historicals there anymore.

  12. 12
    delphia2000 says:

    Amish or ‘Bonnet’ romances are very popular in our library. I’ve read a few and they are nice stories, especially if you are looking for sweet rather than spicy romance. Beverly Lewis is the most prolific/popular, but also Brunsetter, Snelling and Woodsmall.

  13. 13
    AgTigress says:

    Heyer was very careful about historical research, and while she certainly over-uses some of the slang, I doubt if she made any of it up.  The fact that modern scholars have not found the sources of all her idioms does not mean that she invented them;  it probably just means that she discovered a source unknown to the rest of us. (‘Barque of frailty’ is one example.  Nobody knows where she got it, so its authenticity has been questioned, but I would be willing to lay a large bet that she came across it in some obscure Regency source). 

    She used obvious sources like Francis Grose’s The Vulgar Tongue (the first important dictionary of slang, 1785, with a revised 2nd edn. 1811) and also contemporary publications.  She did occasionally make mistakes, for example the one in Frederica, where she assumed that the Soho factory was in London’s Soho.  It was in fact in Birmingham.  She was very upset and embarrassed about that.  But she was pretty accurate most of the time, and although Heyer’s Regency is naturally seen through the filter of her 20thC sensibilities, it never contains glaring anachronisms.  She had a deep respect for history.

    Ashley, I had to laugh about your surprise that Heyer was ‘so old’!  She was born in 1902, and thus belonged to the same generation as some other major popular novelists, such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Mary Renault.  The fact that somebody was born a long time ago, and is now dead, does not make their scholarship unreliable!  ;-)

    I’m thrilled that Jennifer Kloester’s biography is out, and am going straight to Amazon to order it!  I heard Kloester give an excellent paper, full of tantalising details, at the Heyer conference in Cambridge a couple of years ago (where I was also one of the speakers) and I have been waiting impatiently every since for her book to appear!

  14. 14
    Daisy says:

    I am glad to hear of a new Heyer biography.  I found “The Private World of Georgette Heyer” a real snooze, mostly just a recitation of publications and contracts with publishers.  I did learn two interesting facts, however: how to pronounce her last name, and that her father’s family was of Russian Jewish origin.  That last tidbit casts her obsession with aristocracy, and the cringingly painful anti-Semitism in “The Grand Sophy,” in a new light.

    history39   no comment

  15. 15
    Bibliophile says:

    The plagiarism issue is touched on in “The Private World of Georgette Heyer”, but Hodge doesn’t mention any of the authors involved. I always did wonder if Cartland was one of them.

    After reading “The Private World of Georgette Heyer” I felt I knew a whole lot about the events in Heyer’s life but very little about her as a person, except that she came across as intensely private and very reserved. I hope this new biography will reveal more of her character.

    As for the accusation of having invented period-sounding slang, I wonder if anyone has ever fully gone through her research library after she died. It was apparently extensive, and she also spent hours researching the period in libraries. She may also have had access to material in private collections that hasn’t been looked at since. Who know what future Heyer scholars might turn up if given full access?

  16. 16
    Faellie says:

    I think Georgette Heyer’s research library was dispersed after her death. and in any case she never took the academic approach on noting her sources.

    I read that there was a threat of legal action over the use of “Cheltenham tragedy”, a phrase said to have been invented by Heyer.  I did wonder whether the person in question might have been Clare Darcy (pen name of Mary Deasy), whose books appeared in fairly rapid order after Heyer’s death.  But I’ve nothing but coincidence of timing and a certain similarity of intent to go on in wondering it.

    I would have liked to attend the Heyer day in Cambridge, but it was booked out before I could sign up.  AgTigress: any chance of another, or the papers being published?  I’m certainly on board for the new biog.

  17. 17
    AgTigress says:

    @Faellie:  I was not the organiser of the Cambridge conference, so I don’t know if any more are planned.  Speakers were invited to submit their papers to the new academic journal, the name of which completely escapes me (check on Laura Vivanco’s site), but I did not write mine up for publication.

    @Daisy:  the anti-Semitism which seems so outrageous to us was fairly commonplace in Heyer’s generation.  It does not need to be explained by Russian antecedents.  Nor, I think, does the class-consciousness, which was also perfectly normal—in all classes.  We have to think ourselves back into a pre-Second-World-War mindset.

  18. 18



      [much love]

    @Daisy—the stereotypical Jewish moneylender in Sophy bothered me as well, but I’ve learned to put these things in perspective.  There was a similar scene in The Scarlet Pimpernel (book, not various film adaptations) and when my son read it at my urging, it was an opportunity to discuss how attitudes and literature change over time.

    I’m looking forward to reading this Heyer bio.

  19. 19
    AgTigress says:

    I’m looking forward to reading this Heyer bio.

    Me too, especially having heard Jennifer Kloester speak on her research.  She has been allowed access to family records and to far more personal details than were available to the previous biographer, probably in part because the Hodge biography was published not so long after Heyer’s death, as far as I recall.

    The new biography has not actually been published yet, I find — it’s on pre-order at the moment, according to Amazon UK.  So we still have to be patient!

  20. 20
    LizW65 says:

    I came in to mention Captain Grose’s Vulgar Tongue (and isn’t that a great author/title combo!) but I see AgTigress beat me to it.  Seriously, it’s an excellent resource for late 18th and early 19th century slang as well as a great read.  (My SO has occasionally called me “my little fartcatcher”, one of the many colorful terms for wife/mistress to be found therein.)

    Interesting that Heyer didn’t sound particularly proud of These Old Shades (though she understandably preferred it to Cartland’s presumed ripoff.)  She was very young when she wrote it, and I recall enjoying it as a teen but finding the main relationship creepy rather than romantic as an adult.

  21. 21
    AgTigress says:

    Interesting that Heyer didn’t sound particularly proud of These Old Shades

    I think she would have suppressed it if she could have done (as she did her early contemporary romances), but it remained, and remains, too popular.  It was really her breakthrough book. She was only 24 when it was published.

    I think her reasons for unease about it were simply that technically, especially plot-wise, it is just not a very good book.  In particular, Léonie is represented as 19 or 20 years old, but quite clearly isn’t:  she has to be younger.  This makes the main relationship even ‘creepier’ by modern American standards, though not by those of the 18th century, in which it is set.  It is contemporary Americans above all who feel queasy about a wide age-difference in a romantic/sexual relationship.  Even modern Europeans are far less bothered, as I think we have discussed here before, and Europeans of the past were certainly not unduly concerned by a man being 20 years older than his wife.  It was a common situation, after all, in the days of high mortality from childbirth and consequent serial marriages of widowers, and was also influenced by lack of matrimonial choice within restricted social groups, even for first marriages.  Higher population densities, the greater freedom of young, single people, and far less strict class-based rules about marriage make it much easier now than it was in earlier centuries to find partners in one’s own age-group.  Most of us probably met scores of potentially suitable mates in our teens and twenties, but the choice really was very limited for our ancestors.  Think about some of the marriage taboos in certain contemporary religious groups:  it was a bit like that for everyone in the 18th century.

    Francis Grose, the author of The Vulgar Tongue, was a fascinating, larger-than-life character, once pithily described as ‘soldier, scholar and champion drinker’, and was one of the leading antiquarians (proto-archaeologists) of his day, as well as a student of language.


  22. 22
    Karenmc says:

    The Vulgar Tongue is available for free on Kindle. I’m getting my copy now.

  23. 23
    Ros says:

    AgTigress, I was at that conference.  Which was your paper?

  24. 24
    Barb in Maryland says:

    The Georgette Heyer part of the post having been covered, and admirably so, let us turn to the Amish part. 
    Ladies I present to you an item that is full of WTFery:
    Plain Fear: Forsaken.
    Yep—you read that correctly. 
    I am gob-smacked.

  25. 25
    AgTigress says:

    Ros, e-mail me on philotera @  I don’t like to merge my real-life identity and my internet nickname online.

  26. 26
    Daisy says:

    AgTigress said

    the anti-Semitism which seems so outrageous to us was fairly commonplace in Heyer’s generation.  It does not need to be explained by Russian antecedents.  Nor, I think, does the class-consciousness, which was also perfectly normal—in all classes.  We have to think ourselves back into a pre-Second-World-War mindset.

    Actually The Grand Sophy was published in 1950, which makes the anti-Semitism all the more painful reading for me.  And if you read my original words more carefully, I said that some of her ancestors were Russian Jews; obviously it was the Jewish part, not the Russian, which led me to consider the scene with the moneylender in a new light, as something more than the product of the unthinking, deep-grained anti-Semitism which I am well aware was commonplace amongst her generation.

  27. 27
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    Ladies I present to you an item that is full of WTFery:
    Plain Fear: Forsaken.
    Yep—you read that correctly. 
    I am gob-smacked.

    What. The. Fuck.

  28. 28
    AgTigress says:


    Actually The Grand Sophy was published in 1950, which makes the anti-Semitism all the more painful reading for me.

    Yes, I know.  But Heyer was middle-aged by that time, and a great many of our attitudes are formed in youth.  Also, the interpretation of what we sweepingly, and perhaps simplistically, define as racist can be very complex indeed.

    I think there are intricate issues here involving stereotyping which require quite a lot of study.  Heyer was writing in a comic tradition that used (and often still uses) stereotypes as shorthand.  A comparison with Dorothy L. Sayers (same generation) is instructive:  she occasionally uses Jewish stereotypes that we might find superficially offensive, while at the same time overtly expressing (through Lord Peter) a genuine admiration for Jews and Jewish culture, in one place (in Busman’s Honeymoon) comparing them favourably with Christian norms.  We have to look below the surface.

  29. 29
    LizW65 says:

    @ AgTigress:  It isn’t so much the age difference in These Old Shades that I find disturbing; rather it is the power imbalance between Leonie and Avon.  He so clearly holds all the cards in their interactions that it comes off as a kind of master/slave relationship than one of equals; also, as you mentioned, she does appear much younger in her behavior, closer to 14 or 15 than 20.
    I quite liked Avon’s (presumed) closeted gay brother, however, and would have liked him to find a nice young man in a sequel, though of course Heyer didn’t write that sort of thing.

  30. 30
    cleo says:

    Let’s try closing those pesky italics

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