Georgette Heyer, Queen of Regency Romance

Georgette Heyer may be the founder and queen of Regency Romance, but she earned much of her bread and butter writing detective novels and a handful of “serious” historical novels.  Did I know that? Actually, as a Heyer fan, I did, but the new Heyer biography is chock full of information I didn’t know. For instance, “An Infamous Army” (which details the Battle of Waterloo amongst a classic romance) is required reading for students at Britain’s Sandhurst Military Academy because the battle scenes are so accurate and vivid.

Georgette Heyer, a 2013 biography by Jennifer Kloester, is not a kiss-and-tell. Georgette was an extremely private woman, granting only one or two interviews in her lifetime and burning her personal correspondence after reading it. Kloester, however, had the cooperation of Georgette’s family and, therefore, access to the papers that remained. What Kloester presents is and informative, engaging accounting of her professional life with occasional glimpses at the personal goings-on – her relationships with her parents, husband and son, interspersed with worries about finances – that she revealed in her amazingly chatty letters to her agents and her many publishers.

If you’re curious about the woman who wrote A Convenient Marriage, The Corinthian and (my favorite) Cotillion, among more than 50 titles, or about the business of writing (she gives sales figures), you’ll find this an entertaining read.


Oldies But Goodies – Candide

Reading a 250 year-old satire from a French philosopher wasn’t in my game plan but, when my sons had to read it for class, I decided to share the misery.  Did I say ‘misery’? How wrong I was! To my astonishment, Candide (published in 1759) is a vibrant, comedic love story that is as relevant and accessible today as when it was written. (Admittedly, it helps to have at least a vague notion of European history.) My sons shushed me repeatedly because my frequent laughter disturbed their work! Really!

Basically, Voltaire tells the tale of a young man (Candide) who was taught that he lived in the best of all worlds, at the best possible time, and that whatever happened must be for the best. His happily naïve belief is tested repeatedly as he is barred from the castle where he was reared, abducted into a rival army, shipwrecked, nearly burned at the stake – or was it nearly hung? –  and endures countless other miseries as he searches the world for  the woman he loves.

The good and the bad fall one after the other – find a fortune, lose the fortune; find his love, be separated again. Throughout, the over-riding question is why people, whether beggars or kings, seem to be consistently discontent with their lot in life.  Ultimately, Candide and his travelling companions do find happiness, and the lovers are reunited. The source of the happiness is the surprise, so I won’t spoil that for you.

This really is a hilarious book, an insightful social commentary and a tender love story rolled into less than 100 pages. Download it for free at the Gutenberg Project, or check your local library.