The Great Roxhythe

by Georgette Heyer

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

“I doubt it.” My lord smiled insufferably.

Spoilerish second quote. Sorry I can’t figure out how to do spoiler tags on WordPress

Roxhythe laid a hand on his shoulder.

“Chris, you are distraught because you are rudderless. Come back to me!”

“No-no! I cannot! Less than ever now. I-I think I shall go out of my mind soon!”

“Chris, you were so happy with me. Come back!”

“Ah. so happy! It could never be the same again. Do not try to persuade me! I must go- right away , where I shall not see you.”

“Even though I beg you to stay?”

“Yes- even then, my lord. Don’t try to persuade me! It is hard enough as it is.” 

both quotes encapsulate why this book is pretty much unreadable for me. As a tip, that Georgette Heyer as a naïve 20/21 year old when she unintentionally wrote this gay romance! Other than the spoilered quote above, this wasn’t funny the second time around. Georgette Heyer’s brother has described his sister as so square she was practically cubed. GH definitely didn’t intend for this novel to be a gay romance!

I don’t think that books about royal intrigues are for me. This book was wwwaaayyy too talky-talky for me! No action happens for very long stretches.

Christopher Dart, who takes a position as Roxhythe’s secretary, is an attractive character at the start, but by the end his rigid morals & behaving like a lovesick teenager start to pall. I would say by the time Chris makes his final appearance in the book he is around 32/33 which in those days would have been considered middle aged. It just doesn’t ring true for me at all.

This book only gets an extra half star for a reasonably good beginning and because My Lord John and Helen are so much worse. Don’t bother looking for my review for those two – I read them before I joined Goodreads and I am never going to read them again!

Even if you are a Heyer completist I would skip this one.

Royal Escape

by Georgette Heyer

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I’ve now remembered why I don’t reread this novel (about Charles Stuart’s escape from England after his army was vanquished at the Battle of Worcester.)

I’ve ‘only’ read this title about six times – & the last time would be forty years ago.

I remembered this title (in parts) being nearly as dry as My Lord John That wasn’t the case at all. The book is for the most part very well written & the future Charles II comes alive on the page. I’ve read other accounts of Charles that had him as charming, funny, one for the ladies, but at the same time watchful & one that behind the gaiety had learned to be careful of who he trusted. This book helps one understand how Charles’ character developed.

The main problem I had was with the uneven pacing and repetitive nature of the story. We were told (many times) by minor characters how tall Charles was, how supporters couldn’t believe people in the towns/villages Charles passed through didn’t recognise their rightful king. There is a reasonably extensive bibliography. GH obviously did a lot of research for this title – & didn’t want to waste a single bit!

Charles’ attitude to Jane Lane made me a bit uncomfortable. He seemed to come very close to taking advantage of a gently bred woman who worshipped him & was risking her own life to help him.  I’ve read other speculation that Charles did just that! 

Contemporary painting”King Charles II and Jane Lane riding to Bristol” by Isaac Fuller. Public Domain

And there is an account of a young woman being strip searched which seemed to be vastly amusing to Charles & his contemporaries, but that does offend 21st century eyes.

But the main reason I ended up marking the book down from 3★ was an ending that really dragged. It just never normally takes me almost two weeks to finish a Heyer title.

This is one for Heyer completists only.

Acting on Impulse

by Georgette Heyer, Jennifer Kloester & Rachel Hyland

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This book was my holiday treat!

I am a Heyer completist. GH, especially in her early years, wrote short stories for magazines for some quick money – and to refine her craft. I’m glad the determined Jennifer Kloester was able to unearth so many of these treasures. Jenn wrote forwards for each story and Rachel Hyland wrote the afterwards.

I loved Jennifer Kloester‘s introduction & as an avid GH fan myself, I was deeply envious of her experience pouring through old records in libraries and online, in the hope of finding some GH gold! One of my favourite parts of the book & it had me excited to read the short stories. 5★

I read some reviews & many of the reviewers didn’t like the forwards & afterwards for each story, so I only read them that way for A Proposal to Cicely. (only one of these short stories that I had read before) Even allowing for GH’s extreme youth, during past reads I haven’t liked this story – mainly because of my dislike of Cicely. Much to my surprise, I have always given this story 2.5★, but in spite of Rachel’s explanations of Our Heroine’s motives I just can’t go higher than that.

The Little Lady 

Oh boy, I really hated this one. Confused & mawkish. I hate to do this to a Heyer short story & yes, I know GH was very young when she wrote this but 1★

Lincke’s Great Case
(Tried Lynx as a pronunciation, finally ended up with Link-kezz.)

Read twice & liked better on the second reading, but still found it a bit weak. & a very weak romance. GH just can’t help herself! Jenn speculates that maybe GH’s father helped with the writing. Certainly this story lacks Gh’s usual sparkle. 2★

The Bulldog and the Beast Improbable but charming. This story was just intended to be a diversion, so in spite of all the improbabilities (view spoiler) I really enjoyed this. If I was a reader of the time, I would definitely be looking for more of GH’s works. 3.5★

Acting on Impulse I wasn’t a fan of the kidnapping part of the plot, but was still charmed by this tale, because of the delightful hero & heroine. Love the name Kenneth – I think it is due for a comeback! 3.5★

Whose Fault Was It?
I’m glad I decided to read this short story a second time before giving an opinion, as I liked it much better the second time around, although (view spoiler) But the rest of the story was light & fun, with a good moral. 4★

The Chinese Shawl
Charmed by this one, even though it wasn’t clear how Janet fit into Mary’s life. 4.5★

The Old Maid
Fresh,bright & funny.

Not deep, but who wants deep if you are in the dentist’s waiting room or putting your feet up with a magazine & a quick cuppa? Helen seemed like a real person & is one of the oldest of GH’s heroines.5★

Love
Well, I was the lone voice from the Georgette Heyer Fans Group, but I loved this one, in spite of finding the beginning a bit confusing.Believed to be GH’s only romantic tragedy – something to treasure. 5★ & my favourite.

Rachel’s essay about vanished GH short story On Such a Night. Good, determined detective work & Rachel’s solution is plausible. 4★

I liked the forwards to the stories & loved finding out their publishing history. From memory, a couple of spoilers though. I found the afterwards became more & more negative as the book went on and a couple of them I wish I hadn’t read.

The Unfinished Clue

The Unfinished Clue

The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Could there be any greater happiness for a Heyer devotee to discover a book of hers that you haven’t read – one that is actually excellent!

Ok, I have come back to earth now. I powered through the book in less than 24 hours.

Believe anyone that tells you this is the best GH mystery – it quite definitely is!

It has everything I want in a murder mystery – a loathsome victim, a colourful cast of characters, most of whom have plenty of motives to kill the unlovely General Sir Arthur Billington-Smith. Just when I was reading, smugly thinking I had guessed the solution – there is The Twist. & she twists again. Wow.

My only quibble. (view spoiler)[ It is Heyer. So there was a romance. Heyer just can’t help herself. (hide spoiler)]

Heyer in this mystery proves the equal of my personal big three in Golden Age mysteries – Christie, Sayers and Tey. Read it. I know I’m right.

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Book Review: Georgette Heyer: A Critical Retrospective

Georgette Heyer: A Critical Retrospective

Georgette Heyer: A Critical Retrospective by Mary Fahnestock-Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I was delighted to get hold of a copy of this book. It was self/vanity published in 2001 in the States and I would think very few copies made it to New Zealand. But lo & behold, a copy turned up on TradeMe and I snapped it up.

I was disappointed almost immediately. M F-T is very defensive about her love for Heyer. But this was about the time when I was reading Mills & Boon & I certainly got very sick of even random strangers thinking they had the right to criticise my reading tastes!

Everything published in this book was originally published in the States and the UK. There were definitely reviews written in Australia but I guess the author made a conscious decision not to go too far afield and end up with a 1000 page book. And internet research wouldn’t have been so easy then. But I would have preferred a truly international book with just the better quality reviews as some of these add nothing to my understanding of GH’s works.

I’ll divide the review up into the divisions M F-T used. This read took me two months &, as usual, I didn’t take notes, although my book is stuffed with bookmarks. Please bear with me. 😊

(i) Her Short Published Pieces

Implies that these were the only published shorts (other than those in Pistols for Two) that Heyer wrote. Thanks to a new collection Acting on Impulse – Contemporary Short Stories by Georgette Heyer (which includes A Proposal to Cicely, one of the short stories in this book) we know that is not the case. I’ve read all 3 of the short stories before – & they are not GH’s best work. On the other hand, The Horned Beast of Africa is the only known writing from GH’s time in Africa (her husband was a mining engineer at the time.) There is no point overlaying 21st sensibilities on this one (about the hunting and killing of an unusual rhino.)

Books about the Brontës is quite wonderfully witty.

The essay How to be a Literary Critic was full of snark – it does confirm my belief that GH would have hated Goodreads.

“…Reflect that you could have written the book so much better yourself, if only you had the time and the inclination for the task; and that the literate won’t be listening, if you’re speaking on air, or doing more than glance at your review, if it appears in print; and go right ahead! There will be no reprisals. If the author is young and struggling, he won’t dare to expose your pretensions; and if he is well established he won’t think it worth while to do so.”

(ii) Reviews of her Books

All review writers on Goodreads should pat themselves on the back – it is hard to believe these critics were, in a lot of cases, paid for these pieces, which for the most part are boring, spoiler filled – or both.

The shining exception is 3 (M F-T has thoughtfully numbered the reviews) by I. W. L. from The Boston Evening Transcript, 1921. I should look him or her up. This review of The Black Moth was so good and funny that I am jealous of the unknown writer!

A lot of the reviews were of GH’s detective works – because a lot of reviewers were men. E.R. Punshon & Nicholas Blake are being read again. I want to read these authors myself even more now & I did enjoy their thoughtful reviews. Phoebe Adams from The Atlantic Monthly (March 1962) proves you don’t need to read a book before reviewing it (now she would love GR!)

“Readers who recall that Georgette Heyer once wrote exceptionally amusing and puzzling murder mysteries may be tempted by opening hints of hanky-panky in the hunting field, to essay her latest novel. They will be disappointed. It is woman’s-magazine pastry with an elaborate Regency setting. Togetherness in a curricle, you might say.”

I’m sneering like the Duke of Avon after reading that one!

I can only think that most reviewers of the posthumously published My Lord John didn’t want to speak ill of the dead. Thank Heavens for PLA from The Atlantic Monthly who was honest enough to call GH’s second worst book “a terrible bore.”

My reading advice for this section – other than I.W. L.’s Black Moth review- skip it. My advice for M F-T if she ever decides to republish this book – move this section to the back – just before the even more boring (vi) film and theatre reviews. (I only skimmed these – all the actor names were unfamiliar to me.) I’ve talked to more than one reader who never finished this book because of the tedious reviews – & that is a pity, as there is much better reading ahead!

(iv) Reference Works

M F-T does some brief research & analysis here. Interesting to see GH appearing in reference books & getting some respect. I have put A Catalogue of Crime: Being a Reader’s Guide to the Literature of Mystery, Detection, and Related Genres on one of my to-read lists.

(v) Other Articles and Books

As you would expect, these are a mixed bag.

For me some of the articles were absolutely outstanding!

Top of the list were the two articles by A.S. Byatt -in particular the interview with GH’s husband Sir Ronald Rougier. Sir Ronald comes across as ever bit as private and reserved as his late wife – but he also seemed really sweet.

Also invaluable to the GH fanatic is Cassandra Jardine’s piece about GH’s son Sir Richard Rougier. GH was very proud of him – and it is quite obvious that the feeling was mutual. I will make the most improper observation that Sir Richard was very easy on the eye.

Here is a family portrait – with an actual painting of GH behind!

Next time I read The Corinthian I will want Kathleen Bell’s thoughtful Crossdressing in Wartime: Georgette Heyer’s The Corinthian in its 1940 Context on the side table beside me. I’ll get a lot out of a parallel read, I think.

Now for the not so good. I’ve been trying to get a copy of Teresa Chris’s Georgette Heyer’s Regency England for quite some time. This very bland extract has made me decide to settle for a library copy.

Ugh. Germaine Greer’s extract from The Female Eunuch. What contempt Greer shows for romance readers and women in general when her research involves just grabbing Regency Buck and a Barbara Cartland from a supermarket. Clearly no further research is needed into the tastes of the empty headed little women who are waiting to be set free by Greer’s superior wisdom. sarcasm

But my real loathing is for Marghanita Laski . Given the opportunity to interview a well loved authoress, who by then was old and sick and had previously always refused to do interviews, what did Laski do with it? A hatchet job, that’s what! If (like me) you didn’t go to university & read GH Regencies you must be simple. (I think Laski is using simple in the sense of not too bright rather than mentally handicapped) My late father would have been surprised to learn that men didn’t read GH at all. My father was an accountant and far from simple. She has no explanation on how an educated woman can read them. You can feel the contempt.

I remembered vaguely who Laski was, but I’m consoled by the fact she is fading into obscurity whereas GH is as popular as she ever was. I know some of Laski’s works have been picked up by the well regarded Persephone Press, but I won’t be reading them after this bitter, jealous and mean spirited piece!

For me this book in spite of its flaws is an absolute keeper and I know I will refer to it often!

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Sylvester

Sylvester

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Confession: I needed a little pick-me-up, so I had finished this novel before the Georgette Fans Group started their reread.

A lot of really interesting things struck me this time & reminded me why this is still a 5★ read for me.


♥ Original plot idea.
♥ Great secondary characters. Even if they only appear briefly in the story, I remember them.
♥ The hero shows character development, but doesn’t turn into a completely different person. Total reformation of the man you love is never a healthy aspiration.
♥ Some of GH’s most romantic scenes. I’ve reread them twice since finishing this book.
♥ Thomas Orde is one of Gh’s best secondary characters. I just love him.


If you are a not a fan of ingenue heroines, Phoebe is the final one GH wrote. Cressy from False Colours is only 20, but an extremely mature personality.

I know in previous reads other members have found Sylvester’s nephew Edmund a very young six, but he probably wasn’t both for the time he was written, when GH wrote this (1950s) & the lack of socialisation with his peers. I quite enjoyed Edmund this time around.

I realise these are more like notes than a proper review, but this is my second review on Goodreads & I have read this particular title between 30-50 times.

I’m cutting myself some slack. 😍

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April Lady

April Lady

April Lady by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


3.5★

Look, even a weaker GH romance is still head & shoulders above romances by other writers, so I have to rate GH’s novels against each other & sadly, although I am very fond of Nell & Giles, this isn’t one of GH’s best works. It was rushed out when GH was in financial difficulty – & I’m afraid it shows. GH has to work hard to sell the plot on this one. One of the many things I love about GH’s writing is that it is so effortless – but this one isn’t.

While my younger self could understand (& even sympathise) with Giles’ spoilt younger sister Letty, the crabby old bat I have become just wanted to shake her – hard.

But, Dysart is one of the better of GH’s irresponsible brother characters & he gets many of the best lines. The ending of this book is right up there with some of GH’s stronger works – I read it three times chuckling every single time!

It’s a good, escapist read.

Enjoy! 🙂

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Duplicate Death

Duplicate Death (Inspectors Hannasyde & Hemingway #7)

Duplicate Death by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


4.5★

GH wrote this, one of her her final mysteries, after a break of ten years. I believe she really enjoyed working with her husband on these light, fun novels but the Rougiers lack of understanding of the British taxation system (& the strong minded Heyer’s reluctance to take advice from anyone!) meant they were constantly in financial difficulty – & her Regencies paid better.

This one had the welcome return of the Harte family from

They Found Him Dead by Georgette Heyer

& I think I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been so long since I had read that book. No one could forget Terrible Timothy, but I was a bit confused by the other relationships. I love GH’s mysteries but other than

Envious Casca (Inspectors Hannasyde & Hemingway #6) by Georgette Heyer

I don’t remember them as well as her romances/historicals.

As well as a most ingenious murder method (& a title that is a play on both the social activity & the number of deaths) & engaging, vivid characters this is interesting as a slice of life in post war Britain, which GH handles without any sentimentality. I’m surprised how well she tackles homosexuality & homophobia this time around (earlier books GH has seemed quite naive) & convincing depictions of drug users. I am to have a lot of questions for the British members of the Reading the Detectives Group when they catch up to me – due to a complete brain fart, I’ve read this earlier than the rest of the group. My main question was would it be normal for a Scottish policeman to burst into snatches of Gaelic at every possible opportunity. My word, that was annoying!

The other thing that lost this book half a ★ was the decision to … I haven’t figured out how to do spoiler tags on WordPress yet, but it was part of the resolution of the story.

There were some very quotable quotes as well – & I’m going to go through what is left of my copy to try to find a couple to add to Goodreads. I have a first edition & it is a gorgeous thing

Duplicate Death (Inspectors Hannasyde & Hemingway #7) by Georgette Heyer

– but completely falling apart! A trip down Memory Lane for me as it used to be the property of The London Book Club – a private lending library in Auckland that I remember well!

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