Last week, we looked at Georgette Heyer’s ten best heroines. (Not uncontroversially.) This time out, it is their beloveds we discuss, in their multifaceted manliness and various degrees of wit, intellect, thoughtfulness and need for redemption. Across her fifty-plus novels, Georgette Heyer gifted us with a panoply of heroes who grow and learn and laugh throughout their (mostly accidental) courtships. Here, we list her best.
Agree? Disagree? Discuss in the comments!
10. Mr. Robert Beaumaris, Arabella (1949)
It would have been easy for Mr. Beaumaris to ruin the upstart chit who had dared lie to him, make him a gift of more than one inconvenient charge, and force him to look good and hard at his failings. That he is far too decent to do it, and that he can see beyond Arabella’s apparent fraud and discern that he was himself to blame for it, is a testament not only to his self-awareness, but to his burgeoning fondness for the young lady who so thoroughly turns his life upside down, entirely against his will.
9. Sir Waldo Hawkridge, The Nonesuch (1962)
A noted sportsman and acknowledged leader of fashion, Sir Waldo is a man who can look as high as he wishes for a bride. But when he meets the reserved but delightful Ancilla Trent, a country governess in a country town many of his ilk would despise, he is immediately won over by her many sterling qualities. Charming, gracious and able to find amusement in even the most dire of entertainments, he is a true gentleman, in every sense of the word.
8. Sir Anthony Fanshawe, The Masqueraders (1928)
With a quickness of will and wit belied by his sleepy demeanor and powerful bulk, Sir Anthony is not only one of the few to see through the clever disguises donned by the Merriott siblings, he is also fast to react when they need saving from the elaborate plotting that is sure to bring them down. Astute, kind, honorable and upstanding, Sir Anthony is the rock on which his lady love can, at last, lean.
5. Jasper, Lord Damerel, Venetia (1958)
A dissolute rake resigned to his fate as an outcast and renegade, the usually careless Lord Damerel is won over by the frankness, the wit and the undeniable beauty of his neighbor, the fearless Venetia Lanyon. First becoming friends, soon their attraction will not be denied, but Damerel is determined to save Venetia from the ruin that can only be her reward for associating with him — even at the expense of his own happiness. This one is a redemption tale for the ages, and Damerel’s scholarship and winning ways only add to his appeal.
6. Sir Tristram Shield, The Talisman Ring (1936)
There aren’t many men who can deal as ably with as much crime as Sir Tristram must deal with across the course of a few short weeks. Between the murder and the burglary and the smuggling and the abetting of wanted criminals, it is enough to send anyone crazy. But not Sir Tristram! With his good humor, his commanding manner, his clever wit and his quick appreciation of the spirited Sarah Thane, he wins our hearts — and defeats the bad guy — with total aplomb, while also somehow managing to keep his melodramatic cousins Ludovic and Eugenie at least somewhat in line. No mean feat!
5. Major Hugo Darracott, The Unknown Ajax (1925)
Who among us cannot relate to the intelligent, capable Hugo? To be prejudged and found wanting by his family, into which he comes falsely labeled as something of a usurper, is infuriating in the extreme, and the manner in which he serves them a just comeuppance by playing the fool and the bumpkin, just as they expected, is a joy to behold. Especially as his lovely cousin Anthea begins to suspect there is far more to this new connexion than anyone gave him credit for…
4. Justin Alistair, Duke of Avon, These Old Shades (1926)
Deceptively languid and frivolous, but with a core of pure steel, the Duke of Avon is a practiced flirt and gamester and (it must be said) attempted abductor of women — let us not forget dear Jenny — who is redeemed through the simple devotion of a cross-dressing teenager with whom he intends to get revenge on an old enemy. Why, then, is Avon such a favorite? Much of it is, of course, that he is saved by the love of a good woman, and we all love that narrative. But more than that, it is his singular, much-vaunted omniscience, his uncanny intellect, that makes Avon so utterly compelling.
3. Vernon Dauntry, Marquis of Alverstoke, Frederica (1965)
When first confronted by his importunate distant cousin, Frederica Merriville, for help launching her exquisite sister Charis into the ton, Alverstoke is just going through the motions of his privileged life. He is bored with the social whirl, tired of being expected to bankroll his assorted relations, and is without direction or purpose. Slowly, as he comes to care for this most unusual woman (and her younger brothers), Alverstoke discovers that there can be more to life than firing off witty barbs at those who displease him–though it is to be hoped he is never quite cured of that habit. With humor, resourcefulness and a tender care, Alverstoke proves himself to be the equal of any challenge: especially the challenge of making Frederica aware of his feelings for her. Eventually.
2. Simon of Beauvallet, Simon the Coldheart (1925)
Simon (later Sir/Lord Simon) is a self-made man, an unparalleled soldier with an iron will who is immune to the charms of fluttering court ladies, but falls for the spirited Lady Margaret of Belrémy, who valiantly protects her home, and her heart, from this encroaching English lord. Simon is just so great, and a distinct favorite, due to his code of honor, his martial prowess and his aptitude for a total home makeover, which is possibly the best part of his book.
1. Freddy Standen, Cotillion (1928)
(Excerpt taken from Heyer Society – Essays on the Literary Genius of Georgette Heyer)
Freddy is barely even his own hero at the start of the novel, but by the end he has become everything we could want in a man—the kind of man he would never have had the hubris to believe he could be. When our action commences, the kindly Freddy just wants to (and/or, is persuaded to) do a good turn for his sweet, neglected almost-cousin, for whom he has always had a fondness. Kitty’s plight sees him forced to draw on hidden depths to solve crises of varying degrees, all while being pleasant and decent and just a lovely, if occasionally frustrated by museums, human being. Freddy proves that it doesn’t have to be all alpha males and love/hate witty barbs, it doesn’t have to be esoteric quotes and sporting prowess and a thunderous brow. Sometimes, the swoonworthiest hero is the one who is just… really nice.
- Special mention must go to Freddy’s scene-stealing father, Lord Legerwood, and to the excellent Mr. Charles Trevor, private secretary to Lord Alverstoke of Frederica, both heroes in their own right.
So, who do you think are Heyer’s very best heroes? Let’s talk!
Rachel Hyland is Editor of Romantic Intentions Quarterly and Heyer Society, as well as the author of the Reading Heyer series, beginning with Reading Heyer: The Black Moth, released in April, 2018. Other non-fiction works include Classics Gone Wild (with Kate Nagy), The White Queen: Reviewed and Project Film Geek, among many more. She is a Heyer devotee to her very soul and ’pon rep, could not imagine life without all those brilliant, sparkling words. She lives in Melbourne, Australia. Also: lawks.