What is your Favorite Heyer? What is the Heyer you liked the least?
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What book is your favorite? And why?
Are there any you dislike? Or like less than others? (and Why?, of course!)
Do you have a preference for her books set in the Regency over her Georgians--or visa versa?
What about her Mysteries?
Or those odds and ends that don't fit into her major categories?
Favorite: A Civil Contract, with Frederica running a very tight second. I love the ordinary life of both books.
I dislike Cousin Kate, and have said so in my review of it (if something so short can be called a review).
No preference for Georgian, Regency, or anything in previous centuries.
The mysteries don't thrill me much. They have some very good - even great - scenes here and there, but they don't keep me turning the pages. But one thing is worth noting: once I was reading one, and found myself being reminded of Jane Austen. Heyer's Regency books aren't at all like Jane Austen's books - but a book that took place in Heyer's own time was, to me, like the books that Jane Austen wrote about her own time.
And finally: I love Beauvallet. I think it was my first Heyer - I came across it at my grandmother's house. A couple of years ago I re-read it, and when I was finished, I started over again at the beginning and re-read it again. But it's still not my favorite.
(edited for clarity)
I never got on with Cousin Kate either, LydiaHD - I think it's because it's rather dark and grim and I tend to want light happy comforting things when I'm reading Heyer.
When I first read A Civil Contract I was very young and, therefore, found it disappointing. I mean, it's not very *romantic* compared to the others, and it ends on a note of quiet comprise - but now I rather like the melancholy feel of it. It seems oddly "grown up" I suppose.
The first one I ever read was Friday's Child so I retain a great affection for it - it's such a charming romp and I love, oh I've forgotten his name, the dashing poet who keeps threatening to call people out or put a bullet in his brain. But I'm very fond of These Old Shades too because the cross-dressing plotline is a secret kink, well, let's make that not-so-secret now.
And, of course, Venetia - you can't not adore Venetia. I used to rather like Sylvester too because I liked that the heroine was a gothic novel writer but the ending is rather contrived.
Anyway, what about you, aprillee - you should at least answer your own questions, it's only good form ;)
It's been so long since I've read her books and I was quite a bit younger, they're due for a re-read so all her books are back in my pile to read.
However, I do remember not liking A Civil Contract because it was just so sad feeling. Maybe I too will feel differently if I read it again.
I remember loving Frederica. There's another one that I really loved but now I'm drawing a blank on the title. I'll have to go back and peruse the titles and see if I can remember it.
My favourite would have to be Frederica. With several others coming close.
I'm not that fond of The Masqueraders or some of the histories. I do like My Lord John though.
I do like the mysteries though. They don't compare to Dorothy Sayers, of course. Death in the Stocks is probably my favourite of those.
Oh... do I really have to answer my own question??? ~___^
My favorite: These Old Shades -- because I love dangerous, intelligent, misunderstood-bad-boys (or not boy, actually--older is better! even when I was a kid!), who still have a sense of honor AND who can wear satin and lace and red-heels without fear for their masculinity. And I like Georgians. 18thC is just a wilder, crazier more over-the-top period compared to the more staid Regency. And forget about Victorian--WAY too staid!!!
Least: April Lady --mostly because it has my name on it and I really wanted to like it best! I'm not a big fan of Heyer's mysteries. They are OK, but not at all books I can read over and over again like her romances. Heyer's other historical fictions were OK, but still love the romances much more. And that includes April Lady, actually, so it's not truly my least favorite of all her books, just of the Regencies.
I actually prefer Heyer's Georgians, mostly for reasons stated above--I just love the period! Other favorite Heyers include The Masqueraders, of course (cross-dressing can be fun... and I'm an "As You Like It" fan). And despite it being pretty much juvenilia, I adore The Black Moth (*sigh* Highwaymen!!!). And love Powder and Patch (another guy who knows how to dress well!).
But I love the Regencies, too. How can I not? Favorites are:
The Grand Sophy (gotta love a strong woman character!)
Venetia (rakes, good dialogue, "Damerel" is such a good name! and "Venetia"))
Bath Tangle (enjoyed the plot and sub-plots)
Of her other books...
Rather sad that she didn't finish the sequels to My Lord John. (Always loved Hen.V and John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford--from Shakespeare and Anya Seton...)
My two absolute favorites are These Old Shades and Devil's Cub. I also particularly like The Talisman Ring, Black Sheep, Venetia, and Lady of Quality.
Proably my least favorites are The Grand Sophy and April Lady.
I don't dislike the mysteries but, come to think of it, have never re-read a single one. I've probably re-read every romance 5 or more times over the years (too many years, like about 40), but haven't read any of the mysteries in probably 25 years so need to give them another visit.
The things I like best about Heyer are her period accuracy, the language, and the fact that her characters act IN character - they aren't 2008 people dressed up in regency gowns and pantaloons.
I just reread Cotillion because it was so long ago when I first read it. I absolutely LOVED it. Freddy, the male lead, was so different from most leading men. His manner of talking was riotously funny. It was so enjoyable I could barely put it down. I had mixed emotions when I finished it. This is my new favorite GH book. Or it's a close tie with Frederica.
Cotillion is my favorite. I think GH was near perfection in the way she turned the tropes of romantic fiction on their collective head. Other favorites are the Devil's Cub/These Old Shades duology and I love those big quiet men in The Toll Gate, The Unknown Ajax, and The Masqueraders.
I'm not a fan of the mysteries. But of the romances, The Quiet Gentleman and Cousin Kate are my least favorites.
Two of my favourites! But what about Venetia? Her most mature work, in my opinion, and clearly following on in style from those two.
I have Frederica about 3 times since a friend first told me I had to read Heyer. She thought I would like Frederica first because of the strong male lead.
I remember Grand Sophy because of the unconventional woman and Bath being highlighted a I recall. We don't have enough books about Bath.
Well, if you haven't tried it, I would definitely recommend Venetia. If you liked Sophie, I am quite sure you will enjoy it - though she doesn't visit Bath ;)
I have read it, but I just read the description and I can't remember it at all.
I started with Heyer around 10 to 12 years ago and have read 26 of them. So it would seem that I have to put Venetia on my TBR to refresh myself.
Just finished a reread of Venetia and it just doesn't work for me the way Frederica does. Perhaps because by the midpoint of the story the conclusion is inevitable and the twists that get thrown in the heroines path are too late in coming.
Within the first few pages we have the romance established, where too my mind so many other instances are that destiny links the protagonists together, but they don't admit to their love and desire until the latter half of the story.
My conclusion by the end is that I don't get enough of the world of the Regency to make this story worthwhile for me. We have the chance to see a great deal of Yorkshire country life and that is glossed over. When we go to London, we get a snippet. Upon my reread I am tempted to give it a lessor rating then I did years ago and do not think I need to revisit it again.
(Of course the other reason it may not be working is the gender angle. As a guy I see the world differently then my wife sees the world so maybe I just don't get it the same way.)
One of the things I enjoy about Heyer is how she is not content to retell the same story over and over, but keeps tweaking the components in non-traditional ways (e.g., the male protagonists of Cotillion). And I think that in Venetia she deliberately varies the pace to say, what would happen if the relationship gets established first, and then obstacles arise? That was the story she was interested in telling here, rather than the typical one. And I have to confess, I enjoy it all the same.
That's a very good point - I hadn't thought of them that way, but I'm sure you are right.
I guess I find Venetia special because I am interested in the characters. Most romances make it obvious who will marry who, but here there seems to be a real chance that Damerel and Venetia will not marry, despite their acknowledged love. (Mind you, I highly doubt that any Damerel would be such a noble idiot!)
My very favourites are The Toll Gate, The Talisman Ring, The Grand Sophy, and These Old Shades. I like the first three for their humour, all of them for their characters, and These Old Shades because it seems more complex than the average Heyer book.
The only one of the mysteries that stands out for me is The Unfinished Clue because I like the romance in it. The other mysteries all just run together for me.
The historical stuff, like My Lord John and An Infamous Army, I didn't like at all. Probably because when reading about people and events in history, I would rather read non-fiction.
*curtsies to all and sundry in the room*
I'm somewhat new to Heyer. I heard she was good, tried Lady of Quality and found it too modern-feeling, and stopped reading. Someone convinced me to give Heyer another try and recommended some of her better titles, and I fell in love. I listened to Cotillion on audiobook and LOVED it (Phyllida Nash's reading is superb!). Then I listened to Even Matheson read Friday's Child, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I then listened to one of the historical novels read by Cornelius Garnett, Royal Escape, and didn't care for it so much.
Then I read Beauvallet; it was okay but nothing like the Regencies. I just finished Sylvester yesterday and found it to be so much fun! My favorite so far is probably Cotillion, followed very closely by Friday's Child. Good stuff!
Next up will probably be either Venetia or The Grand Sophy. I'm so happy I found Heyer's books — they really are, as one reviewer put it, the next best thing to Jane Austen!
If you like the 'fun' ones, try Bath Tangle and The Unknown Ajax too.
If you like the idea of historicals, but not Royal Escape, try The Spanish Bride which is a fairly accurate story about the war in the Peninsular. Harry Smith and his Juana were real people, though you would hardly believe it while reading!
Edited to correct touchstones
Like my take on Barbara Pym, my favorite Heyer is the one I've read most recently. This time it's Frederica, and I think that's a legitimate favorite. I love the younger brothers, and I especially love Frederica herself for her combination of absolute self-confidence and innocent diffidence. I don't own Venetia, so I guess I'll have to add it to my "to procure" list.
I am with you on that concept, Lizzie, particularly since I can't remember much about the one I read five books ago. I do remember I liked Frederica very much, but no details emerge. I think the reason I like Cotillion and The Talisman Ring both so much is that they are so extremely, delightfully laugh aloud funny in so many places.
I have often found that for some reason the first few pages don't pull me in strongly, but persistance to the third page always rewards.
I have only read three of Heyer's book so far, but I am deeply in love. My first was one of her mysteries Envious Casca. It was an odd sort of mystery because I knew very early on who had done what - the real mystery was what was going on in certain people's minds. But her turns of phrase and characterizations had me laughing my head off.
The other two I read were The Quiet Gentleman, which I enjoyed very much and Cotillion, which I am guessing will remain my favorite Heyer. I read it five times in the first week. It's difficult for me to put into words why I love it so much. Characterization, certainly. I adore Freddy Standen. I haven't enjoyed a hero in a book like I did him in a long time. Heyer is so good at surprising me with her clever craftsmanship and tickles my sensibilities until I laugh out loud.
Cyan, you should look for the audiobook of Cotillion read by Phyllida Nash. It was my first Heyer (well, my first REAL Heyer... long story), and it absolutely blew me away. Nash does a fantastic job with the characters. I listen to audiobooks as I drive to work and I'm sure I look ridiculous when I listen to chapters like Cotillion's last one. I clapped my hands and cheered loudly right there in the car :D
I can't decide between Cotillion and Friday's Child for my favorite Heyer. My least favorite so far would be Royal Escape (all three of these, btw, were on audiobook). I've only read a few of her books, so I'm looking forward to having even more trouble nailing down my favorite.
"----having even more trouble nailing down my favorite." That's the case, isn't it? I've been recalling how much I enjoyed False Colours which is the one I read before Frederica. It's wonderful! The charming, dotty mother makes it a delectable bit of meringue. I did not need to start another book, but you folks have made me pick up my copy of A Civil Contract, and I can tell in the first 4 (!) pages that I'm going to love Lydia and the whole cast of characters. Thanks a lot!
(Did I say that I'm waiting for my copy of Cotillion to arrive at pbs so that I can order it? They say "one week;" they'd better be right!)
edited to use Touchstones instead of html.....duh
I'm so glad to be discovering Heyer in company with other readers! And that this group is getting some life back :)
PBS is pretty good, though I wouldn't trust their estimates completely.
A lot of people list Venetia as their favorite. I'm thinking that will be my next Heyer.
I've just finished A Civil Contract, and sure enough - even though Jenny is small and plump and not romantic, this is my favorite Heyer of the moment. I love the fact that Adam finally loves her, that she always was in love with him, that romantic love is not the be-all, in-all. It's a lot like life. I also appreciate the fact that the wars against Napoleon get so much attention. This is an example of Heyer at her best, I think --- humor, romance, history, and real life. LOVED IT!
(My copy of Cotillion is on its way. Yee-hah!)
I thought A Civil Contract was quite a bit darker than many of the others. The father in law was so difficult, and Jenny was so prosaic, and Adam was so unhappy at first, and so desparately anxious at the end. It was highly satisfactory in every way, but sort of thorny, didn't you think, Lizzie? a bit? I agree that it is an excellent book, but I am glad it wasn't my first Heyer. It illustrates what ronincats said above - how she twists the elements to tell different stories each time. Here there were none of the familiar elements, not really much humor, and the different characters all had their difficulties in being sympathetic. I had not much sympathy for Adam's love lorn condition through most of the book, for example, even though he was otherwise exemplary.
My first Heyers, at around age 10, were Arabella and The Talisman Ring, and Devils Cub a while after that. All three remain favorites. I was a hard-core Heyer fan by my late teens, and turned my father on to them as well.
My top Heyers would include The Grand Sophy (for the humor), Venetia and These Old Shades (for the witty love stories and the fantasy ideal of a rake undergoing a reformation), and Sylvester (the situations and the humor). I'm also quite fond of Black Sheep.
My absolute favorites are probably The Unknown Ajax and Cotillion. I've long loved the unexpected-hero aspect of Ajax, and find it one of the funniest of the books, with the Darracotts reacting to Hugo and Hugo reacting to them--and especially his sly tormenting of Anthea. Cotillion was one of the few Heyers I didn't read until recently, but I adore Freddy almost as much as I adore Hugo. The real-life ideal of a steadfast, considerate man. Cotillion, for me, is very much like a Shakespeare comedy, with its roundelay of foolish lovers.
Books I'm not so fond of: Regency Buck, whose characters I find dull, and Bath Tangle and Faro's Daughter, both of which I wished I liked better (because of their sardonic heroes), but which I find very forced in their plotting.
Oh, and A Civil Contract was another that I only first read recently. The realism I admire in it also keeps it from being the comfort food that I prefer my Heyers to be, but I still enjoyed it very much.
As much as I love the Alastairs, I still haven't been able to get past the first chapter or two of An Infamous Army.
I'll grant you that A Civil Contract is less in the toasted pimiento cheese sandwich line and more like a tossed salad with honey-mustard dressing. I do love Adam though. From my current perspective I enjoyed watching a man as thoroughly bedevilled by misplaced romantic love as any woman might be, and I respected his struggle to keep it from harming his growing relationship with his wife. I adore Jenny who was at once humble about her desserts and wise in making herself indispensable to him and then leaving him alone to discover that fact for himself. The more I write, the more I realize that GH managed to give this thorny (to use Koki's word) relationship many more layers of nuance than I had recognized and in relatively few pages.
Having said all that, I am waiting eagerly for Cotillion and its promise of GH fun and games. What a treat for Thanksgiving!
edited for Touchstones instead of html ---- Doh
Yes. most of them are easy. No less delightful for that, but delicious froth rather than anything that makes us think deeply. A Civil Contract seems different in kind. Are there others along those lines, I wonder?
In some ways I think Venetia is one of the deeper books, although not at all in the same way as A Civil Contract. (That one is unique, as Cotillion is unique in having a Woosterish hero.) As DWWilkin pointed out above, the ending is obvious (but they all are, I think). And Venetia herself is too perfect to be taken as seriously as a character as we might take some of Heyer's other women. But there is something about Heyer's development of the relationships among the characters that is extremely attractive, and I love the conversations and the country house settings.
It is also a book that can be understood, in a very interesting way, as being about functional and dysfunctional selfishness. Venetia's whole family is selfish, including her late father and including herself, in some ways. Aubrey and Conway are both incurably selfish, but make it work for them; everyone's nemesis, Mrs. Scorsby (?), suffers from a self-destructive kind of selfishness. Damerel almost ruins everything when he tries NOT to be selfish.
It's almost as if Heyer is saying that life is good when you know exactly what you want and reach for it--but that you have to have the guts (if it's a reasonable goal, or the oblivious selfishness if it's not) to do that reaching!
I agree that there isn't as much going on it: fewer characters and very little London life. But I love it anyway.
I was at my sister-in-laws for Thanksgiving and she happened to be reading Venetia, the book lying on a side table. I picked it up and could not recall the plot to hand with out reading the material on the back and the first few pages.
Then I realized which one it was. She said she just didn't like it (though she isn't really a Heyer fan but is an Austenite.) Once I knew which one I had in my hand I put it down. I think I need more knots that need unraveling for me to think Heyer has hit her best.
The Appeal of a Heyeresque Heroine
I was thinking of this just now and is their collective attraction in that they are off in one trait or another from what a typical regency heroine would have been. They are Elizabeth Bennets not Jane Bannets, so to speak. Any one else think that?
I do think so. Of course, any well drawn character is going to be sufficiently "off" to make them believable as human beings. And the heroine who is perfection of her type is the bane of romance novels. (As Faulkner said, we don't love because, we love despite.)
That's what makes Venetia, as a character, mysteriously successful to me, because she really is too perfect. But maybe it's her sense of humor and her blithe indifference to convention that make her come alive. She and Damerel together remind me a little of Nick and Nora Charles.
A character I find sort of fascinating is Elinor in The Reluctant Widow. We are supposed to believe that her complaints about danger and discomfort are meant satirically and that she is actually a "great gun." But I don't see that satirical quality played out in the character herself; I only see it when some other character tells us that's what's going on. Am I just not seeing it, or did Heyer make a mistake in her portrayal? (Sarah Thane, I think, is more successful at occasionally appearing to be a shrinking female while actually lampooning the idea.)
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