HEYER TODAY EPISODE 5: HEYEROES AND HEYERINES WITH JANE HOLLAND AND ALISON BONOMI

Transcribed by Maham Aziz and Jacqueline Garton Hudson.

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SARA-MAE: Previously on Heyer today.

RONALD: Fetch me my rifle, Georgette there’s a blasted rhino in the camp.

KHALID: And like, why do people deserve to be abducted if they’re less respectable? That’s really stupid too. But he’s got some very strange morals this man, I think, but I did like her style, and I liked how it was written. I did actually enjoy the book. So, I know I’m trying to be like a bit of a sourpuss, but eh..

SARA-MAE: Yay, I’m gonna count you as a convert. Whoop whoop!

KHALID: Yeah.

SARA-MAE: Hello, and welcome to Heyer Today, the podcast in which we celebrate the work of Regency Romance queen Georgette Heyer, and unpick why this best-selling author has been dismissed and ignored by the literati. This week we have two people who could definitely fall into that category. With Charlotte Lamb as her mum, Jane Holland knows all about the impact of a literary legacy. Like her mother, who used to write up to 12 novels a year for Mills and Boon, Jane is a prolific novelist. She has more than 31 books published under a variety of different pseudonyms, including Victoria Lamb, Elisabeth Moss, Beth Good and Hannah Coates. She’s also an award-winning poet, who’s edited print and online poetry magazines. I met her when I published her work in Trespass magazine.

Alison Bonomi trained as a Mills and Boon copy editor, and now oversees some of the LBA Literary Agency’s most successful titles. She too keeps it in the family, working alongside her husband, Luigi Bonomi.

Unlike Jane, Richard Rougier (Georgette’s son) never explored his own literary ambitions. I’m fascinated to hear from these two ladies and talk to them about Heyer’s literary legacy, as well as what it’s like to live in the shadow of a famous author. The day before Alison joined us, Jane and I chatted about Heyer’s writing process and the way she churned them out when she had to.

JANE: The only issues I have with the ‘churn them out’ thing is because my mother was a romantic novelist and she wrote a 170 books.

SARA-MAE: Wow.

JANE: I personally find the longer you spend writing them the worst they are, because you have too much time to think.

SARA-MAE: Yeah.

JANE: That’s my experience anyway, I write very quickly. And also, it’s a bit like the fourth bridge, you know, you start re-writing at leisure and by the time you get to the end, you’ve forgotten what you did at the beginning. Whereas if it’s a very short, you’ve written in a short space of time, you could keep the whole thing in your head and not make mistakes like that.

SARA-MAE: The next day, after having some scrumptious gluten-free pancakes, one of the few things I make really well, Allison joined Jane and I for a full discussion. It was really hard not to chat about Heyer before the conversation, but we did our best to save ourselves for the recording. Jane kicked off the conversation by telling us about some rather excitable edits she’d been given by a well-meaning editor.

JANE: 102.

ALISON: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

JANE: 102 exclamation marks.

ALISON: Oh, come on!

JANE: And I emailed the overall editor and said, “It’s not my style. I don’t use exclamation marks.” He said, “Oh, no, we think you should use them.” [laughs] It’s the kind of thing that just stops you in your tracks. [laughs]

ALISON: Oh, my goodness. What would your mother have said about that?

JANE: I’m trying not to be my mother.

[SARA-MAE and ALISON laugh]

SARA-MAE: We actually were talking about Alison’s days as a copy editor for Mills and Boon, which sounded like an amazing place to work. I don’t know if it’s still like that.

ALISON: Well, it’s part of Harper Collins now, but it’s still I mean, amazingly cool women, mostly women, but it was a fantastic place to work. Absolutely fantastic.

SARA-MAE: Do you know that they used to tell them, like encourage them to go and have a cup of tea and read loads of romance novels, as part of their job? [laughs]

ALISON: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, might have been a glass of champagne actually. But yeah, we’d go into the library. We had to do seminars on authors. I did one on Betty Neels once. I remember someone did one on your mum on the themes in the novels and all that kind of thing. It was great it was a real proper training process.

SARA-MAE: And then we discussed your mum [Charlotte Lamb] and how kind she was to them in the early days; to [Alison and Luigi].

ALISON: She was incredibly kind. I still remember her coming around to our tiny little house in North Finchley with lots and lots of clothes for Jamie, who was a little baby, I remember her holding him. She was very, very kind.

JANE: Now I was telling Sara yesterday, Alison, about how my mother used to ring waitressing jobs in the paper and say you should contact them, you should get a proper job. She wasn’t quite as kind to me as she was to you.

SARA-MAE: It’s always like that though, isn’t it?

JANE: That’s why I encourage my daughter to write because, you know, I wasn’t encouraged.

ALISON: But that’s because she knew how hard it was, I mean she had that point of view.

SARA-MAE: You were saying Alison, that most of the women writers that you know, are often supporting loads of people with their work, and having to juggle family and all sorts of things. Writing in the middle of the night or using the old gin and Benzedeen? Gin and Benzedrine, to assist their writing process; what’s your gin and Benzedrine?

ALISON: I used to think when I was at Mills and Boon that I used to copyedit better drunk, but this was not correct. In fact, it was old school publishing. [The] late 80s right at the end of it, and Friday lunchtime, everybody would go out. Everybody in the office would go out. They’d be out for hours and hours, and when they got back, they’d still be editing the manuscripts and they were off their faces! Let’s be honest, it’s really good that the publishing world has changed. But on the other hand, it was amazing to be there just for the last gasp of old school publishing.

JANE: I’m actually all but tee-total, so Diet Coke. I’ve not always been like that. I was a bad Jane once. Probably my husband’s influence. My second husband doesn’t drink. It’s very boring to drink alone, so I just got out of the habit now I just don’t.

ALISON: Very impressive.

SARA-MAE: I asked Jane how she fits her writing around family and other distractions.

JANE: Well, much better now that they’re not homeschooled anymore.

When they were homeschooled, I had to stay up to silly-o’clock in the morning to get work done, but now I can go to bed at one or two if I want. I tend to do most of my writing in bursts, and usually out at a cafe because home is washing and housework and stuff like that, and I can’t get my brain to focus. So, I tend to go out, and do other stuff when I’m at home, planning or social media, networking, all that kind of thing. So yeah, no, I would normally write a 1000 words, while out at a cafe or somewhere and then I might write another 1000 late in the evening when everyone’s gone to bed and it’s very quiet.

SARA-MAE: I hope that Heyer was an important part of your homeschooling schedule.

JANE: Well, it wasn’t actually. Indigo, my youngest is now reading ‘The Grand Sophy’ and seems taken with it. It’s her first Heyer so…

SARA-MAE: That’s a good one to start with I think.

JANE: Absolutely yeah, and in fact it’s very much in her style as regards her personality. I think she is that kind of…

ALISON: Bossy.

JANE: Yes, yeah, she’s a capable girl but at the same time wants to be in the limelight. So, the combination of that is… I thought it would be her kind of book.

SARA-MAE: She’s a proto-feminist icon. I think we can…? We can say that.

ALISON: Yeah.

JANE: Yeah, Sophy? Yes absolutely.

SARA-MAE: When did you first become a Heyerite?

ALISON: When I was 11, I had read all the books in the children’s library and so the librarian said to me “oh, just go away for heaven’s sake”. And then I was given special permission to go to the adult library. So, I went to the adult library and because I’m a very fast reader I looked for authors who had written a lot of books. And so, there was Georgette Heyer. Remember those wonderful green covers? And I think my mum had actually bought one of them home, which was, I think, A Lady of Quality. And I read that and I thought “This is incredible. This is so far removed from my life in Salford as a working-class girl.” And I just love the wit, the humour. And that was me – been reading them ever since. And I got my job at Mills and Boon, I think because I referenced her in the application letter. So Heyer has changed my life.

SARA-MAE: And yourself, Jane?

JANE: Well, I wish I had an exciting story like that. Um, I think I just grew up with Heyer she was one of those authors that was always on the shelves and so she you know, for as long as I can remember she’s been part of my internal library if you like, and I can’t actually pinpoint when I would have read her first. I was a terribly dour child and I didn’t learn to read until I was about eight or nine unbelievably, but when I hit nine, I started reading immediately adult books so I read a lot of Victorian novelists first. I read a lot of adventure and Zane Grey and H. Rider Haggard. And I think I didn’t come to romance until I was a lot older, say 10 or 11. I think I remember reading her… some historicals first.

SARA-MAE: Simon the Coldheart and…

ALISON: And then there’s The Conqueror, and there’s My Lord John, which is actually a really underrated book, it’s actually a pretty good book.

JANE: I started with those and then moved on, because I’d read some Pleiades as well as…

ALISON: Yes, absolutely.

JANE: And it was around that time I was also reading Mary Renault, and Mary Stewart, and then I came to Heyer and I read These Old Shades first. I remember that and I remember thinking, “Wow!” I don’t think sexy was a word that was in my vocabulary, but it was like, “Wow! Avon is so sexy!”

SARA-MAE: I want to focus on Heyer’s heroes. And this seems like an opportune moment to discuss her impact on romantic archetypes, sorting her heroes into categories: Mark I, Mark II and Mark III. Some people insist that most romance writers are simply re-treading ground that Heyer’s walked before. The Mark I hero is the “brusque, savage sort with a foul temper”, according to Heyer biographer Jane Aiken Hodge, and the Mark II hero is “suave, well dressed, rich and a famous whip”. Laurel Ann Nattress, for website austenprose.com, suggests there might even be a third and fourth category, which include her gentler heroes like the Earl of Sale from The Foundling or Gervase from The Quiet Gentlemen. The fourth one for her military men, who often behave in unconventional ways.

SARA-MAE: Avon is definitely a Mark I; a very supercilious, very sure of himself, powerful, overbearing person. And in the Mark II are those slightly more genial, very good at sports and ‘top of the trees’, type of guy, who’s a prominent member of society. I would like to also add Mark III, and Mark IV because she’s got her military guys who I feel do deserve their own little…

ALISON: Absolutely, Hugo for instance.

JANE: The Tollgate, Captain Staple?

ALISON: Yes. The Quiet Gentlemen – [Gervase is] one of my favourites. I love that book.

SARA-MAE: And then you also have your Freddy’s from Cotillion, people like that, who are more sort of silly and have less gravitas, I think you’d say…

ALISON: Freddie’s dad is a type two hero.

SARA-MAE: Yes.

ALISON: Freddie’s dad is very much like Richard Wyndham or one of those characters. There’s a great scene where Freddie says, “I’m not as stupid as you thought I was,” and his dad says, “You really couldn’t have been, could you?”

SARA-MAE: [Laughs] I know, all the interchanges between those two are fantastic. It’s also interesting because the Duke of Avon from These Old Shades…

JANE: Yeah.

SARA-MAE: He begat another Mark I, Vidal in Devil’s Cub, which I suppose, with two parents like Leonie and Justin, you’d expect.

SARA-MAE: Jane is predominantly a thriller writer, but she writes romance too. I asked her to weigh in on Heyer’s influence.

JANE: At the moment, I’m writing thrillers but I have written romance. I’ve written… gosh! I suppose nine Tudor romances, though three of them were more strictly historical fiction. I don’t know that I’m that influenced by Heyer, overtly, but probably at a subliminal level; I’m influenced as a reader. You know, I’m always looking for that experience for that, I suppose, probably the Mark ones [are] my preferred experience [laughs]. I wrote a book as Elisabeth Moss called ‘Wolf Bride’. The hero Wolf was pretty much like Vidal in Devil’s Cub, I would say. So there, I suppose, yes. But I don’t set about to do it deliberately. It just comes out you know you can’t repress it.

ALISON: But maybe you’re more influenced in the way you write your heroines by her because your heroines are… (a very, very, horrible word) feisty, aren’t they? In a sort of ‘Sophy’ kind of a way, maybe.

JANE: Yes, I try to make them feisty, but it’s very hard because often a heroine tends to be the straight man, if you see what I mean, in in a romance; it’s the character with whom the reader normally identifies. And you have to be very careful with the character with whom the reader identifies, that you don’t make them do anything sort of wacky or out of left field or outrageous, Because people will then feel unable to identify with her. And so, I find heroines quite difficult to write with any real degree of, I suppose realism, you know, because if it was me, I would do, you know, in the book, I would be somebody very, very different.

[All laugh]

 JANE: You can’t go there, so I have to rein them in. Although there are…I have some reviewers who say, “Oooh, she’s a bit tame, this one.” And I worry about that because I think I should be making them feistier, but I’m not sure I know how to without, you know, going outside the box, I suppose, that romantic fiction puts us in as writers.

SARA-MAE: I find it interesting that Jane seems to struggle with heroines in particular. On reflection though, nowadays, there’s a lot being demanded from the modern heroine. People want them to be kick-ass warriors, who overcome all the obstacles in the path of love with agency and aplomb, yet still have a relatable vulnerability that we regular people can warm to. Heyer had such a blithe assurance with her characters, both heroes and heroines, who spar and laugh with each other, obeying Heyer’s supremely confident guiding hand. Heyer knew her own tropes inside and out, and wasn’t afraid to invert or play with them either.

SARA-MAE: Like with ‘Cotillion’ for example, she completely inverts the typical hero structure. We all love the Mark ones but she actually sets up another character –

ALISON: Jack.

SARA-MAE: Who is a typical Mark I for you. You kind of love to love [them], but he’s very selfish as well. And the heroine gradually realises that Freddy, who’s agreed to pretend to be engaged to her to make Jack jealous, is much more suited to her. They even talk about how it sounds nice to have the hero sweep in on his horse and sweep you out of a ball. But it would actually be incredibly impractical and inconvenient, and probably uncomfortable [laughs]. And that sort of awareness permeates all the things she does, and she somehow manages to pull new angles out in every Regency work that she did.

ALISON: That’s absolutely right. If you read Bath Tangle, which a lot of people don’t like, but I reread it recently. It’s actually a very clever book about how you think you know someone, you think you want what you wanted when you were 18, but actually, you don’t. You want something completely different. If you remember, the heroine has been engaged, well not even engaged, briefly had this relationship with a guy who her father thought was not good enough for her, and she meets him again many years later and they fall straight back into a relationship. And quite soon she starts to realise it’s a huge, huge, huge mistake, because she’s just not the person that he thinks she is. He idolises her, he thinks that she’s a goddess, but actually she’s a very normal, flawed person. And she doesn’t want someone to put her on a pedestal like that; it’s really sophisticated.

SARA-MAE: She loved Austen. It’s like taking Persuasion isn’t it? And kind of inverting… [and saying] well, that’s all very well, this kind of sadness of this nostalgic love. And she really shows how well she knows Austen, and how much she venerates her, but she also brings, a slightly more modern sensibility (from when she was writing in the 50s or 60s or 70s), to bear on this idea of first love and people changing and things like that. I think that’s really lovely, as someone who loves Heyer and Austen, to be able to see those links and that kind of cross-pollination of what they were doing.

JANE: I think one of the places where there is that cross-pollination is in her heroines, Heyer’s heroines. I was re-reading Devil’s Cub this morning and I was just thinking that “she is a very pragmatic woman, Mary Challoner”. She is pragmatic and I think that’s the one thing that qualifies her as a character. And that’s something that Austen also has in her in her heroines, you know, they are very pragmatic about the ways in which society works and what is acceptable and what isn’t and better not to know too much about your husband before you marry him! That idea, you know, because you’ll be stuck with him and you know, all men are the same, that kind of idea. I think that Heyer plays with those ideas of ‘Is love worth it?’ Is it better to be pragmatic, can love matches work in a society where there isn’t really much divorce? But then you have a book like Venetia where you see what happens when a couple divorce in high society. The daughter of the divorced couple is kept unaware, she thinks her mother has died, when in fact her mother just went off with another man. And her entire life is sort of blighted by it and her entire romance with Damerel is, to her eyes, tainted by that. So, there is that idea that marriage is for life, and you’ve got to be really careful who you get into bed with, basically. So, in that way, I think there are lots of crosses between her and Austen.

SARA-MAE: Definitely. And I think that pragmatism, I don’t know if you agree with this, Alison, shows itself as well in someone like Venetia. The message often seems to be (like with Freddy in Cotillion), Venetia and Damerel, being friends with a person…

ALISON: Absolutely.

SARA-MAE: …and being able to be with them and be comfortable with them and really know them for all their flaws, is much more important than this kind of heady romance. Also, Devil’s Cub actually, because he gets a very sharp reawakening as to who Mary Challoner is, when she shoots him in the shoulder, for basically attempting to rape her.

JANE: Do you think that may be the thing that separates the Mark I and Mark II heroes?

ALISON: Yes, Mark II heroes would never force a woman to do anything against…Yeah, I don’t care greatly for the Mark I heroes, I’m more a Mark II kind of girl. My favourite hero is Sir Richard Wyndham in the ‘Corinthian’ and he would just… he would never do that. He would cut off his own leg rather than do that.

JANE: Isn’t there something a little bit bloodless about that? I prefer the ones that are full of raging passion!

ALISON: Ah, but you see, there is raging passion in The Corinthian. I read a review of The Corinthian that said that it was sexless. This is a book that, more or less, opens with her dropping out of the window into his arms, and him realising that she’s a girl, she’s dressed as a boy, because he feels her body in his arms. This is 1940!

JANE: Yeah.

ALISON: You go through that book very carefully. It’s very sexy. There’s a moment where they’re on the stagecoach together and she falls asleep and wakes up and speaks to him and she says, “I’m glad you came. Are you glad you came?” And it’s as though they’re in bed together, it’s incredibly intimate.

JANE: Isn’t that the bit where she drools on his shoulder?

ALISON: She does not drool on his shoulder. You put that in.

[All laugh]

ALISON: She did not drool in the slightest, Heyer heroines never drool!

JANE: It’s another gender-bender, she’s dressed as a boy throughout.

ALISON: The whole book, and we haven’t even mentioned Masqueraders have we?

SARA-MAE: Here, I go on a bit of a ramble-y tangent about Arabella, in which the jaded hero falls for a feisty do-gooder. I think I’m trying to make the point that many of Heyer’s heroes are schooled by the heroine, who crashes into their ordered worlds and causes chaos, of the best possible kind. Alison agrees.

ALISON: A lot of them are about the hero being educated. We were talking the other day, weren’t we, Jane, about These Old Shades, and you were saying that he’s absolutely, in a way, abject at the end that he doesn’t know if she will accept him. How incredibly important that is that his whole facade of confidence is gone because he realised that he loves her, and he also realises that she doesn’t need him really as much as he needs her. It’s a whole reversal of the relationship which is so fantastic.

SARA-MAE: The shift in power.

JANE: I actually take exception to the idea that Avon is a Mark I.

ALISON: Yeah, I think you’re right.

JANE: I’m not sure he’s that savage. Isn’t he quite urbane? Really? It’s in him but it’s kept reined in.

ALISON: He does force someone to kill himself at a party just by talking to him doesn’t he?

JANE: Yeah, but just by… he’s an intellectual, you know, it’s an intellectual savagery not a physical thing. He’s not the sort of guy who would jump on a horse, you know, like Rupert, for instance and go riding off, though he does race, though it’s not I think… I’m not sure that it’s referred to in These Old Shades. It’s referred to in at the end of Devil’s Cub, where Vidal has broken his record driving to New Market or something like that racing. So obviously, he did do that kind of thing, but it’s not dwelt upon much in the book. And in fact, it’s Rupert in These Old Shades who is the derring-do young hero really. Avon sweeps in to save the day and he does it in an intellectual fashion. He doesn’t do it by taking a bullet, you know.

ALISON: I was thinking about this. The other day, this is a weird idea, so you have to go with me… There’s only one person who could have played Avon if you’re going to make a film. He’s not with us anymore. So, you see him walking along. He’s got high red heels. He’s wearing silks and lace and jewels. He’s very handsome. He’s got a thin white face. He’s wearing loads of makeup. And there’s only one person isn’t there and that person was David Bowie. He is the only person that could have played him.

SARA-MAE: Oh, you’ve just blown my mind because I adore Bowie and seeing him in Labyrinth… You know the clothes that he wears, and that really made me think to myself: These Old Shades. He was just perfect and…

ALISON: Just perfect. And you’re right and he wasn’t the kind of person as he said himself in the song, he’s not the kind of person who goes around thumping people. He would destroy them with his intellect.

SARA-MAE: With his quips, his rapier wit.

ALISON: Exactly.

ALISON: Heyer heroines normally rescue themselves.

SARA-MAE: Yeah, they do. I think it was a wonderful message for me when I was growing up. Reading them, it kind of put this different slant on things because having read people like Barbara Cartland, oddly enough, before I read the Heyers, there was an insipid quality to them and a kind of… a milkiness.

ALISON: Sitting around waiting for things to happen.

SARA-MAE: Yeah, and having the man come along and sort it all out for you. Whereas Heyer’s characters are, like with Austen, so sharp and funny. Just having a heroine who is genuinely funny is making these rejoinders and giving as good as she gets, is actually reasonably rare. I mean, I don’t know if that goes back to what you were saying, Jane, about you finding it difficult to kind of give heroines that agency.

JANE: Well also, in historical terms, that it will feel unrealistic, because women didn’t have much agency unless they were very, very wealthy, or powerful in some other way. So, I sometimes wonder whether we’re being pushed into viewing heroines with this 21st century lens when in fact it’s completely anachronistic to do so.

ALISON: I sometimes think, ahh, maybe we overthink these things too much. And I know everyone else says that Heyer is greatly influenced by Austen, but I think she’s more influenced by Shakespeare. And I mean if you just think of Much Ado, which I watched recently because my daughter was studying it for GCSE, those are strong female characters right there, aren’t they? And again played by boys, but they’re strong female characters. We are in an enchanted wood sometimes, and boys are dressed as girls and girls are dressed as boys and people swap partners. I think it’s this separate space away from the real world and I don’t think you do anybody any favours trying to drag it back into the real world.

SARA-MAE: But it’s like The Merchant of Venice as well. Portia is…

ALISON: Yes Absolutely.

SARA-MAE: …an incredible lawyer, where she takes complete control, saves the day. Does everything that the hero can’t, really.

JANE: What I was gonna say was Beatrix and Benedict: that is straight out of a Heyer…

ALISON: Yes absolutely.

JANE: Sparring wit, you know.

ALISON: I love the idea they both are told they have to fall in love with each other and they do. They are tricked into it because everyone can somehow see that they are actually perfect for each other. That is very, very Heyer, isn’t it?

JANE: Yeah.

SARA-MAE: [Laughs] And they only realise that by the end. The quality of her dialogue is so good. She doesn’t have to give you the kind of romance payoffs. And you’ll know more about these kind of structural elements that you have to put in, where there’s enough going on that just having the final… she always has like a…they clasp in an embrace or something but it’s very short and sort of glossed over, yet you get that satisfaction.

ALISON: Of the payoff, pulling together.

ALISON: Absolutely. I mean, she was so far… this is what I think people don’t realise if you want to take something away: Heyer is really, really funny. There are lines that just make you stop in your tracks. The Quiet Gentlemen, that horrible dowager Duchess says, “Over my dead body will that woman host a party,” and Gervase, the hero, says, “That would be something quite out of the normal way.” I mean boom, you know, hysterically funny. The Unknown Ajax is a very, very funny book.

SARA-MAE: Isn’t that Hugo Darracott though?

ALISON: Yes.

SARA-MAE: When he pretends to be a Yorkshire hayseed kind of a person, because that’s what all of his relatives expect him to be…

ALISON: But there’s that whole setup at the end whether they have to pretend that the wrong person has been shot.

SARA-MAE: Yes.

ALISON: And it’s just perfectly put, that the guy knows he’s been fooled, the Customs Officer, and it’s just so, so amazingly well done.

SARA-MAE: The fact that she could get away with it and pull it off, and she’s laughing at them all. You’re invited into the joke. It works so well. Would’ve fallen flat in anyone else’s hands.

ALISON: Because it’s complicated plotting.

SARA-MAE: Exactly.

ALISON: It shouldn’t work, but it does.

JANE: I wanted to go back before I forget to what you were saying earlier about it being a possible mis-step on Heyer’s part to have had…

SARA-MAE: Oh, yeah, yeah.

JANE: …Rupert sweeping in in These Old Shades, but I think actually, he’s one of her sort of ‘beta’ types who is more like a brother.

ALISON: Yeah.

JANE: And you get that in ‘Sylvester’ as well with Tom and Phoebe. Phoebe of course is the heroine and Tom is her best friend who everyone thinks they’re going to marry or something, but in fact, he’s just a best friend, really. And I wonder if that was a kind of a second male lead idea, that she always had this other guy who was just a bit nice and a brotherly type. And in fact, you get that in the Corinthian too, don’t you do?

ALISON: You do, Cedric.

JANE: Yes.

ALISON: Richard’s friend Cedric is…

JANE: He is actually just a friend.

ALISON: But the sort of apogee of that is Friday’s Child when she’s got all these fantastic boys. There’s a whole group of them… Sherry, and George, Ferdy and Gil, and they’re so realistic. If you know any boys in their late teens or early 20s, these are absolutely, they’re inter-railing, they’re throwing up in their rucksack; they are just perfect, perfectly created boys. I just re-read that recently. That’s a greatly underestimated book as well, it’s great fun.

SARA-MAE: I mean, I re-read them all the time and it’s like, I’m discovering new elements every single time. She is one of the few people that I can genuinely say that about. That I anticipate being able to continue rereading them and having almost the same enjoyment each time. But yeah, if we call them the Mark IVs, I guess they would be… of which Freddy would probably be the pinnacle, Freddy Standen. Who would you say was your favourite Mark II? Remember, we’ve got Faro’s Daughter as well, which we’ve done. You know, that had kind of fallen behind in the pack for me, but rereading it again I really enjoyed it, because he isn’t that likeable.

ALISON: No, he isn’t.

SARA-MAE: Max Ravenscar, the hero that you…

JANE: I think he’s great. See, now! [laughs]

SARA-MAE: No, but I love the book. And I think that you grow to like him more, especially the bit where he’s been tied up in her basement [laughs].

ALISON: Yeah, absolutely.

SARA-MAE: We’re taking an in depth look at Faro’s Daughter in next week’s episode, so be sure to nab the audio book from Nexus or pop down to the library. I mentioned how the heroine, Deborah, has landed in some hot water because of her very silly aunt (Heyer does a great line in silly aunts),  who has money issues. This leads her to open a faro bank in her house, over which Deb presides, much to the detriment of her social standing. Max Ravenscar, the hero, makes a snap judgement about her character when he goes to ‘rescue’ his nephew from what he sees as Deb’s ‘Jezebel toils’.

SARA-MAE: Max kind of comes into his own. Again, he’s forged in the fire of the passion of the woman…

ALISON: …[He] changes completely, he’s going around saying, “She’s a dreadful woman, he can’t possibly marry… Oh, I’m going to marry her myself.”

SARA-MAE: Quite Darcy-esque, isn’t it? The whole Pride and Prejudice

ALISON: Education of the hero, I think it’s a theme. I was thinking though, about Sophy, because it’s one of everyone’s favourite books, isn’t it? But you’ll never have anyone saying that Charles is their favourite hero because he’s okay. When you read it. You don’t mind him. But it’s all about Sophy and her machinations, isn’t it? So, it’s not always about the heroes, in Heyer.

JANE: Yes. Do you think that’s what marks those books out that when the heroine is is a very strong character in some way, then the hero has to be weaker if you like?

ALISON: Otherwise, they are like in Bath Tangle. I mean, these are people who are going to get married and throw plates at each other, aren’t they? I mean, it’s realistic. We all know people like that. But it’s not necessarily what you would want to aspire to.

SARA-MAE: So yeah, that one is slightly different because Serena, she and he are very well matched in terms of…

ALISON: Very similar.

SARA-MAE: …the levels of passion and everything. He’s quite a strong character, he is quite attractive, I would say he’s a Mark I.

ALISON: Definitely, definitely.

SARA-MAE: Whereas, these other ones, where the character, where the heroine is a little bit stronger, maybe are definite Mark twos.

ALISON: Charles in Sophy is kind of muted Mark I. He is not a Mark II because he’s not suave. He’s very, very frustrated by this horrific situation that he’s found himself in. He’s got all these dozens of younger brothers and sisters. He’s got that mother, the useless father, and he’s financially trying to cope with them all. So, he doesn’t… he’s a different kind of a hero.

JANE: I would agree with that. Yeah, his awful girlfriend!

SARA-MAE: Eugenia.

ALISON: Is it Eugenia? Something like that.

JANE: With a face like a horse?

[All laugh]

JANE: Heyer does a great line in disparaging comments about women.

SARA-MAE: Oh, yeah. But the way that she manages convey that she is an attractive girl and she’s very well bred, yet she still has a certain horsiness about her. You know, it’s so fantastic, one imagines her as having resting bitchface because she [laughs] she is so passive aggressive in the way that she tries to handle Sophy. And Sophy is just not having any of it.

ALISON: It’s wonderful, absolutely wonderful.

SARA-MAE: And I love the fact that Sophy, I think out of all of Heyer’s heroines, right from the word go is like he’s mine, I’ll have that, I’ll have him; it’s the best thing for everyone if we just get married and get with it [laughs], and he has no idea what has hit him.

ALISON: She doesn’t do herself justice when she just says she has two types of heroes, she doesn’t even talk about the heroines. As though they’re all the same, even if they’re very young ones. You’ve got Hero in Friday’s Child who’s 16 at the start of the book, and then you’ve got Pen in Corinthian who’s 17, who’s a completely different kettle of fish altogether; much, much stronger personality. I mean there’s a huge variation in types of heroines that she’s got as well.

SARA-MAE: And she’s got the older ones as well.

SARA-MAE: We all three abruptly realised that the older heroines I’m referring to are mostly in their late 20s or early 30s and burst out laughing at the idea that they would have been considered practically over the hill. I mean, just think of the idea of these ancient old bags having the temerity to take centre place in a romance novel.

ALISON: One of my favourites is Lady Hester in Sprig Muslin, she’s fantastic.

SARA-MAE: Yeah.

ALISON: Fantastic character, isn’t she? So scatter-brained. And another one is Sarah in Talisman Ring. She’s a fantastic character; very, very laid back, cool kind of a person.

JANE: I was reading her biography, Heyer’s biography, and I came across a bit where she was complaining that a magazine had serialised one of her stories and made it raunchy and that she was utterly shocked and horrified by this. I was interested in that because it’s obvious that (not in a prudish way), and in fact, I think she said in a letter to someone that it’s not because I’m prudish or something. But because it isn’t the way I wrote it, and it’s… they tried to make it out to be something it’s not; some torrid romance and in fact it’s not. For someone who writes romances, that she didn’t want them to be seen as romances…

ALISON: We were saying just before we were talking to you that she actually wasn’t, herself, that romantic a person.

SARA-MAE: I think you did get a very different sense of the kind of person she was from how she actually was to the people in her life. But she did have a wonderfully close relationship with her husband, and I was saying to Alison, that my little pet theory (and you know I don’t know if you will agree with this) is, that she modelled Venetia and Damerel’s relationship a bit on her relationship with Ronald.

JANE: Oh, now that’s fascinating.

SARA-MAE: Just because of the way that everyone speaks of them, and the story is all about how incredibly close they were as friends first, and they shared this humour. I don’t think that the sexual side of things by all accounts was particularly good. I think they had separate beds and things like that and maybe even separate rooms.

JANE: There’s a great photo of her with him in a mud hut or something. Isn’t there?

ALISON: In Africa, very early in their relationship.

JANE: That’s amazing.

ALISON: She’s got some strange views. One of the things that she doesn’t approve of: having lots of children. So, there are people who have lots of children, like in Arabella, but her heroines never go on and have lots and lots of children. If you see them in later life, they’ve got one son, because all you need is just one boy. Just whip out a boy and then you don’t have to bother with any of that nonsense anymore. And it’s not realistic, if you think about it. I mean, you read books at the time, you know that there are people who have 12 children.

JANE: Yeah, yeah.

SARA-MAE: Yeah.

ALISON: Yes, the Uxbridges have what? Twelve to fourteen children? And yet her vision of her heroine, I think I’m right in saying, is always the case if you see them in later life, they just have one boy.

JANE: Ah, but in The Toll Gate she does have one of the characters, the grandfather, moaning the fact that he didn’t realise his first son would die and that the estate is entailed away, and that means his daughter’s life is gonna be ruined because of that. And, of course, there are the twins in Sylvester you know, Sylvester is actually a twin at the start of the story. The heir has died and he had been brought up as a Mark II, carefree, and now has to take on these responsibilities

SARA-MAE: And False Colours as well, with the twins. They’re great.

ALISON: I love that.

SARA-MAE: But having said that, when she does write family, Arabella is a very good example. The whole book opens with this family and the sisters and the talking and that there’s the younger sister who is such a drag everyone hates her because she’s got like an onion in her ear. She was always having ailments at inconvenient moments, and things like that, and pointing out things that people rather she didn’t, and all this kind of stuff. And the little boys… they actually have a mill in the middle of the girl’s room and just as a matter of course the girls all grab that belonging that’s most precious to them. You know, things like that, she really revealed a knowledge of how families are.

ALISON: She was close to her brothers wasn’t she? When she was young?

SARA-MAE: Yeah.

ALISON: Wrote the Black Moth for a sick brother.

SARA-MAE: Yeah, yeah, having read her biography, I almost don’t want to apply anything too much to her books. It’s one of those things when you meet your hero, you’re a bit wary that if the more you learn, it could, kind of colour [your reading]… I think one of the things I adore about her books is the voice that’s behind it all. It was inviting me into this world, it was saying ‘have a laugh’.

ALISON: It’s a world that values clever women, doesn’t it? And I don’t mean necessarily intellectual women, because most of her heroines aren’t. But they’re all clever, which isn’t really… Heyer doesn’t really do stupid heroines, does she?

SARA-MAE: For me humour denotes intelligence.

ALISON: Absolutely.

SARA-MAE: I think that’s one of the things that female comics get a lot of stick for.

SARA-MAE: I think what I mean here is that there’s a misogynist idea that you still encounter in conversations about female comics, that they’re not as funny as men. And I’ve often wondered if it’s because a hilarious woman is threatening somehow, especially if humour denotes intelligence. But as Alison points out, Heyer heroes are never threatened by an intelligent woman.

ALISON: Frederica, as well, just disrupts his entire life with her family.

SARA-MAE: Oh, yeah.

ALISON: He likes it, doesn’t he?

SARA-MAE: He’s brought into her world. She just assumes that he’s gonna go along with all her schemes and things because it’s what’s best, clearly. And [these heroes are] brought along with them, and they find themselves changing along the way.

ALISON: Heroes change more than heroines do.

SARA-MAE: Yeah.

JANE: Do you think that that’s a reassurance for clever women everywhere?

ALISON: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely true. I think that’s one of the basic reasons why everyone reads Heyer.

SARA-MAE: Having said that, as well, I don’t think men should be excluded. There’s a lot of enjoyment to be had for them. I mean the heroes are so swashbuckling at times, and always terribly good at sport.

ALISON: But it’s only now that we have this idea that men don’t read romantic novels because when she was writing, she was getting fan letters from people in the temple, from lawyers, and barristers, doctors and all kinds of people who read her books and were not ashamed of reading them. I hate this thing that we have now that there’s girls’ books and boys’ books; it’s just books, you know.

SARA-MAE: Woman’s fiction.

ALISON: Argh.

SARA-MAE: It’s awful, isn’t it? There’s a quote from one of the people who’s publishing a woman’s magazine to say that husbands would snatch it out of their wives’ hands because one of the Heyer books was serialised in there, but I am finding that the men that I’ve approached to convert, there has been this barrier.

ALISON: That’s a really interesting point, because I’ve never tried. There’s my husband, who, as Jane will confirm, he’s an editor of romantic fiction and has been since he was in his 20s and he’s read more romantic fiction than possibly any other man in the country. He’s never read Georgette Heyer and I’ve never tried to make him. Maybe I should?

SARA-MAE: You definitely should.

ALISON: What do you think Jane?

JANE: Because I like to treat all my children equally, when I gave Indigo (my youngest), a copy of The Grand Sophy, I gave a Heyer to each of the boys as well.

ALISON: That’s good. Go, Jane!

JANE: I gave Dylan The Masqueraders and I gave Morris The Corinthian.

SARA-MAE: And did their heads explode?

ALISON: The crossdressing ones, why? [laughs] I mean why not, but why?

JANE: They went off and all were very quiet for a long time. Oh, someone at the door sorry…

SARA-MAE: As Jane goes off to answer the door, Allison and I get talking about Stephen Fry.

ALISON: We went to see Stephen Fry, he was in Twelfth Night, he played Malvolio and he was amazing. Just by chance Luigi bumped into him in a shop the day that we were going to see him, and he told him we were going to see him and Stephen Fry said, “Oh, I hope you enjoy it,” and they had a little bonding moment. And Luigi was so busy talking to him that he didn’t notice that the pie that he was buying was actually off and he brought it home, and we all ate it and then we were all sitting there at the end of Twelfth Night feeling very, very ill indeed. And we said, “You made us eat that pie, Stephen Fry, and we got food poisoning!” [laughs]

SARA-MAE: And what about her Military men, if we call them the Mark IIIs for their little corner of her universe?

JANE: We could sit here all day and no one is going to bring up The Spanish Bride, are they? I know it’s fantastic and I know that Infamous Army was taught at Sandhurst… but we are not going to go there really, are we?

SARA-MAE: I have to admit I have started Infamous Army and I haven’t managed to finish it, I’m much more in love with her Regency works than her specifically historical pieces.

ALISON: Yeah, and I don’t like Regency Buck that much. When she tries to ladle in too much of the history it doesn’t necessarily always work.

SARA-MAE: She saw those works as serious pieces and I know that she was incredibly proud of the fact that they were said to teach it at Sandhurst and she often got, like you were saying, messages from people, literary people, saying that it was a fantastic evocation of that battle. But in terms of her heroes in the Regency world I often find that the military guys are the ones who are the most genial in a weird sort of way.

ALISON: Hmm, yeah.

SARA-MAE: Maybe it’s because you expect them to be a bit more bloodthirsty because they are coming from this military background, but they will often be quite laid back.

ALISON: They don’t have anything to prove, do they?

SARA-MAE: Yeah.

ALISON: Because they are very competent, and they have been in charge of people, and they are very confident in their own skills at life. So, they don’t have to sort of stomp around like George in Fridays Child threatening to shoot everyone that they argue with. They are much more… Gervase in Quiet Gentleman is a lovely character.

SARA-MAE: He is wonderful. One of my favourite things in that book is how Drusilla, her family are these kind of libertarian, anti-establishment…

ALISON: Radical!

SARA-MAE: …radicals. She herself is so disappointed in herself for not being able to be romantic and more like the typical sort of heroine. She is kind of going, “I would love to be romantic, I just can’t do it,” you know.

ALISON: She is a great heroine.

SARA-MAE: She is just practical. She saves his life a couple of times because she is so level-headed, but it is absolutely genius in the way that, in that book, she contrasts the aristocratic horrible aunt, who wished he died in the war, with, when there is that confrontation at the end with Drusilla’s parents, and they are comparing their lineage. And this libertarian guy is kind of saying “Well, you know, not that I care anything about this nonsense, but…”

ALISON: “[My ancestor] came over with the conqueror.

SARA-MAE: [laughs] Any kind of pretension is held up to her magnifying glass, if she can find something amusing.

ALISON: Why haven’t they been made into films and TV, Sara, why?

SARA-MAE: I don’t know. Well, look, I am trying to find out, I am on the case.

SARA-MAE: You will be able to hear my interview with the literary agent for Heyer’s estate Peter Buckman in Episode 9. I will also be chatting to Andy Patterson, producer of ‘Girl with A Pearl Earring’ and ‘The Railwayman’, about his efforts to make ‘The Grand Sophy’. We will dig deep into the difficulties both men have experienced when it comes to adapting period drama. It’s a really fascinating set of interviews especially if you are a cinephile as well as a book lover, like me.

SARA-MAE: But Stephen Fry wasn’t even aware of The Grand Sophy being made and I was like why would you not be in it? You’d be the first person I’d call. Who would you make him play in The Grand Sophy?

ALISON: He would play her father.

SARA-MAE: Her father, that’s what I thought as well, yeah.

ALISON: Yeah, he would be wonderful.

JANE: Do you not think, coming back round to the military question, that The Grand Sophy is actually a military book in disguise?

ALISON: Yeah.

SARA-MAE: Yeah.

JANE: It’s Sophy who is the military man.

ALISON: That’s right.

SARA-MAE: She’s the General.

ALISON: She has experience as well, she’s been on campaign.

JANE: Absolutely, but she has this military strategy to her planning, doesn’t she? She rides, she shoots and she’s brave, and she’s always referring to “the Duke”. I always think of her as a sort of Wellington’s right hand man.

SARA-MAE: Yes, she is. She’s actually the hero in that case.

ALISON: She really is.

JANE: And that might be why Charles is a lot weaker because he’s playing the feminine, the one whose being courted [laughs].

ALISON: He’s the one with the domestic worries. She hasn’t got any domestic worries. She has got loads of money, but he’s got not very much money and all of these siblings that he’s got to deal with, so he’s Frederica in a way and she is Alverstoke.

SARA-MAE: I have never thought of it that way, but that’s true and perhaps that’s one of the reasons why that that’s been the film that’s come the closest so far to potentially being made. And she lightly talks about hobnobbing with Wellington and kind of touches on these hair-raising escapades she has had.

JANE: When all her military guys turn up, they spot immediately what she’s up to, but she’s very chummy with them there are no, sort of, sexual overtones. It’s like she is one of the men. There’s a very telling moment in The Grand Sophy to do with that where the brother, Hugo… he has not told Charles about his money worries and it’s Sophy he goes to and Sophy sorts it out. And he is talking to his girlfriend Eugenia afterwards and, Charles says, “Would you have come to me immediately and told me?”’ because she thinks that Sophy should have told the man and the man should have sorted it out, not gone and done it herself. And he says, “Well, you know, Hugo told her in confidence,” and she says, “Oh that’s not important is it?” And he then realises that Sophy shares his honour code.

ALISON: Yeah, that’s right.

JANE: Which is very much a manly, military thing. She thinks it’s a personal matter and you would immediately break your word in that situation. But for him, and for Sophy, your word is sacrosanct.

SARA-MAE: Exactly.

ALISON: Yeah.

SARA-MAE: I mean Heyer was really doing something that was quite edgy in that sense and taking…

ALISON: Yeah.

SARA-MAE: …a risk by placing her in the ‘male’ role and yet you still find her completely charming and all the men still find her completely charming, but there is that really unusual level of respect and camaraderie.

JANE: That’s right.

SARA-MAE: I can’t think of any other example. Certainly not in Austen books.

ALISON: No, no, the male spheres and female spheres are very very separate in Austen, aren’t they? And they just touch in places, but they don’t really. I’m not a massive fan of Jane Austen, but something that really always winds me up is that everyone says, “Mrs Bennett, she’s so stupid she’s…” The poor woman! She is the only one person in the book who has any idea of the horrific situation…

JANE: Yeah.

ALISON: Of course, she has to get those girls married off! They will be, like Sense and Sensibility, they will be out on their ear. They will be lucky to find a cottage to live in.

SARA-MAE: Yeah.

ALISON: She absolutely knows what she needs to do.

SARA-MAE: At the mercy of that horrible obsequious vicar.

ALISON: Mr Collins.

ALISON: Indeed. He would have thrown them out. It would have been exactly like Sense and Sensibility. That fantastic scene at the start of the film with the brother saying, “Oh yes we will give her five thousand pounds,” and by the end of the conversation they will be lucky if they get five pounds at Christmas.

SARA-MAE: Yes exactly.

ALISON: This is exactly what would have happened to them.

JANE: Yeah.

SARA-MAE: She often touches on these role reversals and she very cleverly interweaves them with themes that are quite challenging that Austen wouldn’t have been able to do because she was always writing about one village, one family, that kind of thing.

JANE: That’s right, yes, and there’s a really strong political sense behind her work as well isn’t there? For instance, in The Masqueraders there’s that whole idea of the rebellion behind there and so that she is always touching on things that are really happening at that point in time, but the romance is always at the forefront.

SARA-MAE: Yeah, and she never looses sight of what it she is… the product that she is producing. She definitely saw her works as these kind of crafted…

ALISON: Well, I recently read The Reluctant Widow, have you read that recently?

SARA-MAE: Not recently.

ALISON: It’s a dreadful book. There is no relationship between the hero and heroine. The heroine is incredibly irritating, and the hero is quite a nice guy. I mean everyone is allowed an off day, maybe she was ill, maybe she was under hideous pressure from her family, but that’s one of the romance books…

JANE: You know, Alison, I think that’s the one she was complaining about when it was serialised and saying that they had turned it into something?

SARA-MAE: And is it The Convenient Marriage which is the one where they are not in love, but they get married?

ALISON: It’s wonderful.

JANE: I thought that was a lovely, sweet novel.

ALISON: Yes.

JANE: I really enjoy that.

ALISON: Yes, it is. It is lovely.

SARA-MAE: See that’s my least favourite. I think it’s because I read it when I was quite young, and you know when you are young, you just want the heroine to be pretty, and for them to be madly in love and you know, that’s the whole thing. You kind of want that payoff… emotional payoff. I think, as you get older you start seeing nuances and this thing that we were talking about where Heyer is saying, “What is the most important in a marriage?” Is it the passion and the headiness that you get with that? Or is it being able to be with someone and able to enjoy their company and support them?

ALISON: One of the interesting things about that book is that when you read it carefully, and I think that Jennifer says this in the biography, you see that they have actually had sex but it hasn’t fixed anything. If you read it really carefully; he’s married her, he’s, you know, wooed her with his incredible skills or whatever, but it’s not solved anything because they haven’t sorted out their basic relationship. They are meant to be together, but they need to overcome all the obstacles in their way so it’s not as though they can just fall into bed on page 192 and that will fix everything because it is more complicated than that.

SARA-MAE: Yeah, and that is such a sophisticated and tricky message to get across because in almost every single romance book the big payoff is when they finally come together and the idea is that they are essentially going to have sex and that’s going to make everything happily ever after.

JANE: As a writer that’s obviously what you are going to need because the big payoff is that they get married. If you have a book where they are already married during the course of the book there has to be some other obstacle for them to overcome, so it couldn’t possibly have been happy ever after because then there wouldn’t have been a story.

ALISON: Yeah, but it has to be a plausible obstacle.

JANE: Yeah, I guess.

SARA-MAE: And that one is that he’s still in love with another woman, isn’t it?

ALISON: Well, he’s had that relationship with that other woman and she finds out about it and the other woman is a horrible Heyer-bitch and gives her to think that they are still together and it’s very well done. It’s fantastically done, I think.

JANE: Yes, that’s a very nice novel. I do return to it occasionally, but not as often as I do my big faves.

ALISON: What are your favourites?

JANE: Venetia and Sylvester are my favourites. I would say Venetia because I think Damerel is just the most superb hero, he’s a Mark II, but he has all the instincts of a Mark I. Sort of smouldering under the surface there. And I do love my Mark ones. And Sylvester of course because the heroine, Phoebe, is a writer. She’s essentially Georgette, isn’t she?

JANE: Yes.

SARA-MAE: Can I just say that I think Damerel is a Mark II masquerading as a Mark I?

JANE: Yes, he likes to pretend.

SARA-MAE: Yes, he kind of affects the Mark one-ishness that he feels the world expects from him.

ALISON: Yes, that’s the thing.

JANE: One woman done him wrong, so he decided to be mean to all women afterwards. [Laughs]

SARA-MAE: He isn’t mean, he strews rose petals… there are very funny bits where she talks about how, “I don’t want you strewing any rose petals for some wanton…”

JANE: Yes, right, yes.

SARA-MAE: And the way she talks so lightly about his orgies!

ALISON: Ah, that scene, I’m sorry, I hate it.

JANE: That’s why they are perfect for each other…

SARA-MAE: Yes.

JANE: Because she isn’t shocked by his orgies.

SARA-MAE: What was it that you weren’t so keen on?

ALISON: I just felt that he wouldn’t be faithful to her.

JANE: I don’t agree. He was done.

ALISON: You see, I agree with you about These Old Shades. He was never going to look at another woman, I think you were absolutely right about that, but I didn’t feel that about Venetia. Maybe I need to read that again I haven’t read it for ages.

JANE: I think if he was ever unfaithful it would be a three-in-a-bed situation and you know, she’d join in.

SARA-MAE: [laughs] Oh my gosh, why is that fan fiction not being written?

ALISON: It probably has been. Have you ever searched Georgette Heyer fan fiction sites?

SARA-MAE: No.

ALISON: It’s all out there.

SARA-MAE: I don’t know if I could bear to read my characters in a less deft hand.

ALISON: This is the thing. Some of it is really good. I was looking for this recently and I couldn’t find it, but years and years ago, I read some slash about The Unknown Ajax about Hugo and Vincent. And you don’t ever actually read the book in the same way again because it is so well written. There are all kinds of things. There are things that rewrite The Corinthian as space operas and things. You need to do a bit of digging, ladies, I am telling you, it’s out there.

JANE: I would be sucked in.

SARA-MAE: Do you think in a sort of publishing sense… there’s ever going to be an…

ALISON: An E L James?

SARA-MAE: Like there was Twilight fan fiction before, do you think there would ever be something like that for Heyer? Where the sort of medium by which… the fan fiction could become legitimised?

ALISON: I don’t think it’s a big enough thing, is it? I mean the fact that you are both really keen Heyerites and you hadn’t come across it… Maybe I have too much time on my hands, who knows? But I think it’s not enough of a cultural phenomenon that you would ever persuade anybody. I mean, I think if someone had written something that was based on Heyer and then changed it in the way that E L James did, you just wouldn’t know. You’d just… you know what? It’s out there: it’s called the genre of Regency romance. The whole genre of Regency romance, is, in fact, Heyer fan fiction.

SARA-MAE: Yes, that’s true.

ALISON: Isn’t it?

JANE: Yes, and some of those homages, if you like, are really good and very enjoyable and some are not.

SARA-MAE: [laughs] We were saying this yesterday, Jane, about would you be offended if someone you know… and you were saying, “Well, if they made more money than [me]…”

JANE: What, if someone plagiarised me?

SARA-MAE: Yes, if they plagiarised your work.

JANE: No, only if they made more money. I really I am not that worried. And I would be flattered, I think. I had a reviewer, of my self-published Regencies I write when I have time, and I had a reviewer say, “This person has tried to do a copy of Heyer and its really very third rate and you know blah, blah.” And I thought, well at least she spotted that. I was quite flattered even though it was a horrible review.

SARA-MAE: You sort of want to be friends with her.

JANE: Well at least you are a Heyer fan as well [laughs.] I felt quite good, really.

SARA-MAE: Well, I mean I could honestly go on talking about Heyer for the next five hours, but I know that some of you have lives. [laughs]

ALISON: Not as such, no.

SARA-MAE: Two of us in this conversation probably have better things to do.

ALISON: I have got manuscripts to read, that’s what I could do.

SARA-MAE: Well, I thank you so much both of you for joining me today.

JANE: It’s a pleasure.

ALISON: I really look forward to listening to the podcast.

JANE: I can’t wait either. Thank you very much.

SARA-MAE: Thanks Jane and Alison

All: Bye

SARA-MAE : It was great to get a chance to talk about Heyer’s heroes and heroines in this episode. Once again, talking to other Heyer fans is instantly comfortable and easy, as we waft from one book to another re-living bits we particularly love. Jane is a woman of many talents, not just writing incredibly gripping thrillers. She has also been a champion snooker player. I can’t wait for her to write the screenplay about her adventures with green baize. She often writes under pseudonyms, so tying her down to one genre is nigh on impossible. Her latest book The Hive is a terrifying thriller available on Amazon.

I can’t imagine where Alison finds the time to read Heyer fan fiction when she has probably got to tackle a massive pile of ever-replenishing manuscripts in her job as editor for the LBA Literary Agency, but I am delighted that she does. I am also intrigued by the idea of a Hugo/Vincent spinoff in which I infer that they are lovers. Note to self: ask Alison for a link.

Next week, it’s another book club episode jam packed with audio drama, the next instalment of Heyer’s life story, and we will be reading Faro’s Daughter. As ever, you can join our discussion by listening to the audio book available from Naxos or you can support you local library.

Till next time, you would have to be a ‘shockingly loose screw’ to miss out.

This has been Heyer Today.

[Credits]

This episode was recorded and produced by me Sara-Mae Tuson, with production writing and research help from Beth Keehn, and Will Dell from Aurality for production support. Mike Scott for making me get out into the sunlight every once in a while, and production assistance. Thanks also to Geraldine Elliott, to Talitha Gammaroff and everyone who has supported me in creating this work. Suzie Buttress in particular, and the podcast community at large, for invaluable support and advice.

The music used in this episode is from Emma Gatrill’s wondrous album, Chapter I, as well as Jerome Alexander’s luscious Message to Bears’ tunes. Original music was composed especially for the podcast by myself and Tom Chadd.

You can find Message to Bears here: messagetobears.com

Tom’s music here: tomchadd.bandcamp.com

And Emma’s website is: emmagatrill.com

Comment and take part in our discussions on social media. We’re @fablegazers on Instagram and @fable_gazers on Twitter.

Remember to rate, review and subscribe. I can’t tell you how much it helps small indie companies like us to thrive.

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