Thrilled by Jane Austen’s novels, the Tedettes Jane Austen Book Club looked about for more books on the Regency. Their house (like every house, surely) turned out to be a treasure trove of novels by Georgette Heyer. They also got their paws on Jane Aiken Hodges biography, The Private World of Georgette Heyer (Chivers 1984 edition).
Georgette Heyer created her heroes very deliberately. In correspondence with her publishers she gleefully refers to them in a private shorthand by Type, explaining for instance that a particular character is the “The Heyer Mark I” and another is “The Heyer Mark II” and so on. She’d skilfully build up such a Type, and the readers’ conceptions of such a man, and then two or three novels later, turn around the readers’ assumption by changing the decisions and actions of the Hero.
Mr Rochester: the prototype.
Jane Aiken Hodge found unpublished articles by Heyer, one of which will fascinate her readers (see Ch. 5 of the bio) as it concerns Mr Rochester, from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Heyer says:
“It is a accepted fact that women form the bulk of the novel reading public and what woman with romantic leanings wants to read novels which have as their heroes the sort of men she meets every day of her mundane life. (Mr Rochester) is rude, overbearing, and often a bounder, but these blemishes, however repulsive they may be in real life, can be made in the hands of a skilled novelist extremely attractive to many women.”
How ‘Fluffy’ was the Romance, really?
Hodge makes the case that underneath the entertaining friction and tension of her heroes and heroines lies an abiding principle: the protagonists are maturing through the pages into a rich and full relationship .
Heyer’s idea of romance never ends with “happily married”. Many of her characters get married off early in the book. It is the story of their growing mutual respect and understanding afterwards that interests the writer, and this must be the feature that kept – and still keeps – millions of readers coming back for more.
Antonia Byatt, in an article in Nova, stated,
” (Heyer) is playing romantic games with the novel of manners. In her world of romanticised anti romanticism … men and women really talk to each other … and plan to spend the rest of their lives together developing the relationships”.
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