Many years ago I read some books by Georgette Heyer (all that were in the local library, I believe) and came away with the impression that she was enjoyable but not particularly noteworthy. A few months ago, however, I picked up a copy of BATH TANGLE on sale somewhere and had it lying around unread. Just recently, I picked it up and since it was quite delightful, I read a few more. (I could only find one at the bookstore. I had to raid the library for the rest.) So far, my favorite is LADY OF QUALITY, but BATH TANGLE and DEVIL’S CUB were quite delightful, too!
I have found the books utterly charming, mainly because I am so delighted by Heyer’s heroes. They must be among the rudest, most ill-mannered, boorish and reprehensible men in romancedom, and yet they are, to me, absolutely delightful. There is nothing I like more in romance than arrogant, proud men who do things their way and do not care for anyone else’s opinion, and Heyer’s books are chock-full of just such men!
Why I like these men is a harder thing for me to put my finger on, particularly when being glared at by the nice gentlemen of my acquaintance who disapprove severely of women favoring obnoxious, arrogant, opinionated types ( though I cannot help noting that both my father and my husband fall into this latter category.)
I think part of the charm of them is that anyone who does not care for the good opinion of others automatically must be of a strong enough character to bear the brunt of disapproval – particularly back in the Regency period, when social approval was so important. So, if a man is rude and still received in society, a lady instantly knows that she is dealing with a man of strong character. And strong character is of utmost importance if the lady, too, is of strong character.
Here I must complement Ms. Heyer profusely, for she does such an excellent job of demonstrating in her stories why strong-willed women cannot marry weak-willed guys. In both BATH TANGLE and DEVIL’S CUB, she does such a wonderful job of demonstrating why the heroine is fit for the hero and why the other man – in both cases quite admirable fellows – would be so much better off with the other girl.
In fact, her secondary male characters are one of the strengths of her stories. In so many romances, there is no true choice, just a hero and a cad, or a hero and a wimp. I so long to see the heroine really struggle over who the right man should be. Since such stories are so hard to find, I shall have to write one.
Which leads me to the thing I’ve enjoyed most about reading these books: Having talked of late mainly with guys, I was beginning to fear that if I write our Corruption Campaign adventures into a series of novels, no one would enjoy the romance part of the story because the male characters would be too unappealing. Reading Heyer restored my faith that some women – well, at least, she and I – like cold, argumentative, arrogant men and would not be disappointed if such men — cold yet dangerous, like a live volcano lurking beneath a glacier – make an appearance in the romantic life of fierce spirited young women.
I will close with the following anecdote from life in the Wright Household. John and I recently went to the library together. As we came out, I felt mildly embarrassed to be carrying an armful of Heyer books. So, I started to try to put into words why I was enjoying then and why I felt it was a worthwhile use to read them. Midway through my explanation, I glanced over at John and burst into laughter, unable to continue my explanation.
I had been trying to justify myself to a guy who was carrying a stack of Spiderman comics.