The Grand Sophy (1950): Georgette Heyer

★★★★½

I’m currently ploughing through Deadhouse Gates, which really puts the ‘grim’ into ‘grimdark’, and needed something light and fluffy on the side. Enter Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy, a gorgeously warm-hearted story, with one of the most appealing Heyer heroines I’ve met so far. Having lost her mother as an infant, Sophia Stanton-Lacy has been brought up by her erratic diplomat father, Sir Horace. While most girls would be planning coming-out balls, Sophy has been playing hostess to officers and noblemen in Spain, Brussels and Paris. Capable, shrewd, game and compassionate, she makes friends easily and delights in helping those she loves – though her plots are rarely suitable for the faint-hearted. When Sir Horace is posted to Brazil, Sophy comes to stay with her aunt Lady Ombersley’s family in London. Expecting a poor little orphan, they are little prepared for the storm of personality that sweeps in among them. And this is only the beginning, for Sophy rapidly sees that her family have got themselves into a terrible tangle, which only she can solve…

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Snowdrift and Other Stories (2016): Georgette Heyer

★★★

This post will be shorter than usual, because this book of short stories by the doyenne of Regency fiction is actually a reissue of Pistols for Two, which I wrote about some months ago. (I strongly advise that you read that post too, as only then will you get a full picture of my thoughts.) As I discussed the vast majority of the stories then, I’ll focus here on the three previously unpublished stories added to Snowdrift for its new release. These are all variations on a theme, namely encounters on the road; and, while they aren’t Heyer at her best, they do have a certain historical charm.

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Pistols for Two (1960): Georgette Heyer

★★★

When I was sent a review copy of the newly-issued Snowdrift, a collection of Regency short stories by Georgette Heyer, I realised that this volume was a reissue of Pistols for Two, which I already owned (albeit with three newly-added stories). I’ve therefore decided to deal with Snowdrift in two parts: first, by discussing the main batch of stories under their original title Pistols for Two and then, in a separate post, discussing the three new stories included in Snowdrift. Hopefully that won’t be too confusing and it’s also given me a chance to retrieve this rather simpering 1976 edition from my bookshelf. Of course, you know what to expect from these stories: it’s Heyer at her cosiest, by turns predictable and implausible, but always full of wit and humour.

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Sprig Muslin (1956): Georgette Heyer

★★★

With Christmas looming on the horizon like a bedizened juggernaut, it’s time for some literary self-indulgence. Fortunately, Georgette Heyer was on hand with this lightweight, farcical and extremely silly Regency novel. It all begins with a meeting in the common room of a small country inn. Sir Gareth Ludlow is a debonair gentleman on his way to propose marriage to his old friend Hester. The unworldly Amanda ‘Smith’ is a teenage runaway with a head full of romantic novels, an overactive imagination and a habit of telling terrific fibs. Now, you may have jumped to certain conclusions on reading that, but it isn’t quite what you think. It’s all jolly good fun, even if it does descend further into absurdity than most of Heyer’s novels.

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Sylvester (1957): Georgette Heyer

★★★★½

Or, The Wicked Uncle

Things are busy at the moment and I don’t have much brain space to spare, so I turned gratefully to the next novel on my Georgette Heyer pile. This was Sylvester, which several people have picked out as one of their favourites. And it’s no wonder: it’s vintage Heyer, the literary equivalent of crumpets by a roaring fire on a winter’s night. From the moment our arrogant but misunderstood hero meets our stubborn, bookish heroine, there’s no doubt what’s going to happen, but that’s not the point. As they lock horns over the course of a book stuffed with warmth, wit and adventure, the question isn’t ‘what?’ but ‘how on earth?’. In my current state, it was exactly what I needed and I might even go so far as to name this my favourite Heyer after the nonpareil These Old Shades.

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The Unknown Ajax (1959): Georgette Heyer

★★★½

When irascible old Lord Darracott announces the imminent arrival of his heir at Darracott Place, his family are somewhat alarmed – not least his son Matthew, who’d assumed that he stood next in line since his elder brothers’ deaths. However, it turns out that he has a previously unsuspected nephew: the offspring of his disgraced elder brother Hugh and a Yorkshire weaver’s daughter. The terms of the settlement don’t allow the family to wriggle out of such a shameful situation, and so the Darracotts close ranks and wait anxiously for their oafish, unknown cousin to arrive…

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The Convenient Marriage: Georgette Heyer

★★★½

I haven’t read a new Georgette Heyer novel since before I started writing this blog, which means it’s long overdue. Her books may be fluffy and predictable; her characters may be much the same from story to story; but I adore her: she never fails to delight and distract from whatever life throws at me. At the moment that’s an irritating cold, so I was much in need of witty Regency escapades to divert myself from snuffling. There are times when a girl simply needs a bit of frivolity. And The Convenient Marriage delivers on all fronts. With balls, card-parties, duels and highwaymen, it’s a gloriously frothy story dressed up with fabulous gowns, extravagant wigs and two very appealing protagonists.

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