I am speaking, of course, of Georgette Heyer and the genre she essentially invented: historical romance. This corner of the book market tends to be flooded with titles, some good and some of rather more questionable quality, but a Georgette Heyer book is always a highly reliable choice. I find her to be the literary equivalent of comfort food, and turn to her whenever I want a nice love story.
I have written about her before but I’ve read two more of her books over the last few months and wanted to reiterate my admiration. I’m just so impressed by how well she immerses a reader in the settings and social interactions of the 19th century. One of my previous gripes was her overuse of historical detail and, while I do still think she throws in more than she needs to, this time around I didn’t feel as clueless – this is because I’ve done quite a lot of historical research in the past year and now have a better understanding of the peerage and suchlike. However, I still found it hard to grasp all the Regency slang she uses!
So here are the two books I read:
It was the premise that drew me to this one. Miss Kitty Charing convinces Mr Freddy Standen to embark upon a fake engagement with her in order to entice the jealousy and attentions of Mr Jack Westruther, the man she really wants to marry. The potential entanglements of such a situation made for interesting reading. The difficulty with this book was that I was not 100% enamoured by Freddy, the hero. He is a complete dandy (a slave to Regency fashion which I find rather cringe-worthy in a male character) and he is actually portrayed as not being very intelligent. Jack, on the other hand, is a selfish man but he has a witty tongue which made him more appealing to read. In the end, Freddy’s deep-seated kindness to Kitty won me over but I do admit to preferring a little bit more darkness in the male love interest (if you read the old review linked above, you’ll see that my tastes have changed over time in that regard!). On top of all this, Kitty is not the most likeable heroine I’ve ever read and I found it a bit hard to swallow when some of her manipulative conduct was passed off as mere country ignorance.
On to the next book I picked off the virtual Amazon shelf! I chose this one for a specific line in one of the readers’ reviews, where a reviewer said that the connection between the two main characters ‘fairly sizzles’. Given that Heyer’s writing never contains sexually explicit material, I was intrigued to see how she might accomplish such romantic tension. And boy, does she! There is nothing stronger in the book than a passionate kiss but the flirty dialogue and loaded looks achieve it all. Furthermore, both the male and female protagonists are far better in Venetia than in Cotillion. Venetia is a strong, independent woman and Lord Damerel is just the right kind of rake with redemptive qualities to make a reader swoon! As I’m sure you can tell, I really loved this one.
So that’s my assessment of my most recent foray into Georgette Heyer’s writings. Happily, the queen was an extremely prolific writer so I have many more books to go!