In which we get to know our Heyer Society contributors — and their Heyer cred — a little better…
Name: Ruth Williamson
Nationality: New Zealand
Heyer Society Essay: “Heyer’s Kissing Cousins”
1. How old were you when you read your first Georgette Heyer novel?
I was in my very early teens and looking for an entertaining holiday read.
2. What was it?
The Talisman Ring, almost immediately followed by Friday’s Child, and both from the same place. I was captivated immediately.
3. How did you discover her work?
An astute bookseller recommended I try Heyer’s novels. It was a smart move, because I acquired many from that source!
4. Did Heyer lead you to read other authors in similar genres?
I did read other historical novels by the likes of Victoria Holt, Jane Aiken Hodge, and later, Laura Black, but never Barbara Cartland, and none with the same kind of enjoyment as I gained from Heyer. Her wit, humour and convincing settings are unparalleled in the genre.
5. What is the Heyer book you read most recently?
I usually binge read several in quick succession. Most recently they were Venetia, Black Sheep and Cotillion — all great favourites.
6. Which of her books have you read the most often?
I have lost count of the number of times I have read The Talisman Ring — always a great comfort read and always straight through with very few breaks.
7. Which, if any, would you never read again?
I have never returned to Royal Escape — it just did not enthuse me.
8. If you could be a Heyer heroine, which would you choose?
It’s very difficult to choose. Probably Sarah Thane because of her wit and humour. I love Abby Wendover too, but her sister Selina would drive me to murder.
9. Which Heyer hero (or heroine) would make the best husband/wife/partner?
While anyone married to Miles Calverleigh will be very happy, provided that he is devoted to her, Freddy Standen has my vote as an outstanding spouse. He might not be witty, but he is kind, considerate, amenable, a great dancing partner and has perfect taste. The best wife is more difficult to identify, because she is not necessarily the same as the most appealing heroine. I think Abby Wendover is a delightful character, and is prepared to put others first, so her husband is very fortunate, but Sarah Thane’s abilities will also make her a great partner. It’s too close to call.
10. How has Georgette Heyer influenced your life?
She has provided me with hours of reading pleasure, educated me about the Regency period painlessly, and made me laugh out loud. Through her I have found friends with similar reading tastes, enjoyed sharing ideas about her work, and she is the reason for Heyer Society and Heyer-based events. I do not ever want to be without her! Even if I could no longer easily see to read the books, I think I would still enjoy good audio versions of her unabridged texts. Her books are lifelong companions, although I don’t think I’d pass muster as someone she would have wished to meet socially.
Ruth Williamson is forever grateful to the shrewd bookseller who suggested to a bookish young teen that she read The Talisman Ring. Ruth is based in New Zealand as an independent writer and commentator, and is currently the editor of the Jane Austen Society of Australia’s Chronicle. She has taken part in several Georgette Heyer Conferences in Australia, many JASA events, and presented papers to audiences of the Jane Austen Society of North America. She also contributed to The Joy of Jane, a collection of essays published to mark 200 years since the death of Jane Austen.