Saturday, August 13, 2005
It has strangely been the summer of Georgette Heyer, and a really interesting post and comment thread at Justine Larbalestier's blog sent me back to reread just one or two more. Cotillion is Heyer writing slightly against type--the heroine ends up with the sweet and good-natured and reliable and rather silly guy, not the handsome rake (I was reminded of a whole series of eighteenth-century novels that take positions on the truth or falsehood of the old adage "a reformed rake makes the best husband"--Samuel Richardson was really the one who started it off...). I enjoyed it very much but I think I don't like it as much as the best of the others; I find Heyer is at her best with the livelier and more intelligent heroines, these characters seem to me slightly tiresome (the male protagonist's father is actually rather more like the usual Heyer hero, he only makes a couple minor appearances but they are quite refreshing) and I find the handling of the "imbecilic" Lord Dolphinton character actually not funny at all. Then I read The Nonesuch, which has always been in my mind as among the better ones but not as good as the very best (also it is marred by the hero having the ridiculous name Sir Waldo Hawkridge and an implausible subplot about orphan asylyms), no reason to change my opinion on this. It is strange how few other writers have been able to write romances as captivating as Heyer's, though; I don't really read many mainstream romance novels, it's not the way my taste takes me (I prefer crime and science fiction and fantasy as far as so-called "genre" stuff goes, although of course a good novel is a good novel and the labels largely irrelevant), but I would read more if there were more like this. Other authors who have some of the same charms, and whose books I'd highly recommend: Victoria Clayton; Eva Ibbotson; some of Joan Aiken (though on the whole her writing for children is so brilliant that the variable quality of the adult fiction really stands out, I have always been a huge fan of all of her stuff, I was pretty upset when I randomly read an obituary many months after she'd died, it felt like a betrayal not to have known sooner); Mary Stewart.