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GUEST REVIEW: Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

book review Cotillion: a dance with elaborate steps and figures

My romance reading group is composed of eight women whose ages span a healthy quarter-century. As a group, although the membership has ebbed and flowed, we’ve met for nine years. We each have our likes, dislikes, and areas of expertise. Several members judge national romance contests from the reader’s point of view. As an author myself, I judge unpublished contests and then take tremendous delight when we come across a newly published book that I read in its first-50-page infancy.

We pick a book to read per month and over the course of these years, we’ve tried all the categories. Very few selections have been universally beloved. We also like first printings, not trusting reprints to hold to the mores of when the original was published. We’ve been to RWA National Conference booksignings, the local ones held by the closest RWA-chapter, done a stint at an Romantic Times convention, and have co-hosted, along with the local library, as many as eight area romance authors for a meet, greet, and sell.

As readers, we are jaded.

I give all this background to introduce our latest reading jump, Georgette Heyer. I saw an ad from Sourcebooks announcing a re-release of her books. I’d never (no throwing things here) read one. It had been decades since anyone else in the group had. Our buyer didn’t get the message to find the new ones, so when I found worn paperbacks on the used book store clearance rack for 50 cents apiece, we were in business. We each had our own (in many cases a first printing) Georgette.

And so began my adventure.

As the Regency romance genre’s grande dame, Georgette Heyer’s writing career spanned over 50 years and 58 books, not all of them Regency romances. As my group’s Regency-reader-in-residence, I was set for a treat. I got more than I bargained for.

At 288 pages, COTILLION should have been a snap read. But the print was small, and there were words that begged a dictionary, words that changed the way I wrote two newspaper columns. (This was a good thing.) I knew I had become lazy in my reading and my writing, but this served to prove it to me. I must reform.

Kitty Charing is young, orphaned, and under the guardianship of Matthew Penicuik, an old man suspected of being her father. That trope ends quickly. As his health fails, he desires to see otherwise penniless Kitty set for life and she will be–if she marries one of his great-nephews, men she has grown up with and calls cousins. She has always loved Jack Westruther, but he doesn’t deign to come to Great-Uncle Matthew’s “this is how it will be” lecture. In a fit of pique, Kitty agrees to an engagement to his cousin, Freddy Ledgerwood. She hopes to get to London, make Jack jealous when he sees her on his cousin’s arm, switch the intended bridegroom, and live happily ever after. Freddy agrees to all this and tells her it’s fine because he’s not ready to be married. But Freddy, unbeknownst to Kitty, has a plan of his own.

For starters, Freddy takes charge of most of the clothing allowance Uncle Matthew reluctantly parts with. Possessed of considerable fortune and a title to boot, Freddy plans to supplement the money, with Kitty never being the wiser. Freddy is a good guy, but a bit of a ditherer. I finally nailed him: Hugh Grant at his most confused. Totally charming, but I’d have liked a little less goodness me-ing.

“Goodness gracious,” exclaimed Meg [his sister], when she saw him. “What now, pray?” A gleam of hope shone in her eyes. She cast aside the hat she was just about to set on her head, and said eagerly: “Oh, do you mean to tell me the secret after all?”
“Not that one,” responded Freddy. “Tell you another instead!” He perceived that she was looking affronted, and added: “Not banning you! Wish I was! Dashed awkward business! Fact is, need your help!”

Kitty is a quite modern heroine, capable of taking care of herself, but realizing there are times that help from other quarters is needed. Freddy installs Kitty with his married sister Meg whose older husband has gone off for business in India, and the women quite conveniently manage to get themselves involved in lives and situations better left alone. But then, that’s the fun of the book. All the characters, all the interconnected lives, all the romance!

There are two romances beside Kitty and Freddy’s. Cousin Foster, inheritor of the Irish title Lord Dolphinton, a man overrun by his mother and without the brains to get out of it, desires a most unsuitable match with a woman far below his station. She, Kitty surmises, will nonetheless be quite good for him and stand up to his mother. The other is Kitty’s French cousin, the Chevalier, and Olivia, a beautiful girl with a social-climbing mama who would have her married to the highest bidder. Confusing this issue is Jack’s desire to take Olivia as a mistress, perhaps his last one, before settling down with Kitty, whom he has always considered will be his–in his own good time. He, like everyone else in the book, has seriously underestimated Freddy.

The conversations are quick, the descriptions pithy and to the point, and in the end, all the romances set to end well. COTILLION refers to the dance our protagonists are making around each other. For awhile, they don’t even know they’re dancing. But after mutual expressions of affection, Freddy gets his girl and a kiss. Jack slumps off into the sunset and, if this were written now and not in 1953, he’d have his own reformed-rake book out next year.

from Kay Layton Sisk

Guest Reviewer


  1. Elizabeth
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 06:53:49

    Thanks for bringing the incomparable Heyer to DA! If you liked Cotillion, you must MUST read These Old Shades and it’s sequel, Devil’s Cub. I think they’re her best.

  2. Maya Reynolds
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 07:11:42

    Kay: Can’t believe you call yourself the Regency-reader-in-residence without having ever read Heyer. {grin} Thanks for posting this review.

    I think I was about fourteen when I discovered Georgette Heyer. Over the next year, I read every one of her Regency novels by taking the bus from library to library in St. Petersburg, Florida.

    Among my favorites are “These Old Shades,” its sequel, “The Devil’s Cub,” and “Venetia.” According to Wikipedia, “The Devil’s Cub” was published “in 1932, and has not been out of print since. It is one of her most popular novels.”

    Even for those who don’t usually care for historical romances, Heyer is a treat. Her novels were written with a light hand, tremendous humor and lots of romance.

  3. Maya Reynolds
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 07:13:06

    Elizabeth: I posted my comment and then saw yours. Completely agree!!!

  4. Kathleen
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 07:52:00

    Fabulous review! And I laughed so hard at your last line! Too bad Georgette never wrote that story.

    I liked Cotillion, too, but my favorites are Venetia and Fredericka. I actually didn’t care for These Old Shades, but I did like Devil’s Cub. Let’s see… I also liked The Grand Sophie, The Nonesuch, and Lady of Quality.

    Have fun reading more!

  5. Toddson
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 08:21:33

    These Old Shades and Devil’s Cub are usually listed as people’s favorites. But were you aware that there’s a THIRD book in the sequence? An Infamous Army – the heroine is, I believe, the granddaughter of the hero and heroine of Devil’s Cub. And I’ve heard that the book’s description of the battle of Waterloo is regarded as one of the best ever.

    And, minor correction – in your quote, I believe Freddy says “bamming” rather than “banning” (as in fooling her).

  6. Lynne
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 08:46:12

    I’ve read every Heyer book at least once, some of them multiple times. For anyone who’s just starting to glom Heyer, I highly recommend The Black Moth and The Talisman Ring. ::happy sigh:: It’s about time for me to read those again. :-)

  7. kate rothwell
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 09:14:45

    The best part of the book–turning the whole Regency hero thing on its head. The athletic Corinthian rake with laughing dark eyes etc is an attractive slime and the idiot dandy is the hero. Dang, I love that book.

  8. Jill A
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 09:37:21

    Yay, Cotillion is one of my favourite Heyers! My other faves are The Grand Sophy and the Quiet Gentleman.

    When I first read Cotillion, as I got near the end I wasn’t sure who would end up with Kitty and I was very worried that it wouldn’t be Freddy, because I’d seen so many Regencies where the rake gets the girl.

  9. Meriam
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 09:40:18

    These Old Shades and Devil's Cub are usually listed as people's favorites. But were you aware that there's a THIRD book in the sequence? An Infamous Army – the heroine is, I believe, the granddaughter of the hero and heroine of Devil's Cub.

    And did you know that there is FOURTH book – Regency Buck – also connected to the series? It’s a v. traditional Regency, but tremendous good fun. (The link is, Charles’ older brother, the Earl of Worth, who turns up in IA and is the hero of RB).

  10. LauraB
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 09:45:02

    Hmmmm…… I smell fan fiction here. If someone could write a sequel to Gone with the Wind, could not someone also write Jack’s story?

    I’ve always enjoyed Heyer and remember having a big crush on Freddy when I was 14. It just primed me for my love of all things British and fascination with Hugh Grant.

  11. Bonnie L.
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 09:50:02

    I just finished my first Heyer novel, These Old Shades, and I am ready for a glom! I have The Nonesuch already in my bookbag and it looks like I’ll be seeking out The Cotillion, next. Thanks for the review!!

  12. Kay
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 10:21:06

    Thanks for all the comments!

    Toddson, I’ll scurry to find my copy. Bamming vs. banning. Oh, really, who arranged the keyboard that way?


  13. Michelle
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 10:27:05

    I’ve never been able to get into Georgette Heyer, and I’ve tried. I keep thinking I’m missing out on something though since most regency fans adore her. If my hometown library had her books, I probably would have read them all before I got my driver’s license – and my romance reading world expanded 100 fold with my new “freedom”.

    I’ve read a few Heyers and thought they were too wordy – particularly the dialogue – and I had a similar reaction to Dorothy Sayers. I do remember that I read the Nonesuch – the copy with the introduction from Mary Jo Putney, whom I was so obsessed with at the time that I bought the book bc of that intro – and liked it enough. If I were to give Heyer another shot, is These Old Shades the best one to try?

  14. Janine
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 10:55:45

    Michelle, I am far from a Heyer expert (only read eight or so of her books) but if it’s her writing style that’s a barrier for you, you might want to try some of her later ones (like Frederica, which was written in the 1960s) rather than These Old Shades which was written in the 1920s, if I remember right. Heyer had a long career and her style evolved over time. I believe The Nonesuch is a later book, too.

    FWIW, I preferred Frederica to These Old Shades. The problem with These Old Shades isn’t that it’s not a good book, but rather that it has inspired so many homages that it feels rather familiar now. Just my three cents.

  15. Michelle
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 11:08:10

    Thanks, Janine. I never thought of Heyer’s style changing over the decades, but that makes a lot of sense. I think I actually have a copy of Frederica at home. So many Heyer fans are appalled that I can’t appreciate her since I love regency romances so much, and one gave me a copy of Frederica. I’ll pick it up and give it a try.

    I’ve read so many regency historicals that it’s hard for any of them to not feel familiar in some way. (And, there can be comfort in that familiarity.) It seems to be more a question of execution (and perhaps characterization?) than originality anymore in regency historicals. Out of curiousity, what is the most original regency-set historical you’ve read in the past few years?

  16. WandaSue
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 11:08:28

    I just finished reading “These Old Shades”, then followed it with “Devil’s Cub.” What a treat! Though I owned both books for YEARS, I’d never read them … until now.

    I am currently reading “The Black Moth”, also another in my library but never-read.

    The pleasure in reading Georgette Heyer is in her intelligence … and her assumption that her reader is equally as intelligent. She doesn’t bang us over the head; she simply assumes we’ll “get it.” Though her style changed somewhat from the books she wrote in the 1930’s through the early 1970’s, there remained a wonderful subtlety of detail and wordy grace that is sadly uncommon today.

    My favorite: Arabella. I love Mr. Robert Beaumaris. Just love him.

  17. Elizabeth
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 11:31:50

    @Meriam: Is that the one in which a young Avon is the baddie and kidnaps the heroine?

    @Toddson: Ooh. Is it really!? I think An Infamous Army is the only Heyer I haven’t read. For some reason, I let the reviews at amazon uk put me off. But now I’ll HAVE t pick it up.

  18. Janine
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 11:37:28

    Out of curiousity, what is the most original regency-set historical you've read in the past few years?

    Hmm, quite possibly Pam Rosenthal’s The Slightest Provocation. Also, I’m not sure if you would count Loretta Chase’s Your Scandalous Ways as regency-set since it takes place in Venice, but if not, then Chase’s Not Quite a Lady makes a good second-place choice.

  19. Janine
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 11:39:10

    Forgot to add: IIRC, Frederica did have a pretty wordy opening, but I think the wordiness lessened as I kept reading.

  20. Michelle
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 12:04:09

    Thanks, Janine. I’ve never read The Slightest Provocation, so I just ordered it. I’m a big fan of Loretta Chase and have read and enjoyed those two novels. Out of curiousity, what made those two Chase novels the most original for you? The heroines’ past sexual experience?

  21. Janine
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 12:27:58

    In the case of Your Scandalous Ways, it’s the hero and heroine’s having to sell their bodies in their different ways, as well as the Venice setting. With Not Quite a Lady, it’s less about the heroine’s sexual past than about her having had a child out of wedlock and given her son up for adoption. Not something you see too often in regency-set romances.

    I hope you enjoy The Slightest Provocation. That one is very different because it’s a reconciliation story of a hero and heroine who were both unfaithful in their youth, but because the book has a flashback structure that is truly nonlinear, and jumps to different times in their lives without following chronolgy even within the flashbacks. It doesn’t sound like something that would work, or at least, not for every reader, but for me, it worked beautifully. I didn’t get deeply caught up in the story until about the halfway point, but by the time I finished it I was completely in love with the book. Probably it’s not a book for every reader.

    Rosenthal also has a wonderful novella, “A House East of Regent Street” in the anthology Strangers in the Night, which has a heroine who is a former prostitute and wants to open a brothel, and a hero who is a former sailor. I think it may be more accessible than The Slightest Provocation, and it’s also very original.

  22. Susan/DC
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 12:33:00

    The villain of The Black Moth is the Duke of Andover, not the Duke of Avon, but the former is clearly the progenitor of the latter. These Old Shades is not one of my favorites, as IMVHO Leonie is a bit too much like a teenager with a crush on a rock star rather than a full-grown woman in love, but I loved Devil’s Cub. Another favorite, which has a wonderful, hysterically funny first meeting of H/H, is The Black Sheep.

    I’m with Wandasue in loving Heyer’s language and her assumption that we’ll get it. She never talks down to her readers. Early Mary Stewart Gothics are the same way — I feel both challenged and entertained at the same time with both.

  23. SonomaLass
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 12:39:49

    I was also a late-comer to Heyer (thanks to Smart Bitch Sarah). It was love at first read, which happened to be Cotillion. Of all the Regency authors I have read and enjoyed, she’s the one I find closest to Jane Austen in many ways.

  24. Michelle
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 12:57:38

    On the topic of prostitutes in historical romances, have you ever read Mary Balogh’s A Precious Jewel? I just reread it last week, and it’s one of the most moving romances I’ve ever read. Really two lonely, damaged souls finding love and healing in the other.

    And, I look forward to giving Heyer another chance and reading a Slightest Provocation.

    SonomaLass, is Heyer as funny as Austen is? Everytime I reread Austen I’m surprised by just how funny her novels are.

  25. Janine
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 13:02:40

    Yes, I read A Precious Jewel, though it was a long time ago. I should reread it again sometime. I remember crying buckets back then.

  26. Michelle
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 13:30:57

    Another book I cried buckets while reading – similarly to A Precious Jewel – was Gayle Wilson’s Harlequin Historical My Lady’s Dare. That’s another good one if you haven’t read it. Hero was a spy and the heroine was forced to work at a game hell as a card girl/sometime prostitute.

  27. Lynne
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 13:37:31

    I agree, Susan. The heroine of Devil’s Cub was more my cup of tea. I felt the whole revenge plot of These Old Shades was a bit much, and the imbalance of power and the age difference between the hero and heroine gave me some problems. It’s probably my least favorite Heyer.

  28. MB
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 13:49:25

    I came across Georgette Heyer’s books at a young age (probably 14-15). They have spoiled me for any other romance author! Her sense of humor, historical knowledge, and the banter and dialogue between the characters is unmatched (other than Jane Austen, of course). There are very few “modern” authors who can even come near her mastery.

    Occasionally I catch glimpses in Mary Balogh, Lois McMaster Bujold, Loretta Chase, Susanna Clarke, Claire Cook, Jennifer Cruisie, Eloisa James, Stephanie Laurens, Naomi Novik, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Julia Quinn, Sheila Simonson, and Lauren Willig…but no one can top Georgette!

  29. Janine
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 14:01:23

    Michelle, I think I read My Lady’s Dare a long time ago, but it didn’t have the same emotional impact on me that A Precious Jewel did.

  30. Lynne
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 14:03:37

    MB, have you ever read any Patricia Veryan? I think her voice has some similarities to Heyer’s, and several of her books are among my all-time keepers.

  31. Moth
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 14:08:11

    Personally, I’m in the These Old Shades camp. I love Justin. I love Leonie. And I’ve read all but maybe 5 of her books.

    Cotillion definitely makes my top favorites list, though. The end with the runaway marriage and the facer! Perfect.

    As a connoisseur of Heyer I also love The Talisman Ring, The Grand Sophy, The Reluctant Widow, Unknown Ajax (the ending with Claude= ROFLMAO), The Quiet Gentleman…actually, I don’t think I’ve ever met a Heyer that I didn’t at least enjoy. To me she’s a solid investment to any reader.

  32. DS
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 14:15:06

    I discovered Heyer in 1967– she was still writing. I glommed everything I could find and some books that haven’t been mentioned that I enjoyed:

    Venetia— my absolute favorite hands down. But it is wordy. And it is one 9f the only two novels that I have even seen the characters appear in a fanfic– I was appalled. Not well written, not in character, bad-bad-bad. The other was using characters from These Old Shades. Leonie was dead and the story was m/m romance between Avon and his friend Hugh. I just read far enough to figure out what it was.

    Black Sheep is a good story. It is a story about family relationships with an appealing “older” heroine– 28 I think.

    Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle is a coming of age for a young Duke who has been protected by his servants and guardians to the point that they did not realize he was able to deal on his own with situations. The delightful Phoebe is the plain but competent heroine.

    The Unknown Ajax has a hero who was the son of an army officer and “a weaver’s brat”. His unpleasant grandfather, due to the unexpected death of his son and grandson in a sailing accident finds himself faced with this as his heir, orders Hugh to visit him in the hopes that he with the assistance of other family members could lick Hugh into respectability. I would urge anyone who could rent or borrow the audio book version of this one to do so. Hugh’s accent is very well done as it shifts from Yorkshire to received pronounciation (early 19th cent.) and back. It kind of gives the lie to the idea that Heyer was a total snob.

  33. MB
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 14:18:18

    Lynne, you know, I have read Patricia Veryan! I had forgotten about her! We glommed through those books in the 80’s and 90’s! Does she still write???

    Joan Aiken also wrote a few superb books (a few Regency era) that are well worth reading. AND, I definitely should have mentioned Eva Ibbotson as well.

    (I was mainly thinking of dialogue when I did my author comparison list in previous post.)

  34. Robinjn
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 14:23:45

    For me, I think Heyer is probably a delight that I have come to appreciate with age. I read several when I was a teenager and wasn’t overly impressed. I think they were too wordy/educated without enough hot sex to appeal to my juvenile palate.

    Thanks to SBTB I decided to try them again, and have just read Devil’s Cub and The Grand Sophy. They’re marvellous. Great romance, wonderful tension, and laugh-out-loud funny dialog.

    Why on earth have there been no movies made from Heyer? Or have there been and I’ve missed them?

  35. MCHalliday
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 14:35:53

    Kay, I’m not throwing things at you as I too, have yet to read a Heyer. But after reading your review and the comments from posters, I’m definitely going to…I adore Dorothy L. Sayers and Mary Stewart. To quote WandaSue, any author writing with the “assumption that her reader is equally as intelligent”, is someone I wish to read.

    Janine, kudos for not giving up on a book and then becoming deeply involved half way through! The Slightest Provocation is another for my TBR list.

    Also Lynne’s suggestion to MB of Patricia Veryan’s novels as similar to Heyer, thank you!

  36. Lynne
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 14:50:20

    @MB: According to a statement from her newsletter, Patricia Veryan retired in 2006 due to failing eyesight. I was very sad to hear that.

    @MC: You’re welcome! You have a lot of fun reading ahead of you. :-) DearAuthor has reviewed a couple of her books, IIRC. My particular favorite is The Dedicated Villain. Yeah, it’s a little syrupy, but I love it to pieces.

  37. May
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 14:57:46

    DS, I think you are mixing up Sylvester and the Foundling.
    Sylvester’s Duke is older and sophisticated.
    The Foundling’s Duke is young and very protected. He “runs away” to find out what normal life is and unexpected adventures help him realise that he is more than competent. His adventures include a runaway boy, blackmail, the beautiful foundling of the title and a kidnapping. The heroine is the shy unassuming girl he is engaged to, who he turns to for help towards the end. The villain is a superb comedic portrayal. This one is rarely recommended, but is on my top ten list of GH.

  38. Lynne Connolly
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 15:00:30

    Heyer – the first romance writer I ever read. Then I tried a Barbara Cartland, but I ended up back with the Divine Georgette.

    I have all her Regencies, and I’m trying to get nicer copies. Some first editions. But they are definitely for reading.

    If you read Heyer today, you might be tempted to think that she’s derivative. In fact, it’s just the opposite – she invented most of the Regency “types” we’re still reading about today.

    The Regency rake – Damerel from “Venetia.” Damerel is the pattern card for all that came after.

    The consummate aristocrat – Alverstoke from “Frederica,” brought low by a delightful family (and this from someone who avoids baby books!)Or the wonderful Sylvester from “Sylvester – or the wicked uncle.”

    The man of fashion – Beaumaris from “Arabella.” One of my favorites. “Drink your milk, my love!”

    There are more. And “Cotillion” introduces a hero that not many Regency writers have gone for. Hugh Grant to a T, the charming, bumbling Englishman with hidden depths. For all the gorgeousness of her other heroes, I have a feeling that Freddy was produce the best husband.

  39. GrowlyCub
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 15:06:47

    Why on earth have there been no movies made from Heyer? Or have there been and I've missed them?

    Arabella was made into a German movie, but from what I understand there wasn’t all that much left of the original plot and I have not been able to find a copy anywhere (which is probably a good thing).

    Heyers were the first romances I read, even though I didn’t know that that was what they were, and I was 11 or 12. The language never put me off (I guess I was a snob even then, he he) and the German translations were some of the best I have ever seen and capture Heyer’s style most excellently.

    These Old Shades is definitely one of my top 5 Heyers. I didn’t read it for a long time, because the German title was off-putting (‘The Page and the Duchess’, which made me think weird things about what would be inside). The age difference doesn’t bother me, even though I can see what people are saying about power differentials. I just don’t think I really agree, it’s pretty clear that Leonie is holding all the cards in the end.

    I love Heyer because of the understated torture she subjects her heroes to. Especially Rule. The plot in A Convenient Marriage is not my fav, but the passages when Rule’s feelings for Horry are revealed are absolute gems.

    My top 5 are:
    These Old Shades
    A Convenient Marriage
    Devil’s Cub
    A Civil Contract

    And I also love The Black Sheep and Bath Tangle and many of her other ones. Too many to list.

    I absolutely LOVE A Precious Jewel by Balogh. I just found her this year and I’ve re-read that book 4 or 5 times already. It’s fabulous, as is A Promise of Spring, which is an older heroine, marriage of convenience story.

    I have to say, however, that I really disliked what Balogh did with the couple of A Precious Jewel at the end of The Christmas Bride. Can’t like them all, I guess.

  40. Kay
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 15:17:34

    Lynne: I agree that Freddy would be the absolute best husband.

    I am so enjoying all of your recommendations and I’m making a list.

  41. Michelle
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 15:17:37



    I’m trying to remember the end of A Christmas Bride. Was the couple of A Precious Jewel living secluded from society? That’s what I remember. What was it that you didn’t like? I didn’t keep a copy of A Christmas Bride, so I can’t check. I wish I kept copies of all the Mary Balogh books I’ve read, but I’ve gotten rid of some during moves.


  42. MCHalliday
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 15:23:22

    Lynne, I shall pick up Ms. Veryan’s novels on your say so…in the event there may be spoilers in the DA reviews and I should be tempted to read them.

    “Cotillion” introduces a hero that not many Regency writers have gone for. Hugh Grant to a T, the charming, bumbling Englishman with hidden depths. For all the gorgeousness of her other heroes, I have a feeling that Freddy was produce the best husband.

    Love the bumbling Englishman (or any man) with hidden depths! Perhaps, that is why I tend to appreciate the contemporary ‘nerd’. And I’ve always harboured the notion that those sort of men do indeed make the best husbands.

  43. GrowlyCub
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 15:23:45



    Yes, she made a totally unbelievable HEA for them by having all of the haut ton couples who were present for the Christmas celebration easily accept and befriend them, which completely and utterly broke my suspension of disbelief. I kinda wish I hadn’t read A Christmas Bride because of that, even though I liked it for the primary couple in the story. I’d have to label the end of that book a Care Bear epilogue, even though it didn’t actually have an epilogue. Just too sickly sweet to be true.


  44. Michelle
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 15:29:46

    Thanks, GrowlyCub! I don’t remember loving A Christmas Bride way back when it came out, so I didn’t keep it. I do love though how Mary Balogh can take the “villian” of an earlier book and give them his/her own interesting story without rewriting character history so to speak.

    So, what did you think of Miss Blythe (Priscilla’s former governess)? I always thought of her as a really nuanced villian – though perhaps she’s too complicated to label a villian.

  45. DS
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 15:34:35

    @May– you may be right. I haven’t read it in a long time. Lovely excuse to pull it off the shelf. Maybe I should reread both of them just to be sure.

    As for movies, I understand that The Reluctant Widow was made into a movie that I have heard described as horrible.

    Also loved Faro’s Daughter which was one of her shorter books so it might appeal to the people who think she is too wordy. Mr. Ravenscar who was not a nobleman– something that I’m not sure a modern publsiher would allow *grin* was a very good Heyer hero– composed even when tied up in the basement.

  46. GrowlyCub
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 15:35:55


    I never thought of Miss Blythe as a villainess. That whole bit seemed a bit plot ‘holey’. I couldn’t quite figure out how a governess ended up an abbess (a prostitute I could see, but owner of a brothel, not so much and owner of ‘the’ brothel in London even less), so I didn’t really give her and that set-up much thought at all beyond thinking that it did seem logical that if Pris stayed in the house she’d have to work like the other girls.

  47. Michelle
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 15:50:42


    That’s true. I just thought that she (Miss Blythe) had the smarts and ambition to make a success at that career if she was forced to pursue it – and perhaps the desire to no longer practice that trade if she could get out of it – though I can see it would be a stretch for a governess to willingly go into that trade. It could pass a rhealm of possibility test though, I would think.

    Perhaps it’s just my general dislike to the pimp position (e.g. hated that guy in Kushiel’s Dart), but I also detested her whole “talk” she gave her girls that got with child. In some ways, she seemed as bad as society in general in her treatment to her girls.

    Yes, Miss Blythe was a convenient way to give a genteel girl an introduction to the demimonde. I’m actually in the midst of a huge Mary Balogh re-read (I’ve drafted an if you like feature I plan to send Jane next week), and she used the same kind of connection (former nurse) in Slightly Sinful.

    So, did Heyer have any prostitutes in her novels?

  48. Belinda
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 15:50:46

    Phyllida Nash does a wonderful job with Heyer on audio, especially (and a bit surprisingly) in books like The Toll Gate where there’s a lot of flash talk. My favorites are the funnier books like The Talisman Ring, The Reluctant Widow and The Black Sheep.

  49. LizA
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 17:11:51

    GrowlyCub, we must have read different translations of Heyer because the once I read in the late 80s were absolutely terrible. I did not mind then, of course, as I was reading them for the romance and not the language (we all grow up, eventually). However I recently went through them and couldn’t believe how “english” they sounded, in a very negative way – ie awkward grammar, unidiomatic word choice, etc. I am currently building my collection of English Heyers and they are much more delightful than the German ones I read so long ago (I had the rororo ones). Cotillion is one of my favourite Heyer novels, I love the way Freddie is shown. Esp. the scenes with his father are priceless. I always thought Freddie was kind of a new version of Ferdie in Friday’s Child (I am not sure about the title, any more, but the one with Hero and Sherry). That’s another one I love!

  50. LizA
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 17:12:52

    I meant ones, not once, of course. Sorry. It’s fairly late and my brain is mush.

  51. orannia
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 18:39:06

    I have to admit to not reading any of Georgette Heyer’s books either, but I have a friend who has kindly offered to correct this deficit :)

    Oh, and I was/am a huge Patrica Veryan fan. I hunted down all the books in the….I’m ashamed to say I can’t remember the series name, which is reason enough to pull them all back out and read them again. My favourite character was….Roland I think he name was? (Apologies if I have that wrong).


  52. Lynne
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 20:17:50

    Orannia, you’re probably thinking of Roland Fairleigh Mathieson, the hero of The Dedicated Villain, which was the last (IIRC) installment of Veryan’s Golden Chronicles. That hero has been a great source of inspiration for me. He’s awesome! :-)

  53. Kate
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 15:36:51

    I’m surprised more people haven’t listed FREDERICA. It’s my absolute favorite Heyer (and one of my all-time favorite books in general). Of all the ones I’ve found, this review explains why I love it so much!

  54. Kay Webb Harrison
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 15:43:47

    So far no one has mentioned Jane Aiken Hodge. She wrote quite a few excellent Regency romances, as well as historicals set in the American colonies and the young United States. She has also written some “contemporary” (1960s-1970s) gothics.


  55. RfP
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 16:51:38

    Freddy is a good guy, but a bit of a ditherer. I finally nailed him: Hugh Grant at his most confused. Totally charming, but I'd have liked a little less goodness me-ing.

    I don’t see him as Hugh Grant at all–that glamorizes Freddy too much. He’s not really a ditherer; he knows exactly what to do–if it’s within the rules as he understands them. He has little imagination, but one thing he *is* is decisive.

  56. Janet W
    Aug 01, 2008 @ 00:48:34

    I adore Freddy: not the slightest bit Hugh Grant: Hugh Grant is confident, Freddy is not at all ~ it’s through his devotion to Kit that he grows into the Freddy he has always been.

    And I LOVED that epilogue! How can you say that Gerald and Priss being able to move about in society is not a good thing?! Think of the Malloren anthem: with the Mallorens, all things are possible. Well in Christmas Bride, with a Duke, a son of a Duke, an Earl and so on and so forth, all things are possible. I ALWAYS cry when I read Precious Jewel and if it makes me a sap, so be it, I love that Priss and Gerald will be able to send their son to Eton and actually visit him.

    What a thrill to see people drooling over Georgette: I own them all, Friday’s Child is my fave, followed by Cotillion (and Cotillion reminds me of the plot of Suz Brockmann’s latest: unexpected heroes!

  57. Laurel Lamperd
    Aug 02, 2008 @ 20:38:56

    I loved most of the Georgette Heyer books. She is such a bright writer and is very knowledgeable about the Regency period in England. Is it no wonder the first book I wrote was a Regency romance. I think my favourite books are The Quiet Man and another of her later books – I just can’t think of the title – A plain young woman marries a handsome young man who is a viscount [I think] and was wounded in the war to save his fortune. I just loved the young woman’s father – a billionaire by today’s standards who was interested in the gadgets of the time. A wonderful character drawing. Laurel
    Laurel Lamperd
    Substitute Bride – a Regency Romance
    available from

  58. Imogen Howson
    Aug 04, 2008 @ 15:00:56

    That one’s A Civil Contract, Laurel. It’s lovely, and although the romance is *very* low key, it’s somehow very satisfying to see their relationship growing throughout their arranged marriage.

    And Cotillion, Friday’s Child and These Old Shades are way up there on my “I will kill and eat you if you take these books from me” keeper shelf.

  59. Anne Taparauskas
    Aug 04, 2008 @ 23:46:49

    I absolutely fell in love with romance writing at about 12 years old, and Georgette Heyer, kept me returning over and over to my local library.
    My top favorites are “These Old Shades”, ” The Devil’s Cub”, and I just adored ” The Talisman Ring “. I have to admit that as I continued to read romances that noone has ever come close to Georgette Heyer.
    The witty repartee among her characters was what I loved.
    I’m a scientist and a Christian with college-aged sons, and still unashamedly insist that a hot tub with bubbles, candlelight, and a romance novel, makes the world a better place. It was so nice to find other women who believe in love too! I also don’t like the male lead character being intrinsically bad, and don’t see how that would ever be romantic! Romance writers rock!

  60. tudorpot
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 20:19:51

    Frederica is my top Heyer. Arabella, The Grand Sophie and Devils Cub follow. I read a Jane Aiken Hodge- Marry In Haste- and was disappointed- a lot of ‘telling’ vs showing. Perhaps she has some that are better.

  61. sok
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 04:54:34

    I agree with May – the Foundling, though rarely recommended is one that always makes me laugh out loud (I must stop reading it in public!)

    I do love Georgette’s light handed touch. She combines intelligence, humour , and happy endings in such a way that suspension of disbelief is not just easy but implicit.

    Now I must go pick up ‘An infamous army’! I have never really sought out her ‘historic’ novels, but now I have to!

  62. Michelle
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 13:37:14

    I just finished Frederica on my lunch hour. How charming! Yes, I do still think Heyer can be wordy, she does seem to meander more than contemporary authors, and I would have liked more focus on the developing romance between Frederica and Alverstoke – but I smiled my way through this whole novel. Even the muttonheaded characters were charming. Can you imagine writing Endymion and Charis’s romance? (Like Bingley and Jane perhaps?) I adored Jessamy and Felix. What fun! Such characterization! I definitely intend to try a few more Heyer novels. I’ll use everyone’s suggestions in the comments as I try to figure out which one to read next.

  63. Anita C.
    Sep 04, 2008 @ 03:57:57

    I have been a rabid Georgette Heyer fan since age 19, when I read my first one, and simply read right through the library’s shelf of her romances (she also wrote at least 11 mysteries and a few “contemporary” novels, that is, contemporary when she was writing them, in the first half of the 20th century).

    Although she’s considered the grande dame of today’s Regency romances, and her books were reviewed as “romances” when she wrote them in 1930-1970, reviewers had quite a different definition of a romantic novel in those days than they do today. By today’s definition, I’d consider her simply as a novelist of drawing room comedies, or a comedy of manners, a supremely skilled one, and I would describe her books to a newcomer as “lighthearted Jane Austen.” I really do think she was THAT good. You wouldn’t skim through Austen looking for sparkling dialogue and avoiding the wordy descriptive passages, would you? For those of you who haven’t been able to “get into” Heyer, may I suggest you slow down, and consider her simply as a novelist, rather than a romance writer. She was superb at conveying subtle social meaning and subcontext without ever resorting to explaining the obvious. She (as someone commented) made you work for it, and that’s why, after you’ve read a few of her novels and catch on to the slang of the day and the complex layers of meaning a simply phrase or social gesture can convey, you’ll be able to appreciate her writing so much more. Consider the opening sentence of “Frederica”: (I’m quoting from memory) “Not more than five days after his sister’s urgent summons to her drawing room, the Duke of Alverstroke left his horses standing and strode up the steps of her Mayfair house…” (I can’t find my copy this late at night, but it goes something like that.) Notice Heyer doesn’t say that Alverstroke dislikes his sister, is used to her letters demanding his presence, and shows his contempt for her by waiting 5 days after her “urgent” summons, when they probably live a half mile from each other in London, but Heyer simply implies this by Alverstroke’s actions. “Not more than five days after his sister’s urgent summons…” You notice he also doesn’t have his horses stabled, but leaves them at the front door, so he can make a quick exit (as in, “I can’t leave my cattle in the street for more than a few minutes”). I didn’t really notice that beautifully crafted first sentence the first or even the second time I read “Frederica” but I’m now on about my fifth reading and I always read her novels slowly, the way I read Austen, savouring all the subtle skillful wording.

    Ironically, since virtually everyone writing Regencies today shamelessly steals her plots and devices, Heyer too admitted that she was writing in imitation of a “romance” novelist called Jeffery Farnol, who wrote a decade or so before Heyer started, with such titles as “The Broad Highway,” The Amateur Gentlemen,” “Sir John Dering,” “The High Adventure.” More swashbucking and derring-do than genteel drawingroom putdowns, but definitely the same genre.

    I urge you all to re-try Heyer (who, by the way, hated to have anyone mispronounce her name – it’s not “hire” but “a-er”) and SLOW DOWN. She really is a joy.

  64. Lord Dolphinton
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 23:44:37

    To correct the first block quote from Cotillion, it’s “bamming,” not “banning.” In other words, Freddie assures Kitty that he isn’t hoaxing her or putting her on.

    What I enjoy particularly about this book is the way it turns so many conventions on their heads. The masterful male is a petty cad, and the spunky heroine is none too bright. But when the music stops, everyone ends up with what (or who) they deserve.

  65. Ana
    Jul 18, 2009 @ 13:20:42

    Cotillion is my second favourite Heyer; I love it because the ‘good’ guy gets the girl for a change, and totally believably too. I love Friday’s Child best, but for anyone looking to read a Heyer for the first time, Regency Buck or Faro’s Daughter work best (long years of getting friends hooked has given me experience). They’re closer to today’s Regency Romances in plot and treatment and have familar hero-types.
    I’m surprised April Lady hasn’t been mentioned; it’s a very sweet story of misunderstandings after marriage.

    Oh, also Meg’s husband, Lord Buckhaven goes off to China, not India.

  66. Dips
    Oct 11, 2009 @ 04:21:47

    @ Ana, I liked Regency Buck as well. Its lighthearted and a Romance. My favorite always has been the Grand Sophy though.
    I also liked Arabella and the Corinthian. The Reluctant widow was good fun as well, only wish the lady in it did a little more to catch the culprit!

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