Vinaya's Reviews > The Grand Sophy

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
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's review
Jan 08, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, books-i-loved, re-reading-times-1-million, romance, the-real-5-star-deal

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.
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Reading Progress

January 8, 2011 – Shelved
February 16, 2011 – Shelved as: favorites
February 21, 2011 – Started Reading
February 22, 2011 – Shelved as: books-i-loved
February 22, 2011 – Shelved as: re-reading-times-1-million
February 22, 2011 – Shelved as: romance
February 22, 2011 – Shelved as: the-real-5-star-deal
February 22, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-25 of 25) (25 new)

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Vinaya Yes, yes, you MUST bump them up! Also, they don't have any of the schmexing that so annoyed you in Nine Rules, so that's an added bonus! :)

Miss Clark I liked The Grand Sophy, but not the next one I read.... Any recommendations for what to try next?

Vinaya Which was the next one you read? TO begin with, I would recommend Venetia, Frederica, Beauvallet, The Toll-Gate and The Corinthian. Have fun! :)

Miss Clark Venetia, as it happens. But I will certainly take a look at the others. Thanks so much!

Vinaya If you didn't like Venetia, I would suggest you stay away from Frederica as well. If you're looking for something a little different, try The Foundling or The Unknown Ajax

Miss Clark Aha. Thanks again:)

Karren Stumbled upon this - other good ones to read are Arabella, Cotillion, and Black Sheep

Ceecee I couldn't have said it better. She really writes the true romance. Cotillion was my first Heyer and I was struck by how different it seemed from other romances. The Grand Sophy is my favorite so far as well.

Jane Your comments are spot on, and I completely agree, Jane Austen and georgette Heyer should Never compared. I love all of Heyer's books and have reread them all several times, they are funny and light, and complete escapism, and they don't pretend to be anything else.

message 10: by Uma (new) - rated it 5 stars

Uma I have read every single romance by Heyer and a couple of her 'sleuthing' novels too. And although I enjoy reading 'em immensely and reread them frequently, I couldn't have given such a perfect summary of her works. I agree with you on every point and also would like to point out to you that her dates were also highly accurate. Examples: An Infamous Army and My Lord John. I have always felt myself in the regency era... like the story is playing on a screen before me.

Johann What a great review for Heyer. A longtime fan of Jane Austen since childhood, the reasons you mentioned that make Heyer great are EXACTLY the reasons why I love her novels and will re-read ever so often!

message 12: by Rhy (new) - added it

Rhy Moore Funny. I felt strongly reminded of Austen reading this. Incisive social commentary, no, but there was similar wit, reminiscent use of subtext, and a comparable authenticity of period. I found cause in this particular material to give thought to both antisemitism and sexist double standards. Entertainment and "higher" merit are not mutually exclusive. Thank god, or Austen wouldn't be as beloved as she rightly is. I take your point, but disagree with the black-and-white fallacy. And I say that as someone who in general scorns the romance genre.

message 13: by Anne (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anne That was an awesome review. I agree with everything you said, you couldn't have worded it better! :)

Ameaka That was a beautiful review. Though I have only read 'The Grand Sophy'. I was totally impressed. I am sick and tired of harlequin's repetitive characters and plots. Sophy is a breath of fresh air!

Carol  ꧁꧂ Great review, but I will say she did write books other than romances to entertain & the worst of them My Lord John & Royal Escape were deadly dull!

Zunaira Akram Yeah jane austen's novels are boring as compared to georgette heyer.Loved The Grand Sophy!

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Great review, Vinaya! I read this one several months ago but didn't finish writing my review until a day or two ago. I think this was what motivated me to send you the friendvite, though I know I've read several of your thoughtful reviews over the past year or two. :)

message 18: by Ceri (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ceri Fantastic review!

message 19: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Kaso I think somehow because some of Heyer's books share an era, marketing types group them together. Austen is a deeper experience for me, in general. Heyer makes me laugh and smile, most of the time. She got me through junior high and taking Latin and reading her books made the vocabulary portion of my college entrance exams a breeze. I am very grateful for Heyer's books, reading and re-reading them have gotten me through many rough patches in my life.

message 20: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Kaso Should be "because Austen and some of Heyer's books share an era". Apologies, thinking faster than typing...

Elena The review was as enjoyable as the book itself, thank you!

message 22: by CarolAnn (new)

CarolAnn What a great commentary, but you lost me when you wrote the word "romance". But I loved, loved, loved the critique.

Franziska Self fisken A brilliant review. I agree with your analysis. Her characters are varied, credible, and many grow and mature as the plot unfolds. What Georgette Heyer does have in common with Jane Austen is her wit, her lightness of touch, her gift for period detail, her ability to create credible characters whom you feel you'd recognise if you saw them on the street, her ability to set the scene so that you feel you are there. She is such a brilliant writer.

message 24: by Cathy (new)

Cathy Cheek Like someone on Goodreads actually compared Jane Austen to the Bronte sisters, and then to add insult to injury, Victoria Holt! With Austen falling short!

message 25: by Jack (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jack Vasen Vinaya - are you including Heyer's early books like the Devil's Cub? To me, that was far more satire than romance and the satire was brilliant. In fact, I thought the romance aspect was totally lacking since Vidal was a cad and Mary's fondness for him seemed misplaced.

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