Georgette Heyer for Beginners

This is a blog that's been a couple of years in the making. 

I'll back up a bit for context.

I was first introduced to the Queen of Regency Romance during Covid by my big sister, Lynda. (You might remember Lynda from past Guest Blogs because, without fail, she always gives stellar book recs like these or these.) During Covid, Lynda loaned me a well-read paperback edition of one of her favorite writers, Georgette Heyer.

When I started reading it a few months later, I did so reluctantly because the cover of this book left a LOT to be desired. I didn't want to offend my sister by not enjoying a title and author she returns to read again and again - or worse, I didn't want to DNF it. (I know we aren't supposed to judge books by their covers, but aren't they what covers are for?)

I should have known that I had nothing to fear because, like I said earlier, Lynda gives the best book recs. I actually remember the moment I turned the last page of that tacky trade paperback (Sorry, Lynda!) because I immediately called Lynda to politely thank her for encouraging me to read it. (OK, I actually yelled over the phone "I LOVED IT" several times! I have never let the cat out of the bag about a future Pretty Literate Book Box but I KNEW I had to turn this one into an upcoming book box for our Monthly Book Club members and I just could not keep the secret from the one that introduced me to the title and it's cheeky author.)

That Book Box was such a popular favorite in our Monthly Book Club that Lynda provided us with ten titles to try as follow-ups to that first fantastic Heyer novel. 

It was from that list that I chose another of Georgette Heyer's novels and even found the inspiration behind last year's Blind Date With A Book Box (the first Seasonal Book Box of 2023), another immediate hit with our Pretty Literate #PLeeps - and #1 on Lynda's List. (If you're eager to get your hands on that list, keep reading.)

Even though I've read a handful of Heyers since that first book rec, I still consider myself a newbie. That is why I asked my go-to subject matter expert when it comes to Georgette Heyer if she would share a little about the author with us on this week's Pretty Literate Blog - Q & A Style.

So...if you consider yourself a Georgette Heyer newbie (like me), this blog is for you.

Georgette Heyer for Beginners: A Guest Blog by Lynda Andrews

Q: First of all, what kind of name is Heyer? How do you pronounce it?

A: The name Heyer comes from ancient Great Britain Anglo-Saxon tribes, most probably derived from the Old French “eir” which comes from the Latin “heres” or heir. It has been spelled many different ways, including one with which PL members are probably familiar with - Eyre!

Heyer had been pronounced “higher” but was changed by her father George to “hair” during WWI so as not to be mistaken as German.  

Q: Where was Georgette Heyer from? When did she live?

A: Georgette Heyer was born on August 16, 1902, in Wimbledon, London. An interesting aside for those of us who read Three Men in a Boat - her maternal grandparents owned tugboats on the River Thames! (Check out the PL SHOP for the Three Men in a Boat Book Box.)

Part of her childhood was spent in Paris but the family returned to England after the start of WWI in 1914. She died in London on July 4, 1974, at the age of 71. 

Q: When did you first discover Georgette Heyer?

A: I cannot remember exactly when I first read Heyer; my best guess is at 11-12 years of age. However, I vividly remember the novel, which was Venetia

Q: What is it about her writing that captured you?

A: Ms. Heyer’s writing embodies all that I love to read books for. Her beautifully written yet not stiff or stilted prose effortlessly carries the reader away into a different world. Her characters, including secondary ones, are fully fleshed out and captivating on their own. Her humor is sly, slapstick, or sarcastic but always perfectly timed. Her mastery of the grammar and idioms and slang used during different time periods and social classes is wonderful; this and her impeccable research is one reason why critics and peers consider her research and level of detail her greatest asset. This meticulous accuracy is very apparent in such historical novels as The Conqueror in which she details William The Conqueror’s crossing into Britain, and descriptions of battles, actors, and conditions at Waterloo in An Infamous Army. All of the above combined with a gift of storytelling are what keep me rereading her novels year after year. 

Q: Which of her Regency Romances would you recommend a newbie begin with?

A: Since I began my lifelong love affair with Heyer with Venetia, I would recommend starting with that one. Frederica is delightful; The Convenient Marriage features a very different kind of heroine; Cotillion a very different hero; The Foundling is a wonderful young man’s coming of age novel; Friday’s Child fantastic friend group of young men that I have cry-laughed at many times. There are so many, and I love them all for different reasons. 

Q: Are there more modern writers like Heyer that you would say are good "if you like her, then you'd probably like GH?"

A: This is hard, because I would have to say not really! Heyer originated the Regency/Georgian romance genre and it has devolved since then. This is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed reading authors such as Laura Kinsale, Julia Quinn, Mary Balogh, or Amanda Quick, because I do. They do not compare. The closest modern writer I can think of would be Lynn Kurland and her dePiaget series. I would start with the #5 release Another Chance to Dream and then go back to the #1 release Stardust of Yesterday. These novels are sweet and lovely romances (some include ghosts and some time travel) in medieval times, featuring flawed but endearing characters. Kurland has a good sense of humor and can also go straight to your heart. And - these romances leave the lovers at the bedroom door, as Heyer does. They can be be somewhat anachronistic but it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the story. 

Most fans and critics of Heyer place her in the same class as Jane Austen, Dorothy Dunnett and Patrick O’Brian.

Ten Heyer Novels for Newbies

If you enjoyed learning a little about Georgette Heyer through one of her devoted fans, I hope you'll take a moment to thank Lynda for sharing in the comments.

If you feel like you want more Heyer in your life, here are Lynda's Top 10 Georgette Heyer Book Recs (in no particular order) to check out next.

  1. Venetia
  2. The Convenient Marriage
  3. Cotillion
  4. Arabella
  5. The Talisman Ring
  6. The Black Sheep
  7. Frederica
  8. The Unknown Ajax
  9. The Foundling
  10. Sylvester

Your Turn

Which title(s) have you already read? Which do you want to try next? Share your thoughts in the comments.

2 comments

  • The one I have read and will definitely read again is The Grand Sophy. That was one of the few books I couldn’t put down! Such a wonderful story! Well written to keep you enthralled. Thanks to Pretty Literate for bringing it to my attention!

    Cindy G.
  • I have read all of her romances, most of her historicals, and a handful of her detectives. I want to read the historicals I haven’t yet and maybe some of the detectives. One of the things I really enjoy about Heyer’s books is the wonderful male friendships she writes about- maybe because she had two brothers that loved dearly and was able to see those types of friendships close up. So many modern writers of regency romances seem to give the hero only one or two friends as part of the plot device to help the reader get to know the hero’s personality and that really doesn’t “flesh out” the character as fully in most cases. Actually, as I write this, I realize that the modern author I recommended (Lynn Kurland) also writes wonderful friend/family/brotherly relationships in her stories so this is another reason why I love her stories, too.

    Lynda A.

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