I don’t care what anyone says, I like Georgette Heyer
The enduring childhood image I have of my mother is of a woman that spent a lot of time shouting at us, drinking tea and reading Georgette Heyer novels. They were all over the house, along with her Jane Austens, and so many of the shelves were a tribute to Regency romance. I scorned them. Pah, I thought, she wasn’t even alive in Regency times, she’s just a wannabe. However, as I am now supposed to be a grown up, and not judge things so flippantly, I decided to read ‘Venetia’, and holy crap, it’s fun. No wonder people love Heyer so much. All the escapism of period novels to what seems like a better way of life that we get from Austen, but with rather exciting plots, that have made me gasp on public transport and feel like saying to the stranger next to me ‘You’ll never guess what’s just happened?!’
Heyer was famous for her meticulous research, such as claiming in ‘The Infamous Army’ every word spoken by Duke of Wellington could actually be attributed to him via his letters and diaries. She was also very protective of her private life, so much so that the public only knew her married surname when her obituary was printed. Her work was not reviewed by broadsheet newspapers and critics didn’t take her seriously. Barbara Cartland stole from her characters and plots wholesale, as did other people. Heyer detailed the incidents, never in the end no legal action was taken. Early in her marriage she lived all over the world, did all she could to dodge the tax man, and died from lung cancer in her seventies, very likely due to her habit of smoking 60-80 cork-tipped cigarettes a day. So basically, an interesting life, and then some.
The covers of the books my mother had may have gone some way to colour my opinion *put your 3D glasses on now*
What has struck me most of all is while the snobbishness that Heyer received is very likely alive today, if she were around now I don’t think she’d be the target of it in the same way. Many people now would struggle to understand the language she used, and would not persevere. Rather like Agatha Christie, someone else who was also considered an easy read at the time, we appreciate them more openly now, as after all, we live in an age of Fifty Shades and fan fiction galore. Whoever looked down on Heyer back then needs to hop in a time machine, come here and see what can reach the top of a best seller list.
Finally, she used some wonderful phrases, discovered in letters and other resources at the time, the one I love the most being to ‘make a cake’ of oneself/himself/herself, for use when someone is making an idiot of them self. And also, we should all start using ‘nuncheon’ to describe our snacks. It is now my mission to bring back Regency Heyerisms, to liven up the office, and make the day pass quicker.