Georgette Heyer wrote more than 50 novels and has been a beloved author for more than 90 years, but she kept her professional and personal lives so separate that for many years any real information about her as a person were inaccessible.
The Private World of Georgette Heyer is the result of author Jane Aiken Hodge’s painstaking interviews and research, and is part-biography, part-critique of Heyer’s incredible novels.
An amazing lady
I read and adored several of Heyer’s historical romances (The Masqueraders, The Grand Sophy, Lady of Quality, and The Corinthian), but wanted to learn more about this woman who created such an incredible body of work.
In many respects, Georgette Heyer — real name Georgette Rougier — led a normal life. Her husband Ronald was a barrister in the English courts, and the Rougiers spent their time raising their son, entertaining friends, and taking yearly vacations. Their lives were private and quiet. Only their closest family and friends knew Heyer was a popular author, and she did her best to keep it that way.
She hated publicity, gave only a few interviews in her entire life, and kept just a handful of fan letters. I can only imagine how she would react to her Wikipedia page or her fan-made website — knowing what I do about her, it would probably be sharp and caustic.
A lifelong learner
As an author, Heyer was meticulous, particular, and prolific. She fought with her publishers over phrasing, character names, cover designs, and book sales in America (a place she didn’t like, and never went). Writing supported her family, but it was also her passion.
Anyone who reads historical romance knows that a great deal of research goes into creating the details that make a story feel alive and authentic. I knew Heyer conducted such research when writing her historical novels, but I had no idea what a research powerhouse she was.
Her house contained hundreds of volumes of research, including ancient texts and notes she pulled from other books and resources. When you read details about clothing, dances, travel methods, armor/weaponry, and period language and behavior in any of her stories, you can bet your sweet bippy it’s a real detail.
She made it all seem effortless — the mark of a true genius.
Want to add to your TBR?
As she shares Heyer’s life story, author Jane Aiken Hodge weaves in summaries and short reviews of Heyer’s novels, comparing the plots and themes of each with what was happening in Heyer’s life when she wrote them.
As a reader it’s helpful to see these summaries — it makes it easier to decide which of the novels to read first, and which might be fine to skip. By the time I finished reading Hodge’s book I’d written down six more of Heyer’s novels I want to read. To the library!
Anyone else out there love Georgette Heyer? Which of her books is your favorite?
(Even though this review was posted in December, I read this book as part of Non-Fiction November. Click the link to see posts from this and previous years!)