Not So Grand

The Grand Sophy Sourcebooks 2016Sourcebooks is in the process of rebranding its editions of Georgette Heyer’s novels. I want to say up front that Sourcebooks performs a real public service in keeping Heyer in print here in the U.S. It wasn’t that long ago that, if we Yanks wished to read Heyer’s books and our public library was not well-stocked, we had to comb used-book stores and websites, sometimes paying outrageous prices due to their rarity–Heyer fans tend to hang on to their copies–or import them from the UK at considerable expense. I know that because I did it.

Sourcebooks recently posted on their “Georgette Heyer” Facebook page the first redesigned cover they are launching, for The Grand Sophy, which can be seen at left (you can see it at a larger size by clicking on it). While the illustration is fresh and appealing, it has about as much to do with The Grand Sophy as I do with nuclear geophysics.

One is tempted to respond, in the language of Austen and Heyer, that some great misapprehension has occurred. Is that supposed to be Sophy Stanton-Lacy? Whose clothes are all from Paris, who drives a high-perch phaeton and rides a spirited Mameluke-trained stallion, and who carries a pistol and knows how to use it (though it throws a little right)? This simpering miss with her ribbons and flounces and sweet cotton gown that she ran up from the Simplicity Basic Regency Gown pattern using quilting fabric from JoAnn? With a really weird handbag? And evening gloves with a day dress and bonnet? THAT’S supposed to be The Grand Sophy? Continue reading

It’s good to be a nerd sometimes

open_pkg_frontOne of those times was today. I went into the mailroom today to get my mail and someone had propped a package up on the mailbox where everyone leaves misdelivered stuff. It had my name on it, but someone had written on it, “Delivered to wrong apt.” The sender had not included the apartment number, so I guess it was randomly delivered to someone in the complex.
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His Grace

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A gentleman was strolling down a side street in Paris, on his way back from the house of one Madame de Verchoureux. He walked mincingly, for the red heels of his shoes were very high. A long purple cloak, rose-lined, hung from his shoulders and was allowed to fall carelessly back from his dress, revealing a full-skirted coat of purple satin, heavily laced with gold; a waistcoat of flowered silk; faultless small clothes; and a lavish sprinkling of jewels on his cravat and breast. A three-cornered hat, point-edged, was set upon his powdered wig, and in his hand he carried a long beribboned cane. It was a little enough protection against footpads, and although a light dress sword hung at the gentleman’s side its hilt was lost in the folds of his cloak, not quickly to be found. At this late hour, and in this deserted street, it was the height of foolhardiness to walk unattended and flaunting jewels, but the gentleman seemed unaware of his recklessness. He proceeded languidly on his way, glancing neither to left nor to right, apparently heedless of possible danger.

I do so love the Duke of Avon. He’s so fabulous.

Reading These Old Shades

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Illusions: shattered.

ETA: The dictionary was wrong! Bohea was used to indicate black tea, as opposed to green tea. That’s all. Nothing sinister.

All of Heyer: Simon the Coldheart

allheyericonPublished 1925

“Almost from the first her novels stood apart from the usual offerings among historical fiction.” – Jennifer Kloester

I liked Simon the Coldheart well enough, but find myself with not much to say about it. Reading it between Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies* was, in retrospect, not the greatest idea. I was too eager to get back to Mantel to give Simon the attention he deserved; and he does deserve it. To be honest, I had a hard time putting it down for first half of the book. The second half didn’t exactly drag, but it lost a little momentum–and that was just when we were getting to the love story.  Continue reading

All of Heyer: Instead of the Thorn

allheyericonPublished 1923

“Theme handled with restraint, but not needed in small libraries.” – from a review in the Wisconsin Library Bulletin, May 1924 (ouch!)

Instead of the Thorn was Georgette Heyer’s first novel with a contemporary setting. Of course, she wrote it in 1922 or so, so that makes it a period piece for our purposes. In fact, it’s a year or two before the current season of Downton Abbey is set, though the characters are middle-class and the plot is darker in some ways. Not in the occasionally silly dramatic-death soap opera way of DA; this feels like real life.

“She had expected to feel a heroine’s exultation when Stephen slipped the ring on to her finger, but the ring was too big, and she had wanted sapphires.”

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All of Heyer: Powder and Patch

allheyericon Published 1923 as The Transformation of Philip Jettan by Stella Martin
Republished in 1930 as Powder and Patch without the original final chapter

“Short on plot, it is full of light-hearted comedy, and surprising people like it.” – Jane Aiken Hodge

Powder and Patch is not one of Heyer’s best-known or best-loved novels, though it’s very entertaining. It also had an interesting journey to publication–both times.

An early edition of the republished Powder and Patch

An early edition of the republished Powder and Patch

It is not known why Heyer published Jettan under a pseudonym. Jennifer Kloester offers several theories, all of them good, and among the usual reasons why authors have used pseudonyms even till the present day. Perhaps Heyer, having published one rather serious historical novel in Roxhythe, and working on a contemporary novel, Instead of the Thorn, which also addressed serious subjects, did not want the lighthearted Jettan to be unfavorably compared to these other works, or give readers the wrong idea about the kind of novels she wrote. All during her writing career, Heyer struggled with the fact that her books, however popular, were not taken seriously, and wanted to write serious historical novels. It’s very possible that at the beginning of her career, she was trying to establish herself as a serious author.  Continue reading