Which book would you recommend as an Introduction to Heyer?

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Which book would you recommend as an Introduction to Heyer?

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1aprillee
Jan 30, 2008, 6:13 am

Which book (or books) would you recommend as an Introduction to Heyer? And why?

I know most seem to recommend Venetia... maybe Arabella...

Do you think they should be more traditional (young girl falling for handsome lord, with typical romantic plot), or do you place emphasis on witty dialogue? Or historical detail? Or more unusual heroes and heroines and situations?

2jannief
Jan 30, 2008, 9:10 am

My first Heyer book was The Unknown Ajax but I wouldn't recommend it to start off with. I happened across a book of her's by accident when I was buying Gothic's at the library book sale. I stumbled through it (I had trouble with some of the dialogue) but enjoyed it so much that it changed my reading preference forever afterward. :) Venetia is probably a good choice although it's been so long since I've read it. I'll let others do the recommending.

What I love most about Georgette Heyer is her variety in plots and characters. I prefer that. And I really enjoy it when the two that end up together at the end detest each other throughout the book and so you have interesting conversation. "You are the most odious..." :)

3hailelib
Jan 30, 2008, 9:28 am

You might try Regency Buck for the hero who is the heroine's reluctant guardian and April Lady for the mature lord and the young and somewhat heedless wife.

4mrkgnao
Jan 30, 2008, 10:57 am

I never quite on with Regency Buck - the hero annoyed me for some reason although he's no more arrogant than some of the others. My first Heyer was Friday's Child which remains one of my favourites, except attempts to introduce people to the wonder of Heyer through it have always failed miserably so perhaps something less frothy and more romantic would be better. Venetia, as you have noted, seems to be a safe choice.

5aviddiva
Editado: Jan 30, 2008, 11:38 pm

Arabella was the first one I read,and I was hooked. I think Cotillion is a good starter, too, because it's so funny, or possibly The Grand Sophie.

6LydiaHD
Jan 31, 2008, 7:48 am

I suggest Sprig Muslin. It's got a beautiful and silly young girl. It's got a romance between older, mature people. It's got a chase through the countryside. It's got Joseph the kitten. It's got something for everyone!

7hailelib
Jan 31, 2008, 8:11 am

I've read Sprig Muslin many times and its always fun.

8sarahemmm
Jan 31, 2008, 9:47 am

Yes, Sprig Muslin would be a good choice.

I would recommend reading some earlier works first (Venetia was a late work). Reason: her style and command of plot improved over time, so it might feel rather strange to read an earlier one if you have only read the best.

Another choice would be Devil's Cub which, while from her early period, shows her perfect grasp of plot and character.

9jannief
Jan 31, 2008, 2:00 pm

#8 - She would need to read These Old Shades first though before Devil's Cub.

10sarahemmm
Fev 4, 2008, 8:56 am

> 9 Need to read These Old Shades before Devil's Cub

Well, yes if you are someone who prefers to read in historical sequence, but each books stands perfectly well alone. And Devils' Cub is less improbable...

11aprillee
Fev 12, 2008, 8:04 am

There are people who enjoy Devil's Cub more than These Old Shades, so it's probably fine to recommend it first to the right people. It's not necessary to have read TOS first, after all (although TOS is one of my favorites and I read it first by accident, anyway!).

I read The Black Moth first. I'll always have a soft spot for that book! Yes, it was written when she was still a teen-ager, and doesn't quite have the sophistication, but it was still one of the most wildly romantic books I've ever read (oh, the shame of being dishonored!!! Oh the noble sacrifice for one's brother!!!), and I have adored highwaymen FOREVER because of that book!

I read Sprig Muslin next, which was very different, and the first actual Regency... It's actually not one of my favorites of hers set in that period, but I still have a fondness for it, too. I'm not exactly sure I'd recommend it as a First Heyer... It's set out in the country without all the fun evenings at Almack's and such... But it's still enjoyable, of course!

12kokipy
Nov 13, 2009, 2:22 am

Now, am I right that the Black Moth is the prequel for These Old Shades, so that we have three books with these characters? She must have had a special fondness for them to have returned to them in this way. Black Moth, as her first, was certainly less skilled than the rest and, apart from the fact that you get to see the people grown up in TOS and Devil's Cub it has only historical interest, to me. Not sure I'd reread it except to trace the character development in TOS and DC. But i do like the two later ones very much indeed.

13Winter_Maiden
Editado: Nov 27, 2009, 6:14 pm

Black Moth is not officially the prequel for These Old Shades. (The characters have different names, for one thing.) But the plot is clearly the background that the characters refer to in TOS, explaining the tension between Justin and his neighbors. And Drummond (?) refers to a conversation he once had with Justin in which he said that his foiled passion for the woman he tried to kidnap was the making of him. That conversation is in the earlier book.

I work at a bookstore, and often recommend the Heyer reissues. I definitely think people should start with the best, or they might not go on to the others. What constitutes the best is a matter of opinion, of course. For first readers, I think Arabella is a good choice--also Sylvester and The Grand Sophy. The Unknown Ajax is arguably my favorite, but it is atypical. Ditto Cotillion. I would hesitate to recommend Venetia, simply because it is narrower in setting, with fewer characters than most.

I recommend the Georgians in a different way, stressing that they are more romantic adventures (like The Scarlet Pimpernel) than romantic comedies of manners. They are also more densely written (more like the writing styles of the actual periods), and a little more demanding. But, with those provisos, I happily recommend The Talisman Ring, Devil's Cub, and These Old Shades. It's probably better to read TOS before DC, but I didn't, and I don't think it matters that much. More important is to give a new reader characters and a plot that will seduce them into reading all the books! :-)

I don't like it that the books are in the romance section. There they escape the notice of the Jane Austen fans (and readers of historical fiction) who might really enjoy them. And romance readers these days in general want more sex than Heyer provides. So I always make sure they understand that her books are romance-driven rather than romance-centered.

14kokipy
Nov 26, 2009, 8:48 am

That they are in the romance section is at least part of the explanation that it took me 54 years to find them. It is a sin that they are so misshelved.

15CyanDag
Nov 26, 2009, 10:15 am

I was frustrated for a while because all of the Heyer's I was finding at my bookstore were in the historical fiction section and none of them sounded like what I was hoping for from Heyer at this point. They were way too historical. THEN I discovered Heyer's were also in the romance section, where I truly don't think I've ever shopped before. As a result of this happy discovery I'm halfway through The Unknown Ajax with Venetia and Black Sheep in queue.

Peace,
Cyan Dag

16atimco
Nov 26, 2009, 10:59 am

We need to start a movement to get Heyer out of the Harlequins. I don't like how the modern romance paperback industry has appropriated her.

I never, ever thought I would find anything good rummaging the romance section at the library booksale. But there's always the chance of a stray Heyer...

17sarahemmm
Nov 26, 2009, 11:49 am

>13 Winter_Maiden:

Winter_Maiden, what a beautiful and clear exposition of Heyer's styles! Thank you so much.

18Winter_Maiden
Editado: Nov 27, 2009, 6:31 pm

Thanks, sarahemmm!

This isn't to put down romances or romance readers. I've found a number of gems in that category (I'm a big Mary Stewart fan, for instance), and I went through my Harlequin and bodice-ripper stages. But the fact is that Heyer, by today's standards of the genre, doesn't really belong there, and in general fiction she would stand a chance of being found by people who would enjoy what she has to offer.

There is also the issue that, of genre fiction categories, romance today has by far the lowest sales, suggesting that general readers don't shop there that much--and romance readers know what they want, which these days is usually a certain amount of sexual content, most likely in the form of either a historical bodice-ripper or "paranormal romance." GH just gets lost amidst all that stuff.

Borders recently put Arabella on their buy-one-get-one-50%-off promotion table, which made me quite happy. I'm also glad that the publishers are finally giving the Georgians covers suitable to the Georgian period.

19sarahemmm
Nov 30, 2009, 5:35 am

How I agree with you! I'm not a fan of poorly written, unresearched potboilers, though I have read many. But every so often you come across a real gem - Mary Balogh was a recent find for me, as was Diana Gabaldon. Part of the trouble is that the male half of society would not dare be seen to read 'romance', and many women feel the same way. Mind you, there are similar issues in science fiction too, and no doubt in other categories. I have some hopes that tagging will go some way to alleviate the problem of pigeonholing, but then there are the covers...!

20Winter_Maiden
Nov 30, 2009, 1:19 pm

Speaking of covers, I do like the covers the GH reissues are getting. They aren't specifically relevant to the contents of the books, but that's okay. They still help set the mood, and they are in a style that is right for the period, with everyone as pink-and-white marbly as cherubim. The covers of my old copies--cheesy mass-market editions, most of them--are very bad: pure stock, shlock romance covers, with wooden-looking people looking woodenly at each other.

21sarahemmm
Dez 1, 2009, 6:48 am

The new ones sound nice, Winter, but I started with the 1970s covers from Pan (UK), so to me, they are Heyer. Whereas, I started reading Balogh's books with lovely period portraits of young ladies on the covers, so now, to me, those are Balogh.

Does anyone else find the covers of the first copies you read have this sort of importance to them, or is it just me?

22atimco
Dez 1, 2009, 8:09 am

It isn't so much the covers for me as it is the feel of the paper and the typeface. If it's radically different from the copy I grew up reading and rereading, it does give me a jolt. This hasn't happened with any Heyer books, as I'm new to her work, but in general it's more the inside and overall feel of the book than the cover that makes me feel disoriented.

23Winter_Maiden
Editado: Dez 2, 2009, 7:30 am

My old copies are in such bad shape, some with pages yellow and crumbling with age, that to read the new ones is a luxury, like having nice big Turkish towels to dry oneself with after having to use a worn-out old hand towel.

I NEVER liked the mass market covers, because everything about them was cheesy, from the drawing to the color-reproduction, and the characters never looked the way they do in my head. With the current ones, I don't think of them as representing actual characters in the books (for the most part), so I just enjoy the way they look and the fact that they evoke the period. I still keep my bad old copies, though, out of sheer sentimentality. Some of them I've had for forty years; they're like sacred relics!

One thing about the reissues is that there are occasional printing errors, some of which seem the result of mis-scanning, but a few (and I can't think of an example, alas) where GH's period-appropriate term has been "corrected" to something that doesn't make sense.

24sarahemmm
Dez 2, 2009, 5:06 am

>23 Winter_Maiden: ...GH's period-appropriate term has been "corrected" to something that doesn't make sense.

Gah! That sounds horrible! That's the sort of thing which leads me to write corrections in the margin.

25acidneutral
Jan 28, 2010, 9:19 am

Does anyone have any opinions of the HQN editions of Georgette Heyer's works? I currently own just the Sourcebooks editions and have been hesitant to venture into the Harlequin territory because I am concerned about their quality. Are the HQN paperbacks the oversized format like the Sourcebooks? They have strikingly similar jacket designs, I must say.

26SylviaC
Jan 28, 2010, 9:45 am

I have the HQN edition of These Old Shades. I haven't read it yet (it's a replacement for my old copy), so I can't comment about typos, but the print looks very clear and readable. The print is not large, but the lines are well spaced. It is larger than a mass-market paperback, but not quite as big is the average trade paperback. The binding seems good, and is flexible. I haven't seem the Sourcebooks editions, so I can't compare then, but the HQN edition appears to be good, anyway.

27Rowntree
Jan 28, 2010, 10:21 am

I still have a few old Pan paperbacks from the sixties (some with the cover prices printed in pre-decimal UK currency) and they're mostly holding up fairly well. Later American printings - noteably the ACE ones - are falling to shreds. I think I need to get a few replacements (instead of constantly borrowing my sister's new British copies.)

The first Heyer I read was Arabella, somewhere in the early sixties, in hardback from the library. I was about eleven, and was hooked from then on. I think my mother or older sister had one out from the library, and being a precocious reader (a.k.a. brat ;-) I had to read it also. *Much* better fare than the children's books, and I proceeded to gobble up every one I could get my hands on.

28trollsdotter
Jan 28, 2010, 4:14 pm

>18 Winter_Maiden: "But the fact is that Heyer, by today's standards of the genre, doesn't really belong {in romance}..." *

Thanks for putting words to a feeling I've had for awhile. Also, other books written like hers are probably not to be found in the romance section of new bookstores either—which explains some fruitless searches.

Maybe I'll have to do some research and set up romance display at the bookstore and fill it with books deliberately not drawn from the romance section.

Back on topic: The Reluctant Widow and The Quiet Gentleman may also be good introductions.

* {} used to avoid touchstones.

29ncgraham
Mar 2, 2010, 3:24 pm

My first was Cotillion, and I think it a very solid introduction. Lady of Quality, not so much.

30AnitaKemp
Editado: Abr 12, 2012, 12:18 pm

OK, so the last message posted to this thread was 2 years ago, but I think that the love of Georgette Heyer will keep being discovered every time a publisher decides to put out the book again. I have also noticed that all the books are available in ebook form, so people of all ages will still be reading their first Georgette Heyer book for many years to come. My first book was Frederica, I adored the comic scenes and the strong character of Frederica herself. It was only later when I found These Old Shades, The Devil's Cub and so many others.
I have tried to share Frederica with some of my friends and they just can't follow the dialogue, but I love it. It is so much fun to hear 2 mean talk about how beautiful a girl is back in the time when they did not just say, "I'd do her." This book made me laugh for hours and I was very touched by the love story.

31setnahkt
Abr 12, 2012, 1:29 pm

I don't remember which one I read first. I've been loaning mine to a friend, and they are all old and a little dusty; she had to take benadryl to read them.

32millhold
Editado: Abr 12, 2012, 3:54 pm

My first book was Talisman Ring, which I very much enjoyed. However, my favorites are Frederica, These Old Shades, and The Devil's Cub. I very much enjoy all of Heyer's Regency and mysteries, but the 3 mentioned above are my favorites.

#31 setnahkt ~~ Mine are also all very old, yellowed, and falling apart, so I've been buying new editions. I'm not getting rid of the old ones, just mending them as best I can, and keeping them for posterity, and using the new ones to read.

33AnitaKemp
Abr 12, 2012, 11:19 pm

Thank you both for joining me at Almack's. My mother loved the Georgette Heyer books, so I am very familiar with the mass market paperbacks from the 70's. Her copy of Frederica was a shambles. I used ABE books to get her a hard back copy of the book. I have made a game of checking every used book store for Heyer books. I love it when I can get the hard back editions.

34setnahkt
Abr 13, 2012, 1:18 am

I bought most of my old Heyer paperbacks from used booksellers at science fiction conventions. Over the years several different booksellers told me that their biggest sales at SciFi conventions were not Robert Heinlein or Isaac Asimov or J.R.R. Tolkien but Georgette Heyer. Not sure of the explanation, but one SciFi author I engaged in conversation said she found Heyer's books were great for learning how to write.

AFAIK nobody has ever suggested a crossover; i.e. Regency Buck meets Dejah Thoris on Barsoom and teaches Tars Tarkas how to tie the Mathematical Neckcloth.

35aviddiva
Abr 13, 2012, 2:23 pm

If you like that sort of thing, the Liaden Universe books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are that kind of combination. Space opera with Heyer-esque dialogue and manners based on a world with very strict conventions. The Dragon Variation is a current omnibus of the first three books in the main series (they seem to go in and out of print a lot and are republished confusingly in omnibus editions with different names.)

36Marissa_Doyle
Abr 13, 2012, 4:48 pm

The Miles Vorkosigan book A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold might fit the bill for GH meets SF.

37staffordcastle
Abr 17, 2012, 1:34 am

My husband and I usually recommend The Grand Sophy for new Heyer readers. I started with Powder and Patch myself; I had been recommended Heyer by a friend without any specific title, so I picked the least expensive one. Never looked back, and we have doubles of almost all of them between us!

38MikeBriggs
Jun 19, 2012, 5:42 pm

I read the 12 mysteries before I tried anything else by Heyer. This was back in 2009. Took a year and six months to finally try a non-mystery. A real disservice that so many of the books are in the Romance section. I'd never have tried her if there went those mysteries & it still took me a while to crack open one of the Romances.

With that in mind, I'd recommend to those reluctant to read Romance (and for those reluctant to try the Mysteries):
They Found Him Dead - so far the highest rated, by me, Heyer book. I do not recall the specific to my rating, but I gave it 4.94/5
Footsteps in the Dark.(4.59/5)

The mysteries are, for the most part, lessor Heyer, but there are some good ones in there.

Year and a half after I finished the last mystery, Penhallow (3.2/5), I read a book that actually matches this high mark of 4.94:
my first non mystery - The Foundling (4.94/5)

I'd also recommend to new to Heyer readers:
These Old Shades (4.66/5)
Black Sheep (4.64/5)
Devils Club (4.58/5)

So, I've read 19 so far. So many more to try.(An Infamous Army is starting slowly)

39millhold
Editado: Jun 19, 2012, 6:03 pm

An Infamous Army is one of her historicals, and doesn't really go "fast." None of her historicals do, IMHO. However you will run across many characters from her previous novels in An Infamous Army. However, they are mainly in the nature of "filler."

I am not a fan of her historicals. She puts so much history in them, that it slows the story down to a crawl, and often, as in An Infamous Army there is very little story to tie all that history together.

40lit_chick
Jun 2, 2013, 8:00 pm

I've just read my first Heyer, Black Sheep. Naturally, I can't speak for her other works, but this was a fabulous introduction to her!

41swelldame
Jun 3, 2013, 10:05 am

#40 I loved Black Sheep! But, then, I have a thing for Bath.

42leslie.98
Jun 29, 2013, 12:43 pm

I honestly can't remember which Heyer was my first - by the time I was 16, I had read most of them & have reread them again and again in the years since.

>39 millhold:: I agree that her more historical ones are not my favorites but people do love An Infamous Army… I certainly wouldn't recommend starting there.

I might suggest starting with The Talisman Ring or Frederica.