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Georgette Heyer

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Who was the real Georgette Heyer?

Georgette Heyer famously said, "I am to be found in my work."

Who was this amazing writer who was so secretive about her personal life that she never gave an interview? Where did she get her ideas? Were there real-life models for her ultra-manly heroes, independent-minded heroines, irascible guardians, and clever villains? What motivated her to build a Regency world so intricately researched that readers want to escape there again and again?

Heyer's Regency romances, historical novels, and mysteries have surprised and delighted millions of readers for decades, while the woman behind the stories has stayed hidden...Until now!

With unprecedented, exclusive access to Heyer's notebooks, papers, and early letters, Jennifer Kloester uncovers both the complex life of a private woman and a masterful writer's craft that will forever resonate in literature and beyond.

464 pages, Paperback

First published October 6, 2011

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About the author

Jennifer Kloester

12 books107 followers

I was born in Melbourne, Australia, but have lived and worked in Papua New Guinea and the Middle East and travelled to more than thirty countries. While living overseas I studied as an off-campus student with Deakin University and achieved my BA (Hons) while raising my three children.

After graduating with a PhD in history from the University of Melbourne, my first two books: 'Georgette Heyer's Regency World' and 'Georgette Heyer' (the biography) published in both the UK and the USA.

My first novel, 'The Cinderella Moment', was published by Penguin Australia in 2013 and its sequel, 'The Rapunzel Dilemma' in 2014.

My new novel, Jane Austen's Ghost will be published in October 2019 by Overlord Publishing. I've read and loved Jane Austen for years and have always wondered how she'd fare in our world. This book was my chance to find out! I've had lots of fun giving talks around the world on Georgette Heyer and the Regency, and am a passionate advocate for women writers, books and reading.

I love writing and spending time with my family, my garden is a haven of flowers, birds and insects and I have a serious plant addiction! I love having adventures,and once went to a Rammstein concert in Barcelona (it was epic). One of my favourite things is experiencing new cultures, meeting new people and trying out different languages. Particular interests include Georgette Heyer first editions, and after a glorious visit to South Korea in 2012, Korean language and culture.

Since then, I've also fallen in ove with Scotland and the Hebrides in particular. I have a dream of walking, around Italy but only if my knees hold up!

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5 stars
174 (30%)
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226 (39%)
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137 (23%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 126 reviews
Profile Image for Melindam.
663 reviews293 followers
September 19, 2023
She’d often worked when things were difficult, writing some of her best books when beset by worry. Her period novels in particular had always been an escape from adversity. Hardship in the real world heightened the pleasure of retreat into the fictional realm. (Chapter 33)

A well-structured, straightforward and very interesting biography on Georgette Heyer's life. The only thing curiously missing was some more analysis on her books. I expected more on that particular front, hence the minus one star, but otherwise I enjoyed listening to the book very much, narrated by Phyllida Nash.

I checked out the reviews here on GR and what struck me was that quite a few reviewers who liked Heyer's books gave this one lower rating not because of the biography's quality, but because they seem to have been disappointed with the picture it presented of a beloved author. But it is in no way Jennifer Kloester's fault that Georgette Heyer, despite writing all those delightful books, was a fallible human being like the rest of us, with positive and negative traits aplenty.

It is only a few years since I discovered Heyer's novels and only recently have I started to appreciate her and them as they deserve, but this did not affect my opinion of this biography.

I found Heyer as a person and an author intriguing and read the book in 2-3 days. Kloester managed very nicely to present all the facts she came across during her research and to stay sympathetic to her subject. She offers convincing explanations to the criticism Heyer had received (her being a snob and anti-Semitic, among other things) without the need to whitewash her behaviour and actions.

Here are some random facts, in no particular order, that are worth mentioning:

- She did an enormous amount of research on any historical times she was writing about (which unfortunately cannot be said about most authors I came across, who seem to be churning out books undeservedly tagged Regency Romance without the least ideas or cares about the actual era).

- Thought An Infamous Army her finest novel. Her publisher, Heineman released the book (all her books) without anyone having read them at the publisher's which deeply frustrated GH, because she thought them careless and neglectful (while at the same time it was also a proof of trust in the quality of her writing). Her account about the battle of Waterloo in this book (the final 10 Chapters) became recommended reading at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

- She thought The Great Roxhythe to be her worst book and repressed publication later. She did the same with 4 of her contemporary novels.

- Regency Buck was her first “true” regency romance.

- Readers of her contemporary detective fiction took slight upon the "classy" remarks and snobbish attitude of her characters, but found no fault with the same display in her historical fiction.

- Her husband came up with plotting the actual murders in many of her detective books (although apparently those were rated better where she did the plotting as well).

- A Blunt Instrument is considered (according to this biography at least) to be her best detective fiction.

- She had two different publishers at the same time. Hodder & Stoughton published her detective fiction and Heinemann her romances.
Profile Image for Tracey.
1,080 reviews251 followers
June 11, 2021
Oh, Netgalley, I kind of wish I hadn't read this.

Don't get me wrong; it's not a bad book. I didn't hate the writing, and it didn't make me hate Georgette Heyer; it also didn't knock the acclaimed Regency (etc) author off any pedestal, since I didn't have her on one to begin with. I've only read (listened to) one book of hers so far, and kind of hated that, although I do have a box full of paperbacks I fully plan to read. I've heard many wonderful things about the books, and I chose this biography with an interest in, cart-before-the-horse-like, learning more about an author I expect to become a favorite.

Well, maybe her books will become favorites.

The biography of Georgette Heyer's life lingers over her relationship with her father, and provides loving detail about how she wrote her first book at age seventeen and published at nineteen. And on through her prolific career, her tussles with publishers and financial woes, her marriage and motherhood, moves from residence to residence and publisher to publisher and ailment to ailment. And while I didn't finish up hating Ms. Heyer, I really, really don't like her.

This is a bio written by someone who is passionate about her subject, and even she couldn't make Georgette Heyer winning. She (Heyer) was … well, for starters, she was a hypocrite. She was the sole breadwinner for her family for many, many years – and also supported her brother and mother – and yet was vehemently against women having careers, much less running businesses. She was constantly in debt for more than half her life, and somehow didn't ever seem to twig to the fact that this was in large part because she spent money as though she had it in abundance; she and her family blithely continued to wear the best and eat the best and take month-long vacations, despite the fact that there were many times when, according to the letters quoted, she was afraid of local merchants stopping her credit because of past-due bills. She lived with a perpetual overdraft. She seems to have refused to acknowledge the fact that she was not of the silk-and-diamonds class she wrote about, and instead plunged into such projects as completely refurbishing her (rented) house. (I haven't a great deal of respect for her husband, either, or the brother who couldn't seem to hold a civilian job and seems to have sponged off her for decades without a qualm, yet was perfectly fit for service in WWII and acquitted himself quite well.)

Heyer was blunt and tactless, violently unromantic, and the embodiment of the cliché of British coolness and reserve. She enjoyed a drink – or several – or many – and her use of shall we say other chemical enhancement as well raised my eyebrows. She was a horrendous snob: adamantly anti-American, at least mildly racist, surprisingly sexist, proudly unsympathetic (until, apparently, later in life) to those in shakier financial positions than her own (she called it being "conservative"), and oozed contempt for the fans who adored her books. Sometimes she expressed her contempt in tearing up fan letters; sometimes she expressed it by writing back. I'd bet money that were she writing today she would be a Goodreads Author Behaving Badly. She also seems to have embraced the Darcy characteristic: "My temper would perhaps be called resentful. -- My good opinion once lost is lost for ever.'' She could – and did – hold a grudge like a bulldog.

None of this makes me like her any better. She was almost unfailingly self-deprecating – but in the manner of someone who downplays her achievement in the expectation that the person being addressed will correct her enthusiastically. She expected a conversation (live or by letter) to proceed along the lines of: "The new book I'm writing is rubbish" "No, what I've seen of it is wonderful!" "Really, the only place for it is the incinerator!" "No, truly, it will be a tremendous hit!" – and if her partner in the discussion did not play along she was peeved, to say the least. She claimed publicly at one point that she never read her reviews, which made me snort in disbelief, because it's clear she hung on them. And negativity in reviews nearly always meant that the reader was wrong, how dared they … yes, unless someone sat on her she definitely would have been on the bratty authors list on GR. (And God help anyone who found an anachronism in her writing.)

However. This oughtn't to be a review of Georgette Heyer, but of Georgette Heyer, if you see what I mean. So to that end: not bad. Not great, but not awful. There is a fair amount of punctuation misuse which will hopefully be picked up before the final draft, comma abuse and overuse and so on (even above and beyond what Heyer herself was guilty of in the letters quoted). Formatting – block quotes and line breaks to indicate the insertion of a section of a letter – will also, I trust, be cleaned up. (Someday Kindle galleys will grow out of their awkward childhood, right?)

All else aside, I found myself most annoyed by the repetitiveness throughout the book. The author set down a statement – such as that last sentence – and then explained and/or backed it up with an anecdote from Heyer's life. These brief stories seemed to take their tone and pace from whatever their sources were, for they were not uniform, but generally took up between a paragraph and a page. And at the end of it would come a summation repeating in much the same wording as that first statement, as though to make sure that the point had been gotten across. Once or twice would have raised a sigh, but over and over and over, reiteration reiterated, it became a frustration.

It's awkward – but inevitable – that the correspondence quoted throughout the book is one-sided; Heyer did not keep letters, apparently. I can only imagine she would have been contrarily pleased that her correspondents kept her letters, though, as she made frequent jokes about her future biographers, with the same sort of tone as her self-deprecation: she wanted, desperately, to be reassured that she would be remembered, while fiercely protecting her privacy. However, this leads to unfortunate gaps and unanswered questions which niggle.

It seems harsh to say this, but I can't help feeling there had to be another way to present the events at the end of Heyer's life. As she grew older, she became accident-prone – to an extent that I can't but think today's authorities might look into as possible elder abuse. But as her books came less often and the ailments and accidents came more often it started to be almost farcical - Another fall??. It's certainly not funny to read about a seventy-year-old woman's injuries and illnesses, but after a certain point it just seemed like much too much: someone should have been looking after her better. And that's sad, because whatever else can be said about her she did sacrifice herself (however unwillingly at times) to tend her mother and mother-in-law and anyone else who needed it, all her life long.

My other quibble about the end of the biography is that the author relied on jumping from Heyer novel to Heyer novel like stepping stones throughout her life. When Heyer's output began to falter at the end, so does the pacing of the biography; it suddenly picks up speed as though to sooner reach a point at which Heyer's legacy can be discussed and the book wrapped up. Unfortunately, this is part of why the injuries and sickness turns into something almost ridiculous; also, I found it distractingly annoying that another part of this was the mention in passing of the divorce of a couple who had, a few pages before, been blissfully happy. No explanation is given, or expansion of the circumstances; there is just the merest mention of a split and a remarriage and that's it.

Finally, if I had to read the word "sparkling" one more time in regards to the Heyer oeuvre, I would have screamed. Roget. Just … Roget. Please.

On the positive side, the research that went into this biography is almost as impressive as Heyer's own. The foreword details years of investigation and reading, and the discovery and thorough examination of what seems like reams of previously unknown or forgotten material. It's a wonderful effort, and obviously a labor of love. I just rather wish it had all come to more than this.

I don't have to like, or even respect, an author to like her books. I just simplistically prefer to. So here's hoping.

Disclaimer - Netgalley, review, etc.
Profile Image for Kim.
426 reviews511 followers
February 5, 2012

Georgette Heyer has been one of my favourite writers since my mother gave me Friday's Child when I was about thirteen and told me that it had always made her laugh. Heyer's Regency and Georgian romances are the books I turn to when I am feeling sad or unwell, even though I don't generally read books which would fit within the romance genre. They are the literary equivalent of a cup of sweet black tea: warm, comfortable and reviving. Many of them make me laugh out loud. Most of them make me smile. A couple of them have scenes which bring tears to my eyes. Heyer's novels are not great literature, but then Heyer didn't intend them to be. They are well-written, witty escapism; the best of them are comic romances with subvert the romance genre. Heyer also wrote witty (although not brilliant) mysteries, a number of historical novels and several contemporary novels which she lived to regret writing.

This is the second biography to have Heyer as its subject. The first, The Private World of Georgette Heyer, provides an interesting background and an analysis of Heyer's novels which occasionally includes plot spoilers (as I discovered to my consternation when I wanted to check a detail of Heyer's life and had revealed to me the identity of the culprit in the mystery I was reading at the time). However, Kloester's work appears to have had the benefit of much greater access to Heyer's correspondence and to other records. In addition, while Kloester sets the writing of each of the novels in the context of Heyer's life, she does not analyse or discuss them in any depth and most definitely does not provide spoilers. Kloester has also been able to discuss much more frankly some issues touched on in Hodge's work, particularly the allegations of plagiarism which Heyer made (with apparent justification) against another well-known writer.

However, for all of the access that Kloester had to Heyer's letters and to people who knew Heyer, the image which emerges of her remains hazy in some of its details. This is, I think, is because Heyer was so resolutely private. She did not give interviews, she did not pose for publicity shots, she did not keep a personal diary, she destroyed her manuscripts after publication of her novels and she disposed of most of the letters she received. The image of her which does emerge is not particularly attractive. Heyer was deeply politically and socially conservative, a middle-class woman with aspirations to a lifestyle beyond the income she had for much of her life, a poor money manager, emotionally distant and yet supportive of her extended family, intelligent but insecure.

Kloester writes well. She indulges in relatively little speculation about Heyer's feelings or motivation - which is admirable given the somewhat limited nature of the resources at her disposal. In addition, she provides some insights into Heyer's life which contribute to an understanding of her novels. There's plenty to laugh at in Heyer's letters. One amusing episode describes Heyer's reaction to an invitation to dine at Buckingham Palace and her realisation that the Queen had found her "formidable". (This episode particularly tickled my fancy, I suspect because of my appreciation of Alan Bennett's novella The Uncommon Reader).

Overall, Kloester's work reinforces my view that I would not have particularly liked Georgette Heyer. I have little in common with her and I have no sympathy for her social or political views. If I had been Heyer's literary agent, I would have been driven crazy. However, for all of that, I enjoyed reading her biography and I will remain a fan of her writing. Kloester's work is an excellent resource for anyone interested in knowing more about Heyer.

This was another enjoyable buddy read with my friend Jemidar.
Profile Image for Amy.
2,628 reviews415 followers
September 6, 2016
While I understand why so many reviewers gave this book 3 or 4 stars, I can't do it. I enjoyed reading it too much to give it anything less than 5 stars! For all its flaws, Georgette Heyer by Jennifer Kloester is a fascinating biography about an author I deeply adore, even after discovering her feet of clay. And Georgette Heyer definitely had feet of clay. From her inability to manage her finances to her weird marriage to her extreme shyness, Heyer was a strange, snobbish woman who at the same time is extremely recognizable. She really is "to be found in [her] work."
It is always a wonderful surprise to me to find other people who love Heyer. I know she was a best seller and wrote remarkable novels, but I discovered her in such an isolated way as a 17 year old that it still amazes me to find other fans of her work. For many years I didn't know a single person who had even heard of her, much less read her books over and over like I had. This biography helped fill my craving for a little girly, gossipy time about Heyer and her work. Not that this book is at all gossipy. In fact, for those who don't love Heyer, it probably comes across as rather dry and repetitive. This extremely private woman did not leave much to go on beyond the basic facts. Kloester does her best to flesh the facts out, though, and often quotes Heyer extensively from her own letters.
I enjoyed seeing the chronological order Heyer's books were written in. It actually helps put things into a lot of focus, especially her histories and the more swashbuckling of her stories. The way she felt about her mysteries also helps answer a question I've always wondered, namely, why she wasn't part of the Detection Club. From her regencies, I was delighted to learn that These Old Shades is the sequel of sorts to The Black Moth!
I think what surprised and bemused me the most was how little Heyer and I would have agreed on her own works! She loved Penhallow while writing it, I found it one of the worst mysteries I've ever read. She didn't care much for Cousin Kate (I love that one!) She apparently didn't have much to say about The Grand Sophy and was sick of Frederica by the time she was done with it! She seems to have been most fond of the books I found meh, like Black Sheep or Lady Of Quality. I could go on. I read on with surprise and interest.
This book was...inspiring. I'd recommend it to all authors. While in some ways I'm dismayed to learn that my favorite books came about because Heyer was trying to keep the taxman off her back, in other ways it is intriguing to witness the struggles Heyer overcame while writing. It is interesting to see her discouragement and frustration, followed by moments of inspiration and excitement. Heyer definitely knew the joy of the creative process. She was satisfied with her work.
The picture Kloester paints of Heyer is not always a flattering one, but it is a human one. I really enjoyed this book. I found it beautifully written and intriguing. It wasn't perfect and it tends to be repetitive, but if you love Heyer and want to know more about her, this book is a must read.
Profile Image for Nick Imrie.
296 reviews132 followers
March 21, 2019
Jennifer Kloester has done some heroic work here - it's a very creditable attempt to make an engaging story out of what was a very ordinary life.

Georgette Heyer was born into a happy, upper-middle-class family. She had a loving, harmonious marriage and one child. She wrote some excellent books. Her life was touched by tragedy but no more than any life: she lost a beloved father while still a young woman, but made it through the war largely unscathed, with both brothers and husband coming safely home to her. She had the ordinary share of trials and vexations: a fractious relationship with her mother; two dependent brothers; a reluctance to manage her own finances, disastrously mixed with a bitter hatred of the taxman, which led to the conviction that she was being persecuted by the state for the benefit of the workshy. She was a true Tory even if her politics mellowed in later life.

It's difficult even to drag out a biography of her as a writer, if not as a woman, because she destroyed all her manuscripts. Her perpetual self-deprecation means that she left no serious record of her work method or artistic intentions (indeed, she would have howled at the insinuation that she perpetrated any such thing as 'art'). The most shocking thing in the enter book is the discovery that she used gin, cigarettes, and Dexedrine to stay up all night working. At this point I am beginning to doubt that any writer ever wrote sober and I'm seriously considering a mild drug addiction to aid my own creativity. If even a respectable conservative like Heyer needs amphetamines to write then what hope for the rest of us?
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,016 followers
March 7, 2016
If you ever feel like, as a writer, feeling like you’re a hack who doesn’t even write that fast, I do suggest you read this biography of Georgette Heyer — or just take a look at her publishing history. Holy wow. She started early and kept on going and going and going, producing books which people love to this day almost right up to her death. And yeah, she had a formula for the Regency books, in a way, but they still remained full of wit and humour which makes each one feel fresh, and she did venture beyond those bounds: she wrote a medieval historical novel, contemporary romances, short stories, a novel which is still used as an example for her portrayal of the battle of Waterloo…

She was a versatile, accomplished and prolific author. I feel like she’d have got on with modern writers like Kameron Hurley in her outlook (though not, goodness me, politically or morally) on writing as a job, and one where she had to keep to deadlines, pay attention to her income, and constantly stay ahead of debt and the Tax Man. She may have loved it and it may have been a craft to her, and I think that is apparent, but it was also work and she took it seriously, using it to support her family.

The personality of Heyer is a little elusive because she was a notoriously private person, giving no interviews. On the other hand, there is a wealth of letters written by her available, including some she wrote to fans and to her agent, so her personality shines through there: self-deprecating in a very proper British way, but proud of her work and her research where merited; conscientious about her commitments; blunt and to the point about her likes and dislikes, even when she’s trying to support a friend.

There is quite a bit of repetition on these points, including a recurring theme of Heyer claiming that she doesn’t write well in adversity, and Kloester pointing out that she does. There’s a bit of repetition about her deep relationship with her husband (and the fact that it was not especially physical). But overall it’s an interesting biography which shines a bit of light on Heyer, and has made me scribble some of her works down in my list to read soon. Something about knowing the context in which she wrote them and the feelings she had about them makes them more intriguing. And oh, Heyer, how dare you not just adore The Taliman Ring? It’s so much fun!

Originally posted here.
Profile Image for Susan in NC.
907 reviews
March 17, 2019
I really enjoyed this insightful biography of one of my favorite authors, which I read with the Heyer Fans group.

I’ve not read many biographies, but this may prompt me to read more about favorite authors and historical figures. I guess I was afraid I’d find out they were awful or had feet of clay! But Heyer, though intensely private (which I can respect, in this tell-all social media age I find baffling), was indeed a witty, clever correspondent and incredibly hard-working writer. Especially as she aged, she appears to have maintained a rather formidable, crusty exterior which kept some people at bay, but Kloester points out most friends and associates who managed to get past that outer tough layer found a loyal, smart, clever woman underneath.

Heyer wrote her first book before 18, and supported her extended family for many years, and was often financially strapped. She had extremely high standards and pushed herself hard, often writing through the night (with the aid of Dexedrine and cigarettes) to meet deadlines. She chose her life partner wisely; Ronald Rougier struggled at first to find his own success, but always supported Georgette’s writing career and helped with research and plot ideas for her murder mysteries. I was saddened to read at the end

I really enjoyed this, not just for the insight into some of her books (several of my favorites are mentioned), but for finding out someone who has given me so much reading pleasure was as interesting, smart and witty as her books! Satisfying to know.
Profile Image for Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ .
815 reviews614 followers
October 7, 2014
All biographies of GH are going to suffer because of GH's desire for privacy & her original manuscripts being lost during WW2. I really wish she had agreed to having her voice recorded - I would have loved to hear it!

The picture that does emerge is of a driven workaholic who was the main support of her extended family for most of her life. Her huge workload didn't even allow her the time to get rid of publishers she was unhappy with & manage her financial affairs properly.

I'm glad to "hear her voice" in the surviving correspondence. If she liked you, she was an entertaining companion. If she didn't you certainly knew it.

Also interesting is the amount of cooperation between her three biographers (Aiken Hodge, Wahnestock-Thomas & Kloester herself) This will give us as complete a record as we are going to have.

The most annoying thing about this book was although there is very little discussion of some of her books, there were plot spoilers of two of her mysteries which meant I had to put aside this biography to not risk having rereads spoilt for me. So this has been a very drawn out read for me.
Profile Image for Mela.
1,538 reviews205 followers
November 11, 2022
One of the reasons Georgette's characters live for her readers is that they lived so vividly for her.

I think it is a book for fans (or readers) of Georgette Heyer. It is hard to me to imagine that someone who doesn't like her novels could read this biography with much interest. Furthermore, I love Heyer's books and still I think it wasn't a very engaging, gripping book. Perhaps, it was so because Heyer was a very secretive person or that her life was rather without many events. Although it is difficult to believe in the latter, because she lived during two world wars and wrote so many great stories. Nonetheless, I read it with interest (and quite fast) and I found out many interesting facts, some of them made me rethink my opinions of her books.

For example:

--> It was surprising to find out that Heyer read and was inspired by Ethel M. Dell books. They wrote so different. Although I like to read Dell's novel from time to time I would have never connected these two writers.

--> I was sad when I read that Heyer hated Simon The Coldheart. I loved it so much.

--> I must admit (what I didn't notice before) that she wasn't historically accurate regarding the role which religion had in the past on people lives. It didn't bother me then, I was too much gripped by the story but I must agree she skipped very important aspect of the medieval life.

--> I wanted to read her contemporary novels: Pastel, Barren Corn, Helen, Instead of the Thorn and also a historical fiction: The Great Roxhythe but since I found out that she hated it so much that she forbidden to reprint them I decided that I will not read them. You can call it a tribute to her. Although, knowing that her contemporary novels (especially 'Helen') are much autobiographical and contain Heyer's thoughts, reflexion about many things, e.g. about the women, love and marriage, it is a big temptation to try to find a copy.

--> How is it possible that during her life Heyer tried so many times to sell rights to make movies of her books but now we can't wait to at least one adaptation? I can understand that she didn't like those two which were done but even knowing them she tried to convince somebody to make another (better) movie.

--> It is interesting to know that she valued the most The Spanish Bride, An Infamous Army, Penhallow, and probably even more Friday's Child.

--> I had read somewhere earlier that Barbara Cartland was inspired by Heyer, but I wasn't aware that Heyer (and her fans) thought that Cartland (also Kathleen Lindsay, who wrote under many pseudonyms) was a plagiarist. I had thought, I would try Cartland's novels, but now, I am not sure I will.

--> I was shocked to learn that Heyer took dexedrine (an amphetamine enantiomer), mostly for cold but also for other illnesses, since 1952. And she wrote, since then, many novels under the influence of this.

Heyer was a great professional as a writer. I hadn't thought how much. I simply trusted that she was mostly accurate. But, she wanted to be totally perfect describing e.g. Regency world and she was. She had a splendid wit and her romances were wonderfully unmelodramatic. This is why we read and we will reread her novels.

But, thinking about what I have read about Georgette Heyer I must admit that she wasn't a person I would prefer she would have been. I think that for some fans the truth about her could be painful. So, I recommend to them to consider if they want to read her biography. If you (as a fan) want to know her better (mostly her bad sides) you can save your time and read Tracey's review - if you do it, read the whole review, but I warn you you won't probably like what you read.
Profile Image for Abigail Bok.
Author 4 books206 followers
March 10, 2019
Biographers of writers (and other creative types) face a dilemma: to what extent should they engage with their subject's art? It's not a simple problem. The art is what makes the person a worthy subject for biography, but one can all too easily fall into the trap of using the person's life as a vehicle for explaining their art. The person is simultaneously more and less than the art he or she produces. Tainting the art with too much biography is reductive, and so is interpreting the person's life solely in terms of artistic product.

Georgette Heyer would have appreciated the various dimensions of this dilemma, I believe. Throughout her adult life she maintained a clear barrier between her writing and her quotidian existence. At home and in public she was always Mrs. Rougier; Georgette Heyer the novelist almost never was photographed or interviewed, promoting the notion that like her characters she existed only on the page. That fact might tempt the biographer to imagine Heyer's life solely through her literary output--but that would be falling into a trap, because Heyer would surely loathe the notion that she had anything in common with her stories, most of which she regarded as light-minded fluff.

Jennifer Kloester clearly considered these issues well, and the result is a biography that for the most part avoids making facile comparisons between Heyer's life and her work. (Her account of Heyer's suppressed novel Helen is a reasonable exception.) It also avoids, almost to extremes, the amateur psychologizing so common among biographers. The result is a narrative that comes across as scrupulously accurate but ends up being rather plodding, as we march through the uneventful days and nights of a workaholic.

Many biographies of writers use the opportunity to assess their subject's books. In this regard as well Kloester has practiced almost excessive restraint. She takes a few stabs at celebrating Heyer's skills and refers to a few people who believed her work rose above the level of pulp fiction, but there is no sustained argument here for Heyer's place in British literature. That seems a missed opportunity to me. There is little literary analysis here or close textual reading; maybe there is more in Kloester's other book about Heyer, Georgette Heyer's Regency World, which I have yet to read.

Still, this is a very competent and thorough account of Heyer's life and the basic motivations that drove her. Fans will find it absorbing.
Profile Image for Lady Wesley.
940 reviews323 followers
July 1, 2014
If you're a Georgette Heyer fan like I am, you'll enjoy this book. I've given it four stars, as it's well done as a biography, but I enjoyed it only about three stars worth. I would have liked a bit more discussion of her most popular books and a bit less discussion of her schedule and her constant worries about money.

If you've always wondered where she got her plots, I'm afraid the answer is, "she just made them up." She started out writing mostly mysteries, and a few historicals, before she discovered that the Regency era was her perfect setting. Her humor, which led her to create fabulous dialogue, seems to have been innate, as evidenced by excerpts from her letters. But she doesn't come across as a particularly pleasant person herself. In fact, even after reading this book, she remains something of an enigma.

She was born in 1902, and she remained an Edwardian for her entire life. She was quite class conscious, and thought England's class system was just dandy. Although she fretted about being "poor", and her husband did not bring in much income (until he was middle aged), she and her husband always had servants and hand-tailored clothing; they went on lengthy holidays and sent their son to public school. She claimed not to be a prude, but by today's standards she certainly was. In many of her romances, the hero and heroine do not so much as kiss. I expect that she would be delighted to know that she is remembered as being the inventor of the Regency romance but would be horrified to read the Regency romances being turned out today.

Interesting facts: for several years, she and her husband lived in a set at Albany in London. (Oh, my dear, never call it a "flat" in "The" Albany.) (Albany appears in many other authors' Regencies as the abode of aristocratic bachelors.) After several unsuccessful careers, her husband read law and eventually became a QC, as did her son Sir Richard George Rougier. He husband was quite handsome, and seems to have been a charming man, and their marriage seems to have been fairly affectionate but passionless.

She did a prodigious amount of research for both her historicals and romances, and she seems to have been able to just sit down and write a book in only a few weeks. She was incredibly disciplined, and her first draft often would be her last. Most of the time, her publisher not only did not edit her books, he never even read them.

I came away with a renewed respect for her talent and for the influence she has had on the many authors who came after her.
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 150 books37.5k followers
January 7, 2013
Kloester had access to tons of extra papers--but none of them really grant any insight into Heyer, who burned her drafts, and her private correspondence. Who only gave one interview, and that on her own terms.

So the biographer is left to guess at Heyer's process and her emotional development by extrapolating possible guesses from the author's early fiction (always dicey at best) and trying to guess at her thinking through the medium of a long correspondence with publishers. It is fairly clear from the extensive quotations from those letters that Heyer chose her agents and editors not for their skills but for how much they flattered her. She was constantly in debt; though she was the support of the family, she and her spouse apparently insisted on living far above their means.

In short, what comes out of this bio, though Kloester paints Heyer with sympathy, is a picture of a highly unpleasant woman, supercilious, bigoted, snobbish, and yet she turned out those fun reads! Given how fiercely Heyer protected her privacy, I don't think the book everyone really wants (how she did it) can be written.

I suspect (but could be wrong) that the readers who will most appreciate this bio will be the completists, and the people who are unstintingly enamored of all things Heyer.
Profile Image for Christy B.
343 reviews198 followers
January 2, 2013
A decent biography about an insufferable person.

I'm not big on Georgette Heyer's books anymore, but I'm always interested in learning about the real lives of authors. Well, Ms. Heyer and I would not have been friends, let's just say that.

The book in itself had problems keeping my attention. Dry biographies that basically just state fact after fact bore me to tears. I can find that stuff out on the internet. I never felt engaged, and often skimmed pages.

The book was highly researched, and it shows, almost too much. There aren't that many Heyer bios out there, so I recommend this if you want the facts of her life. Unfortunately there's not much else I can think of to say.
Profile Image for Andrea.
Author 25 books784 followers
September 4, 2022
I found this very interesting, giving a background of authorial life details at the time of writing each of her books. Some fun tidbits too, such as Heyer disliking Ngaio Marsh's Alleyn. [Though, if she'd only read the first couple of Alleyn books that probably wouldn't be surprising, since he was quite fatuous in the first couple of outings.]

Heyer apparently frequently consumed some form of amphetamine-laced tonic that allowed her to stay up all night writing, which is not something I would have guessed.

The post-WW2 super-tax sounds terrifying.

Heyer is definitely a 'product of her times' - a bit racist, and all caught up in class. I'd probably have enjoyed listening to her joking with her friends - but been well aware that I would likely be way too vulgar for her.
Profile Image for Damaskcat.
1,782 reviews4 followers
April 28, 2015
I've been reading Georgette Heyer's novels since I was in my early teens and they are still a pleasure to read nearly fifty years later. I was aware that Heyer refused to be interviewed and I knew next to nothing about the rest of her life so I looked forward to reading this biography. I was not disappointed as it is compulsive reading. The author is enthusiastic about her subject and hugely knowledgeable but this does not mean she glosses over Heyer's imperfections.

Here is all the background to Heyer's relationships, sometimes fraught, with her publishers and with her family and friends. I always wondered why she changed from Heinemann to the Bodley Head in the 1960s and it was interesting to read about the reasons behind the change. At that time `The New Georgette Heyer' was always top of my Christmas list and I was desolated if no new book was published in a particular year.

It was interesting to find out why Heyer herself refused to allow reprints of her modern novels - , `Barren Corn', `Instead of the Thorn' and `Pastel'. She did not consider them to be her best work. An early historical novel `The Great Roxhythe' went the same way and has still not been reprinted though Simon The Coldheart has been reprinted since Georgette Heyer died in 1974.

This book brought Heyer vividly to life for me and I felt as though I knew her by the time I had finished reading the book. She was a highly intelligent, witty person with great stamina and dedication to her work. She had a well developed sense of the ridiculous which must have been obvious to anyone who has read her books. At the same time she had diffidence about her abilities which at times prevented her from seeing how really excellent many of her books are. An Infamous Army for example is considered to be one of the best books of fiction or non-fiction about the Battle of Waterloo.

I had not appreciated how prolific Heyer was at times - writing more than one book a year and sometimes finishing them in a matter of weeks. Her publishers for many years never even bothered to read her manuscripts and just sent them sent straight to the printers. Heyer herself rarely revised to any great extent and the stories seemed to just flow from her brain into the typewriter fully formed. The novels which were based on historical events such as Royal Escape and The Spanish Bride took longer to write because of the research involved. She was rarely faulted on her historical accuracy though the author does point out one or two relatively minor mistakes in some of her novels.

The book has plenty of information about the author's sources, an index - though this is not interactive on the ebook version I read - a full list of Heyer's novels and short stories published in the UK and the USA. The publisher has clearly gone to some trouble to ensure that the illustrations display properly in the ebook version and these are very good. This has to be the definitive biography of one of our most popular authors and I would recommend it to anyone who has read and enjoyed her novels.
Profile Image for Ana.
2,352 reviews325 followers
March 7, 2018
This book sated my curiosity for Heyer, the person and the Regency Romance Master. Now I just need to somehow find her out-of-print contemporary novels and I'll be a happy clam.
Profile Image for Garnette.
Author 7 books20 followers
February 10, 2013
Reading Regency novels used to mean laughing through a Georgette Heyer. Reading an authorized, somewhat scholarly, biography of her life a hypnotic bore. Surely Jennifer Kloester, with carte blanche to Heyer’s papers, letters, contracts, family and publishing history would also delight readers with some of the same tongue in cheek humor. Not at all.

But, having read Heyer through high school, college, seminary, motherhood, divorce etc., I knew the only way to get my sealegs back after the biography was to re-read one of the novels. As it happens I only had a battered 1985 Bantam paperback of The Nonesuch. Why? Because I heard Germaine Greer in the early seventies (remember her?) bashing Heyer at Washington’s National Press Club for being an anti-feminist, mind-altering drug for silly women. Well, there it is.

Most of her books I borrowed from the Bethesda Public Library. Then some wandered into my bookstore later, but I only had the one on my bookshelves this weekend.

One thing Heyer wasn’t was a silly goose, like the ones she contrasted with the strong-willed, slap up to the mark, canny females, the focus of each plot. For women are the reasons for the books. Not a ninnyhammer among them. Bird-witted sure, some but not the protagonists. There for contrast of how a wise woman runs her life.

Yet I do recommend the biography. Did you know that this frippery author wrote her first novel at seventeen, published it at nineteen in order to support her mother, brothers and grandmother after the sudden death of her father? That she put both husband and son through the rigors and expense of the English lawyers’ education and establishment. That she struggled all her life, and mainly won, for her publication and royalty rights. That she was fierce and strong and half Russian. That she INVENTED the Regency novel, all others are knock-offs of her historical research. That her favorite author was Jane Austen – for Austen's wit, and the sharp-eyed incision she preformed on her society. Jane Austen, btw, did NOT write Regency novels.

On the other hand, Heyer, although later she preferred the pronunciation HARE, was beyond conservative in her politics mainly as I read it, because she despised having the heavy taxes taken out of her royalties. So yes, I am glad I read the bio. I recommend it for any working writer/reader to see how hard she worked. Twenty thousand words in a weekend. To see how she took a bit of idea into a plot. How diligently she wrote – often staying up all night for the sheer writingness of it. Just like I did to read her latest book as they came out in the previous century. That fierce energy is there in the novels, it gave us something to go on.

Will I re-read more? Maybe, I pretty busy writing novels myself. What a blast of encouragement this bio is for women, for writers, for readers. I guess I will have to give it four stars for the subject – and all the hard work of the biographer. Kudos.
Profile Image for Wealhtheow.
2,446 reviews547 followers
March 11, 2013
Georgette Heyer was the first child of middle-class parents, was very well educated by them (she never attended college), and began making up stories to amuse her younger brothers. In 1921, when she was just 17, the first of her novels (The Black Moth) was published. Since then, her novels have been continuously in print, even during world wars and when paper was extremely restricted through rationing. Writing, on average, at least a novel a year (along with innumerable short stories for ladies' magazines), Heyer published 55 novels before dying at the age of 72.

Although Heyer wrote detective stories and novels set in time periods ranging from the 1200s to the modern day, what she is most famous for are her 43* Regency-era romantic comedy novels. Her meticulously detailed research (done at a time when she had to compile it herself, without use of historians' notes or books) is still marveled at today, even if the mindsets she gives her characters feel a little more Edwardian than Regency.

I would only recommend this book to those who have read at least several Heyer novels, preferably at least half of them. Much of this biography is basically a short synoposis of Heyer writing each novel, interspersed with quotes from letters from and to her discussing it. The rest of it is basically a recounting of her financial doings (Heyer had astoundingly complicated finances) and medical woes. Heyer's character comes through, a woman who was deeply classist and touchy about taste and class, who loved to travel, research and write, who was very conservative for much of her life. Her letters are witty, all sarcastic asides and playful tangents; the substance is all subtext.

This biography helped me appreciate Heyer's novels a great deal more than I had previously; I hadn't realized how incredibly rapidly she wrote (sometimes she wrote the entire thing in just a couple months!), nor had I realized that her books were never edited--hell, her agent and publisher hardly ever read them! She generally turned over the first draft and it was immediately published, even at the very start of her career. Often her novels were published serially in magazines, as she wrote them. Nor had I realized just how many books she churned out--no wonder her characters feel a bit same-y, given that she was writing several novels a year!

I was also quite pleased to find out that Heyer wrote short stories. There isn't a complete list or index anywhere, but the biographer did manage to track down 26 that were published in various magazines. Sounds like they'll be good morphine once the Heyer heroin runs out!

*to be precise, only 30 novels were set during the actual 9 years of Prinny's regency; the others, like the famous These Old Shades are set a bit earlier.
Profile Image for QNPoohBear.
3,091 reviews1,483 followers
September 21, 2014
Ms. Heyer was born in 1902 to an upper middle-class British family. She loved to watch the stage coaches come rolling down the street, an image which stayed with her for the rest of her days and helped her Regency world come to life. A bright and imaginative child, her parents allowed her imagination to run free and her father encouraged and influenced her story telling. At the age of 19 she published her first book, written to amuse her invalid brother Boris. She published one or two novels a year almost every year for the rest of her life. Her early marriage to George Ronald Rougier and the birth of her son Richard did not hamper her career. Her husband was supportive and even helped shape the plots of her early mystery novels. Miss Heyer's early novels were contemporary and dealt with the issues of a woman's place, marriage and other topics of the day. Her fun mystery novels paid the bills and allowed her the freedom to research for her historical novels. History was her true passion and by the 1930s, she was writing nearly exclusively Regency novels. Miss Heyer was notoriously reserved and very private. She almost never gave interviews and was very demanding in regards the the publication of her books. She was conservative, snobby and prejudiced by modern standards though she was very much a product of her upbringing in that time and place. She admired and idealized the Regency era and drew her world from her own memories of the Edwardian era and extensive research. Her attention to detail and ability to bring characters to life made her books instant best sellers. Her death from lung cancer in 1974 was a great tragedy in the world of literature.

Ms. Kloestner built on a previous work by Joan Aiken Hodge to create a complete picture of the life of one of the 20th century's most prolific and beloved authors. Ms. Kloestner interviewed Miss Heyer's son, friends and others who knew Miss Heyer well. The biography is also drawn from archival sources (my favorite!) such as private correspondence and publishing records. The biography is well-written and the writing style is accessible to anyone. Though it is long, it moves along quickly, at least if one doesn't ready every word! The book goes into great depth, almost too much at times, about the life of Georgette Heyer and those who were close to her. Ms. Kloestner quotes extensively from Miss Heyer's correspondence and the back of the book includes lists of Heyer's novels, short stories and Ms. Kloestner's sources and acknowledgments. There is even a section of photographs, many never before seen from private family archives. I am very impressed by Miss Kloestner's research and think this is a wonderful biography. Short of any new information that comes to light in the future, there can never be another book about Georgette Heyer equal to this one. I highly recommend it to those who want to know more about their favorite author.
Profile Image for Lucy Bertoldi.
111 reviews32 followers
January 16, 2013
This book is a must read for die-hard Heyer fans. Incredibly detailed, the book tells of Georgette’s life through a meticulously researched and fascinating read. Apart from the chronology of Heyer’s book writing and process, there is the biographical aspect that brings you right into her life.

Who was this clever author who’s ongoing captivating writing has us all hooked? What was she like? In GEORGETTE HEYER, author Jennifer Kloester reveals a woman who, contrarily to her very reserved exterior persona, spoke through her characters; allowing them to feel and express as she may never have been able to do so herself.

The book is filled with interesting aspects that bring you closer to understanding Georgette Heyer. For instance, I was surprised to read that she didn't accept any opinions on her books, except those from her husband. He was the only one whose opinion she trusted. She also allowed him to help her with the plots.
As a writer of historical fiction, Georgette was brilliant and after reading this excellent book I am of the opinion that her sparks of genius were also mirrored by bouts of eccentric thoughts. For instance, when Georgette was ill, and at some point it happened rather frequently- she would immediately think that death was imminent.

Indirectly, through Georgette Heyer’s letters, much of what she felt was revealed and these also formed the basis by which we discover the depth of her person. I learnt so much about her life and her work! This gem is sure to satisfy all curiosity on the famous author- it does not disappoint. I highly recommend GEORGETTE HEYER, by Jennifer Kloester- it’s extremely well researched and offers a wealth of info that’s fascinating to read.
Profile Image for Nancy.
2,136 reviews70 followers
January 13, 2021
So another ebook (free, thanks Libby) finished. Almost 19 hours (about 2 of my work days) of reading.
I am stuck home so this was quite an excellent time to tackle this opus.
The author did a nice job introducing me to the real G. Heyer.
If I had the book I would definitely underline my favorite parts.
One point I totally agree with GH on is the privacy she insisted on during her career.
She worked so hard at her craft and very rightly guarded her family life as personal and private. If she hadn’t done that I don’t think we readers would have had so many wonderful books of hers still to read today.
Since I am American some of the British bits were puzzling but overall a good and enlightening read that all her fans will love.
Profile Image for ambyr.
905 reviews79 followers
June 2, 2021
This is a perfectly competent biography that unfortunately failed to convince me that Heyer was that fascinating as a person. I read it because I'm always interested in the business and process of writing, and there were sections here that shone on that level--particularly the descriptions of Heyer's research process. But ultimately this leaned too heavily into a recitation of dinner parties and tax woes and away from literary analysis for my preferences. Worth reading if your level of innate interest in Heyer is higher than mine, probably.
Profile Image for Hurricanekerrie.
116 reviews
December 28, 2013
Unlike other reviewers, I found myself liking Georgette Heyer after reading this biography by Jennifer Kloester. I enjoyed reading Heyer's own "voice" through her numerous letters to friends and publishers. She had spunk and a signature biting wit and more than a sprinkling of self-importance. If not for these qualities, she wouldn't have written so acidly to her purported plagiarists (Barbara Cartland & Kathleen Lindsay) though apparently, her need for privacy outweighs any need to sue, therefore nothing ever came of these conflicts. So there. I enjoyed reading about her thoughts on her stories, and learning that she was under the influence of gin and Dexedrine while writing my favorite book of hers, "Cotillion". I was also quite relieved after reading that Heyer was "allergic to Russian literature" as I am-- though for completely different reasons-- her reason is "loathing their fatalism", mine is just their propensity towards loquaciousness and downtrodden, sorrowful musings.

There's a funny bit at the end of Chapter 25, where Georgette Heyer writes her publisher a satirical 9-point "Principles of Successful Novel Writing".

For example, #3 says: "Brood for several weeks, achieving if not a Plot, depression, despair and hysteria in yourself... This condition will induce you to believe yourself to be the victim of Artistic Temperament, and may mislead you into thinking you really are a Creative Artist."

And #9: "Book a room in a good Mental Home." (She apparently liked to capitalize.)

I have not read many biographies to be able to categorically say whether this one was good or not. At the end of the book, I have learned many straightforward facts about Georgette Heyer's life, but not much analysis into the what's and the why's of her literary career. I would've loved to know of Heyer's writing process (she wasn't schooled on writing; she just wrote.) or how certain characters were developed, alas there were none of that. Kloester ventures to say that Georgette Heyer was a snob and Anti-Semitic despite being middle class and of Jewish lineage but she does not delve deeper into that either. I would also have wanted an analysis on why Heyer's works are not given due literary merit, if only for the quality of her historical accuracy. Whether these ommisions were from lack of source materials (most likely) or a bias on the author's part, I don't know. But despite the fact that this biography merely skims the surface of Heyer's ultra-private life, at the end, I'm still a Heyer fan and plan to read all the rest of her novels at leisure.
Profile Image for Marguerite Kaye.
Author 232 books334 followers
August 21, 2013
I'm always worried, when reading a biography of someone I admire, that it will put me off. Absolutely not with this one, which did something I didn't think possible - made me admire Heyer even more.

What I enjoyed most was that it concentrated on the thing I was interested in - her work. Yes, there was personal stuff and some real incite into her character, but it was how she worked, how she came up with her stories, and how she dealt with her publishers that I found fascinating - and not just because I'm a writer too (though I cringe, just mentioning myself beside her). So many things did resonate. Her dealings with her publishers over publicity or the lack of, her constant battles with trying to earn enough to live and the way her books, especially her Regency romances, were treated as 'lesser' literature. But it was her work ethic that was most awesome. The way she came up with stories in her head, characters and characteristics, snatches of conversation, would find their way into her letters to her publisher and agent, long before she'd put pen to paper. Then the novel, when she came to write it, almost flew out at a pace. Often it went to print without any corrections - when you read them, their flawless, witty, precise prose, that's almost unbelievable.

Kloester's style exactly suited this bio Precise, at times caustic, she didn't run away from Heyer's flaws but nor did she make a huge deal of them. Here is the reality, she said, make of it what you want. And it worked. Really, really recommend this one. And now I'm off to dig out my big box of Heyer books and see what ones I'm missing.
Profile Image for Mary Pagones.
Author 14 books93 followers
June 17, 2021
I've enjoyed many a Heyer Regency-Frederica is my favorite thus far-and the reading of this book was sparked out of annoyance in a debate on an online forum about Heyer's antisemitism/classism and so forth. Although the fact Heyer wrote a horrifically antisemitic scene in The Grand Sophy is undeniable, as is her focus upon the ton of her created version of Regency society, I wanted to know more beyond vague Twitter threads who this woman was. Was she really ideologically antisemetic, or simply repeating stale old tropes from Dickens and Shakespeare. Also, she'd once said she was most present in her work, spurning biographical inquiries in life. But her works were almost exclusively historical and genre-related, containing very little of what would be considered personal in nature at all?

A person's life-or at least, an artist's life-is more complicated, of course, than any social media post. Heyer's grandfather was Jewish, a Russian immigrant, who eagerly attempted to assimilate into British society. Far from to the manor born herself, Heyer's beloved father was a history schoolteacher for much of his life. She gained his love of history, and also a desperation to hold onto her financial place and status in the inflexible British class system. This explains her self-admitted fearful snobbery, as does her almost obsessive writing from the age of 19, producing nearly a book a year, and often two (a historical Regency and a mystery at the peak of her productivity). She was very shy, prickly, and reserved, and the image that emerges is of a woman who was indeed very conservative politically and a Tory, but probably for reasons rooted in her tenuous rather than secure social place. No wonder she was so well-suited to write about a socially anxious age like the Regency. She also did seem more apt to base her books on other books, rather than anything going on in her life.

She took on the responsibility for supporting not only herself, but her beloved and devoted husband, her mother, and her brother (who struggled with bipolar disorder for much of his life). She wrote and wrote, fueled by amphetamines and the cigarettes that eventually killed her, often well into 5:30am. She had almost 2,000 volumes of historical reference, notecards upon notecards of Regency slang. Of course, her works aren't history, but they are very funny, and have won over generations of readers (including Stephen Fry, a great fan).

My main criticism of this biography is that it fails to delve into Heyer's sexual politics. Heyer wrote a number of cross-dressing heroines, and then suddenly stopped, and later expressed reservations about books like The Masqueraders which dealt most openly with gender-bending themes, calling them very "Come April," whatever that means. Someone said they didn't think Heyer knew about queer sexuality, but Heyer herself is quoted in the book talking about including a lesbian in a contemporary mystery (which the readers will know, even if it's not explicitly referenced, she says).

Still, I found this book fascinating and inspiring, in terms of its author's work ethic, although she hated Americans and probably would have been irritated by me. It made me want to read more Heyer, which I'm off to do, despite her problematic politics, which, alas, was all too common amongst British genre authors of her era.
Profile Image for Dilly Dalley.
139 reviews8 followers
November 21, 2018
Early in 2018, I joined the Jane Austen society of Australia. While I was at their most excellent bi-annual conference in Canberra, I came across a book of Georgette Heyer appreciation essays. Given I read through most, if not all, of the Regency romances when I was in high school, I thought “I wonder if her novels have stood the test of time?”. According to the book of appreciation, they had. So, I re-read Devil’s Cub and ordered this biography from the library.

I haven’t reviewed Devil’s cub yet but as for this biography by Jennifer Kloester, I’m giving it 4 stars. I found it easy to read, comprehensive, a straightforward linear biography (started with her childhood and went through to her death and legacy), and it seemed a balanced portrayal from someone who was clearly a fan of her novels. Georgette Heyer had some attitudes that many today would find unpalatable (a belief in a class society as the natural order, a dislike of taxation and the rise of the welfare system, bigotry towards some groups in society - that kind of thing). Jennifer Kloester effectively casts her as a product of her time and class, a person who retained her Edwardian values into the modern world.

On a personal level, I did not learn anything about her that made me deem her art to be not worthy of my time and energy. I am of the camp that believes the personal is political and will not support the art of those who commit blatant injustices towards groups or individuals (as in I won’t go to any more Woody Allen movies or read any more Bob Ellis). But Georgette Heyer came out of this story as an interesting and complex person, with a great and easy talent, which she worked hard at, driven by a combination of economic necessity and her effervescent urge for characters and storytelling. She was constantly worried about money because she was the primary source of income for her Mother, brothers and husband for most of their lives. Yet she lived well and gave generously to family and her small group of friends. She protected her writing life by keeping her social life small, tight knit and private. And she lived in the Albany - trust me, you’ll be fascinated - look it up.

This biography is a comprehensive piece of scholarship. The author was researching and writing nearly 30 years after Jane Aiken Hodge’s biography of Georgette (which was written less than 10 years after Heyer’s death), so she was exposed to more letters and archives. Georgette Heyer’s only child, Richard was an elderly man when she started the research and I don’t think he lived to see its publication. He seemed keen for the biography though and gave her full access to all the archives.

As a literary biography, I feel it was successful in showing Heyer’s development as a writer, what influenced her and what literary successes and challenges she experienced through her life.

One fascinating tidbit I learned was that the Booker prize earned its prize money from the purchase of the copyright of some of Britain’s most popular authors - Georgette Heyer & Ian Fleming being two of those. Both of whom have sold millions of copies of their novels and both of whom would never win the prize that they funded. There’s the reality of publishing in a nutshell.
Profile Image for Irene Davis.
Author 7 books13 followers
March 27, 2019
A detailed biography of the author who invented Regency romance as we know them today, including many excerpts of her entertaining and witty personal letters.
Profile Image for Kate.
550 reviews48 followers
May 6, 2015
This book, with its many excerpts from GH's letters, cemented my feeling that, much though I love many of Heyer's books, we would Not Have Been Friends. This even though we both like Capitalising Things for emphasis!

It's a fun read for Heyer nerds, especially for those who've already read The Private World of Georgette Heyer. Kloester stakes some bold claims, at one point delicately skirting around accusing Hodge of inventing a source. She also argues that Penhallow wasn't written as a contract-breaker but was rather Heyer's attempt at Respectable Modern Literature. (Which I refuse to believe, although "Jimmy the Bastard was polishing the shoes" does rival "It is a truth universally acknowledged...").

n.b. I'm giving GH an extra star because reading it made me feel like a wizard of personal finance. To be fair, in comparison to GH we are ALL wizards in this regard; she was constantly short of money, despite earning a lot of it, due largely to decisions like spending a small fortune decorating a rental house and then promptly moving.
Profile Image for Barb in Maryland.
1,892 reviews119 followers
February 21, 2013
Absolutely essential reading for die-hard Heyer fans. Ms Kloester has been given access to a wealth of source material--letters, especially--that had previously unavailable, enabling her to write a richly detailed biography of this famous writer.

There are delights on almost every page. And the photographs are marvelous. I will admit that I am not sure I would have liked Georgette Heyer in person. She was a woman with a strong personality and definite opinions on class and one's place in society.

The author gives us a thorough look at her writing life--lots of letters to her agent regarding her publishers (and her problems with them!)for example.

I gobbled it up and found it a fascinating read. And a remarkably easy read, too. Almost as good as reading one of Heyer's Regency stories.
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