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Guest Post: Georgette Heyer’s Historical Romances…Like Olives

In my third year of University I complained to Cathy that I had nothing to read. Actually I’d shouted “I’m bored” from my dorm room loud enough for Cathy to hear (she lived two rooms away). I was lying on the floor with my feet on my bed staring at my bookshelf crammed with Political Science and History texts, and a collection of tattered recreational reading material by Austen, Caldwell, Plaidy and Seton wanting something new to read that wasn’t vaguely related to study. I was about to reread Persuasion (for the gazillionth time) when Cathy appeared in the doorway with a book and a smug smile. “Read this. You’ll love her.” Cathy loved Jane Austen as much as me, so there was no argument. That she said I would love her the author rather than the book also heightened my interest. The book was The Toll-Gate by Georgette Heyer.
Frankly, I didn’t take to The Toll-Gate. Mind you, this was after reading only two chapters. I complained to Cathy that the prose was plodding, the paragraphs too long and involved. Every speech seemed to end with an exclamation mark. I really didn’t care for the characters. Did she have anything else for me to read?
Cathy in her wisdom told me to keep reading and stop complaining. Heyer was like an olive – an acquired taste. Something children just didn’t get because their taste buds were not sophisticated, but grown ups got it because they were prepared to put in a deliberate effort to get to know the complexity of an olive. By getting to know an olive, only then could one appreciate the subtleties of taste, texture and uniqueness.
I loved olives, so I read on. By the end of the book I grudgingly admitted that Heyer was not too bad. Just like trying my first real olive. The taste was definitely different and rather adult but I still didn’t get what all the fuss was about. Cathy said it was just the same with olives. Many people just don’t get what all the fuss is about with Manzanillo or Kalamata olives.
I returned the book but kept my opinion of The Toll-Gate to myself, determined to be an adult, and not be childish and spit out the olive and never try one again. I humbly asked if I could borrow another Heyer. Cathy looked to have every Pan Heyer (the rather dreadful early 1970s covers) ever printed and from the shelf I chose Faro’s Daughter, and the rest is history. I LOVED Faro’s Daughter. Next, The Grand Sophy, These Old Shades, Devil’s Cub, The Black Moth, The Masqueraders, Bath Tangle… etc. etc. Cathy got tired of my comings and goings. She was my lending library. But I was hooked!
I’m sure there are many who still wonder what all the fuss is about with Heyer, but experience Heyer for yourself, put in the time and effort to acquire a taste for her books, and then you too will truly appreciate the wonderful world she has created. Bet you can’t read just one!
Lucinda Brant writes Georgian historical romances and crimances (crime with lashings of romance). NOBLE SATYR (Book One of the Roxton series) won the Random House/Woman’s Day Romantic Fiction Prize and pays homage to Heyer’s These Old Shades. Book 3 of the Roxton series – AUTUMN DUCHESS – is due out mid August.*

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