When I first read the Georgette Heyer Regency romance, Arabella, back in high school, I fell in love with the author’s style and story-telling ability. Everything about the book appealed to me: the large, impoverished, Tallant family; the arrogant Robert Beaumaris; and the descriptions of the Regency era, from the difficulties of getting into Almacks to the use of postillions for a traveling chaise. I re-read the book so often I started to think in the language of the time with a modern British accent.
While Arabella is near the top of the list of all the Heyer books I’ve enjoyed, I have to say that my all-time favorite of her romances is Friday’s Child. From the opening of the book, when the Viscount Sheringham (Sherry) decides he’ll marry the first woman he sees, until the convoluted series of improbable events of the climax, I couldn’t put this one down until I finished. I adore the heroine, Hero Wantage (Kitten), and how her innocent naivete keeps getting her into ‘one scrape after another.’ The way Sherry’s friends Gil Ringwood, Ferdy Fakenham, and George Wrotham want to protect Kitten is incredibly sweet. Wrotham’s desire to duel everyone who shows the least bit of interest in the woman he wants to wed, Isabella Milborne, is an amusing thread throughout the story. And the development of the relationship between Kitten and Sherry is not only well-done, but takes on a heart-wrenching quality about 2/3 of the way through the story. I can almost quote verbatim the beginning of my favorite chapter of the book since I’ve re-read it so many times.
Reading the works of Heyer has influenced my writing style in subtle ways. I tend to use more formal words than are common to most contemporary romances. The relationships between my heroes and heroines develop slower than many modern readers might like and physical intimacy between them happens late in the story. What I haven’t mastered is Heyer’s skill at conveying her stories in such a way as to make readers fall in love with them so they want to go back and read them again and again. That skill is a very important one to authors in any genre and can be difficult to learn, though some seem to have a natural talent for it. Heyer seems to me to be one of the naturals.
Georgette Heyer is credited with having created the genre of Regency romance. She did extensive research into life in Regency times: the language, the clothing, and societal trends. She wove her research into her books in such a way as to make the reader feel as familiar with the times as the author. Many of her readers were so inspired by her style and skill that they started writing as well.
I knew nothing about Heyer’s background or influence on others when I first came across her books all those years ago. All I knew was that her stories took hold of my heart and refused to let go. That’s why I continue to search for any of her books I haven’t yet read, why I often re-read my favorites, and why I continue to work to make my own writing better. If someone someday says something I’ve written has made them as happy as Heyer’s works have made me, I’ll feel I’ve achieved success.
Isn’t that what every writer hopes deep down inside?