Growing Up With Georgette Heyer

She’s been so much a part of my young days and she’s still like a familiar friend that I go back to when I need a laugh. Any book of hers I found, I bought. It’s a collection I wouldn’t part with for anything. For me, she’s on par with Jane Austen – and I discovered Jane Austen after I read Georgette Heyer.

Georgette Heyer has been dismissed by many as just another romance writer. You need to read her to know just how unfair that is. She couldn’t be more different from a romance writer like Barbara Cartland as chalk from cheese. This was the writer who brought the Regency romance genre into being – and what a wonderful, well-researched picture she paints of Regency England with words. Her books bring to life the Nonpareils of fashion in that era, all the nitty-gritty’s of high ton at its best, every little fashionable quirk from the late 18th to the early 19th century and the London of Almack’s, highwaymen, intricately carved snuffboxes, masked balls and curricles.

It all began for me at 10 when I was down with a bout of the flu and my mother came home with an armful of books from the library – one of them was Devil’s Cub and the author was Georgette Heyer. A few pages into the book and I was a goner – a Georgette Heyer addict for life. Decades later, I still reach out for a well-thumbed copy and the choice of titles depends on my mood. The great thing about her books is the incredible humour. Sure, there are the stereotypes that are found in many of her books. The masked villain, the stuttering young buck, the foppish old gentlemen, the beady-eyed dowagers. The books always have a romantic angle – it is the structure around which the story is constructed. However, romance is not the crux of each book – just a barebones structure that allows for wordplay between the characters that assume an almost lifelike presence. Her research is meticulous – and whether it was the wars or the events of the time, even the fashion, she did a lot of painstaking work to make sure that each book and the period it was set in was as true to life as she could make it. From the elegance of Regency England fashion with its foibles, to the understated dress trends with Beau Brummell – she paints pictures so vivid, it’s just like being there.

In her historical romances, she hardly ever states what year it is – but all the inferences, the events, the fads are spot on. She could be seen in the libraries and the museums, taking down notes and she did her level best to make sure that even the speech and expressions were as true to the period as possible. Hers is Wodehousian wit taken out of the countryside and the gentlemen’s clubs to the lavishly furnished drawing rooms, card rooms and watering holes of London, Bath and Brighton – with a few quick trips to Paris.

1902 - 1974  An excellent biography, The Private World of Georgette Heyer has been written by Jane Aiken Hodge.
1902 - 1974 An excellent biography, The Private World of Georgette Heyer has been written by Jane Aiken Hodge.

In real life, she was probably more like Mary, the heroine in Devil’s Cub than Leonie, the young red-haired beauty in These Old Shades. To think that her first novel was written to amuse her brother who was ill – at the tender age of 17! She went on to publish 50 titles after that – and 2 were published after she died. Georgette Heyer was her real name and once she got married, she was quite content to be Mrs. Ronald Rougier and remain in the background, letting her books do the talking. In fact, many of her readers knew her married name only when her death was announced in the newspapers. Anyone who has read her books can’t just dismiss her as a mere romance writer. While Barbara Cartland might have been prolific, churning out books to a formula and rarely bothering about how authentic her background was, Heyer was meticulous and thorough.

Like Shakespeare, she used the ‘masquerading as the opposite gender’ so very well in some of her books like The Masqueraders and These Old Shades. Like the plots of the Bard, this cross dressing made for some delightful and hilarious scenes in her books. She also tried her hand at murder mysteries and a few of her books are very in the Agatha Christie mould. However, swashbuckling romance was her speciality and she handled it as delicately as any of her expert horsemen protagonists – never too much to be racy, never too slow to be a bore. The ride was always punctuated with acerbic wit and fond humour of the best kind – and it made millions of her fans come back to read again and again.

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Comments 41 comments

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ralwus 7 years ago

Well, I am an old romantic and now must chesk this dame out. Thanks Shalini. peace, CC

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Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India Author

might be a bit too tame a dame for you CC - hehe - thanks for reading! :)

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quicksand 7 years ago

Georgette Heyer is no stranger to me. I have heard a lot about her as my sister used to discuss this author along with the other "greats" like Jane Austen, Pearl S Buck ... well I forget the rest.

Cheers Shal!

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Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India Author

Cheers quicksand - she's great - you'll love her brand of humour!

BrianS profile image

BrianS 7 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

I haven't run across Georgette before but she sounds like an interesting character, I'll see if I can find any of her books in the 2nd hand shops now.

Might be a candidate for using the Google Clip Tool, you can take extracts from loads of books and post them in your articles now, I am going to have to give that a try.

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Duchess OBlunt 7 years ago

I like what I read here, I will have to check out some of her work. She sounds like my kind of gal.

Thanks for sharing

lyla profile image

lyla 7 years ago from India

Shalini..thanks a ton for this hub..Georgette Heyer was part of my growing up years too and I thought that they were the most romantic books on earth.My dream guy was like one of those typical Georgette Heyer heroes.LOL!Pssst..I don't think I have outgrown those!The subtle sarcastic humor in the conversations were so much fun!I recently caught up with These old shades and I enjoyed it as much as I did when I was a teenager.I am all giggles now at just the mention of GH's for this beautiful hub and memories!:)

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reconciled heart 7 years ago

Thank you for this post. I love Jane Austen, so I will have to read Georgette Heyer!

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Feline Prophet 7 years ago from India

Georgette Heyer murder mysteries? How did I miss those? Thanks for this trip into the past Shal! :)

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2patricias 7 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

It is such a shame when writers get 'downgraded' because their work is entertaining!

2patricias profile image

2patricias 7 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

It is such a shame when writers get 'downgraded' because their work is entertaining!

dohn121 profile image

dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

I wouldn't be caught dead with a trashy romance novel, but I had to read Jane Austen while in college and did enjoy her work very much. You have certainly made a believer out of me, Shalini! I'll give her a try!

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Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

My mum used to be a big Georgette Heyer fan, and I can remember reading one or two in my teenage years and thoroughly enjoying them. I'll have to look out for her books in our local charity shop, and see if I can re-acquaint myself!

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jayb23 7 years ago from India

Well thanks for that info shalini. havent heard abt this author... pardon my ignorance for have really got me interested.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Shalini, I've never heard of Georgette Heyer before. If I come across a copy of her work, I will definitely take a look. You made it sound like something I might enjoy.

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fastfreta 7 years ago from Southern California

Your hubs are so interesting, that no matter what you write about you can convince us to look into it. Thanks for that and I will check her out. Thanks Shalini.

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Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India Author

BrianS - haven't heard of the Google Clip Tool - thanks for the info - will go check it out!

Duchess - I hope you enjoy her!

lyla - just knew you would have read her :D

reconciled heart - I'm sure you will.

FP - just a few but I've liked what I read.

2patricias - I agree - somehow entertaining and erudite have become mutually exclusive - so not fair!

Dohn - do that and let me know :)

Amanda - you're Mum's got great taste - hope you like the ones you get!

Jay - some of my best ones are off Bombay's streetside shops!

Aya - I do believe you will :)

fastfreta - Do hope you like her

Thanks all for your wonderful comments!

CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 7 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Hi Shalini - wow another Georgette Heyer fan! I have most of her books, but unfortunately they are in storage at the moment. I have read and reread most of them since I was a teenager. I think that Friday's Child is my favourite.

shamelabboush profile image

shamelabboush 7 years ago

She sounds very nice. Never heard of her, but thanks to you, I will add her books to my reading agenda. Thanks

Waren E profile image

Waren E 7 years ago from HAS LEFT THE BUILDING............

Seems all good the way you've spoken of her!

I'll have to check Georgette Heyer's book out,if I'm not mistaken I might find one on ebay or amazon,thanks for a great hub there!

Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 7 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Shalini, I love the way you developed this hub. First you caught my attention, then you made it sentimental/emotional by giving us insight into your first Heyer read, and then you expanded on who she was and why you like her. You have made me want to race to the library! Great job.

Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India Author

CMHypno - wonderful to find someone else who loves her books. I love Friday's Child too but Regency Buck will always be my favourite :)

Shamel - thank you - you won't be disappointed!

Waren E - yes you will - I do hope you enjoy her as much as I do!

Storytellersrus - thank you so much for the kind words - I hope you find some of her books in your library.

lyla profile image

lyla 7 years ago from India

Shalini,I'll read Friday's child and Regency buck next.I've read most of her books,so very long back that I've forgotten most of the titles.My sis bought These old shades recently,and it is with me now! :)The very name of GH, makes me come back to this hub..Shalini!:)

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Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India Author

Thank you lyla - you'll love them - and she's so wonderful to re-read!

Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

hey shalini

unfortunately for me, it's a barbara cartland book that introduced me to the "historical romance" genre when I was a kid so i said au revoir and bonjour to irving wallace, sydney sheldon and the likes - the closest things to "porn" i can get my hands on in the school library! LOL

but reading about Georgette Heyer - thanks to you - i might get my nose into it again and check out for myself where your fascination stems from. thanks for sharing :D

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\Brenda Scully 7 years ago

must give here a read then eh...nice hub

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Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India Author

Ah Cris - with all due respect to the so-called queen of romance. her sense of history was sadly lacking! Not so with Heyer - you could try The Spanish Bride and An Infamous Army if you like history. Thanks for reading :)

Brenda - thanks - I'm sure you'll like them!

Clara Ghomes profile image

Clara Ghomes 7 years ago

nice hub lady, well I have read Jane Austen "Pride and Prejudice" and i love it but I never heard about Georgette Heyer , but i got much information from you. Prescribed some books from Georgette to me.

Jaspal profile image

Jaspal 7 years ago from New Delhi, India

I've never read any of Georgette Heyer, though I've seen them around. I was one of those that you mention - under the impression that they were the mushy types typically read by young girls. You've motivated me to borrow one or two of her books during the next visit to the library!

Kiruba Harris 7 years ago

Just like you I grew up with Georgette Heyer and had read her before Jane Austen since somehow in Bombay, at that time local libraries, more like dirty book shops that lent books, carried her novels. She takes the reader through the books right into the lifestyle of the times, with vivid and accurate details springing them to life as one reads on. Austen another, great writer I admire somehow left the details of clothes, homes, ballrooms etc. to the reader but so skillfully done that one has no idea she has let you have free reign with your own imagination for her story.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Kiruba Harris, what a vivid description of the difference between the two writers!

Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India Author

Hi Clara - they're all good - honest :)

Jaspal I'm sure you'll like the historical ones and the thrillers.

K - yes - you've got it so right! Brings back those growing up days :)

Aya - that's her, my coz - she always puts things in perspective!

Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 7 years ago from Ontario/Canada

I thought no-one would know who Georgette Heyer was anymore. I own a couple of dozen of her books but it has been a loooong while since I've read them. Her books always made me wonder about the foppish fashion sense of the regency era man. I must dig out a few of my favs and reread them. I think my favorite book of hers is called Cotillion (I'm 99% sure that that was written by her). I'm off, got some good reading to do.

Thanks for bringing back some good memories with your great hub

regards Zsuzsy

Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India Author

Hi Zsuzsy Bee - yes, Cotillion is one of her light hearted books - reminds me of Wodehouse - all those crazy mix-ups! Thanks so much for coming by!

Catherine R profile image

Catherine R 7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

My best friend used to love Georgette Heyer when we were teenagers. I never read any though but I see perhaps I should give her a go now!

Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India Author

Do hope you enjoy her books Catherine - thanks for reading!

google biz kit  7 years ago

Thank you for this post. I love Jane Austen,

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

Shalini this is my first read of one of your hubs--your eloquence has convinced me to do two things, no three--become a fan, read The Spanish Bride and improve my vocabulary. Do they have editions with a plain brown cover? =:)

Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India Author

Thanks Winsome :)

Plain brown covers? You never know! Many of her books are sold second hand so you might just get lucky :D

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hi, wow this is a blast from the past! lol I remember reading her books when i was about twelve, my aunt used to read them and one day I ran out of something to read and she gave me one of them, so after reading the first one, I used to sneak into her front room and take another one out and put the old one back in! when she used to say 'have you finished with my book yet' I would look all innocent and say 'no, not yet' I was actually reading the third or the fourth! lol great memories, and thanks for the reminder! cheers nell

Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India Author

Hi Nell - I'm so glad to find a fellow GH lover! Yes, her books form a part of wonderful memories for me too!

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