Georgette Heyer was an early to mid-twentieth century British author credited with the creation of the regency romance genre. She also wrote several works in the mystery and historical fiction genres. Heyer’s novels were popular to her contemporaries, though far underappreciated by her critics. Many of her books and short stories are still in print today. Her novels have often been described as humorous, witty, and detailed with a high degree of historical accuracy. Heyer devoted much of her time to researching the periods in which her characters lived and created many notebooks with historical facts and quotations. Her novels provide a very accurate view of upper class life in the Georgian and Regency eras. The characters’ dialogue and their use of idioms and slang add to the sense of reality and accuracy.
Heyer was a very private person and never in her life time provided interviews about her life or writing process. It was not until ten years after her death that her family and estate provided access to her personal papers, photographs, and interviews of her surviving family and friends. A biography was written by Jane Aiken Hodge in 1984 titled The Private World of Georgette Heyer. This book provides information on Heyer’s writing and research process and nominal insights into her private life. It is known that Heyer became friends with several of her publishers and many of her letters discuss not only business matters but also friendly bits of news and humor. The University of Tulsa Special Collections and Archives has a small collection of these letters to her literary agent L. P. Moore and his assistant Norah Perriam, at Christy & Moore, Ltd. Heyer’s personality and sense of humor are evident in these letters and it is quite easy to see she was a witty human being but also a writer who stayed on topic while still providing an amusing flow of natural conversation.
Of her novels my personal favorites are:
The Masqueraders – 1928. This is a Twelfth-night like adventure story where two siblings must cross-dress to avoid recognition as former Jacobites, set in England in the year 1745. Duels, highwaymen, and intrigue abound.
Powder and Patch – 1930. This charming story, set in mid eighteenth century centers on the romance of two young friends. Philip, who has loved Cleone his whole life, has been rejected by her due to his lack of polish and refinement. He travels to Paris to gain courtly manners and dress style. Upon his return to England Cleone discovers she does not enjoy the frivolous foppish Philip and truly loves Philip for himself. This story is filled with humorous and witty repartee that ensures the reader many moments of laughter.
Hodge, Jane A. The Private World of Georgette Heyer. London: Bodley Head, 1984. Print.