2012-09-27 10:40 pm

Frederica by Georgette Heyer

FredericaFrederica by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Oi. Heyer, I love her, but I swear sometimes explaining her books is like, “the dinner was fantastic, wonderful melon gazpacho to start, just a shame about the dead slug I found in my salad course.” The slug in this metaphor being, you know, sexism.

Like this one – really fun set up with the sister in charge of her colorful siblings and the selfish nobleman who becomes entangled in their mishaps and how she and they are the making of him into a better man. And it’s one of those good ones where the hero and heroine spend a lot of time making eye contact in the middle of ridiculous situations and laughing themselves sick on the inside while everyone else shrieks and runs in circles.

Except that part where he becomes a better man or whatever? Yeah, that’s because he needs to. To take care of her. Like a woman needs. Which doesn't even make any sense! I mean, the thing that's most attractive to him is her self-sufficiency! I don't understand!

I need to brush the taste of slug out of my mouth.

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2012-03-21 10:03 pm

Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer

Faro's DaughterFaro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You could make a great emoticon set out of Georgette Heyer books. I mean, she wrote like 800, and she did so many things, she basically covered the entire gamut of human romantical pursuits. The emoticon for this book would be a squinchy scowly face with the tongue sticking out. An 'anything you can do I can do better' face, since that's basically how the hero and heroine communicate.

Fun, kind of forgettable, more conventional at the last than I was hoping. But sticking out your tongue is always a little enjoyable however old you are, so.

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2012-01-16 02:23 pm

Friday's Child by Georgette Heyer

Friday's ChildFriday's Child by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Oh God, this was so uncomfortable. It's one of the ones that starts with a marriage of convenience, and then the romance slowly develops after. Which first of all is not my kink (and if anyone who digs it can dissect the appeal of the kink for me, I'd love to hear it, because several people have tried and it has never worked). But also, this heroine is so sheltered and young and naïve, it is just *twitches*.

It's supposed to be about them growing up together -- she's young and unworldly, he's young and self-centered. And it's about them being the making of each other -- she learns to be smarter about people . . . ish? And he learns, uh, not to gamble irresponsibly or something. Except he learns this because it's so important for him to be responsible so he can take care of her, you know the little woman, she needs so much looking after, and the romance mostly consists of her slavish devotion to him, and it's just. The whole thing. So fucking uncomfortable.

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2011-09-13 10:35 pm

Venetia by Georgette Heyer

VenetiaVenetia by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You know . . . I respect the hell out of Georgette Heyer.

This book had a couple strikes against it going in:

1. The narrator of my audiobook was a deeply unfortunate choice, and her British accents sounded like Eliza Doolittle, the before version. Hilarious for all these “people of quality,” and really distracting.

2. It’s one of those romances where the dude grabs the girl and kisses her within 30 seconds of meeting to establish his rakish bona fides. Not my thing.

But this won me over. It’s not a good place to start with Heyer, because she’s thinking about and playing with a lot of the conventions she established. This is a more sexual book than any of the others I’ve read. Not in actual explicit content, but in awareness of sex. There’s a very clear sense here of all the rules about virginity and chaperonage being, you know, rules that the characters understand as a construct. And deeper, this is a book about people who choose, for whatever reason, to step outside the rules. The reasons aren’t always very good, and there’s some irritating smugness about whose peccadilloes really “count,” as it were (hint: the woman is always to blame).

But yeah. It’s a Heyer about a girl who loves a guy, and a guy who loves her back. This is never in question, and there’s no narrative tension about that. But she has to decide to be with him, and understand her decision in light of decisions the people around her are making to live in or outside the rules. And I liked it.

…And any Heyer where the marriage proposal involves discussions of orgies is okay with me.

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2011-04-30 08:27 pm

Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer

Lady of QualityLady of Quality by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So close, but no. I could have loved this one – our heroine is not a fluttering 18-year-old, but a secure, independent woman of 29. And when the hero finally asks her to marry him, she says, get this, that she isn't sure, and then they have a mature conversation about how difficult it would be for her to give up her space and her freedom. Can you imagine?

But then the whole thing comes to a splintery end with no real conclusion aside from their inevitable engagement. And the really weird thing: Heyer usually has at least one disruptive or frustrating character, someone humorless or not so bright or too talkative or too fussy. But that person is treated kindly, with amused compassion and affection. Except for this one – the heroine’s lady companion -- who is just loathed and loathsome. It was odd and jarring, and not like Heyer.

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2011-02-28 06:18 pm

Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer

The Masqueraders (Harlequin Single Title)The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The one where brother and sister cross dress to avoid prosecution after the failed Jacobite uprising, and both fall in love.

I liked this one. You’re all shocked, I know. It’s one of those uncomplicated, surfacey likes that is untroubled by Heyer’s usual classism or period sexism (the girl dressing as a man requires so much bravery, you see, whereas the man dressing as a woman requires, uh, a dress. Sideways brain leap to what I was reading a few years ago about medical sexism in the gender reassignment surgery field – going MTF is pretty easy, obviously, it’s just a vagina how hard is that, but FTM, well, I mean, you have to make a penis and that’s complicated and delicate and important. End digression).

I liked this because of Heyer’s usual attention to the depth and importance of the platonic relationships. And more keenly, because of one of the romances, wherein it is proven once and for all that courtship between a man and a woman dressed as a man looks exactly like period-appropriate close male friendship. Of course I liked it.

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2010-08-13 02:51 pm

False Colours by Georgette Heyer

False ColoursFalse Colours by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Ick. I would have thought I would enjoy a later Heyer, where she actually acknowledges that sex, you know, exists. But it turns out when she does that, it opens the door for a huge pile of toxic sexist and classist crap about male promiscuity and female chastity. Ick.

Also, everyone appears to be made out of cardboard. Avoid.

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2010-05-08 05:03 pm

Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer

Regency Buck Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
The one where our heroine and her silly brother discover, upon their father’s death, that their new guardian is the sardonic Lord Worth. And then everyone gets into social scrapes.

Almost, but decidedly no. The heroine here is almost my favorite kind of Heyer girl – witty, perceptive, cleverer than the men who are supposed to be her betters – except for how she’s ultimately an idiot so that the hero can explain the entire plot to her. And the hero. Almost my favorite sort of Heyer man – dry, sarcastic, smart – except for the part where he’s also a raging asshole. And their dynamic is almost my favorite sort of Heyer romance, where the couple spends the entire book being hilariously cutting at each other, except for how he sexually assaults her on first meeting, threatens to beat her later, and she seems to like that sort of thing.

Actually, you know, one of my favorite things about Heyer in general is that she really played around with romance structures and – I almost said conventions, but of course it wasn’t that, since she invented so many of them. This book is no different. It’s a vague sort of mystery where you’re supposed to be unsure who the hero actually is, but the whole thing almost, but ultimately just doesn’t work.

Sometimes, so close is also so very, very far.

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2010-02-23 11:25 pm

Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

Cotillion Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Regency. The one where Kitty's eccentric guardian requires her to marry one of his nephews to get her inheritance, and Kitty schemes to get the one she wants.

This is not a good starter regency romance. It's a great tenth regency, particularly for people, like me, who really dislike the ones where the heroine falls for the handsome rake who she tames generally by letting him do appalling things to her. This is not that book. Very deliberately and awesomely not. It is a book about not being that book -- about not being that girl.

It is also a book about people who are not the prettiest, and not the most brilliant, and who are actually quite silly, but sweet and happy and hilarious together. And that's why I liked it, beyond the quiet meta work it did inverting all the romance novel clichés. It's just . . . nice.

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2009-12-14 10:56 pm

Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer

Bath Tangle Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Regency romance. The one where our willful red-haired Earl's daughter is outraged to discover upon her father's death that her inheritance is entrusted to the man she jilted, whose permission she needs to marry.

This is interesting to me because it's doing some really mature work on a craft level. The hero and heroine spend the vast majority of the book apart, and we get a lot of back-and-forth about a handful of secondary romantic entanglements, while the main romance is told almost entirely in negative space. It's skillfully done – Heyer really was very, very good at this. But my problem was that I just didn't care about anyone else in the book. Whoops. And also this one just happened to slide a little too far over the line from 'they spend all their time snarling at each other' to 'it's supposed to be hot the way he kisses her without permission.'

Still. Clever.

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2009-12-03 08:44 pm

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

Sylvester (Harlequin Single Title) Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Heyer does Pride and Prejudice. She is the outspoken country girl, he is the prideful but goodhearted duke. They rub each other completely the wrong way, but are then thrown together by hilarious circumstance.

Picture my silly grin right now. I have figured out what my deal is with Heyer: the more like The Grand Sophy it is, the happier I am. By which I mean if our leading couple spend most of the novel being witheringly sarcastic at each other, when they aren't cracking each other right up to the annoyance and consternation of all the self-involved/stupid people around them, we're golden. I guess the heroine has to be, um you know. *mumbles* Fiery. Shut up.

This isn't quite as awesome as Sophy -- our heroine here is, um, a little too plot-required dumb, for one. But still. It's a formula, and it works.

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2009-08-20 09:40 pm

Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer

Devil's Cub Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Another Georgian era romance. The scandalous dueling rake dallies with a girl! But her sister takes her place to save her honor! And he kidnaps the sister to Paris! And then he must marry her to save her reputation (because she, unlike her sister, has upper class graces, and is therefore worthy).

Okay, I think I officially have the wrong-shaped brain for historical romance. The hero demonstrates his willingness to strangle the heroine and I think, oh, God, she's about to mistake adrenalized terror for attraction isn't she?. He kisses her and I think, do either of them have all their teeth, being over the age of twenty? They get engaged at last, and I think does she know that women can have orgasms?

I should have just stuck with The Grand Sophy, which was adorable and didn't make me go, "but! But!" a lot.

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2009-08-19 01:30 pm

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

These Old Shades These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
The one where the infamous duke buys a boy off the street to be his page, except the boy is actually a girl the duke can use in his revenge schemes. And then they fall in love.

Okay, that's a no. I have no problem with single-minded love, but not when it's played as slavish and not when it's part of a really scary power dynamic. The heroine was not particularly bright, the hero was unimpressive, and the whole thing dripped with accurate but obnoxious classism.

And the genderfuckery made up for none of the above, because it was swept under the rug as fast as humanly possible. *flounce*

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2009-08-18 12:00 pm

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

The Grand Sophy The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Regency romance where the heroine is imperturbable and witty and the hero is regularly reduced to spluttering indignation at all her machinations. I was vaguely amused, then very amused, then I cackled a lot through the last third. Great dialogue, emotional tension that's never overplayed, hilarious villains. Clearly the people who recommended this to a non-romance reader knew of what they spoke.

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