The one thing that always puzzles me is people's tendency to compare Georgette Heyer to Jane Austen. As well compare Crime and Punishment
to a John Grisham
novel! I am not denying the literary merits of either genre; far from it, in fact. However, that doesn't change the fact that one is trying to compare chalk and cheese.
Jane Austen's purpose in writing her novels was not merely to tell a story. In fact, the story was merely a vehicle to examine critically the mores and customs of the society of her times. In an era where women academicians and philosophers were all but unknown, Austen used the only avenue open to her to espouse her brand of social commentary - the novel.
Georgette Heyer, on the other hand, wrote to entertain. Full stop. Her books are not, and were never intended by her to be, anything more than a pleasant way to pass time. That being said, in the context of the Regency romance
, she is the unparalleled expert. Her knowledge of the ton
or Regency high society, is unmatched by any novelist save those who actually lived in those times. Frivolous and flighty though her work may be, the authenticity of her voice cannot be denied.
The Grand Sophy is my favourite Georgette Heyer book. I have a special place in my heart for each and every one of her novels, but in The Grand Sophy, she brings to bear all of the skills that are her forte. Sophy is charming and strong-willed, a force to be reckoned with. Unlike with most of our recent Regency romances, her heroines are never milk-and-water misses; I do not think I have met a single Heyer heroine who could not kick the ass of our current crop of romance heroines. Working within the boundaries of a rigid society, she manages to make her women intelligent, witty and charming. Sophy is a devious, meddlesome schemer, who manages to win our hearts, and the hero's, without ever submersing her personality.
What draws me back to Heyer time and again is the sheer sense of fun
that she manages to impart to each and every one of her novels. The plots are never standard, nor are the heroines or the heros. Take, for example, Gilly from The Foundling
. He's no alpha man; he's a timid, weak aristocrat who still somehow manages to be adventurous and find himself and his path in life. Or Freddie from Cotillion
, a dandy with no great physical prowess or good looks, who manages to get the girl of his dreams simply by being kind and reliable. These heroes are so real
, so much more believable and lovable than the rich, dissolute alpha males of our contemporary historicals who manage to win the heroine simply through the hardness of their abs and the hugeness of their "manhood".
Georgette Heyer's books will live on long after the Harlequin historicals fade from our memories, simply because she is superlative at what she does: making you believe in romance. Not lust, not soulmates but romance