A Jane Austen Reading Group Reads Georgette Heyer

Guest post by JASNA-Vermont member Lynne H.

Our JASNA Vermont reading group recently discussed Georgette Heyer’s Frederica.  A skeptical member asked the question: why should we read Heyer?  Georgette Heyer is a prolific 20th century novelist known for writing Historical Fiction, Regency Romances, and Mysteries.  Frederica is one of the Regency Romances. (Think Harlequin not Hawthorne….)   So, why should a thoughtful group of Austen devotees choose a Heyer Romance?    Below are some of the answers from our group’s discussion.

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Reason # 7: It’s summer.  Let’s face it, we don’t have to read Tolstoy, Dickens, or even Austen all year.  Go to the beach and relax!

Reason #6: Heyer, as mentioned above, is prolific.  If you like one of her Regency Romances, you have 33 more to choose from.

Reason #5: Heyer researched and included wonderful Regency detail.  She described the carriages, dress, and food, for example, in specific detail.   You can read about phaetons and curricles, neck-cloths and laces, and jellies and sauces.  If you have any interest in the Regency period, it is both fun and informative to have such specifics included in the novels.

Reason #4: Ditto for Regency language, cant, lingo, etc.  Heyer used Regency cant in all of her Romances.  What does it mean if someone is a “nodcock”  or a “ninnyhammer”?  What about if someone is trying to “gammon” another person?  Usually the meanings of the expressions are clear from the context; however, members of our group also mentioned further Regency reading to fill in more information about the period.  Two of the books were Jennifer Kloester’s Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, and Carolly Erickson’s Our Tempestuous Day. 

Reason #3: Heyer’s dialogue.  She used dialogue extensively. Her dialogue is witty, but it is also artfully constructed to expose and develop character.

Reason #2: Heyer’s characterization.  While her main characters are usually from the aristocracy (these are Romances after all!), they are not two dimensional ladies and gentlemen.  Within the structure of the Romance, Heyer adeptly fills in the motivations, foibles, and flaws, of her main characters.  Her writing usually depends on the characters to move the books forward.  In the following excerpt, you can see both the characterization and dialogue at work.  This is from an early episode of Frederica in which Frederica and Lord Alverstoke have their first meeting.  Frederica begins by responding to him:

            “I see. You don’t wish to recognize us, do you?  Then there isn’t the least occasion for me to explain our situation to you.  I beg your pardon for having put you to the trouble of visiting me.”

            At these words, the Marquis, who had every intention of bringing the interview to a summary end, irrationally chose to prolong it.  Whether he relented because Miss Merriville amused him, or because the novelty of having one of his rebuffs accepted without demur intrigued him remained undecided, even in his own mind.  But however it may have been he laughed suddenly, and said, quizzing her: “Oh, so high!  No, no, don’t hold up your nose at me: it don’t become you!”

Reason #1: Her books provide both escape and solace.  One of our members mentioned that she read Heyer while she was undergoing chemotherapy.  She said that during this difficult time in her life, Heyer made her laugh and gave her a place to retreat to for comfort and solace.  For Janeites this is very familiar ground!

So…if your interest has been piqued by our reasons to read Heyer, we’d suggest that you start with Frederica.  Just about all of our group members enjoyed it.    And remember, unlike Austen, there are many, many more novels to choose from for those lazy summer days or for times when you just need to escape.  Don’t be a ninnyhammer, try one.


Georgette Heyer
Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2008
ISBN:  1402214766
[originally published 1965]

Further reading:


book cover-Frederica1st

[Image: 1st edition cover, Bodley Head, 1965 – Wikipedia] – I love this cover!

What is your favorite Georgette Heyer? – i.e, after starting with Frederica, which Heyer would you recommend to our book group to read next?

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

The Truth is Out ~ Georgette Heyer & Barbara Cartland

Those who have read anything of Georgette Heyer, her writings, and her life know about the hushed-up squabble with another romance writer during the 1950s – Heyer chose not to sue for plagiarism, but Heyer had her say and the writer was “politely” asked to just stop it.  Now finally the story is out, Barbara Cartland the offender, all the juicy details to be revealed in Jennifer Kloester’s* new work, Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller, to be released this fall by Heinemann.

Here is the story from Bookseller.com:

Heinemann to explore Heyer’s plagiarism fury

29.07.11 | Benedicte Page

A literary plagiarism allegation from the 1950s is set to be given its first detailed airing in a new biography of much-loved novelist Georgette Heyer.

Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller by Jennifer Kloester (Wm Heinemann, hb, £20, October) reveals the outrage felt by the queen of witty regency romances at the obvious similarities between Barbara Cartland’s historical novel Knave of Hearts and her own youthful story These Old Shades (published in 1926), when they were brought to her attention in 1950.

“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 the Shades, 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!”

Heyer was also indignant at Cartland’s “borrowing” of various character names. “Sir Montagu Reversby”, a character in Cartland’s novel Hazard of Hearts, was blatantly pinched, Heyer felt, from Sir Montagu Revesby, a character in her novel Friday’s Child.

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”.

A solicitor’s letter to Cartland followed, and according to Kloester: “There is no record of a response . . . but Georgette later noted that ‚’the horrible copies of my books ceased abruptly’.”

Kloester’s biography has been written with the backing of Heyer’s son and the late Jane Aitken Hodge, whose own biography was entitled The Private World of Georgette Heyer. The book’s editor, Georgina Hawtrey-Woore, said the book contains much new material, including photos and 400 of Heyer’s letters.

 [Thanks to the Teach Me Tonight blog for the information]

*Dr. Jennifer Kloester’s previous book, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, is an engaging fact-packed compilation of all things Heyer.  She visited the Word Wenches blog last November – you can read her interview here where she talks about this upcoming biography.

For further reading on Georgette Heyer, see my bibliography post here, as well as the link to all the book reviews from Austenprose‘s fabulous Heyer celebration last year.

Copyright @2011 by Deb Barnum, of Jane Austen in Vermont

Jane Austen and Starbucks on a Sunday Morning

Ok, a silly story – but Jane Austen is the reason, so must pass on.

Setting:  Starbucks in Simsbury, Connecticut
Time:  late Sunday morning
Reason:  meeting a friend as I pass through town for a quick cup of tea with a pastry

Order: 2 medium cups of tea, 2 blueberry muffins

Posted Question of the Day:  “In What Country was the Battle of Waterloo fought?”

Prize:  20 cents off each cup of tea

So, I know this answer, say that I do to the young man behind the counter, who eyes me with a quizzical “yea, like pigs fly” look;
 “Yea, where then?” he says;
“Belgium” I say –  he is dumbstruck – says “Not one person has gotten it right all day. ”
I proudly comment to my friend “I know this of course because of Jane Austen” –
She gives me the usual, “Oh here comes the Jane Austen stuff roll-of-the-eyes-look” – the young man looks at me as though I am from another planet – but I can tell he is impressed – “everyone says France” he says…

So I get my 20 cents off, then proceed to bore my friend with the whole tale, that if you read Jane Austen, you then must learn about the Napoleonic Wars even though she frustrates all her readers of a historical bent for not even giving a mention to the fact that England and France were largely at war during her entire lifetime [not to mention those pesky colonies] …

[‘The Line Will Advance’ – Image:  BritishBattles.com]

And one of course must confess that if you have come to discover Georgette Heyer just in order to stay connected to Austen’s Regency times, then you will have read An Infamous Army, which teaches more about the ‘Battle of Waterloo’ than most textbooks on the subject…

So you see how Jane Austen widens your world?! and can save you 20 cents in the bargain?

Copyright @ 2011, by Deb Barnum at Jane Austen in Vermont

Book Review ~ ‘Bath Tangle’ by Georgette Heyer

Here is the review of Georgette Heyer’s Bath Tangle that I wrote for the “Georgette Heyer Celebration” at Austenprose:

I first encountered Georgette Heyer’s Bath Tangle via audio and I was enchanted – the head-strong Hero and Heroine, not always likeable, at odds with each other from page one – so I was delighted to read the book when Laurel Ann asked me to do this review – another Heyer, another cast of characters, and an abundance of Regency settings to savor!

Serena Carlow, 25, a titian-haired beauty, strong-willed, headstrong, accomplished*, daring and tempestuous, certainly anything but “serene”, has suddenly lost her father, the Earl of Spenborough.  He leaves a twenty-two year old wife, no male heir with his estate passing to a cousin, and a will that provides for Serena’s fortune to be under the trusteeship of the Marquis of Rotherham.  Fanny, now the widowed Lady Spenborough, a young girl, barely out of the schoolroom when she was pledged to the 47 year-old Earl against her will, is well-named – Austen’s Fanny Price looms over this character.  Though of a shy, retiring disposition and propriety-bound, she and Serena, so very different, have forged a true friendship – they move together to the Dower House, leaving the cousin and wife, a la the John Dashwoods in Sense & Sensibility, to take over the Earl’s entire estate. Serena is left with an allowance, her fortune of 10,000 pounds a year to be passed to her only upon her marriage to a man approved by Rotherham …which of course sends Serena “up into the boughs.”

Major back story, as in Persuasion:  Serena and Rotherham were betrothed three years before, her father’s wish, but Serena crying-off shortly before the ceremony because “they did not suit”.  Rotherham is after all a harsh and arrogant fellow, with an “imperious and tyrannical disposition”, “high in the instep”, barely even handsome [but he has great hands! and those powerful shoulders!] – they do their “dagger-drawing” from page one and while they may not think they suit, we know quite differently, that they are meant for each other, everyone else paling in comparison…..[Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew comes to mind!]

Fanny and Serena decamp to Bath for a change of scene during their mourning period – and so enters Major Hector Kirkby, Serena’s “first and only true love” from six years before – and she, Hector’s “goddess”, his dream become real when they once again meet.  Hector is fine and handsome, but a tad frightened of Serena’s strong personality of “funning humours and openness of temper”. They set all the tongues of Bath wagging, embark on a secret engagement [due to mourning etiquette], Rotherham is consulted and approves, then announces his own engagement to the not-yet 18 year old Emily, and suddenly, Everyone Ends Up In Bath: Mothers in the marriage mart; Aunts critical of Serena’s behaviors; Rotherham’s family demanding attention and money; Hector’s dream; Serena feeling 19 again; the fortune-seeking Lalehams, pushing Emily into the arms of the Marquis; and Mrs. Floore, Emily’s grandmother, one very lively jump-off-the-page character, “of little height and astonishing girth”, vulgar and socially stigmatized, with an outrageous sense of fashion; and Rotherham, the jilted lover, who says of Serena “she would have been well-enough if she ever broke to bridle”, he is“blue-devilled” and angry, bordering on the cruel throughout most of the book…

Heyer gives us what we love her for: the witty dialogue; the fashions described; the list of cant terms [ramshackle, clodpole, “the dismals” feather-headed, ninny-hammer, on-dits, bird-witted, toad-eating, etc]; the Hero and Heroine throwing all the barbs known – abominable, wretch, odious, detestable, termagant, etc.]; and Bath in all its glory – the Libraries, Assemblies, name-dropping of real residents [Madame D’Arblay, Mrs. Piozzi, the scandalous Caroline Lamb and her Glenarvon];  the political arena of the time [Rotherham is in Parliament] – all the many details that make this visit to the Bath of Regency England so very real, so very engaging, and with that Heyeresque rollicking Romance, a courtship novel with its Many Tangles to help turn the pages – Delightful!

[*Note:  Jude Morgan’s An Accomplished Woman [St. Martin’s, 2009] literally duplicates this Heyer formula and does so quite well – I recommend it!]

[Posted by Deb]

Book Review ~ ‘The Quiet Gentleman’ at Austenprose

As mentioned in a previous post, Laurel Ann at Austenprose has been celebrating Georgette Heyer through the month of August, with various guest reviews of the novels and interviews with Heyer experts.  Laurel Ann had asked me to write a review of The Quiet Gentleman, which is posted today, and Bath Tangle which will be posted August 20th. 

Reading Georgette Heyer is a new experience for me, and the immersion has been quite enjoyable – I most like stumbling upon her Austen echoes, and they are there in her characters, her settings, her plots – Heyer greatly admired Austen amd read and re-read her through the years.  I don’t agree with those who think that Heyer is another Austen [here is a short article on the topic], but it is a lesson in influence to read Heyer’s romances [and her mysteries aren’t half-bad either!], and see where Austen touches her.

You can read the review of ‘The Quiet Gentleman’ here  at Austenprose – please visit and comment; I’ll post the full text here next week.

Georgette Heyer at ‘Austenprose’!

Laurel Ann at Austenprose announces her latest month-long immersion ~ this time it’s all about Georgette Heyer!  The celebration starts August 1st, to include an interview with Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks Casablanca, thirty-four book reviews penned by various guest bloggers [including yours truly], fabulous giveaways, and invigorating chat on the Queen of Regency Romance.  If you haven’t picked up any of your Heyer books lately, now is the chance to revisit her; if you have never read a Heyer, this is a perfect time to start, as in right now – you are in for a treat!  Don’t risk being be a cloth-headed clodpole – join in the fun and participate!


 Further Reading: [see my previous post on Faro’s Daughter, my very first Heyer, and so a favorite]

Reference Sources, books:

  • Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester [2005, already out-of-print; newly published by Sourcebooks]
  • Georgette Heyer’s Regency England, by Teresa Chris [London, 1989] ~  impossible to find at an affordable price.
  • The Regency Companion,  by Sharon Laudermilk and Teresa L. Hamlin [Garland 1989] – ditto
  • The Private World of Georgette Heyer, by Jane Aiken Hodge [1983] ~ the biography, available from used bookshops.
  • Georgette Heyer: A Critical Retrospective, by Mary Fahnestock-Thomas [PrinnyWorld Press, 2001] ~ includes Heyer’s short published pieces, reveiws of her books, obituaries and responses, and critical articles and books – an indispensible resource.

 Further Reading: online

Book Review ~ ‘Georgina’ by Clare Darcy


Georgina, by Clare Darcy. 
NY:  Walker and Company, 1971;
NY:  Dell, 1977 [and other reprints]


The opening scene finds us in a house on Great Pulteney Street in Bath, where a rejected marriage proposal has all the Power family at odds – we quickly see that Miss Georgina Power is not going to be forced into an arranged marriage with one Mr. Smallwoods, despite his prospective title and comfortable fortune – and to avoid the inevitable resulting gossip, she is quickly shipped off to Ireland to visit her father’s cousin, the widowed Arabella Quinlevan, who has her own plans for Georgina to marry her son Brandon.  They reside at The Place of the Oaks, a fine estate, slowing running to seed since the death of the owner, Georgina’s uncle, whose daughter Nuala had recently died and the estate rather than going to the next rightful heir, our Heroine Georgina, fell to Nuala’s “odious adventurer” rake of a husband, Mr. Shannon. [phew! sufficiently confused?] 

Now Mr. Shannon has all the qualities of the Regency Rake – but he has no place in this closed Society, as he is the “natural son” of the Scottish Lord Cartan, and this, coupled with his arrogant air and lack of proper manners and a bad reputation fueled by the gossip-mongers, sets the entire cast of characters off to a rousingly bad start when Shannon returns to The Place unannounced, asserts his rights as owner and expects the Quinlevans to vacate immediately.  

He walked into the book-room with Brandon.  Her concept of arrogance was immediately strengthened by the sight of a tall figure, carried with distinction and set off to careless advantage in a well-fitting drab coat, buckskins, and top boots, and a harsh-featured face with cool grey eyes. [p. 33]

 Georgina labels him a “rag-mannered basket-scrambler” [p.36] and the sparks begin, that ever-present in a Regency Romance “crossing of swords”.  Shannon IS an arrogant, cold-hearted Hero. They both are hot-tempered, she “devilishly obstinate” and persistent, with a sharp and honest tongue, displaying all manner of improper behaviors for a Lady; he showing no emotion, no feelings, but seemingly a hardened rake who had married Nuala for her fortune. But Georgina begins to see that in his fine management of the estate, the respect the servants and tenants show him, his growing friendship with Brandon, his protectiveness of her [like all Regency Heroes, he does have a penchant for showing up exactly when the Heroine has landed in the suds!], that perhaps the neighborhood’s opinion is not so justified after all – her efforts to defend him bring on the tattle-boxes and the damage is done. 

True to this genre, the conventional escapades begin, Georgina in numerous scrapes, masquerades, marriage proposals in abundance – some for love, some for her fortune – balls, midnight runaways, the machinations of a few nasty and jealous Matrons, and like Heyer before her, Miss Darcy’s strong, silent, Hero does indeed have feelings – all conveyed in his Eyes:  “the glad incredulous welcome in his eyes” changing to “an indifferent sardonic coolness”, “the contempt she read in those eyes”, “a look of such bleak unhappiness in those grey eyes”, “those hard grey eyes, strangely softening”, etc…, otherwise we would be at a loss…!

Georgina was Clare Darcy’s first book, though I did not read it first, and I recollect that I thought it more serious than anything Heyer had certainly ever written – truth be told, it lacks that expected humor and even Darcy’s own hand at it improves in her later works.  I wonder perhaps that she was not sure where her Regency era talents would take her in this first book.  There is a certain gravity to the narrative -we have a dark Hero, a mystery in his past about his marriage and the death of his wife, rejected by a Society that seems more mean-spirited than funny, and a Heroine who fights the fortune-focused, behavior-constraining society she lives in, breaking almost every Rule in the Book to clarify what she instinctively knows about this man.  Thankfully, her young cohort Brandon, whose mother is set to have him betrothed to Georgina, is the salvation here – the bookish, Byron-like figure [with the required limp] is quite adorable and amusing, bringing much-needed levity. 

I liked this book very much – and while we again know from the first moment that the name of Mr. Shannon is introduced on the page, where it is all headed, it was great fun.  And one must like a book where the proposing Hero says: “Nay, I’m no hand at speeches!” – even Jane Austen’s Mr. Knightley would approve!

 4/5 full inkwells

The Mystery of Clare Darcy

For the past year I have been interspersing my regular reading with a taste of Georgette Heyer – a delightful romp through her Regency romances – not quite done yet [gad! There are so Many! – not to mention the Mysteries and the Historicals…], and I fear as I look back that I am getting them all confused – I must learn to take better notes! – But I have taken a break for a bit, and in looking around for other such books to get my “Regency fix” [or is it the “romance”?!], I have discovered Clare Darcy – or at least discovered her books, as there seems to be cloak of complete mystery about the author.  Even the know-it-all Internet brings up little evidence:

1.  A Wikipedia entry  that only lists her books and repeats the biography given on all the novels:  “an American novelist from Ohio” 

2.  The Books Themselves:  “…her recent Regency tales have all been acclaimed as the truest successors to those of Georgette Heyer.  It is hard not to believe that Miss Darcy was born and raised in the best Society of that day – rather than in the Ohio of our own time.”   All copyright notices state either the publisher “Walker and Company” or “Clare Darcy”

3.  Rave Reviews:  “The latest addition to the author’s piquant, literate romances of life among the ton in Regency England celebrates one of Darcy’s spunkiest heroines yet” [Publisher’s Weekly on Eugenia] and “An enchanting Regency novel…which makes one rejoice in finding what could have been taken for a new Georgette Heyer novel”  [Library Journal on Victoire]

4.  A Blog Post by the Regency author Lesley-Anne McLeod  dated September 16, 2008: Ms. McLeod raises the same questions I have: Who was she?  Where is she?  Was she a “she” or a “he”?  Is Clare Darcy a penname? [it must be!], Did she write other books?  she is obviously versed in Heyer, but original and knowledgeable enough to put the reader into a living, breathing Regency world.  Ms. McLeod asks for any information, and a reader commented: “I would like to point out in the front of my book it states that ‘this is the last of the novels discovered after Clare Darcy’s death’.  It was first published in 1982.” – this last title is Caroline and Julia.  [I have the Signet paperback and it makes no such mention, so this must be in the hardcover edition; but the author note in my copy says “Miss Darcy was very much at home in her special world, Regency England” and the previous books note that “she is very much at home…” [well, at least that answers ‘where she is’]

 [and BTW, on another post, Lesley Ann lists her top dozen Regency reads:  Clare Darcy’s Lydia sits in great company at number 11; Persuasion is 6, but the list is in no particular order]

 5.  At Good Ton there is a list of all her works with character names and short summaries

6.  There are two reviews at An Evening at Almack’s:  one of Lydia and one of Victoire

7.  And finally at Fantastic Fiction, there is a list of titles with several images of book covers, but nothing else

 So, scanty information!  I’ll share some thoughts and pen a few “rapid reviews” over my next few posts [don’t want to give too much away!] – I begin with the titles of her fourteen published works [thankfully, more manageable than Heyer!] – all published by Walker, and in paperback by Signet, other various reprints, no longer in print but readily available from used booksellers.  You can also search Amazon and read a few customer reviews.

 Here’s the list: 

  • Georgina [1971]
  • Cecily: Or a Young Lady of Quality [1972)]
  • Lydia: Or Love in Town [1973]
  • Victoire [1974]
  • Lady Pamela [1975]
  • Allegra [1976]
  • Elyza [1976]
  • Regina [1976]
  • Cressida [1977]
  • Eugenia [1977]
  • Gwendolen [1979]
  • Rolande [1979]
  • Letty [1980]
  • Caroline and Julia [1982]



So far I have read eight of the fourteen in my continuing efforts to flunk my regular bookgroup – and now, as with my Heyer immersion, I am getting all the plot lines confused, relying on notes to keep them fresh in my mind, and now taking a much needed break [not to mention that I am increasingly frustrated with my husband for not wanting to dress in superfine blue waistcoats and a cravat in the Mathematical style, his “dark locks”  in the Stanhope Crop, and must desist in those efforts for family harmony…]

I cannot compare Darcy to Heyer – she falls short; everyone does, just as anyone trying to imitate Jane Austen, fails miserably despite best efforts.  Heyer is incomparable in plot, characterization, and laugh-out-loud humor – I first read Faro’s Daughter and at every turn of the page I yelled at myself for not Reading Her Before Now –  so I will not compare them – read Clare Darcy for herself – here too we find great plots, characters [some that jump off the page], sparkling dialogue, and almost as much humor as Heyer – there is at least one classic scene in each novel that sends you into peels, and any of the books will certainly cure you of a “fit of the dismals”!   

Some Regency Romance conventions:

 The Romance Writers of America site defines the “Romance Genre” thusly – it must comprise these two elements:   

A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel. 

An Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

 A “Regency Romance” must have these and be set for the most part in Regency England.  And what else? – these seem to be the recurring conventions , what shows up in each tale, what we expect from page one to the end [I confess to NOT being a reader of romances, so bear with me as I try to piece all this together]

1.  The Regency World of Town and Country

real settings in England, either in London and during the London Season, or in a Country house; Ireland figures here and there, and one heroine is AMERICAN from New Orleans [and thus fashioned appropriately in all the latest French fashions]; Waterloo is also prominent:  we see settings such as Vauxhall Gardens; the Covent Garden Theatres, complete with the acting greats Kean, Kemble, Siddons; the boxing saloons and gambling houses; Almack’s and its Patronesses; circulating libraries; Tattersalls and horses [“ a bang-up set of blood and bones”] and carriages [chaises and hackney coaches and fast-driven curricles and gigs] and coaching inns for traveling escapades, complete with races, mishaps and crashes; Restorative Pork Jelly makes an appearance, as does even the Prince Regent himself.

 2.  A world of Regency fashion:– where male and female dress is described in full, vivid, colorful detail, ones attention to their dress delineating their character – there is indeed an abundance of the color “puce” – the “why” of this I will persue further… 

3.  Regency language:  Miss Darcy either kept lengthy notes while reading her Heyer or she had her own “Regency Lexicon” close by – each novel is replete with Regency cant, adding to the authenticity and the humor: you can read my post on Frederica  where all I do is compile a list of Heyer’s terms –  so here I list some of Darcy’s, in no particular order [and laughing at my frustrated spell-checker’s efforts!] – you can refer to the online Regency Lexicon if you need a definition!:   

outside of enough; flummery; fustian; fall into the ropes; rake-shame; faradiddle; light-skirts; roundaboutations [my very favorite!]; Banbury Tales and Cheltenham Tragedies; bumblebroth; miff-maff; flying up into the boughs; cloth-headed; moonlings; Top of the Trees, Lady of Quality; the ton; shatter-brained; bird-witted; gudgeon; on dits and tattle-boxes; put-downs and cuts and quizzing glasses;  those requisite vapours and dismals; don’t like it above half; rag-mannered; the high fidgets; cutting a wheedle; coming to cuffs; etc.  – you get the idea – we are in Heyeresque territory here…and feel quite at home.

4.  The Heroine:  she will be independent, feisty and high-spirited; a Lady of Quality but unconventional in her behaviors, setting the tattle-boxes wagging their tongues and the Hero intrigued; sometimes wealthy in her own right, but usually in need of some assistance, either for herself or a family member and thus searching for work, rank, money, an introduction into Society, etc; always beautiful, not always a “traditional” beauty, but can be dark, or titian / chestnut or blond; usually tall and slim, but can be petite [Elyza]; will have numerous gentleman sitting at her feet, interested in all manner of coupling arrangements; knows all the dances, even the WALTZ; adept at male-dominated activities as riding, hunting, fishing, carriage driving; seems to be most adept at getting into scrapes – enter the Hero; always calls the Hero “abominable” or “wretch” and is always “crossing swords” with him [that’s how we know he is The Hero… or as Lady St. Abbs says in Lady Pamela:

You mark my words… when a woman comes to dagger-drawin’ with a man every time she meets him, there’s mischief in it! [p.126]

5.  The Hero:  usually wealthy, either by birthright or inheritance from a distant relative; always has some grand name like Lord Dalven, or Sir Derek Herington, Lord Wrexam, Viscount Northover, Cleve Redmayne [Cleve??!], the Marquis of Tarn, or Robert Ranleigh; he will be handsome but not perfectly so [compare to Lord Harlbury in Lydia, first name “Shafto”, reason enough to rule him out as Hero, but he is also “a very worthy young man – and the most beautiful creature I have ever set eyes on – and an earl – and fabulously rich-“ – but alas! NOT our Hero]; OUR Hero is handsome but this is usually coupled with a sardonic, cynical look, a darkening brow; mostly dark locks, occasionally fair, with grey or black eyes; dressed like a dandy in the fashion of the moment, but detached enough from his own appearance to be attractive not foppish, with only the occasional grab for his snuff box – he wears a well-fitting superfine blue coat, starched neckcloths, he is ALWAYS broad-shouldered and powerfully built; he calls the heroine all sorts of charming endearments:  my girl, a chit, a vixen, hoyden, infant, brat [these can grate on my 21st century feminist leanings, but I shake it off in an effort to get into the spirit of it all…]; he is calm and rational and in control in the face of any hysteria, tribulation or catastrophe, his behavior bordering on the arrogant [those feminist sensibilities having trouble yet again…]; often languid with a “drawl” in speaking; a sense of humor, but has a “dangerous look” when pushed to the limit; is an accomplished boxer and knocks adversaries to the ground in one blow; and of course is an experienced whip.  In short, the perfect man for us all… except for that horrible gossip-feeding reputation as… a Rake…


6.  Other Characters:  often a sibling of the heroine in need of Help, can be a bit “bird-witted”; the Other Men, hanging about the Heroine, often Mama’s boys, dandies, or wimps; those gossipy Matrons of the ton, and the Mothers with marriageable daughters a la Lady Catherine de Bourgh; a coterie of landladies, butlers, cooks, maids, grooms and tigers, each with their own personality that propel the plot, add the humor, and give the main characters someone to sound off to, play off of…

7.  Like in Heyer, everything is revealed in the Eyes of the Hero – the gleam; the odd light; the intense warmth; the laughing eyes; the eyes that are alight; the hard grey eyes strangely softening… etc…

 8.  The Consummate Ending: the thickened voice of the hero; the melting heroine weak in the knees suddenly unable to look The Hero in the face; the “ruthless” nearly crushing embraces; the “violent” kisses… I could go on but won’t – you must read each ending…

 9. And Austen? – well of course, all these Heroes are made of Darcy’s [as in Fitzwilliam] cloth, so Austen is everywhere really – but in Lady Pamela there is this wonderful reference to Sir Charles Grandison by The Hero: 

In love with him! No, no – you mean you made up your mind to have him when you were a schoolroom chit and hadn’t any more idea of what you wanted in a man than what you read in novels.  And I must say Babcoke [another name to surely alert us to his I-am-not-the-hero status] could do Sir Charles Grandison very well if he had the least idea of what it was all about and didn’t fall asleep in the middle of it.  [p. 120]

Aah! The Hero has actually READ Sir Charles Grandison! 

And like Austen in her Letters where she freely used Capital Letters, there is a penchant in Lady Pamela for the same: it adds to the humor in the dialogue, such as “I will Get to the Bottom of This”.

A quick summary – but lest you think that all the stories are the same, be not afraid of treading into Clare Darcy’s land – each story, like most romance novels, begins on page one and by page two you have figured out who is the Heroine and who will be Her Hero, and I suppose you could turn to the last few pages and get into all the Ending Embraces and Kisses and call it a day – but don’t do that – each story brings unique characters, fun plot lines, all that Regency chatter, the lovely fashions described, the Heroine’s adventures amidst the Society constraints on her Behavior, the Hero’s awakening to being a “marrying man” after all, and the Heroine realizing that she really has had a passion for this “abominable wretch” quite from the start – we knew it all along, but don’t pass up the ride… 

Join me for several reviews, spaced over the next few days…. 

[Posted by Deb]

Austen! Austen! everywhere ~

As I have been out of the loop the past few months and now trying to catch up, I will post several links of interest that I have been making notes of – some old news, some VERY old, some off topic but interesting none the less, and some worth repeating, but in the words of Jane herself, that since I noted these, three months have passed,  so I “entreat you to bear in mind ….  that during that period,  places, manners, books and opinions have undergone considerable changes.” [Advertisement by the Authoress to Northanger Abbey].


Here is a link to the Bodleian Library’s Centre for the Study of the Book project of conserving  Jane Austen’s Volume the First, her Juvenilia compilation that includes Henry & Eliza, The Adventures of Mr Harley, and The beautifull Cassandra. “Austen wrote in a ready-made bound blank-book and completed the transcript when she was seventeen. The manuscript was bought for the Bodleian Library through the Friends of the Bodleian in 1933 and was first published in an edition by R. W. Chapman (Oxford, 1933).”  [from the Bodleian website]

see the Bodleian Library Centre for the Study of the Book for more information and photographs.

[Volume the First, before conservation, from Bodleian website]


A Richard Armitage alert! [2 items of literary interest]

                                                                      * Naxos Audiobooks will be releasing Georgette Heyer’s Venetia with the velvet sounds of Richard Armitage – alas! it is, like his previous outing on Sylvester, abridged, but certainly worth the listening – then buy the book and fill in the blanks!

Release date in April, so watch for details – you can order the cd or download directly.




Radio Productions: “Clarissa” by Samuel Richardson
Adapted in four parts for the Radio 4 Classic Serial by Hattie Naylor.
14th, 21st, 28th March and 4th April 2010 at 3pm – Radio 4.
And repeated following Saturday at 9pm.

* Robert Lovelace is played by Richard Armitage
* Clarissa Harlowe is played by Zoe Waites
* The company: Alison Steadman, Deborah Findlay, Miriam Margolyes, Oliver Milburn, John Rowe, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Adrian Scarborough, Stephen Critchlow, Cathy Sara, Sophie Thompson, Ellie Beaven, Lisa Hammond and Linda Broughton.

“Clarissa” is directed by award-winning classic serial director Marilyn Imrie and is a Catherine Bailey production for BBC Radio 4.  Click here for more information; click here for the podcast of the first two shows.


Teaching Pride & Prejudice:  four blog posts from Dana Huff, a high school English teacher, on her Huffenglish blog: [these are from 2008, but I just discovered them… see disclaimer above!]


More handsome men reading Austen at the Carte Noire website, this time Joseph Fiennes and Sense and Sensibility.  And stay around for awhile and listen also to Dan Stevens, Dominic West, and Greg Wise…


Marvel Comics, after its successful five-issue run of Pride & Prejudice, will be publishing its latest venture into Jane Austen territory with Sense & Sensibility – contact your local comics retailer and subscsribe today.  Release date is May 26, 2010


More tomorrorw….

[Posted by Deb]

Some Thoughts on Georgette Heyer’s Heroines

The following is a guest post from one of our JASNA-Vermont members, Janeite Lynne.  After she commented on my post on Georgette Heyer’s ‘Frederica’ , Lynne and I were in touch and discovered that we both seem to be having a parallel summer of reading Heyer! – she sent along the following thoughts on Heyer’s heroines  ~ we welcome comments on YOUR favorite Heyer female lead and why ~ and thank you Lynne for sharing your thoughts!

I recently submitted a comment to Deb’s blog about Georgette Heyer’s novel Frederica.  I noted in my comment that Heyer’s plots were formulaic.    I hope that this isn’t a spoiler, but the lead male and female characters do end the novels by expressing, admitting, or realizing their love for their opposites.  The more Heyer you read, the more you see stock characters: the arrogant but honorable duke; the rake with a good heart; the headstrong heiress; the penniless relation in a noble family, etc.  Yet within these stock shells, Heyer brings out three dimensional characters.  

book cover bath tangle

I especially admire Heyer’s strong female leads.  But strong is not always the same.  Serena Spenborough in Bath Tangle is a powerful woman in the traditional sense.  She is rich, beautiful, and she travels in the highest circles of society.  The plot device of Bath Tangle involves her fortune being tied up after her father’s death until she marries.  Even when she is more financially constricted, you are never in doubt that she will always be rich, so this is one form of power.  She also refuses to follow the accepted social conventions that coddle and restrict women of her class.  She is a vigorous walker and refuses chairs in Bath.  She rides on horseback all day in pursuit of a runaway without thought to comfort or propriety.  And she cried off  from a marriage earlier in her life because she believed they would not suit without thinking about how it would affect her social standing.  Serena’s character is a good match for the male lead, the Marquis of Rotherham.  He is the man she rejected years before the novel opens, and the dialogue between them is like swordplay. 

book cover sprig muslin

Still, powerful women in Heyer come in many different packages.  Another of my favorites is Lady Hester Theale in Sprig Muslin.  She is a spinster daughter whose father describes her as insipid and without fortune or “any extraordinary degree of beauty.”  When he tells Hester that she will soon receive a proposal from the extremely eligible Sir Gareth Ludlow, he says: “ I don’t mind owning to you, Hester, that when he broke it to me that it was my permission to address you that he was after, I thought he was either foxed, or I was!” Every member of her family attempts to browbeat her into accepting his proposal, but she refuses.  She reminds me of Melville’s Bartleby in his short story Bartleby the Scrivener.   She simply chooses not to.  Hester is the anti-Serena.  She is not rich or beautiful, and she has no one to support her, yet in her own ethereal way she asserts her independence.  She will not accept a marriage of convenience, even if it would seem to offer her a better life.  She knows what it is to love, and she will not compromise.

 So while there is formula in Heyer, there is also wonderful character development and dialogue.  Best of all, she was such a prolific writer that there are many novels to escape to during this rainy summer!

[by Janeite Lynne, posted by Deb]