POLL: Which of Georgette Heyer’s “Suppressed Novels” Have You Read?

We all know that Georgette Heyer ranked high among her own harshest critics, and some twenty years into her career she made a decision to withdraw six of her titles from publication: two early historical novels, The Great Roxhythe and Simon the Coldheart, and her four contemporaries, Instead of the Thorn, Helen, Pastel and Barren Corn. While Simon was blessedly restored to us after her death, the other five remain out of popular print, available only from boutique publishers and in second hand editions. But what we want to know is, who among us has read them anyway? Select all that apply… 

Which of Georgette Heyer's "Suppressed Novels" Have You Read?
104 votes

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Reading Heyer: The Black Moth: Chapter V

In which we serialize Heyer Society editor Rachel Hyland’s first book in her Reading Heyer series, Reading Heyer: The Black Moth. Called “delicious” by Heyer expert Jennifer Kloester, it is a reading guide, critique and loving homage all in one. But mostly, it’s just a lot of fun. We hope you enjoy. Check back every Monday for another installment, or buy the book here.

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CHAPTER V: HIS GRACE OF ANDOVER

We get, here, our first description of the chapter’s titular figure, this oh-so-wicked Tracy Belmanoir of whom we already know so much, and suspect yet more. His brother had previously implied there was something off-putting about his appearance, but we learn here of an arrestingly attractive man, thin-lips and hooded eyes counter-balanced by high cheekbones and aristocratic nostrils (whatever those might be).

Arrived at Wyncham, he visits with his sister, whom we know to be quite devoted to him—but how cold and formal were aristocratic families of centuries past! She’s paid special attention to her outfit and anxiously awaited his arrival since Andrew told her Tracy planned to call, and yet she greets the Duke with nothing more than outstretched hands, over which he actually bows.

Do you think they did that as kids? Wow, playtime sure must have been fun at the Belmanoir house.

Of course, Tracy has not come to see his sister merely to revel in courtly obeisance. He, it transpires, is actually on the same errand as Andrew. Though Dick had lent/given him a thousand pounds just days before, additional funds are needed, and Tracy is most put out to learn that Dick is not, in fact, the bottomless well of familial charity he had thought him to be since the old Earl’s death. (Yes, remember the Earl, Jack and Dick’s father? He just died and stuff. Sad.) Lavinia reveals in shrewish accents that it was not Dick who inherited the Wyncham lands and riches, however, but the banished Jack, and at Dick’s urging; he’d convinced his dying father to reinstate his wronged brother, and… wait, are we supposed to be thinking Dick’s not so bad after all here? ’Cause, um, no.

Tracy is no more impressed than us at this news – but for a different reason – although he is not unamused. (“To think of the worthy Richard so neatly overturning all my plans!”) And, aha! It all begins to make sense.

Knowing he could never have used our good Lord Jack as a Georgian-era ATM, Tracy proved himself to be very devilish indeed when he had then schemed to disgrace the elder Carstares and have his sister wed the younger, who might thence be more easily manipulated or blackmailed, and who would presumably also be the new heir to the substantial Wyncham fortune.

Seriously, the selfishness of these Belmanoirs knows no bounds. Really. Just ask them. (Of which, more anon.)

In the end, and after discussing direfully their family finances and the lamentable continued existence of brother Bob (“I hate Robert!” declares Lady Lavinia crossly. “I wish he might die!”), it is decided that, pending Dick’s approval, Lavinia will return with Tracy to their childhood home, there to act as his hostess at a series of parties of the kind she has so been craving. Now, it might seem to us that a man come begging for five hundred pounds from his brother-in-law to cover some debt or other would then be unwise to start talking of the lavish entertainments he plans to throw and for which he requires a hostess, but… no, it really is unwise.

Or just astonishingly arrogant. So, yeah. Very Tracy.

Pouting and cajoling, Lavinia gets her way, and we are left with the distinct impression that Richard will go ahead and hand over that five hundred quid this Devil Belmanoir was after… and probably a lot more besides.

THOUGHTS

These damned Belmanoirs. They are like the Jessica Rabbits of this historical idyll: they claim they’re not bad, they’re just drawn that way.

Quoth Lavinia, in Chapter IV:

“I cannot live without gaiety–you know I cannot. Oh, I do not doubt but what I am very selfish, but ’tis the way I am fashioned, and I cannot change my nature.”

She goes on:

“We Belmanoirs–as God made us, so we are–and He made us spendthrift, and pleasure-loving, and mad!”

Because God is notorious for taking a hand in such things, of course.

Then Lord Andrew joined the self-justifying pity party, claiming its all in the genes:

“I tell you, Dick, what with the racing, and the cards, and the bottle, I shall be a ruined man before you can turn round! And the pother is I’ll never be any different. ‘Tis in the blood, so where’s the use in trying?”

Well, they do say the first step is admitting you have a problem…

And here, even Tracy sings a verse or two of “Our Family, Right or Wrong,” most notably with:

“My dear Lavinia, like all Belmanoirs, you care first for yourself and secondly for the man who masters you.”

Myriad problems lie in this sentence. For a start, I am just not buying that this entire family of ne’er do wells would not have benefited from a few stints in the naughty corner, and perhaps a year or two with a 17th-century version of the Peace Corps. I think there is a lot to be said for Nature, but Nurture is also a powerful force, and saying you can’t help being an egocentric wastrel because you’re a Belmanoir is like claiming a vicious temper is tied to having red hair or that poor eyesight automatically makes people smart.

Another issue I have with this claim, though? “All Belmanoirs” care secondly for “the man who masters [them]”? Let’s examine that, shall we? Does this mean Tracy is gay? That all Belmanoir men are gay? Or is it just that they would become completely devoted to a guy if he, say, beat him in a duel? Should it perhaps have read “… like all Belmanoir women and same-sex orientated men…”?

(You know what: if Tracy were to have been revealed as gay in this book? Awesome! But, alas, it is not to be. Indeed, there are no openly gay characters in Heyer, sad to say… although, there are a whole lot of “confirmed bachelors,” some of whom express a disdain for women bordering on the gangsta rap-esque, and they are all very finicky about their clothing and hair. Hmm.)

It’s just a weird sentence, I think.

Meanwhile, I totally want to read a gay Regency romance now. Some surely exist somewhere. I intend to find out.


New chapters of Reading Heyer: The Black Moth will be posted here at Heyer Society each Monday. Or buy it here.

POLL: Showdown: Funniest Imbroglio Ending in Heyer

Ah, the patented Heyer imbroglio ending*! Last week, we asked for your thoughts on which riotous conclusion is funniest out of The Black Moth

But what of The Unknown Ajax? A write-in campaign has been mounted, championing the Darracott clan’s general wackiness. So let’s try this again: Sophy vs. Hugo. Go!

* Term coined by Heyer Society‘s own incomparable Jennifer Kloester.

Showdown: Funniest Imbroglio Ending in Heyer
132 votes

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Reading Heyer: The Black Moth: Chapter IV

In which we serialize Heyer Society editor Rachel Hyland’s first book in her Reading Heyer series, Reading Heyer: The Black Moth. Called “delicious” by Heyer expert Jennifer Kloester, it is a reading guide, critique and loving homage all in one. But mostly, it’s just a lot of fun. We hope you enjoy. Check back every Monday for another installment, or buy the book here.

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CHAPTER IV: INTRODUCING THE LADY LAVINIA CARSTARES

Finally, we get to meet the woman so fascinating, so bewitching, that she would (unwittingly, we hope) cause a seemingly decent enough fellow like Richard to turn cheat and coward, thereby consigning his brother to a fate worse than death: social ostracism.

This chapter kicks off right where the previous one left us, with Dick sighing manfully and wallowing in his guilt and despair (as he damn well should), when this is interrupted by the ostentatious arrival of his lady wife. “She came rustling into the room, embroidery in hand,” we are told, and at once we have the measure of her. And we are soon proved right. She is a vain, shallow, empty-headed termagant, beautiful and vivacious and certainly not without her charm, but so unashamedly self-involved that there really is no excuse for it—although she gives us at least a dozen.

She’s exhausting, and very… er… emphatic. When Richard dares refuse to promise never to disgrace her by revealing the truth of the events that terrible night at Dare’s card party, she lets loose such a succession of exclamation marks as to put one of those old Batman fight scenes to shame. (BIFF! WHAM! BOP!)

Oh, and she really doesn’t seem to like her own son. What a stone-cold bitch.

On the other hand, one must feel some sympathy for her. Oh, why did you tell me you cheated after you had wedded me?” she sobs furiously, and of course she’s just being manipulative here, but she also has a point.

’Cause yeah, Dick, why did you? Oh, that’s right! As previously established, you’re kind of a dick.

Then there’s a whole bunch of repining over being stuck in the country. Poor Lady Lavinia, with her maids and her manor house and her enormous wardrobe of silks and brocades that her husband can ill-afford, is just so bored, Dicky—like a child at the end of summer vacation. Damn it, she wants the bright lights of the big city or she vows she’s going to be even more hateful (if that is possible). She begs Dick to reform, to be carefree and indulgent; she’s “dull” and “ill-tempered” and “discontented” and only London, and an unlimited credit limit, will set her to rights.

(Which, if we’re honest… doesn’t sound half bad, does it?)

Thwarted, Lavinia retreats forlornly, at which we can only heave a sigh of relief. And now we get to meet two more male members of her clan: the five-year-old John, her apparently despised child (yes, Dick named him for his brother; okay, we get it dude, you feel bad!), and Lord Andrew Belmanoir, the brother of whom she doesn’t seem to think much more.

Andrew is an engaging but rackety fellow who has but one purpose for this visit: money. It seems he has run up some gaming debts numbering in the thousands of pounds, and naturally enough, his Ducal brother Tracy can’t help him out. So here he is, frankly begging a loan from Dick, and then even more frankly admitting that he won’t be paying it back. (“I shall have a run of luck soon–a man can’t always lose. Then I shall be able to repay you, but, of course, I shan’t. It’ll all go at the next table. I know!”)

And almost despite ourselves, we can’t help but fall a little under Lord Andrew’s careless spell. He may, like Lavinia, be self-obsessed, but at least he is also self-aware (and also, he appears to like her son). He’s just so delightfully… Bertie Wooster about it. Similarly decadent, indolent and possessed of a cleverly vapid way with words, but adorned in satin instead of spats. Though if Dick is his Jeeves, then boy, is he in trouble.

Also in here is the first we hear of the other other Belmanoir boy, Bob (really? Lord Bob?), as cash poor as the rest of the family, but at least having entered into gainful employment, in one of the few industries allowed to the sons of the nobility: war.

THOUGHTS

Throughout much of Heyer, especially her Georgian works, one peculiarity has always plagued me: her usage of the word “doubt. I have long not thought it meant what she thought it meant. To wit, this piece of dialogue, from the lovely Andrew, when he is asking Dick for money:

“Here’s Tracy turned saint and swears he’ll see me damned before he hands me another penny. I doubt he means it, too.”

This kind of thing has puzzled me for the longest time in the reading of Heyer, and others of her ilk. Didn’t Andrew actually mean he “didn’t doubt” Tracy meant it, too? I mean, at times, Heyer’s “doubt” seems to be what we all know as “doubt.” For example, in Chapter I:

“Apoplexy, I make no doubt?”

– Jack, to Warburton, on how his father the Earl had died.

But then, this, from that fat merchant we all hated in Chapter II:

“I doubt I shall never see my money again,”

– by which he seemed to be saying he had no doubt he’d never see his money again.

I have no idea why I have never researched this before, but it turns out that this is no mere eccentricity in Heyer’s writing. Anyone who has ever read any of Bill Bryson’s exacting yet enthralling texts on the etymology of our wacky language will know just how screwed up the whole thing is; indeed, anyone who ever wearily tried to explain to, say, a stubborn French-speaking friend how a “recess” can be both a break in a court case and a handy place for shelving in their new apartment (okay, yes, that was me who did that… for an hour), will know it, too.

In its Archaic form but one still used in the 17th-century and even beyond, “doubt” was used as a synonym for “fear” – so Mr. Fudby feared he’d never see his money again; Lord Andrew feared Tracy meant it, too. And yet, at this same period in time, the modern usage of “doubt” as meaning “uncertainty” was also, confusingly, common.

So… there you go.

What other mysteries of the English language might we further uncover, going forward in this landmark novel? An explanation of that “i before e except after c” rule? Exactly how often “bimonthly” is? Why there is nothing that rhymes with orange? Let us head to Chapter V, and find out together!


 

New chapters of Reading Heyer: The Black Moth will be posted here at Heyer Society each Monday. Or buy it here.

QUIZ: Short Stories, Getting Drunk and More

Our latest weekly Georgette Heyer Quiz! 10 questions, of varying degrees of difficulty… Go to it, Heyerites! Show us what you’re made of!

Georgette Heyer Quiz 4

Think you know your Heyer? Let's see if you're a regular out and outer, or simply make a mull of it...

POLL: Funniest Imbroglio Ending in Heyer

Ah, the patented Heyer imbroglio ending*! A cast of characters brought together to sort out differences and misunderstandings, and to put our happy couple back on their path to lifelong happiness. Which do you find the funniest? Is it Sophy, manipulating everyone at her ancestral home, or Mary Challoner, confronted by some very august personages at a French inn? Is it Sherry, foiling his Kitten’s accidental abduction, or Jack Carstares, foiling his Diana’s very real one? Perhaps it’s Cleone, engaged to too many men, or those poor souls in Bath, tangled up and engaged to the wrong ones? Or perhaps it’s a different imbroglio entirely… Let us know in the comments!

* Term coined by Heyer Society‘s own incomparable Jennifer Kloester.

Funniest Imbroglio Ending in Heyer
125 votes

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Reading Heyer: The Black Moth: Chapter III

In which we serialize Heyer Society editor Rachel Hyland’s first book in her Reading Heyer series, Reading Heyer: The Black Moth. Called “delicious” by Heyer expert Jennifer Kloester, it is a reading guide, critique and loving homage all in one. But mostly, it’s just a lot of fun. We hope you enjoy. Check back every Monday for another installment, or buy the book here.

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CHAPTER III: INTRODUCING THE HON. RICHARD CARSTARES

Ah, now has the time come for us to meet the cause of our mischievous Lord Jack’s villainy upon the High Road. His brother, Richard – or “Master Dick” to the good people of the countryside – paces impatiently, awaiting the arrival of Warburton, the family man of business whom we met in the first chapter. While he (and we) must wait, we get some background on the grand manor house in which we lay our scene (“Wyncham!,” Heyer exclaims; and it really does sound lovely), some insight into the differing personalities of the brothers Carstares, a snapshot of the county residents’ love of Jack and disdain for his “glum” younger brother, and the definite impression that Dick is punishing himself for his youthful transgression (remember: he cheated at cards, the scoundrel!) and his brother’s subsequent banishment by eating little (he’s described as “very thin”), sleeping less (he’s twenty-nine, but looks “twice his age”), and worrying a whole lot (his eyes are “haunted” and “care-worn”).

Sucks to be Dick.

Upon this wretchedness at last descends the censorious Warburton, who is full of tidings to know and share. He tells Richard that Jack is doing very well, all things considered; the “all things” basically being that his brother is a big fat lying liar who lies. Warburton, alone of almost all of Jack’s acquaintance, it would seem, never believed him capable of such reprehensible conduct as cheating at cards, and thus is Dick both abashed and forced to share the sordid tale of the night that he, in fact, did—and thus proves himself worthy of his name.

’Cause… what a dick.

It all happened at a private card party held at the home of Jack’s good friend, a Mr. Dare. Never very lucky at cards, Jack quite uncharacteristically won big at a particular table, and using a particular deck. Dick soon came to sit at the same table, with the same deck, and worrying over some outlandish gaming debts he’d already accrued—and at the same time “mad” for love of a young lady, Lavinia by name, whom he darkly suspected his brother of also coveting—he, in a fit of IOU-fuelled insanity, decided to scratch the cards slightly with his cravat pin, thereby letting him know the disposition of the Aces and Kings. Which… hm. Yes, probably would be helpful, wouldn’t it?

It is at this juncture that we meet again, via this breathless confession, our old friend from the Prologue, Hugh Tracy Clare Belmanoir, the Duke of Andover – who goes by “Tracy,” by the by. It also transpires that he is brother to that very Lavinia for whom Dick was so “mad” that he totally ho-before-bro’d, thereby precipitating this tale.

Tracy, so sharp-eyed as to be positively The Mentalist-like, noted the marked cards, was all like “J’accuse!” – but with great subtlety, of course – and Dick dickishly let his brother take the fall rather than lose his lady love. Jack, though hugely charismatic and beloved of all, was suddenly number one with a bullet on his friends’ Dead to Us board, and while Dick went on to marry his Lavinia and take unto himself as a brother-in-law the very man whom we now realize orchestrated the whole scandal (for, we must assume, inscrutable reasons of his own), his elder was cast penniless from their childhood home and left no recourse but to turn outlaw.

And you thought your siblings had done you wrong.

The rest is just Dick making excuses as to why he can’t ’fess up now (his wife, don’t you know; can’t have her “dragged through the mud”), and Warburton being a little more understanding of the circumstances surrounding his Master Jack’s exile – even as we, too, are more understanding. Although at the same time, you can almost hear him thinking: “What a dick.

THOUGHTS

Richard: you’re kind of an asshole. The “Hon.” Richard Carstares, my eye! (As an aside, I always felt that it is unfair – and is unnecessarily confusing – that all of the daughters of an Earl get to use the honorific “Lady,” whereas only the eldest son of that self-same peer can use “Lord” before their name, if they should chance not to be styled a Viscount or Baron. And yet younger sons of Marquises and Dukes are Lord Whomevers! And daughters of lesser nobility, like Barons and Viscounts, are mere “Honourables,” and apparently not ladies at all. So, why all of an Earl’s daughters but not all of his sons? And if an Earl’s daughters, then why not every nobleman’s daughters? WHY?)

(And, as a further aside: why do so many historical novelists get it wrong?)

Meanwhile, how about that Tracy Belmanoir, huh? What a repellently Machiavellian, yet thoroughly fascinating and increasingly tantalizing, piece of work. Dude’s so observant, he’s like Sherlock Holmes, Shawn Spencer and Lord Peter Wimsey all rolled into one. What did he have against Jack, we must wonder, that he would conspire to rid Society of that worthy gentleman’s… society? Why would he knowingly allow his sister to marry a man a who would, horrors, cheat at cards? Or are we wronging him, and in fact he’s just your garden variety tattletale?

We can only move on to Chapter IV, for whatever answers it might hold…


New chapters of Reading Heyer: The Black Moth will be posted here at Heyer Society each Monday. Or buy it here.

QUIZ: Mysteries, Monarchs and More

Our latest weekly Georgette Heyer Quiz! 10 questions, of varying degrees of difficulty… Go to it, Heyerites! Show us what you’re made of!

Georgette Heyer Quiz 3

Think you know your Heyer? Let's see if you're a regular out and outer, or simply make a mull of it...

Mary Jo Putney Interviews the Incredible Jennifer Kloester

Mary Jo Putney!

At Word Wenches, a fabulous blog featuring the musings of a cavalcade of best-selling female authors, Heyer expert and Heyer Society‘s very own Jennifer Kloester was just interviewed by… wait for it… historical romance doyenne Mary Jo Putney.

Discussing her own discovery of Georgette Heyer’s works and offering up many kind words about our essay collection (officially released yesterday!), Jennifer gladdened Heyer Society hearts and raised Heyer Society blushes with her effusive, enthusiastic compliments.

MJP: Heyer Society is a lovely book to browse (starting with the pun in the title! Because “Heyer” is pronounced “Higher.” <G> ) Are there any essays you particularly enjoyed?

JK: So many – it’s a feast of ideas and I loved reading so many different takes on Heyer’s novels. I really enjoyed the essay about the suppressed novels – Heyer’s four contemporaries – especially as the author, Maura Tan, was new to Georgette Heyer and these novels were her introduction.

The essay on Penhallow is a fascinating read. I love Penhallow so at first I wasn’t sure I’d like this essay but read on and you’ll see why it’s so good. Susannah Fullerton’s essay on Jane Austen’s influence on Heyer is delightful, as is Clara Shipman’s wonderful “Learning! with Georgette Heyer”.

Rachel Hyland has contributed three essays to the anthology and I think many Word Wenches fans will totally agree with her thoughts about “Growing Up with Heyer”. Oh, I could go on (and on) but I think readers will have their own favourites because there’s just so much delicious food for thought and for discussion in Heyer Society: the Literary Genius of Georgette Heyer.

What an honor! Read the whole interview here.

Heyer for Beginners — Simon the Coldheart (1925)

And once again, as with my much-loved Pastel, Georgette Heyer proves herself to have been a far too harsh critic of her own work, as Simon the Coldheart — though, admittedly, only the fourth of her historical novels I have so far read — is my favorite of them. In fact, it is my favorite of all her books, regardless of genre. It is so good!

I just don’t understand why Heyer would have suppressed this novel. I get it with The Great Roxhythe, to some degree. It is kind of plodding and doesn’t really offer up much in the way of romance and as much as I enjoyed the blossoming relationship of Roxhythe and his earnest secretary Chris, most of the characters were pretty vile people. (Which is true of Heyer’s similarly suppressed contemporary novels, as well.)

But Simon the Coldheart! So many people to love here. From Simon himself, so determined and driven and kind but brutal when he has to be, to his best-friends Alan and Geoffrey, courtiers and soldiers with wit and courage to spare, to the spirited Lady Margaret and her charmant lady in waiting, Jeanne, to the great booming Lord Fulk, who takes Simon under his wing, the cast of characters is so amazing and easy to adore, it would be impossible to choose a favorite.

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