Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer – Real characters rub shoulders with fictional creations

Regency Buck (Alastair-Audley, #3) by Georgette Heyer

 

Guardians, boxing, carriage driving and much else feature in this Heyer novel. Most of her historical novels are seen as “Regency”, but this is one that actually has the Prince Regent, later George IV, as a character, albeit briefly. The novel mainly concerns a couple of young people, Judith and her younger brother Peregrine, and those around them as they discover an exciting new world in London. They have an interesting relationship with their legal guardian, whose appointment comes as something of a shock to them, as well as the challenges of new friends and aquaintances. Judith in particular shows an interest in not only being a wealthy heiress and a lady of society and fashion, but also adopting some singular habits. She takes up driving a matched pair of horses from a fashionable vehicle, and becomes adept at taking snuff from a different “box to match each gown”, both of which accomplishments cause excited comment. Peregrine is a typical younger brother, full of new obsessions and the life of a young man with enough money to have a good time. With Beau Brummell giving advice and counsel which goes beyond  a fashionable appearance, and royal Dukes turning up at social events, this is a Heyer novel which deals with high society in real detail. Not that Heyer ever lets her immense research get in the way of her excellent plot and characters. This is a lovely and exciting read, one of Heyer’s most convincing novels.

 

The novel opens with Judith and Peregrine travelling to London following their father’s death, to discover their legal guardian as specified in his will. They wish to leave Yorkshire where they have had a sheltered life and take a house in London, to enter society and discover a fashionable social life. Peregrine discovers that there is to be a famous prize fight between two well known champions near to a stopping point, and while Judith’s travel guide tells her of interesting sights in the area, he is determined to find a conveyance to take him to watch the fight. It is when he gets an ancient cart stuck across the road, a mysterious stranger is disparaging of their equipiage. They discover that the rather brusque man is in fact the Fifth Earl of Worth, and by a particular twist of fate their appointed guardian. On one level he seems disinterested, permitting some of their different ambitions, but also finding them a suitable house and a chaperon in the form of the wonderfully named Mrs Scattergood. Predictably Peregrine gambles and gets into trouble, and is discreetly rescued. It is only when he is in some danger that the plot really begins to get complex. Meanwhile Judith receives much interest and even proposals of marriage from a variety of gentlemen, but she is unexpectedly grateful for Worth’s help in turning them away. As her friends increase, however, life is not simple and Worth seems to keep a disturbing eye on his wards.

 

This is a novel which revels in the clothes, style and fashion of the period for both men and women. As well known real characters rub shoulders with Heyer’s fictional creations, the writing is seamless and always entertaining. There is a certain dry humour, especially in the dialogue involving Worth, and Peregrine is revealed as a really comic character at times. This is a really enjoyable book, and a memorable Heyer novel.   

 

I am pleased to see that not only are there plenty of Heyers to keep me going, but also that I have quite a few – both historical and murder mystery. I will have to work out which ones I actually had, as when I read them years ago I borrowed a few to read. I can see I’m going to have to consult Fantastic Fiction https://www.fantasticfiction.com/again – as well as my Georgette Heyer Companion.

Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer – a young man behaves badly in the Regency period

Devil's Cub (Alastair-Audley, #2) by Georgette Heyer

 

A Regency romance that is so funny that it made me laugh out loud is rare, especially when I read quite a few! This novel features the young Marquis of Vidal, son of the Duke of Avon and his wife Leonie, who is notorious for his scandalous ways. Lord Rupert, with all his bluster and banter is back in this novel, and there are some wonderful scenes of his confusion. The Marquis is a mixture of his parents, quick tempered and impetuous, not worried about scandal for himself. He is a gambler, a drinker and certainly not adverse to spending time with women who he has no intention of marrying. While Avon was known for his scandals, and Leonie not adverse to using a gun if available, neither was so reckless as to shoot a fellow gambler. His infamy means that while many people admire him, he is known to take risks and gamble with life. This novel also introduces a Miss Mary Chancellor, who decides to take action when one of Vidal’s plans threatens her sister’s future. This chase across France takes on some farcical elements, and the characters involved are brilliantly drawn. Altogether this is a most enjoyable and entertaining read, and an example of an excellent historical novel. 

 

This novel opens with a mysterious traveller who casually shoots a highwayman and shockingly orders the body to be left. Vidal is soon identified, and his actions give quite the impression of a man who cares more for his appearance than the people around him. He indulges in a night playing cards when alcohol is taken, and ignores advice to finish playing and not get involved in weaponry. Meanwhile Juliana, Vidal’s cousin, has fallen in love with an unsuitable but respectable young man, a Mr. Comyn, and they resolve to go to France to be together. Meanwhile, a young woman called Sophia, superficially attractive but not overly clever, attracts Vidal’s attention , so when he realises he must disappear to France to avoid further trouble he makes it plain that he would like her to accompany him. Her elder sister intercepts a letter confirming the details, and decides that she will impersonate her sister to save her reputation. Vidal discovers the impersonation, and forces her to travel to France. When they arrive, they discover a mutual attraction and Vidal decrees that they must marry in order to save her reputation. Mary refuses as she knows that his parents will never accept the match. What happens then involves fast journeys, accidents and much more.

 

This book does suggest a certain amount of violence from the wealthy which is scarcely acknowledged, and at least one point when Vidal is unduly rough with a woman. Having said that, this is a fantasy written in another age, 1932, about a historic period. Vidal is shown to be genuinely concerned for Mary’s reputation. I really enjoyed this book, which is steeped in the detail of the period, even to Vidal’s valet on some of the problems of dressing a gentleman. Some of my favourite characters from “These Old Shades” continue into this book to great effect. Every character behaves consistently and often humourously, and this book is a joy to read from beginning to end. It is a superb example of Heyer’s ability to create a whole new type of historical novel, and I recommend it to anyone who feels like exploring her Regency novels.    

 

One of the things at this moment is the fact that many of us have more time to read without distractions, or at least different ones. I really enjoy Heyer’s novels when I get into them but to begin with I have to pick my way through the titles rather than names of the characters. This book made me really laugh, as an episode towards the end is really is funny. The characters who are in both  books really work in both stories, and in this situation I am glad I read the books in the correct order!  

Snowdrift and other Stories by Georgette Heyer

Image result for snowdrift and other stories georgette heyer

Georgette Heyer is one of the few authors who has created and sustained a whole new genre of fiction writing. Regency romances are not everyone’s first choice of reading; they can be formulaic, they are light and not asking too many deep questions, and they can be incredibly predictable. As to the formula, it is often the case that a couple meet or reunite after many years, there are barriers of society or temperament between them, there is a crisis which often involves a journey at breakneck speed, before the happy couple are united in marriage and live happily ever after. At least that is the basic plan of many regency romances that appear regularly today. The difference is that Heyer wrote them first, and wrote them better than anyone else. She was not worried by political correctness; her women can be startling for their beauty in a disguised way rather than their brains, her main characters are at least of good birth and end up with enough money to be considered rich, and men always have some redeeming quality. I am being negative about the Regency romance patterns but Heyer always added so much to her novels and in this case her short stories. The women always have courage and intelligence, even if temporarily misapplied, the settings are definitely correct in the smallest detail. Only fastidious research can guarantee the correct clothing, language and social behaviour, and Heyer has never been bettered in her incredible writing of the facts.  Her books have been held up as almost teaching resources for not only social history, but also military details of Napoleonic battles.

As you can imagine, I was delighted to get my hands on a copy of this book. Yes, I probably had read some of the stories in old and battered editions, but this book promised recently discovered stories and an altogether concentrated collection of short stories. I found it enormously good fun to read; Heyer has always been my comfort reading but this would be even more ideal for short waits in tricky circumstances. Each story here ticks all the boxes of an unpromising start between a small number of people, a journey and at least one misunderstanding. Often an elopement is proposed, but Heyer is far more sophisticated than depicting a straight dash to Gretna Green as something is always resolved without deceit and enormous hurt to at least the happy couple and the ‘good’ characters. To be honest these stories do get a bit much if read altogether, as in their rich plots and characters can tend to merge. Sometimes Heyer packs an enormous amount into a short story in terms of character development and change, but she was such a skilful writer that implication and characters will work out for the reader without being spelled out.

These stories, and Heyer’s novels, can be an acquired taste. Only one or two stories in this volume involve snow as implied in the title, so while it is an ideal read for winter evenings, it can be read at anytime you need a light read, confident that every setting, costume, language and gesture will be historically accurate, and anything except boring!

As you can imagine, I am a big Heyer fan but have not got round to rereading her books for ages, let along her mystery novels. This book does persuade me to go and see how many Heyer classics I own…

Oh no! More Snow… and some easy reads

Well, we were down to only having snow where it had been heaped up, although some of the mounds stood taller than good self. Just as I was getting used to being independently mobile once more, lo it stared to snow again. Ho hum! So why the gap in posts, you may be wondering. No good excuse, except celebrating the festive season and Son One’s 21st birthday. I will try to do better, and actually finish a book or two. Well, I have finished painting half life sized nativity figures, and even found the knitted sets. What a job… Son Two has just returned from University, and claims that it is colder here. Or is it just the change in size of rooms? As I type, a friend (MHH) is en route from the South. I hope he has packed his thermals.

Just a few words about my current reading. Does anyone else have easy reads that they are not keen on admitting to in polite society? I suppose mine would be Stephanie Laurens (shock horror!) which I got onto from Georgette Heyer, who I started reading after rereading Austen many times. I got onto Austen during a period when I needed comfort reading in which virtually no one dies and any crisis is solved by the end of the novel. I eventually reached a stage when I was rereading Heyer, so became lured onto Laurens by the desperate hunt for a new book (which did not involve the librarian disappearing into the book stock for twenty minutes)

Laurens is not as good as Heyer. That is self evident. She is far more racy as well, and her heroes are often far more rakish in every respect. Her plots tend to be less complex, and her characters less well drawn, at least in my limited experience. Her facts seem to be sound as to clothes and manners; certainly more than other Regency romances I have tried. There is a lot more premarital seduction in Laurens, so do not be shocked!

So, easy, historical reads. If you like Austen, try Georgette Heyer. A good satisfying read is The Grand Sophy

but every Heyer fan probably has their own favourite.  An Infamous Army deals with romance leading up to a really impressive account of the battle of Waterloo, reknowned for its accuracy.

An Infamous Army

Stephanie Laurens is far stronger on relationships within dynasties and indeed writes series of novels centred on a particular family or group. I have enjoyed the Lester series, beginning with The Reasons for Marriage

The Reasons for Marriage (MIRA)

which deals with a girl who does not want to be married, despite her impressive domestic organisational abilities.  I enjoyed the first two of this four part series as unchallenging reads, which while being predictable were definitely the literary equivalent of comfort food. Just what you need in snowy weather, if you can get it delivered (from 1p from a certain internet site) or available in many bookshops. Just wallow!