Over the past six years I’ve read 20 of Georgette Heyer’s novels (plus 2 that I started and didn’t finish). So, while I’m not an expert on her work I can say I’ve read enough to identify her…quirks.
Heyer’s work is largely inspired by Jane Austen and according to Goodreads she basically established the historical romance genre and its subgenre regency romance. (Let’s be clear that the books that mostly clog those genres now aren’t in the same vein as Heyer.)
Alas, I’m a sucker for historical romance, which is why I’ll always love Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, and most period dramas that are produced by BBC or PBS Masterpiece.
Heyer’s work is filled with vivid storytelling. Through descriptions the reader can see every piece of the world encased in the novel. Each story is an adventure inside of an adventure. The story takes the reader along each discovery. And since even Heyer is writing before her time, I find it fascinating that she was able to capture a time period she didn’t live in so well.
All the same, most of her novels still drive me crazy. I can give a novel 5 stars and still feel frustrated by it. Why? Because though the story, the adventure, the details are enjoyable the characters lack.
The characters are always full of personality, sure, but the depth is deceiving.
It’s like Heyer constructs a world and before she’s done, goes ‘oh yeah, people need to be in it.’
Which is odd to say since the stories heavily revolve around the characters. But there’s no true character arc, no depth beyond who she first presents them as. And this is what drives me insane.
If a character is childish, it isn’t until the last moment that she’s becoming mature. Barely that.
I do blame some of this on my modern mind. I want to see into the characters mind, thoughts, etc. Heyer keeps the reader at a distance.
Example: two characters who are supposed to be falling in love will be together in the novel, going on whatever adventure that Heyer takes them on, but Heyer forgets one thing…to have the characters actually fall in love. In the last chapter when they finally do, it leaves the reader a little bewildered.
Maybe I should put it this way: Heyer is a magnificent storyteller (but even then I find her novels to be a hit or miss), but she’s not so good at building her character’s human relationships. So, the story is interesting, the characters are interesting, but when characters are supposed to be building a relationship is falls flat (most of the time. Some are okay.)
Why do I still read her novels?
Because the story is still good, even is it drives me a little crazy.
Plus, good historical fiction, especially of the romance variety, is kind of hard to find if you don’t want to read the most dramatic (as in everyone dies or some other depressing aspect) writing ever. Heyer is fun, but not dumb.
Here’s some I’d recommend by Heyer –
One last thing! Heyer uses a lot of exclamation points! Like, when the characters are talking! It drive me bonkers!