An Aural Feast: The Nonesuch 

Comedy Writer Kate Hinksman

Turtle soup, wax baskets of prawns and atlets of palates … wondering what we’re talking about?

In our latest eagerly anticipated book club episode of Heyer Today, Sara Mae is reading The Nonesuch, (one of her favourite Heyers) with two fabulous people who have never encountered Heyer before in their sweet little lives: comedy writer Kate Hinksman and stellar cook Charlotte Nugent.

Enjoy this aural feast with us as we read: The Nonesuch.  

In our quest to indoctrinate more READERS, we’ve converted a whopping 12.5 out of 16, which we think is pretty good going.

Do you know anyone you think would like Heyer? Why not introduce them to this podcast? Remember, word of mouth really helps to get our work known to the wider world.


Charlotte Nugent

A Historical Culinary Tour

One of the dishes mentioned in this episode is ‘atlets of palates‘. Palates seems to refer to tongue, and in this case, the historical use of the phrase is the palate of an animal, esp. of a bullock, as an item of food.

Taking a little historical tour with this word, we find in the 1747 ‘Art of Cookery’ by H. Glasse, “After boiling your Palates very tender..blanch them and scrape them clean.” In 1791, J. Boswell, in ‘Life Johnson I’, quoted Johnson as saying “I remember, when he was in Scotland, his praising ‘Gordon’s palates’ (a dish of palates at the Honourable Alexander Gordon’s) with a warmth of expression which might have done honour to more important subjects.”

And here is the Mock Turtle soup recipe also mentioned on the podcast (sans endangered turtles or eyeballs! )

 We couldn’t find a recipe for Beef ala Mantua, but again, the Jane Austen website has provided us with this recipe for Regency fave, Beef ragout: A Ragout of Beef.

Have a listen here and don’t forget to rate, recommend & review us so we can reach more future Heyerites and book & podcast lovers! We’re available on all good podcast players, iTunes, Spotify or Amazon Music.

Heyer in the Spotlight: Adapting her Work for Stage

Christina Calvitt
In this week’s hot new Heyer Today episode, Sara-Mae chats with playwright Christina Calvit and director Dorothy Milne, who worked together on the acclaimed Heyer adaptations of The Talisman Ring, Pistols for Two, Cotillion and Sylvester at Chicago’s Lifeline Theatre.

Both women have been showered in awards, so they were well equipped to tackle Heyer’s books. Join us as we chat about our favourite Heyers, how Heyer’s dialogue lends itself to the visual medium, which other novels they’d love to adapt, and why they think Heyer’s work has been misunderstood over the years. 

The theatre has a distinguished record of literary adaptations, including some Austen novels, so when we heard about Dorothy and Christina’s version of Sylvester, we were absolutely gutted we wouldn’t be able to see it.

Oh, and in this episode we also asked the delightful Kathy Skok, a fan from the Heyer Facebook group, for her review of The Talisman Ring play. She got to see a production based on Christina and Dorothy’s adaptation.

Have a listen here and don’t forget to rate, recommend & review us! We’re available on all good podcast players, iTunes, Spotify or Amazon Music.
Dorothy Milne

Latest Reviews


 

Want to join other Heyerites at an exciting event tomorrow?  

My Poor Devil: 100 years of Georgette Heyer’s ‘The Black Moth’

A conference celebrating and discussing the work of Georgette Heyer hosted by Romancing the Gothic

Sat, 20 November 2021, 09:30 – 21:30 GMT

 (video recordings available for those who cannot make it live!) 

This conference seeks to mark the centenary of Heyer’s first published novel. The conference brings together a range of perspectives and disciplines to explore Heyer. It will also include a number of (optionally) interactive events – including workshops on 18th century fashion, lessons in Georgian dancing and a quiz with generously donated prizes!

Featuring keynote speaker Jennifer Kloester (Heyer’s biographer) and authors K J Charles, Zen Cho, Rose Lerner, Cat Sebastian and Olivia Waite for our closing roundtable panel on ‘Queering Heyer’ – exploring the Regency beyond Heyer’s influential and meticulously created Regency world.

Find out more and register here!
We hope you’re enjoying Heyer Today! Remember to help us spread the word so we can reach more Heyer fans, old and new!
Listen to our newest Heyer Today episode here!
P.S.  Fancy  buying us a cup of tea? You can make a donation via our support page here.

HEYER TODAY, EPISODE 10: THE QUIET GENTLEMAN WITH DON PATMORE & TALITHA GAMEROFF

Listen to this episode here.

Also available on any good podplayer, iTunes, Spotify or Amazon Music.

Don’t forget to rate, review and recommend us!

Previously on Heyer Today:

PETER BUCKMAN: Since we took on the agency to represent her 13-14 years ago, we have been trying to get executives interested to produce her work. And there are several people, who claim to be great fans, it is the controllers of drama who have not gone ahead, with various excuses.

ANDY PATERSON: We’ve cast Jessie Buckley. Because she has that kind of extraordinary… She is so full of life. And when you meet her,and when you see her on the stage, she is just breath[taking]. And I think we fell in love with her, she was Sophy. I’m a Producer so you must forgive the hype sometimes, but I haven’t had that feeling that we had about Jessie, since Scarlet Johanson walked into audition for Girl with a Pearl Earring, when she was unknown.

STEPHEN FRY: Fine, I’m very happy to go and see it, that’s the most important thing, isn’t it? We must support so it gives rise to others.

SARA-MAE: Welcome back to Heyer Today, the podcast series, in which we spend our time, investigating the life and work of one of Britain’s most under-appreciated authors. Am I a Georgette Heyer obsessive? Well, perhaps I wasn’t when I started on this journey four years ago, but I think creating a 25-episode podcast series definitely qualifies me as being, at least mildly doo-lally about her. And yes, that is the medical term for my condition.

This is one of our bi-weekly book club episodes, so if you haven’t read the book The Quiet Gentleman, I recommend you stop the pod, and go and borrow it from the library, or listen to Audible’s awesome version  https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/The-Quiet-Gentleman-Audiobook/B004FTBIIA read by Cornelius Garrett. Otherwise, you can go ahead and listen to see if you like the sound of the book.

As usual we’ve got a juicy historical crash course covering Heyers life at the time she wrote the book. Plus, some fab audio drama. I’m also excited to introduce Sarah Golding playing the role of older Heyer, from here, until the end of the series, look out for her in a scene with the marvellous John Grayson. But who am I blessing with an introduction to Heyer’s work today? It’s only comedian Don Patmore and my cousin Talitha Gamaroff. I can’t wait to see what they think, but first, here’s Mike to tell us about the secret world of Georgette Heyer.

MIKE: London after the war is a bombsite – literally. When The Quiet Gentleman is published in 1951, the City is still full of damaged buildings and debris, some replaced by temporary prefab housing.

The face of the nation is changing. Labour is in power for the first time in 20 years.

In 1948 – the SS Empire Windrush docks at Tilbury and the  Commonwealth immigration begins with 500 or so Caribbean immigrants.

This is followed closely by the advent of the National Health Service.

In July 1948 the Olympic Games are held at Wembley Stadium (excluding competitors from Japan and Germany for reasons obvious at the time).

Locked away in her Albany apartment, bashing away at her new typewriter, no doubt this great celebration of sport registered as not much more than a tiny blip for Georgette.

She was too busy doing battle with Barbara Cartland, after a slew of blatant plagiarism in the first year of the new decade. (Besides, I think the later Festival of Britain in 1951 would have been more Georgette’s style.)

The post-war lead-up to The Quiet Gentleman’s publication is one fraught with frustration over austerity, too much regulation and high taxes – something Georgette would relate to – all themes brilliantly portrayed by George Orwell in his dystopian masterpiece, 1984, published in June 1949.

Orwell was just a year younger that Georgette – but how different their worlds must have been. Inspired by Jack London’s People of the Abyss, Orwell had famously done his literary research – not in a library or by burying his head in a scrapbook of clippings – but by living in the slums of London and Paris.

And while Orwell and Georgette no doubt had literary friends and common – JB Priestly is on Orwell’s famous list of ‘crypto communists and fellow travellers’ – I can’t see Orwell at any Albany soirees.

Although, I’m sure Georgette would agree with Orwell’s inclusion of his tax inspector as another type who potentially threatened English culture – because these two very different authors shared a constant fear of receiving demands from the Inland Revenue – or ‘the SHARKS’ as Georgette called them – and an unfortunate knack for choosing less-than-satisfactory accountants to look after their financial affairs.

They also had one major common denominator – they shared the same literary agent – LP Moore. Leonard Parker Moore, partner at Christy & Moore, was a former journalist and first world war veteran.

He was a lieutenant with the Artists Rifles – a London regiment of the British Army Reserve made up of artists – including writers, musicians, actors, and painters. This is surely where he made the artistic contacts that would become so valuable to him in his future career.

He seemed to have wide-ranging interests and was a great champion for Orwell – in fact, it is in a letter to LP that Eric Blair (then earning his main wage as a school teacher) first suggests the pseudonym ‘George Orwell’, running it past his new trusted confidante with a handful of other suggestions.

Christy & Moore’s clients illustrate the agency’s mix of enthusiasms. As well as representing Georgette and Orwell, the agency works with travel writers like Marco Pallis, historic novelists like Georgette’s friend Carola Oman, journalists Jane Mander and Gareth Jones, and other Romance authors, Ruby M Ayers and Catherine Cookson.

Christy & Moore show an enterprising spirit. The Royal Geographical Society archives hold a letter of 1921 from LP to the Secretary of the Mount Everest Committee, pitching to act as negotiators with editors and publishers for work resulting from the Everest Expeditions. (Their proposal is unfortunately rejected two days later.)

As we’ve discussed in previous episodes, LP was Georgette’s agent from her first novel, The Black Moth. We can thank LP for his meticulous work ethic and respect for his authors.

His vast files of well-kept letters provided Georgette’s two biographers with a huge amount of information – and a veritable cash cow for Orwell’s estate: there were around 500 letters preserved from the author – many sold at auction in later years.

And, of course, many written by Georgette, keeping LP up to date on daily domestics, Richard’s accomplishments, as well as ideas for making more money from her works.

Since her father died, LP was somewhat a father figure … and surely a trusted adviser and supporter. Nevertheless, she became dissatisfied with the agency.

And LP was getting old. His dedication to securing her regular deals with the Americans had, frankly, slipped. And so, having decided to deal directly with the US publishers herself, Georgette felt that she could cut out the middle man.

In April of 1951, she screwed her courage to the sticking place and gave LP his notice. She was going to dispense with his agency’s services.

[Audio drama segment]

NARRATOR:

Georgette walks into LP’s office, muffled up in a thick fur coat. Moore smiles gently and gestures for Georgette to sit down. She shifts a large pile of books and papers from the leather chair facing him and takes a seat.

[Old LP player with gramophone horn plays scratchy classical music in the background]

MOORE: 

Ah, Georgette. Hello, my dear, and how are you? How’s young Richard?

GEORGETTE:

He’s well. [Shortly. She wants to get this interview over with.] He’s at eighteen now. It…it seems like yesterday he was only a baby and now its all gangly limbs and off-colour jokes. We were standing in line to see a performance of As You Like It once and when he saw the throng of people he said, “You’d think it was the second crucifixion!” 

[Laughs nervously]

MOORE: 

[Pause – he doesn’t get the joke] That’s er, very good. Is there something I can–?

GEORGETTE

[Blurts] I…I want to cut it off. Our association.

MOORE:

[Staggered] Cut off…? But my dear, it’s been…it’s been 36 years. I promised your father...

GEORGETTE:

It hasn’t been working for a long time, you know that. 

MOORE:

[A little stiffly] If my service has been less than satisfactory, let’s talk about it. You know I’ve only ever sought the best for you.

GEORGETTE:

[Tightly] I know.

MOORE:

Well, then. We’ll soon sort this out. Has there been a particularly bad tax bill of late? You always worry too much about these things. Let me find you a commission and we’ll soon take care of…any unpleasantness.

Come, we can go to The Empress for lunch and see if we can’t change your mind, my dear.

NARRATOR:

He reaches for his coat.

MOORE:

A nice spot of tea and a—

GEORGETTE

[Rather harshly because she feels bad]

Do you really think tea is going to help? You have no idea…can’t you understand…? No, it’s clear you can’t, and there’s no point trying to make you – it would just be upsetting to us both. When you’ve known a man of your age since you were nineteen and he still looks on you as a struggling young author, the situation is apt to be difficult. Having enjoyed the disadvantage of an upbringing, I cannot be rude to old men.

Don’t make me be more explicit. I’ll…I’ll have the papers sent over to you.

NARRATOR:

Georgette stalks out of the room, [slamming door sound, jolts the record player which starts to jump]. Moore sits at his desk, then leans back tiredly in his chair, rubbing his eyes.

[HISTORICAL SEGMENT CONTINUES…]

MIKE: Georgette was confident she could do everything herself – with Ronald’s assistance of course – he was still helping out on the detective stories. But as it turns out, she would need three people to replace LP.

There was John Smith – fresh junior partner at Christy & Moore – for play options; Louisa Callender at Heinemann for general rights; and – after an introductory luncheon at The Ivy – Joyce Weiner for foreign and short story rights.

It was John Smith who would negotiate stage rights for The Grand Sophy, and a BBC radio version of The Corinthian.

Yet, LP had acted with Georgette’s best interests at heart. He had negotiated many good deals for her in contracts and royalties. Georgette was soon to find out (after signing with Heinemann in June 1952) that these valuable payments would soon be reduced.

Georgette may have finally had an inkling about just how much she had lost. It wasn’t long before her correspondence with Smith included ‘I hope you and LP are both well. Give him my love, please’.

However, The Quiet Gentleman was Christy & Moore’s last source of commission income from the works of Georgette Heyer. And Georgette found that, from now on, she would have to read all her new contracts very carefully indeed.

In September 1950, The Grand Sophy becomes an instant best-seller.

On the family front, Georgette must have been thrilled that Richard had been voted ‘finest head of house in years’ at his school in Marlborough. And he’d been awarded an ‘exhibition’, or scholarship, to Pembroke College at Cambridge.

He deferred to complete his national service with the 2nd battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps – a right royal connection to Harry Smith in Georgette’s Spanish Bride!

For George Orwell, famously wounded during the Spanish Civil War, there would be no more struggles in his harsh life. He died after a string of health problems early in 1950.

As for LP, while there would be many more literary skirmishes to attend to, he would pass away by the end of the decade [he dies in 1959].

After the post-war period of Labour leadership, Winston Churchill is given a second chance and is re-elected in 1951 – prime minister again at the age of 76 – a victory perhaps fuelled by people’s concerns about conflict in Korea, and the Cold War.

Georgette’s readers are as voracious as ever. Frere reports that her Antipodean fans are begging for more Heyer! The Quiet Gentleman, her 38th novel, outruns the popular Grand Sophy selling out its first print run of 50,000 copies.

How readers must have relished its sunny springtime setting. After a long war – the Battle of Waterloo – the 7th Earl of St Erth returns home to claim his inheritance … 

SARA-MAE: And now for our book club section. Last time we had one convert and one imbecile. Just kidding. But it was an uphill battle for my mate Rob who rarely reads fiction, never mind Regency romance. Overall, I’ve got three converts and three non-converts 50:50. Let’s see what happens this week. As we read The Quiet Gentleman.

SARA-MAE: Hello Dom Patmore, how are you today?

DOM: Very well thank you, Sara, how are you?

SARA-MAE: I’m good. I’m sorry about this enforced intimacy we’re having.

DOM:  That’s OK, I feel like we are in the battlefield… of sound.

SARA-MAE:   Indeed, just like Gervase.

DOM:  Exactly yes!

SARA-MAE:   Who are you?

DOM:  This is a very good question, how much time do we have? I call myself now a corporate misfit for various reasons, I teach technical courses, to adults of all ages. I also do stand up and I am a competitive powerlifter.

SARA-MAE:   All very interesting facts about yourself, Dom, especially the competitive powerlifter. Does that involving like, pulling a car with your teeth?

DOM:  Competitive powerlifting is, you squat, you’re benching, deadlifting…

SARA-MAE:   Do you imagine that our characters, the heroes and the gentlemen in this book, which is set in the Regency period, do you reckon these guys would have been powerlifting?

DOM:  I feel like maybe? The younger brother might fancy himself as a powerlifter. But definitely not Gervase. I mean, he is much better with a rapier, I would say. But he’s no powerlifter. He’s probably been to a powerlifting show. But they used to call it the ‘old-timey strongman’ shows.

SARA-MAE:   (Laughs) Yes, because when you’re in the old timey strongman show, you refer to it as that, not the ‘now’ timey.

DOM:  It’s like a fourth wall, you’re aware you’re doing it, so it’s like a cool thing.

SARA-MAE:   Here is my cousin, Talitha.

TALITHA:        Hi. I work at an advertising agency as a day job. And I’m a yoga teacher.

SARA-MAE:   And have you ever read any Georgette Heyer before?

TALITHA:        No.

DOM:  You asked me and I said what? “I’ll get it from the library.” Turns out it was not at the library.

SARA-MAE:    What?!

DOM:  So, this was the first book I had to read on the Kindle.

SARA-MAE:   So, this is not your genre at all?

DOM:  This is not.

SARA-MAE:   You’ve never delved into this? Wow. I’ve got quite a challenge because, as you obviously are aware, I’ve been trying to convert people to loving her work?

DOM:  Yup and I’m up for challenge. As a competitive powerlifter that is what we do!

TALITHA:        Well, I love Jane Austen and I love period dramas but I haven’t read anything other than Jane Austen for a long time. In terms of period drama. I don’t think. I would definitely read it, pick it up on a weekend away, wanting something to pass the time.

SARA-MAE:   Let’s start with the plot.

TALITHA:        So, it’s called The Quiet Gentleman. It’s about a young man who has inherited some property from his father, and he has come back from many years in the army. To lay claim to his rambling mansion. He finds his relatives and acquaintances in the house, where dramatic events unfold.

SARA-MAE:   And when you say dramatic events, unlike her other Regency love stories, which are quite sort of, light and frothy, and mainly about the romance, there is a thriller element to this.

TALITHA:        Yes. It’s a whodunnit! Or who is doing it. Or who wants to do it?

(laughter)

SARA-MAE:   So, let’s delve into the story a little bit more. When this chap, the main character, what’s his name?

TALITHA:        His name is Lord St Erth.

SARA-MAE:   Gervase. He arrives back from the war in the Peninsula. And his relatives… it would be fair to say they were not precisely welcoming when he arrives back?

TALITHA:        No. So, he arrives back to find his stepmother, and half-brother living in the house.

SARA-MAE:   It’s all about how he’s become estranged from this family of his. Because his dad’s first wife ran off with somebody. He and his father never got on. But he is the heir to all these lands and estates.

DOM:  Yes.

SARA-MAE:   He is quite interesting as a hero, because her usual heroes are quite proud. This guy has a deceptively gentle air about him, doesn’t he? Everyone underestimates him because he’s so sweet natured. They keep describing him as docile.

TALITHA:        This is why they call him The Quiet Gentleman, and I wouldn’t say he’s quiet. I would say that he’s self-assured. He doesn’t speak when he doesn’t need to. He listens and observes. He’ll make his point known, he isn’t timid or anything.

He observes all these crazy things around him and takes it all on the chin and has a self-assurance. He’s saying, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m here.”

SARA-MAE:   Deal with it.

SARA-MAE:   So, he went off to war, not really knowing this bunch of people.

DOM:  I also liked the fact that all these people, are all very clear, “we didn’t think you’d come back”.

SARA-MAE:   They are bald-facedly going, “You know, no one expected you to come back. Lots of people die in the war.”

DOM:  Yeah.

SARA-MAE:   Couldn’t you have died in the war?!

SARA-MAE:   We are introduced to them in this big drafty place – that was funny. They describe this horrible castle, full of draughts. It’s like, they’re all freezing cold, waiting in this grand hall, for him to appear.

DOM:  Yup. They resent him coming. [And] there’s a lot of characters.

SARA-MAE:   Well, there’s Martin.

TALITHA:        Martin was a spoilt child who was probably loved more by his father than [Gervase] was. They are half-brothers. The father felt that Martin took after him more, and was more loving to him.

SARA-MAE:   There was scandal too…

TALITHA:        There was. He didn’t think much of his mother, she ran off with someone else, never to be seen or heard from again. And [she] was disowned from their lives. And Lord St. Erth [looks like] his mother, so they’re all scandalised by his very presence, and exclude him from everything. Martin is the spoilt one, he wears the family ring. [Gervase’s stepmum, the Dowager] just assumed he would inherit everything and Martin can’t stand this, he’s a spoilt brat. He’s quite sporty, tall and big, kind of dashing, but in a spoilt way. And young. He’s full of beans.

SARA-MAE:   And a sense of his own importance.

TALITHA:        Yeah, very much, and he flies off the handle at the drop of a hat, he has little girlie tantrums, all over the place. So, he can’t stand the fact that the Lord is back and looking all dandy. And having all these new clothes that no one wears in the countryside. He thinks he’s a flouncing weak-willed dandy.

SARA-MAE:   Judges him like that, doesn’t he? His character has largely been shaped by his mother. The Dowager Duchess. That’s his step-mum.

TALITHA:        Yes.

SARA-MAE:   What did you think of the Dowager? Talking about Austen, she is very close to the character of Lady Catherine de Bough, from Pride and Prejudice. She’s always talking about “my father who was the best rider to hounds, of anybody in England. You know, if he’d taught me, I would have been a brilliant rider. But of course, they didn’t so… Had I had the opportunity to learn, however…” One of those kinds of people. And she’s also just a complete bore.

DOM:  Yes.

SARA-MAE:   And has complete disinterest in whether or not anyone is interested in what she has to say.

DOM:  Yep, there’s a part further on when she insists everyone in the town would be more than happy to put on a ball in her draughty castle. And no one thinks that’s a good idea.

(laughter)

SARA-MAE:   I mean it’s not her house in the first place!

DOM:  This is true.

TALITHA:        She will just say anything that’s in her head, so in company she’ll really offend people and not realise it. She’ll be against one idea, but if anyone goes for that, then it’s all her idea. And she’ll throw a party, and everyone else will do the work. She takes all the credit. So, she is a really tough battle-axe.

SARA-MAE:   He (Gervase) ends up sort of running rings around her in a gentle way. She’s used to being the boss of everything until he comes along.

I think the whole crux of the beginning is about them having to reconcile the fact that they completely thought this stepson guy was going to die. He’s had the selfishness to come back from the war. [Laughs] So, he has this fiery younger brother who is very jealous and moody and he’s a real pain in the arse.

DOM:  Yes, he is very emo.

SARA-MAE:   He is so emo! And he is there complaining about this guy coming to steal what essentially, he’s come to believe is his birthright. And then we’ve got Theo.

DOM:  Yes.

SARA-MAE:   Another cousin who’s been running the estates, because he was an orphan. Who was taken in [by the family]. What were your impressions of Theo?

DOM:  Obviously he’s that English, quintessential, duty bound, ‘I do this and I’m very lucky, I get to be a Steward’. I almost felt like he was going to be the straight man, with the story. That everyone was going to… he was going to be the compass.

SARA-MAE:   I think you’re right! Your instinct is good. I think Gervase, when he arrives, he sees Theo as his friend. The only person who he has been in touch with. And also he recognizes that he’s been doing this phenomenal job and Gervase’s father gave him nothing in his will, pretty much. So, he’s not even recognised for all his hard work. Gervase is learning these new people, who are his family.

DOM:  So, there’s a couple of ‘incidents’ with the Dowager initially and he’s like, ‘should I change my clothes, from riding clothes?’ And there’s this initial challenge. It’s very much a reckoning between what is good for the countryside, and you have this guy who is ignorant of our customs. ‘Stanyon shall not stand for it!’  They’re throwing their weight about.

SARA-MAE:   She’s used to her word being law, isn’t she? I think he does this brilliant job, you’re exactly right, where, I don’t know how to pronounce this, but the epergne…

SARA-MAE: (FYI – epergne is an ornamental centrepiece made of wrought metal such as silver or gold.)

SARA-MAE:   Basically, it’s this hideous monstrosity, a table decoration. In one of their biggest set-tos, because [the Dowager] is very strong willed and she remembers him as being very docile and amiable. So, she reckons she’s going to stamp down her mark and he’ll toe the line. But the first thing he does as they are at this long table – there’s only like six of them – Martin is craning his neck to try and talk to someone because there’s this hideous thing [in the way], and they talk about it being like a tiger rearing. And he says ‘get rid of that, put it in a cupboard somewhere, I never want to see it again’. And of course, the duchess is very upset about that. And she says ‘no, of course it shall not be removed’. And it’s basically this battle of wills, where it becomes clear that although he’s gentle, he’s not going to give in. His will is iron. I found that dynamic really fun as well.

DOM:  Yup. I did as well. And also the way he will sometimes let her win, his military training shows up in his encounters with the Dowager, where he lets her think that she’s won.

SARA-MAE:   Yes, or that she came up with an idea. Because he knows how to strategize. It becomes clear, through the book. At first she deliberately makes us think he’s going to be a bit of a dandy, a bit effeminate. And Martin is the evil, moody one, such a stroppy teen. And we’ve got all these dynamics setup. But, then she kind of goes on to upend them. There’s also the Reverend Clowne, was a great name!

[Dom laughs]

SARA-MAE:   He’s there, he’s like this sycophantic fanboy of the Dowager, he laughs at all her bad jokes. And then we’ve got the other main character, who is our heroine. Drusilla.

DOM:  Yes, who kinda sits in the background for quite a long time. It’s interesting you mentioned the Clowne because you kind of think his job is basically to keep the Dowager occupied at dinnertime.

SARA-MAE:   He is the cannon fodder, sort of, throw him to the wolves. So, [the family] don’t have to be bored by her stories. But Drusilla… when I first read the book I was like ‘oh, this isn’t the heroine, is it?’ Gervase is very dismissive of her. He describes her as plain.

DOM:  Actually, he thinks, ‘oh she would be good for Theo’. It’s like, ‘Oh Theo is also boring. Put boring people together’. [laugher]

SARA-MAE:   With Theo, one of the cruxes of his character arc is he’s also in love with the beauty of the neighbourhood. We’ll get to later – Marianne. Who all they guys fall in love with, because she is lovely and sweet, she is a nice person and she is beautiful. But Drusilla is very, um, commonsensical.

DOM:  Yes.

SARA-MAE:   And she deplores that in herself. Later in the book, she talks about how she wishes she could swoon. One of those people who is actually a wonderful person to have around, because she knows how to organise balls. You won’t catch the Dowager doing the hard work. And you get the feeling, she’s very smart, and it becomes clear that throughout the book, I don’t know if you felt this way, that there’s so much more to her than meets the eye. But in the beginning, I mean, there were times when some of the stuff they say about her…!

DOM:  It’s quite dismissive. You almost felt like they went out of their way to like, put her down. And even when the Dowager is with Drusilla, she’s like, ‘oh she’s my friend, she’s not much to look at but, you know, she keeps me company’. I actually thought that was like – oh, is this a different kind of relationship that we’re going to explore? You’re right, Drusilla gets this sort of, knitting in a corner next to the draught, trying to keep warm.

SARA-MAE:   There’s none of the coded language you usually expect when setting up a heroine. Like, ‘she is stunningly beautiful and yet for some reason no one noticed her’, you know.

DOM:  She has haunted eyes!

SARA-MAE:   I thought what Heyer does is quite clever both with Theo and Drusilla in that she completely, by the end of the book, subverts your expectations of what is happening with these characters, and what you are supposed to expect. I quite enjoyed that, actually. Because I mean, this is how they described her: “Her countenance was pleasing without being beautiful, her best feature being a pair of dark eyes, well opened and straight gazing. Her figure was trim but sadly lacking in height and she was rather short necked.” (DOM: laughs) “She employed no arts to attract, the Earl thought her dull.” So, this is where you get your first impression of the two, the romantic couple.

SARA-MAE:  One of the great things about Drusilla Morville’s character is her candidness and her clear-eyed way of looking at things. When Gervase, the Duke, and she finally have a proper conversation, we get our first glimpse of what an interesting person she is. Even sparking Gervase’s interest, in spite of her short neck!

Here is Cornelious Garrett with an extract from the Audible audiobook:

“I see that you think I have been guilty of presumption!” It was now his turn to redden. He said: “I assure you, ma’am, you are mistaken!” “Well, I don’t suppose that I am, for I expect you are used to be toad-eaten, on account of your high rank,” replied Drusilla frankly. “I should have explained to you that I have no very great opinion of Earls.”

Rising nobly to the occasion, he replied with scarcely a moment’s hesitation: “Yes, I think you should have explained that!” “You see, I am the daughter of Hervey Morville,” disclosed Drusilla. She added, with all the air of one throwing in a doubler: “And of Cordelia Consett!”

The Earl could think of nothing better to say than that he was a little acquainted with a Sir James Morville, who was a member of White’s Club. “My uncle,” acknowledged Drusilla. “He is a very worthy man, but not, of course, the equal of my Papa!”

“Of course not!” agreed Gervase. “I daresay,” said Drusilla kindly, “that, from the circumstance of your military occupation, you have not had the leisure to read any of Papa’s works, so I should tell you that he is a Philosophical Historian. He is at the moment engaged in writing a History of the French Revolution.” “From a Republican point-of-view, I collect?”

“Yes, certainly, which makes it sometimes a great labour, for it would be foolish to suppose that his opinions have undergone no change since he first commenced author. That,” said Drusilla, “was before I was born. “Oh, yes?” said Gervase politely.

“In those days, you may say that he was as ardent a disciple of Priestley as poor Mr. Coleridge, whom he knew intimately when a very young man. In fact, Papa was a Pantisocrat.” “A—?”

She obligingly repeated it. “They were a society of whom the most prominent members were Mr. Coleridge, and Mr. Southey, and my Papa. They formed the intention of emigrating to the banks of the Susquehanna, but, fortunately, neither Mrs. Southey nor Mama considered the scheme practicable, so it was abandoned. I daresay you may have noticed that persons of large intellect have not the least common-sense. In this instance, it was intended that there should be no servants, but everyone should devote himself—or herself, as the case might be—for two hours each day to the performance of the necessary domestic duties, after which the rest of the day was to have been occupied in literary pursuits. But, of course, Mama and Mrs. Southey readily perceived that although the gentlemen might adhere to the two-hour-rule, it would be quite impossible for the ladies to do so.  In fact,  Mama  was  of  the  opinion  that  although  the  gentlemen  might  be  induced,  if  strongly adjured, to draw water, and to chop the necessary wood, they would certainly have done no more. And no one,” continued Miss Morville, with considerable acumen, “could have placed the least reliance on their Continued performance of such household tasks, for, you know, if they had been engaged in philosophical discussion, they would have forgotten all about them.”

“I conclude,” said Gervase, a good deal amused, “that your Mama is of a practical disposition?”

“Oh, no!” replied Miss Morville serenely. “That is why she did not wish to form one of the colony. She has no turn for domestic duties; Mama is an Authoress. She has written several novels, and numerous articles and treatises. She was used to be a friend of Mrs. Godwin’s—the

First Mrs. Godwin, I should explain—and she holds views, which are thought to be very advanced, on Female Education.”

“And have you been reared according to these views?” enquired Gervase, in some misgiving. “No, for Mama has been so fully occupied in prescribing for the education of females in general that naturally she has had little time to spare for her own children.  Moreover, she is  a  person  of  excellent  sense,  and,  mortifying  though  it  has  been  to  her,  she  has  not  hesitated  to acknowledge that neither I nor my elder brother is in the least bookish.” “A blow!” commented the Earl. “Yes, but  she  has  sustained  it  with  fortitude.”

TALITHA:        She is just so sweet, and clever and interesting, and she ingratiates herself with absolutely everybody, including him. And they become quite close friends.

SARA-MAE:   Well also because, with the dramatic events that happen, if there had been a young lady who was there who was full of romantic notions, and fainting at the drop of a hat, or shrieking at the top of her lungs when something scary happens… there are many times when actually it could have caused him considerable danger. And in fact she saves his life on a couple of occasions, because of her quick thinking, her calmness and her sensible nature.

SARA-MAE:   The whole of the rest of the book, what starts happening is Gervase, starts having attempts made on his life, right?

DOM:  No, no. Before the attempts, we talk about the horses. Then he goes for a drive and encounters the beauty of the village. Her name being Marianne Bolderwood.  By a stream, she’s hanging out.

SARA-MAE:   She’s taken a tumble.

DOM:  But she doesn’t say she’s taken a tumble, and I like this. He goes and brings her to her feet. Apparently, her horse has run off. [Quotes book] ‘Her movements, though impetuous, were graceful. And the Earl was permitted a glimpse of a neatly turned ankle.’

SARA-MAE:   Oh yeah! Some neatly turned ankle! Phew. he’s going to have to take a dip in that cold stream. 
TALITHA:        She is very, very flirtatious. She’s quite young and quite an innocent little flower. She gives all these men lots of attention without knowing what an impact it’s having on them.

DOM:  And you know she’s worth £100,000.

SARA-MAE:   I’m going to guess, but it must be like £5 million?

DOM:  Yup, she’s a multi-millionaire.

SARA-MAE:   Martin isn’t happy about Gervase moving in on Marianne, as he’s been in love with her since childhood. As with the estate, he’s come to view her as his ‘property’.

TALITHA:        He just can’t stand the fact that not only has [Gervase] come to take over his estate but now he’s getting all the attention of the females, as well.

SARA-MAE:   But also, Gervase’s presence means that the Stanyon estate, [which] he’s been brought up to believe is his… he assumed he’d be the one to inherit and therefore, he’ll make a good match for this girl. Whereas, as soon as Gervase is there, not only is he an incredibly handsome and lovely person who seems to endear himself to everyone he meets, but he’s now the Earl. Whereas he, Martin, doesn’t really have much to bring to a marriage situation.

TALITHA:        Yeah. That’s the dynamic, so Martin has grown up so spoiled, believing the Earl will die in the war. And then he’ll be Lord St. Erth and ‘get the girl’. And here, it all comes crashing down as soon as he arrives back. And he’s really gorgeous and stoic and all the qualities a dreamy hero would be, in one of these novels.

DOM:  So, it’s weird that we start to realise [Marianne] is basically courted by everyone in the village. This is the part I enjoyed very much, this talk about being removed to London to be ‘presented’.

SARA-MAE:   Yes, for the ‘season’. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, all the young girls when they hit whatever age it was, 17, 18, would go for a season and visit all the balls and go to Almacks, this very fancy specific ball. And you couldn’t just rock up, you had to have a voucher. Given by the leaders of society, the creme de la creme of society.

DOM: Wow. Martin seems to be the first in line? Given the fact he has this heritage, the Dowager is very well known… I guess in terms of standing, he is most likely to be paired off with her.

SARA-MAE:   Yes, and  they’ve known each other since they were children. He feels like he’s got a head start, doesn’t he?

DOM:  Yes, so when he encounters Gervase being there it riles him up. At that point, the first attempt [on Gervase’s life] happens.

SARA-MAE:   It’s immediately after this, because Martin comes across them as Gervase does Marianne the favour of letting her ride his horse. There’s this little piece of strategy that is quite good, where he’s leading his horse, with Marianne on the horse, and then when Martin comes, he wants to get the upper hand. [Martin insists she ride his horse] so, she gets on Martin’s horse and then [Gervase and Marianne] can chat as they are both riding.

DOM:  And Martin is out of the conversation and more infuriated. And it’s like, when they first square off, in the barn…

SARA-MAE:   No, I think it’s the room where they keep all the weapons. Gervase is cleaning his guns and Martin walks in.

DOM:  And Martin comes in and challenges him. ‘What are you doing with Marianne?!’ In my head, there’s this old school ‘80s confrontation that develops. ‘What are you doing with her, she’s my girl!’ And Gervase is like, ‘no one’s called her, she can choose anyone she wants’. They basically square off with rapiers.

SARA-MAE:   Yes!

DOM:  They go at it, and Martin believes he’s good, he’s been taught well. [Yet] Gervase puts him to shame, without breaking a sweat. Martin is flushed, then something interesting happens… The button on the rapier – the top that stops it being deadly – comes off. They don’t recognise it immediately.

TALITHA:        Martin feels like he can’t beat him, but he carries on. Until Theo and Drusilla walk in and say ‘stop it, what are you doing?’ Martin drops the sword, feels really sheepish about it.

SARA-MAE:   But what’s interesting is, in the course of the fight, Heyer talks about what Gervase is thinking and he does say something to piss off Martin more. He can’t help it, because Martin is being such a dick.

[Laughter]

SARA-MAE:   And Martin is like, ‘well I didn’t stand a chance against you, so it wasn’t like I was endangering your life because you’re so much better than me’. He flounces off. He’s always flouncing off.

DOM: He is constantly flouncing. ‘I’m going to my room!’ Outside. Storming off.

SARA-MAE:   He is quite young, a spoilt brat.

DOM:  How would you feel if you’d been told ‘Hey, you own all this stuff. It’s yours’ and you’re like, ‘cool’. Then someone says soz…

SARA-MAE:   But he did know [he might not inherit]. It’s like his parents lead him to believe, but he knew in his head but not his heart.  So anyway, Drusilla rocks up, she stops the fight by saying ‘what the heck are you doing?’ Theo comes in and Theo always, throughout the book is like ‘oh, he could have killed you, please be careful around Martin!’ He’ll do this thing where he says, ‘listen, I don’t think he would hurt you but… be careful.’

DOM:  It started with Theo, the second attempt. 

TALITHA:        So, he sets off to town with [Theo] and there’s been a storm.

SARA-MAE:   Theo’s the guy who’s been running the estate and [Gervase] has a very warm feeling towards Theo because he’s the only bloody one of this family that has seen him, kept in touch consistently over the years.

TALITHA:        Yeah, I think he’s just been welcoming and warm, a friend to him. He trusts him, they go on this trip to town, there’s been a storm the night before so there’s a big river flowing underneath the bridge. So, he races towards the bridge, just before he steps on the bridge, Theo shouts ‘there’s something wrong with the bridge. And his horse starts acting strangely.’

SARA-MAE:   The horse is shying away.

TALITHA:        Then they realise one of the pillars of the bridge has almost completely broken away. And what they don’t at the time realise, is that Martin sent someone to fix the bridge, so he had known about the bridge being broken. [This was] before they set out. But he didn’t warn them. So this is another example of…

SARA-MAE:   He knew they were going…

TALITHA:        I guess there’s now the sense that, okay there’s a lot of coincidences happening, where someone is out to get him. And his eyes are on his brother, because he’s so hostile.

DOM:  And Gervase starts beginning to think that maybe Martin is taking this too far. And Theo’s going ‘oh he wouldn’t do that’.

SARA-MAE:   Gervase is sort of like, ‘well, I can see that he probably did want me to fall in’.

DOM:  Yeah.

SARA-MAE:   #Imighthavedied

DOM:  Could have been horrible. Of course, Theo is going ‘no, no, Martin’s headstrong, but he wouldn’t try to kill you. Definitely wouldn’t do that’.

SARA-MAE:   He’s like the advocate for Martin. Just a generally really nice guy beavering away, on Gervase’s behalf.

DOM:  He’s a man’s man. He’s just there, wants to help out, he’s so glad his bro has come back. And actually he’s like, ‘hey you got some real estate to take care of. Focus on that’.

SARA-MAE:   They actually say in the beginning that Gervase’s dad had run it into the ground a bit, and through Theo’s hard work it had become profitable again. So, he’s been a great cousin. But even Theo’s well-intentioned doubts about [Martin’s] guilt, doesn’t ease Gervase’s suspicions.

SARA-MAE:   Soon there is a second attempt on his life.

TALITHA:        So, he’s getting more and more wound up, more tantrums [from Martin] and it comes to a head when they organise a big ball at the house.

SARA-MAE:   Ulverston turns up as well.

TALITHA:        Ulverston is a friend of St. Erth.

SARA-MAE:   Lucius Ulverston, His army buddy, what did you make of him?

DOM:  When he first arrives, oh, so this is going to be very interesting dynamic because you have almost the opposite to Gervase, they were both military, but you think if Gervase would be Air Force, Ulverston was a Navy Seal. Down and dirty, this is what we army people do. Ulverston is still very proper, retired and whatnot, but, you see his strategy with the Dowager.

SARA-MAE:   He’s shorter than the Frants. But yeah, he’s a real charmer. In fact, when it comes to Marianne, Gervase and Martin are cast into the shade. This guy must have some real charisma going on!

DOM:  That was something very interesting because we don’t get that till we get to the ball, but you get the sense that he is just there and hanging out, and they have a moment when they both lock eyes. Gervase acknowledges the fact, they never talk about it.

SARA-MAE:   ‘You like her, I like her’. It’s an honour thing no one mentions, but interesting, because Martin is completely oblivious to this.

TALITHA:        So, there’s another person who is vying for the attentions of Marianne. Who can’t help being so flirtatious, and giving her attention to all these dashing men. Martin is almost beside himself, knowing she’s basically slipped from his grasp. Then it all comes to a head, where they have a ball, where Gervase says ‘let’s have a ball!’ – basically to impress this girl.

DOM:  Interestingly, there’s this whole dialogue, when Marianne’s been invited, her mother has a strong rule, ‘thou shalt not waltz’.

SARA-MAE:   Don’t you dare waltz!

DOM: You haven’t been presented, don’t go waltzing!

SARA-MAE:   You might as well rip your skirt up and show everyone your ankles.

DOM:  Your calf.

SARA-MAE:   Don’t even say the c-word.

[Laughter]

SARA-MAE:   Drusilla is the one who pretty much organises the whole thing.

TALITHA:        She gets dumped with the actual nuts and bolts of the whole thing. [She’s] the practical and kind one.

SARA-MAE:   The Dowager is quite willing to take all the credit, [but] she doesn’t end up doing anything useful.

TALITHA:        She flounces around taking all the credit, for everything, being the hostess. But it’s a funny dynamic. All these, very select people, who’ve been invited, it’s very political, who dances with who, and who pays attention to who. And Marianne is swept away with Ulverston, who is Gervase’s army friend, very dashing as well. And Martin backs Marianne into a corner, when her dress tears, declares his love, and tries to kiss her. And she can’t believe it. She’s so funny and innocent. ‘Had no idea all my flirtations would lead to this’.

DOM:  Even as a teenager this has to be the most awkward… This must be awful. You want the floor to swallow you. You told the person you had feelings for [and she’s like] ‘I like you but not like that’. Then your brother, who is prettier than you comes in and tells you off. Then your sister comes in. telling you off. We’ve all been there.

SARA-MAE:   That’s the weird thing, he is a huge pain in the neck, but you do feel sorry for him at points. Because he is a bit of an idiot. He has no sense of humour about himself. No ability to be a good sport, he makes things harder for himself.

DOM:  As we will find out later on.

SARA-MAE:   Exactly. Yeah. Martin is still hung up on making an ass of himself at the ball.

DOM:  So, it’s awkward the next day. Eventually her parents send for her back.

SARA-MAE:   It was really awkward between her and Martin. And she gets closer to Ulverston.

DOM:  [Ulverston and Marianne] play on a piano. He offers to drive her home to Wissenhirst. And it transpires that Ulverston wants to make an offer.

SARA-MAE:   Martin doesn’t know this. We, the readers do, because Ulverston has asked her father.

DOM:  Drusilla, on reflection, is able to move in these circles with relative ease, which puts her at an advantage, allows her to stand back…

SARA-MAE:   And we see throughout that she not only organises everything behind the scenes, making sure everybody’s lives run smoothly, she is also very smart about people. She notices the Earl doing things to make people feel more comfortable, and she notices him noticing her. I think it shows that he starts to appreciate her more and more. For instance, when she finds him in a swoon, she doesn’t freak out she doesn’t panic and force him, with a head wound, to look after her. Even though she deprecates this in herself.

DOM:  I think that’s where Gervase… he’s not surface level. And I think that’s the interesting thing. You kinda go, he has the ability to notice people’s actions and motives more than just their appearance. Whereas the Dowager is very much the ‘surface level’. He starts paying [Drusilla] compliments about what she observes and notices her. Also I think, Drusilla never demurs to him?

SARA-MAE:   Defers to him.

DOM:  She challenges him, but she’s able to hold her own.

SARA-MAE:   And when he’s first almost making fun of her, of how practical she is. She’s just like, ‘yup’. And I think he likes that about her. She doesn’t as they call it, ‘toad-eat’ him.

DOM:  So, the next attempt is when Gervase is riding back. The horse trips. This is one of the very nice grey, special horses, not known for tripping.

SARA-MAE:   I like the way we are both so knowledgeable about horses, like ‘I have a really nice grey one’.

DOM:  Well, you know, I have been around a horse… once.

SARA-MAE:   The perspective shifts to Drusilla here. By the way, I love her family.

DOM:  Yes!

SARA-MAE:   Another thing I found really enjoyable about the book is that her family are these Republican intellectuals. They’re posh, in that their lineage is quite refined, they mention Coleridge and Southey, real poets, obviously. And this is a real thing, they wanted to set up this new Republican nation on the banks of a river.

SARA-MAE: The two poets, Southey and Coleridge, invented ‘Pantisocracy’ in 1794, they wanted to create an egalitarian community with a government where all rule equally, they intended to start the community in the United States on the banks of the Susquehanna river.

SARA-MAE:   Her mother who writes these books is also very practical and scotched that idea because she knew the men wouldn’t do any actual work. The men would sit around talking all day. Drusilla wishes she was an intellectual, she thinks she has no imagination. I started to warm to her, you see how kind she is. She’s visiting one of the tenants on her parents’ estate, who sprained her ankle. And on her way back, discovers Gervase face down…

DOM:  Rendered unconscious and bleeding. But before that, her mother has these idealised Republican views of ‘women should be equal’, but at the same time the mother goes, ‘but we gotta find you someone to marry’. It’s really funny.

SARA-MAE:   I really like that. It was like ‘yeah, all that stuff I write, it doesn’t apply to my family’.

DOM:  Isn’t her brother at Oxford or…?

SARA-MAE:   Yes, she’s got a few brothers. And apparently they’re all dumb.

DOM:  They are all dumb, and she’s used to having brothers fight. We get to that later on. Where she says ‘I wish [Martin and Ulverston] would just fight and get it over with’.

DOM:  But anyway, Drusilla finds Gervase [after he’s been attacked], she tends to him.

SARA-MAE:   Gives him some vinaigrette, to revive him. She’s resting his head on her lap, and this is where you see her start to become the potential heroine, how clever she is. He comes around and has no idea what happened, because he’s an amazing rider. She says ‘look over there, there’s a rope’, and it’s obvious that someone had tied the rope to a tree, and as he goes by, they pulled on the other end so that it tripped the horse. So, someone has tried to kill or severely hurt him. Again. So, Gervase says ‘let’s just say I fell’.

SARA-MAE:   And Ulverston, as soon as Gervase comes in from being injured, he’s instantly like, ‘you would never have taken a toss, you’re a brilliant rider’. [Gervase says] ‘That’s nonsense. Let’s not talk about it anymore’. But he knows.

DOM:  Ulverston picks up his jacket, draws out the cord and…

SARA-MAE:   It’s actually Turvey the valet. She always does really funny stuff with servants, like the valet is offended by what’s happened to his outfit. ‘I’m going to have to sort this out’. And he’s got Chard, this guy he brought from the army who looks after his horses, and none of them believe this story about [tripping on a] rabbit hole. So Turvey pulls out the rope from his pocket, because it was ruining the line of his jacket. But obviously Ulverston knew already that it was nonsense. And he gets it out of him. So then, Theo comes in and he is like, ‘oh god what happened?’ and there’s this whole thing about it that it must have been Martin because he was out shooting, Gervase decides not to say anything, People say ‘kick him out, send him away’. But it’s all about preventing scandal. He doesn’t want any scandal. And servants talking about it.

DOM:  He’s almost like ‘I don’t want to worry the Dowager’, I don’t want to cause a scandal. I think maybe there’s a sense that he’s new and up to this point it’s been pretty banal.

SARA-MAE:   You could write it off as pranking.

DOM:  And that’s what they are trying to do. We don’t want to draw concern from the conflict within.

DOM:  So, at some point, we have Martin going to visit Marianne again. Trying to apologise.

SARA-MAE:   Even though everyone said ‘just leave it. Let it go’.

DOM:  He tries to apologise and says ‘I love you’, and she’s like ‘no’. Ulverston is there and pulls her up. They get into a punch up. Then it’s like ‘I will see you at dawn.  It is on’. Oh wow, someone is going to die.

SARA-MAE:   Yeah, because Martin is fully like, ‘I’m going to shoot to kill’.

DOM:  And we learn Gervase is very concerned, because he says Martin is a very good shot, I read the rules for duelling.

SARA-MAE:   Ulverston should never have accepted. Like, ‘who is going to stand up? Who’s going to be my second, your brother? Obviously we can’t do this, you idiot. Stop being a fool’. Then [Martin] offers him this provocation, he slaps him. ‘And now I’m going to have to leave to avoid this ridiculous fight’.

DOM:  So, part of it is Martin tries to get Theo to stand for him and Theo is like, ‘absolutely not’.

SARA-MAE:   He asks his best friend, a funny character named Barny Warboys, who says ‘why do you keep getting in these stupid situations?!’

DOM:  And actually, that’s another interesting side character, you don’t see a lot, but they are touchpoints. Barny says ‘you can get mad at me if you want but I’m telling you this is stupid and I’m not doing it’.

SARA-MAE:   It’s really lovely because he’s a small character but he gives you so much insight into Martin. He’s completely used to this. But ‘I’m not going to do it. I don’t even know that guy’.  He’s trying to get him to act as Ulverston’s second as Ulverston can’t [duel without one].

DOM:  It’s against the rules. And actually, Barny is like, ‘I have a book on this, I’m going to go research’.

SARA-MAE:   Get it down from the shelf! If you think about how stupid the idea of duelling is… literally anyone can be like, ‘I wanna get rid of this dude, you’ve pissed me off, let’s meet at dawn’. It’s such a strange concept to me.

DOM:  But there’s also the thing of you can show up to the duel and if you fire in the air…

SARA-MAE:   Delope.

DOM:  …But sometimes you are allowed to do that but some days you can’t. They should have had Twitter so you can just clap back at each other.

SARA-MAE:   Exactly.

DOM:  So, we get to that point now, the part that’s interesting is you get this dialogue between Martin, who is furious, and Theo. Ulverston and Gervase are in the room, discussing what’s meant to happen. Gervase goes to sleep. So, he’s riding back from visiting one of the estates. He’s riding with Chard. And you just hear a bang, and he is aware that he is shot. Through the chest.

SARA-MAE:   They are literally talking about how Martin is shooting in the area. He was going to maybe try and meet Martin, He keeps being nice. He’s being kind to Martin, offering him a lift and stuff. And Martin is so surly and ungrateful. [baby voice] ‘I don’t wanna. If I know you are waiting for me, then I’ll get tetchy’. He swings by this place where he might have picked up Martin and he gets shot. So, at this point we’re like, ‘Jeez Martin what are you doing?’ Gervase has been shot and they take him to the house, Drusilla steps into the breach again. She’s the one who…

DOM:  Because everyone is just ‘Ahhhh’…

SARA-MAE:   The Dowager faints! And all the servants are wringing their hands. He is literally bleeding out in front of them. So, she’s like, ‘right, you do this, get me this, do that, go to the doctor’. And with her own hands is stanching the blood. She saves his life again, pretty much, because you realise, if she hadn’t been there after the first attempt, he could have died. It makes him fond of her. She keeps being the only one in the room, not worrying about their own nonsense. She really tries to help him.

DOM:  Even when he’s in the stupor. He recognises, ‘ah, you’re here again, taking care of me’. I think it’s now out of genuine respect and appreciation. He’s also like, ‘you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty’. I think, for me, this is where the interactions between them begin to develop.

SARA-MAE:   She’s also staying up to look after him, through the night, Giving him his medicine and whatever.

TALITHA:        And while he’s recovering, Martin has disappeared. And no one can find where he is.

SARA-MAE:   While she’s checking up on him, they hear a funny noise and she realizes he’s awake as he says ‘be quiet, don’t scream’, and Martin literally comes out of the wall. He’s like, ‘oh didn’t you know there’s a secret passage leading to your room?!’

DOM:  Everyone knows about the secret passage.

SARA-MAE:   Everyone except [Gervase]. And Gervase is like, ‘that would have been useful to know, prior to all these attempts on my life’. And Martin is, ‘of course I had nothing to do with it. In fact, I was hit on the head and dumped somewhere’. Which sounds ludicrous!

DOM:  ‘I forgot my homework and you see what happened was…’

[Laughs]

TALITHA:        Then all of a sudden in the middle of the night he hears a scratching on the sideboard in his room. The wall opens and Drusilla is in the room nursing him, they both look at the wall. And Martin appears looking wild eyed, with this crazy story about being kidnapped, beaten and something put over his head… thrown down a hole. ‘And I had to scratch my way out. Then I had to beg people to take me home. Everyone thinks I tried to kill you’. Something else is going on. Everyone finds this hard to believe.

SARA-MAE:   It looks like he went on the run.

TALITHA:        Drusilla and Gervase have an understanding between each other, that they are slowly piecing together different pieces of the story.

SARA-MAE:   The Earl is off his game for a few days, But the big climax. Basically… There are rumours running around about Martin. Everyone thinks Martin did it. He tells his valet to go home and gets in his place this guy who is always prowling around. I thought it was funny the way he talks in this thieve’s cant. He meets up with Gervase who comes out of his bedroom, talking about how this place has a lot of windows. ‘Someone could climb in, I’m not saying I would, but someone could’. That was amusing. The way he speaks and everyone is like ‘who is this weirdo? What’s Martin up to? Why does he have this guy who seems like a thief [in his employ]?’

DOM:  Yeah.

SARA-MAE:   And you think he’s obviously trying to spy on Gervase and listening at doors and stuff. So Gervase puts his guy, Chard, to watch Martin constantly. So, he’s going to make sure he doesn’t make any attempts on his life. And Theo is like, ‘the only reason I’m going off is because I know Ulverston is here to keep you safe’.

DOM:  So, after a while, we hear Theo has gone off. We hear Gervase decides to make a trip. To go visit Theo, but he doesn’t tell anyone. He pretends to go back to bed, then goes and sneaks out.

TALITHA:        You can hear Martin in the passageway as Gervase runs off, saying ‘I told you, you should have kept him here. You shouldn’t have let him go’. Drusilla is running up the stairs trying to stop Gervase from leaving. And Gervase rushes off to Theo’s estate.

DOM:  Now he then…

SARA-MAE:   He takes this chap, his name is Meak.

DOM:  And he takes him the long way to the estate and then dumps him.

SARA-MAE:   ‘Can you get that gate for me? Byeee…!’

DOM:  And then he’s like, ‘I suggest you go back the way you came. But I don’t like being followed’. And he drives off. So, he leaves him there. This guy’s been hoodwinked. So, here’s what I started thinking: Ulverston is trying to move in with Marianne. They get into this altercation. Is Ulverston a suspect?

SARA-MAE:   Yes, I thought this Ulverston guy, he seemed too good to be true? But what was the motive? What would he stand to gain?

DOM:  Yeah, and he has the girl so… What would be gained? They already have static with Martin so maybe revenge?

SARA-MAE:   To punish him in a subtle way.

DOM:  So, he leaves him there and this guy has been hoodwinked. Hitches a ride, tried to explain he works for Stanyon, and everyone is like ‘ha, good one’. [But] he gets back home. Meanwhile Drusilla overhears Martin and this guy arguing. ‘How could you lose him? That was your job’. Drusilla then tries to go downstairs.

SARA-MAE:   I think Martin immediately goes off to try and catch up with him.

DOM:  At this point Drusilla realises what is happening or Drusilla is the one trying to stop Martin, and she falls down the steps.

SARA-MAE:   I think she did know, because she’s so smart. But not smart enough not to trip, on her dress, on the stairs, almost breaking her neck.
DOM:  And she’s been so good this whole book!

SARA-MAE:   This is the thing, dresses get in the way. She should have got some trousers.

DOM:  You can’t trip over shorts.

SARA-MAE:    Some pantaloons!

DOM:  Not in the castle, there’s too many drafts. So, meanwhile the servants again don’t know what to do. The Bow Street guy is…

SARA-MAE:   These useless servants, wringing their hands. They get her onto a sofa. She’s broken her arm. Then we cut to… I can’t remember the name of the estate. Eversleigh? Gervase has gone there. This is the point where you’re like, ‘Ok what’s going to happen? Is Martin going to catch them and kill him?!’

DOM:  Gervase goes inside and he wants to talk to Theo privately, ‘I know what you did’.

SARA-MAE:   Theo is there and is like ‘what are you doing?’

TALITHA:        All of a sudden it comes to a head, where the penny drops, and Martin bursts in.

SARA-MAE:   Gervase pulls out a gun. And instead of pointing it at Martin, he points it at Theo. The whole thing comes out.

TALITHA:        Actually, it was Theo plotting against him and trying to kill him the whole time. He felt like his father was wronged and he didn’t get the inheritance he should have got, so he’s been secretly trying to kill Gervase.

SARA-MAE:   Also, he’s been in love with Marianne this whole time. If he’d killed Gervase, got him out the way and managed to frame Martin for his murder, he’d get him out the way too. He’d be the next Earl.

DOM:  He goes ‘if Martin shot me I’d have been dead. And who else stood to gain? It would be you’.

SARA-MAE:   Did you think it was Theo?

DOM:  Not until…you know the classic means, motive, opportunity.

SARA-MAE:   [Heyer] dropped tiny hints along the way. He never thought he had a chance with Marianne, ‘Of course she’d never look at me. I don’t have any wealth’. But she’s written him as such a nice guy you don’t really think about him. And also, there’s two people between him, he’d literally have to kill two of them.

DOM:  Thinking back, everyone has an emotional cadence except for Theo. You don’t get to know what’s happening on the inside. Just these flashes.

SARA-MAE:   He was quite repressed. I actually got warmth. I felt Gervase’s complete despair, he doesn’t want it to be Theo, but it was. Because he’s the only one that was nice. He says ‘you did so much hard work. Why didn’t you let me make it up to you, by giving you the estate?’ I don’t understand that part, if someone said have an estate, I’d be like ‘ok. I’ll take it’.

SARA-MAE:   In order to avoid a scandal, Gervase is really kind to him, and doesn’t clap him in irons. When you think he tries to kill him three times! And not only that, but frame Martin. What Gervase does is send him to Jamaica to look after an estate there.

TALITHA:        Sent packing, never to be seen again.

SARA-MAE:   But he wishes him well, even says ‘you were born to be a success, I have no doubt, go to Jamaica you’ll become a rich landowner and yadda yadda’. It’s kind of slightly anticlimactic, because he easily could have murdered him, and he is let off more or less scot free.

TALITHA:        Yeah, it goes to show the shame and scandal in the family would have been so great. They will avoid that at any costs. And also, you know Gervase is a silky, forgiving hero, not one to cause a scene.

SARA-MAE:   I’ve always felt like the thriller element doesn’t work so well with the romance element, and the light-hearted fluffy element. Because there are these serious considerations, that almost got laughed off.

TALITHA:        That’s a funny thing there’s this huge dramatic thing, someone is trying to murder the hero. His family are trying to murder him. And yet he’s just wafting from place to place being charming, taking it on the chin and in the meanwhile he’s having this really sweet friendship with Drusilla, who rescues him, and nurses him back to health. And she is this flame in his life, and he eventually comes around to realising he’s in love with her. And all the while there’s all this dramatic stuff happening and it’s quite funny. That they just sort of you know ‘oh, someone tried to murder me, what else is happening today? You know. Let’s eat some cold meats and have a ball!’

SARA-MAE:   What did you think of Gervase’s decision to send Theo off? Martin is like ‘ok’. Anyone you don’t like, send away to Australia or Jamaica. Do you think he let him off much too lightly?

DOM:  Yes!

SARA-MAE:   And it shows you how bad the idea of scandal was then.

DOM:  The only thing is, it would have been hard to… they didn’t have CSI, no way to prove it. [It was all] circumstantial.

SARA-MAE:   They say he would probably get off. But his life would be ruined.

DOM:  I think the Dowager’s head would have exploded. When you have this blended family, with this stepson… 

SARA-MAE:   Jamaica! That’s not a punishment!

DOM:  That’s like a holiday!

SARA-MAE:   Anyway, they go back to the estate. He sees Drusilla, and I think this is the first time we realise he’s in love with her. Because we know Drusilla is in love with him. She has this hilarious moment where, in her head, she’s giving herself a pep talk, Miss Morville, the sensible one, is going ‘look, you aren’t beautiful, you don’t have what it takes to get his attention and you’re being silly’. He’s handsome, gorgeous… but you need to forget him’. But then Drusilla, her inner self, is going, ‘but I luuurrrrvvve him!’

DOM:  She’s like, talking to herself in the mirror.

SARA-MAE:   ‘Shut this down’. So, we know she loves him. In fact, her father says to her mother ‘how can you want her to marry an earl? It goes against all our Republican principles of ripping the aristocrats down’. And she’s like, ‘what we write and how we live are two different things. He sounds like a nice guy’. Her husband is like ‘you’re crackers, look at Drusilla’. They value her, see her worth, but are like ‘she isn’t a massive beauty’.

SARA-MAE:   In terms of feminist aspect, this book is quite strong. Drusilla a very capable, sensible woman, able to get him out of scrapes. And doesn’t need rescuing.

TALITHA:        But then, she’s lying in a chair, like all helpless. She can’t be the helpless one. And that when he walks in and scoops her ups in his arms…! They have this really cute love scene, she goes on about not being fragile and sensitive. That’s when they have their smoochy lovey dovey moment, It’s funny how the whole time, she’s this stoic, strong lady, then eventually she gives in to being feminine. The feminism is turned on its head at the end.

SARA-MAE:   I wonder if Heyer felt like she had to give her an excuse to feel weak, to allow her to show her feelings for him? She’s been weakened by the fall…

SARA-MAE:   So, [Gervase] rocks back up. She is trying to get up with her broken arm. He starts caressing her and kissing her hands, and everyone is like, what’s going on? Her mom picks it up first.

The father comes around. He and the Dowager have a disagreement, ‘the Morvilles go back [further than your family]…’ Lineage wars.

SARA-MAE:   ‘You’re going to take my companion away!’ Objects the Dowager. ‘I have several other girls in my mind for you to marry’. And her father says ‘I won’t sanction her marrying an Earl, so there!’

DOM:  [But Gervase and Drusilla] are together in their own world and it’s nice. I enjoyed the reveal.

SARA-MAE:   I thought it was really sweet as well. There’s a moment where Drusilla, who never censored the duchess, even though she’s rude to everyone… she has a head wound but she rises up and defends Gervase. The Dowager is telling him he’s being really selfish, and Drusilla rises up, ‘You’ve done nothing but run him down!’ [Gervase is excited by this] ‘I wish you will give me leave to address you daughter!’ says the Earl. [But her dad is like] ‘I won’t have it!’

It’s funny how all the threads come together. They’ll make a really good couple. They’ve worked so well together throughout the book. Every time she saved his life, she’s been there for him, in a heroic way. And she wishes she could swoon and that she was a romantic person, ‘he would have liked me a lot more if I’d swooned’. You can tell he has loved her for who she is. Sensible and practical.

DOM:  And I do like the fact he does address her father. And she’s like ‘you can’t do it like this!’ He says ‘I’ll come to [ask for your hand] tomorrow then, is that okay? Is tomorrow a good time? Just tell me when’.

SARA-MAE:   To wrap it up – what were your thoughts? Did you enjoy this book?

DOM:  I did. Growing up we had books like Sweet Valley High or the Babysitters Club. To me, it read in that vein. Conflict with characters set up, and nice resolution. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. By chapter three, I thought it would be a slog. [All those] names and places and locations. [But] I really, really enjoyed it. Definitely better than the cover suggested. Would prefer a real book to kindle, though.

SARA-MAE:   Would it make a good film?

TALITHA:        Yes. A nice lighthearted period drama. I can see Keira Knightley as Drusilla!

SARA-MAE:   No, someone shorter! Anyone who plays Jane Eyre is supposed to be plain. They never are.

TALITHA:        I can see Jennifer Lawrence as Marianne. Definitely a charming, distracting film.

DOM:  Yes, a Netflix series, more time to build the characters in. I would watch that.

SARA-MAE:   Thanks so much. Finally, are you a convert?           

TALITHA:        Yes, it’s the period version of Grazia. I’d prefer to read this as escapism, than some modern rubbish.

DOM:  I think… yes!

SARA-MAE:   This isn’t my favourite, although I do enjoy it. And I’ve loved talking with you about it. If you read anymore I’ll give you some ideas.

DOM:  I like to read recommendations; it expands your reading.

SARA-MAE:   I like that this is so different from my regular life. Escapism to this Regency world, where ankles are the most shocking thing!

DOM:  Yes, and duels… and rules about duels.

SARA-MAE OUTTRO:

I had such a good time with Dom and Talitha reading a book that isn’t one of my favourites and looking at it with fresh eyes. There were so many great moments that I totally forgot about. And it was lovely to gain two new converts this week, whoop whoop!

Life can be bleak, sure, but not in Heyer’s world, and not with two such brilliant guests.

Next week, I’ll be interviewing the amazing Jennifer Kleoster, Heyer’s biographer. Jennifer has been incredibly supportive through this entire process. Even when I asked her to re-record the interview. Her book Georgette Heyer: The Biography of a Bestseller, is well worth a read, and had me crying at the end of it. Don’t be a sapskull, buy it at once! Till next time, on Heyer Today.

This episode was recorded, produced and edited by me, Sara-Mae Tuson. With production, writing and research help by Beth Keen and Will Dell for production support. Mike Scott for booking our movie nights and production assistance. Plus, this week, Mike’s is the voice you’ve heard reading our historical segment. Thanks also to Geraldine Elliot, Talitha Gamaroff and everyone who supported me in creating this work. Thanks to Suzy Buttress in particular and the podcast community at large for invaluable support and advice.

Our fantastic voice talent includes Sarah Golding and John Grayson. I’ll be putting info about them in the show notes.

The music used in this episode is from Emma Gatrill’s wondrous album Chapter One, as well as Jerome Alexander’s luscious Message to Bears tunes. Original music was composed especially for the podcast by myself and Tom Chad. Special thanks to the Audible team for letting us use an extract from the audiobook, do go and buy it, it’s a fabulous listen. Comment and take part in our discussion we are on social media; @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. Heyer Today is a Fable Gazers Production.

[exit theme music]

‘Primo Georgette’ – Harriet Evans’ list of the best Heyers

Edited in Prisma app with Gothic

We interviewed the LOVELY Harriet Evans in episode 7 of Heyer Today, our podcast all about historical romance authoress, Georgette Heyer. She was kind enough to share her list of Heyer’s work in order of quality.

*This post is taken with permission from Harriet’s blog:

“In my last book Happily Ever After the heroine Elle goes through a massive Georgette Heyer addiction and keeps going back to a second-hand bookshop like a crack addict to buy another paperback. Well do I know that feeling (well duh. I wrote the book so of course I do.) This is for everyone who’s asked for a list of Georgette Heyer books with which it would be a good idea to start. I hope it’s useful. At my last job I wrote a list for two of my work bezzies and they soon got the Georgette bug, raced through the good ones then the not so good ones, right down to the frankly a bit duff ones (come ON, she wrote for about sixty years, she was allowed a duff book once in a while). I can’t find the list anywhere in my old files, so I’ve spent a hugely pleasurable hour or so going through them again. Would welcome any dissenters or discussion otherwise! I know my old boss and near all-time favourite person Jane will totally disagree that A Convenient Marriage is not in my list of primos, but I will risk her wrath. Really hope this is useful. She is so great. 

Here goes.

1. Primo Georgette. ie every one of these ones is G Heyer writing at her best. ARGH she is so good. I give a money back guarantee.*

Venetia

These Old Shades

Devil’s Cub

An Infamous Army

Sprig Muslin

Faro’s Daughter

The Nonesuch

Lady of Quality

Regency Buck

The Reluctant Widow

The Grand Sophy

Frederica

Bath Tangle

Black Sheep

Sylvester

2. I would always reread

The Foundling

Friday’s Child

The Talisman Ring

Charity Girl

The Convenient Marriage

A Civil Contract

False Colours

April Lady

The Toll-Gate

Cotillion

The Quiet Gentleman

The Corinthian

The Spanish Bride

The Black Moth

3. Kind of a bit weird or not Regency but hey, still Georgette!

Beauvallet

Powder and Patch

The Masqueraders

Cousin Kate

Royal Escape

*er… actually maybe not. But you can email me and yell at me if you don’t like it.” 

Check out more of Harriet’s brilliant work here and follow her on Twitter.

A Girl Thing with Mary Jo Putney

“Romance is a girl thing, which means it never gets as much respect. Mystery is pretty respectable, people get killed, that’s respectable. But something that’s by and for women largely, is never going to get the same kind of respect.” – Mary Jo Putney.

Many of you will be familiar with this week’s Heyer Today guest, regency romance best-selling author Mary Jo Putney. Mary Jo hails from Baltimore, Maryland in the US, and Sara-Mae has been dying to pick her brains about the art of building a believable regency world. What are the pitfalls?
 
Unlike Georgette, whom she loves, Mary Jo’s work explores alcoholism, death, and domestic abuse as themes. A regular on the best seller lists, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USAToday, and Publishers Weekly, she’s well versed in the art of writing to deadline, just like Georgette. She’s also been showered in awards like the Romance Writers of America (RITAs) and the Romance Writers of America Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award.

But what is the life of a modern best seller like today, compared to Georgette’s time?

Find out in this week’s episode of Heyer Today, where we also talk about Arabella, The Unknown Ajax, Venetia, False Colours and the use of twins in romance.

Plus, in case you were wondering if Mary Jo, like Emma Darwin, our guest in Episode 3, has some illustrious ancestors to draw inspiration from, the answer is in this episode!

 Please remember to download, rate and review us! We’re available on all good podcast players, iTunes, Spotify or Amazon Music.
Climbing up the ranks!

Our little podcast is pulling rank in Apple Podcasts! In the last 30 days, we have been in:

Position 2 in the category Books (United Arab Emirates)
Position 13 in the category Books (New Zealand)
Position 21 in the category Books (Italy)
Position 25 in the category Books (Australia)
Position 54 in the category Arts (New Zealand)
Position 59 in the category Books (South Africa)
Position 68 in the category Books (United Kingdom)

This data is provided by podstatus.com.
Our latest transcript is out!

Check out Episode 9, Movie Magic with Andy Paterson & Peter Buckman, transcribed by Jane Kingswood.

Next week, Ep. 6 will be out! The first half of the Heyer Today season of Fable Gazers will soon be completely accessible.
We hope you’re enjoying Heyer Today! Remember to help us spread the word so we can reach more Heyer fans – and potential converts! 
Listen to our newest Heyer Today episode here!
P.S.  Fancy  buying us a cup of tea? You can make a donation via our support page here.

HEYER TODAY EPISODE 9: MOVIE MAGIC WITH ANDY PATERSON & PETER BUCKMAN

Transcribed by Jane Kingswood

Listen to this episode here.

SARA-MAE: Welcome to Heyer Today, the podcast in which I explore the life and work of Georgette Heyer over 25 episodes.

Apart from wanting to talk to other Heyerites about her work, and torturing unsuspecting friends by trying to convert them, I’ve always wondered why on earth Heyer’s work hasn’t been plundered by the film world long since.

As I may have mentioned more than once, OK, I’ve been banging on about it for years now… if we can have 87000 remakes of Pride and Prejudice (and believe me, I’m here for every one of those), why haven’t they seen the cinematic promise of Heyer’s work? She’s ticking a lot of the same boxes and wrote far more than Austen’s six much beloved works.

For years, many fans have thought that it was Heyer herself putting a spanner in the works, which rumour was compounded as her biographers reported her distaste for the one film version of her book: The Reluctant Widow. But as Jennifer Kloester will attest in our upcoming interview, this wasn’t the case at all. Heyer, who often struggled for cash, was longing for someone to buy the rights – it would have made her more popular in America, and it would have eased the financial burden she often felt as her family’s main breadwinner.

It’s not as if no one showed interest. In 1939, Heyer had had discussions with Alexander Korda about filming her novel on Charles II, A Royal Escape, but this, as well as proposed films of An Infamous Army and False Colours, (to star her friend, actress Anna Neagle) dissolved into nothing.

Though initially excited by the prospect of The Reluctant Widow being adapted, the changes that screenwriters Gordon Wellesley and Basil Boothroyd made to her work disgusted her. Not only did they alter much loved supporting characters Becky and Nicky, they added a smuggler, plus a new character, Madame Chevreuax, played by Kathleen Byron.

To pep up the plot, they also shoehorned in an exciting duel scene, a second marriage (which makes no sense plot wise) as well as London scenes featuring Guy Rolfe. As for leading lady Jean Kent, The Daily Express described the role she plays as: “a cross between the Wicked Lady, Forever Amber and the barmaid at the local.” Heyer was disgusted, and wanted her name removed.

Dr Lucy Bea, film historian and brilliant quilt maker, says, however, that these reports (and Heyer’s response) were unfair to the movie. Kent in particular, she says, plays the part of Elinor, “much as written”, and Guy Rolfe, who ended up playing English villains for much of his career, got the rare chance to take the role of the hero, and quote “played it with conviction”.

Another interesting addition to the cast was Julian Dallas as Francis Cheviot, who later wound up under contract to Warner Brothers starring in The Adventures of Jim Bowie. Though educated at Repton and Balliol College, Oxford, he was rebranded by the film company, who created a fictional biography to match his “deep, Southern drawl”, and had him growing up in eastern Pennsylvania.

With great props and scenery created by Catherine Dillon at Denham Studios, who clearly relished the opportunity to replicate the mock-gothic setting depicted in the novel, there is much to be enjoyed visually, especially for Heyer fans who like this sort of attention to detail. The best of these little touches being a campaign sheet of the Peninsular War printed in 1815, a copy of the Morning Post borrowed from the British Museum, and accurate Horse Guards uniforms.

For me, however, the film lacks the sparkle of the novel, and the addition of plot points and characters feel unnecessary. Still, it’s not nearly as bad as Heyer’s son Richard thought it, who urged his mother avoid it like the plague.

Whether or not this bad experience had a bearing on further works not being made into film, as we’ve moved into the 21st century, I’ve been hopeful that Heyer’s work will be rediscovered by some talented film maker. Amazon? Netflix? Come on, there are so many riches to plunder!

And, it seems that at last, the wait may be over. One film producer, Andy Paterson, has stepped into the breach. Having produced such luminous hits as Girl With A Pearl Earring (adapted for the screen by his wife, the talented Olivia Hetreed) and The Railwayman (coincidentally starring my favourite Mr Darcy, Colin Firth), Andy is going to open up to me about what led him to consider Heyer’s work for the screen.

ANDY: Funny you should mention that…

SARA-MAE: Bill Nighy? Is he going to be in it? When visiting London Beth and I went to the flats known as The Albany, home to many famous politicians and writers and actors. Apparently. We finagled our way in, by claiming to be interested in buying one of the flats. I spent the entire time imagining Heyer going up the tiny staircases. And then, we spotted Bill Nighy. Is he in the movie? That would be perfect!

ANDY PATERSON: Not yet. We’ll come to that.

SARA-MAE: So, let me start at the top. Have you and your wife Olivia always been fans? Are you both fans? How did you get to be working on this project?

ANDY PATERSON: I’ll be very honest; Georgette was not somebody that I read when I was young. Olivia had read when she was a younger girl. Strangely, I made a film called Hilary and Jackie about Jacqueline du Pré, with Emily Watson, years ago. And one of the strange processes you go through as a filmmaker, if you are telling a true story like that you have to make sure that it is legally bulletproof. And we had a wonderful lawyer from New York, an academic guy who just started as through that process. He said to me; way, way back, ‘Georgette Heyer, utterly unexploited. Don’t understand why. Wonderful stories,’ and I filed that away at that point. Then a few years later, an American Producer called Cotty Chubb sent us this idea. I read this book, and I thought Sophy is just the most amazing character.

SARA-MAE: Yep, it’s The Grand Sophy. One of Heyer’s most popular books. I can’t wait to hear more about Andy’s thoughts on it.

ANDY PATERSON: So that was the way in for me. We were trying to find stories about strong and powerful women. And Sophy just came off the page, this girl is incredible! And so, we loved it and talked about doing it.

SARA-MAE: But how did Andy unravel all the labyrinthian writing issues? What are the difficulties exactly when it comes to getting the rights to a book?

ANDY PATERSON: Well, Cotty Chubb, did the original work on that, but I think our feeling is we wouldn’t have gone into it if we weren’t going to do justice to it. So certainly, dealing with Peter Buckman, who is the agent who looks after the rights at this stage… we had a very open conversation about why we wanted to do it. We didn’t want to do exactly as it is in the book, because film is a different thing. But we did want to do it with the full support of the estate. So, we wanted to pitch how we would do it and know they would be happy with that, in the way we were going to, if you like, enhance it for the screen.

SARA-MAE: Speaking of Peter Buckman, why don’t we let him introduce himself?

PETER BUCKMAN: I started my professional career, after university, as a publisher, with Penguin. And I did about three years of that, in London and New York with the New American Library. And then because it was many years ago, I got summoned for the draft for the US Army, even though I was British and had a green card. So, I came home, and then became a full-time writer for 35 years. Writing books and scripts and films and radio plays… almost everything except greetings cards. And for the last 13 years I’ve been a literary agent.

I set up the Ampersand Agency, with my wife’s support.  She’s been an agent selling books to foreign publishers, and she was taught her trade by a man called Peter Janson Smith. I talked to him. We had an old-fashioned publisher’s lunch, involving several bottles of wine, and other alcoholic stimulants. And as a result of that I set up the Ampersand Agency and he came on as consultant and brought the Georgette Heyer estate to us, which he had looked after for several years. I had never read Georgette Heyer until then, and then as an agent to the estate, I started reading her Regency romances and was completely captivated. We represent all her books. The entire oeuvre, including some that had been suppressed and found their way to Amazon in old editions.

SARA-MAE: One of the things I’ve been looking into is the ideas that rights themselves might be tied up in some way or owned by someone who wasn’t prepared to licence them to filmmakers. Even after reading the biographies, it’s rather hard for my tiny brain to understand, and unravel, who owns what. Maybe Peter can clear this up?

PETER BUCKMAN: What happened was, at some point, she sold the copyrights for a great deal of money, to the Booker-McConnell Organisation, the people who started the Booker Prize. They bought copyrights to several bestselling authors including Ian Fleming, who was also represented by Peter Janson Smith. But he was then employed by Booker to look after these authors. Then, Georgette Heyer’s son, Richard Rougier, decided to buy the copyrights back. And they were divided between a company Georgette herself set up called – Heron Enterprises – and some, including the mysteries were owned by Sir Richard Rougier. He died some years ago. He made me a director of Heron Enterprises, and his widow invited me to represent the copyrights and titles that were in his name. So, Ampersand now represents all her books and I’m glad to say they are all in print!

SARA-MAE: Andy had to talk to Peter about producing The Grand Sophy. How did that go?

ANDY PATERSON: It has been a very open conversation and we’ve had that on most of the things we do, again going back to Girl with a Pearl Earring, which seems to be a template for this in a way. Tracy Chevalier had lots of offers for the rights to that book, but I think we persuaded her that we understood it and how we wanted to tell the story, [which was] very much Olivia’s take on it. We haven’t had a problem with Peter or the estate, I think possibly because we had that very open conversation about what we love about the character and story and where we think we might have to take it somewhere that hopefully audiences will go oh that really is The Grand Sophy! It’s not exactly as it was on the page, but it hopefully will capture what Georgette had created.

SARA-MAE: Right, and are you working with the BBC at all? I understood they had some of the rights as well?

ANDY PATERSON: Yes. We are developing it with BBC Films. Which is the film division of the BBC, not the drama department, but the film department. Which is a great bunch of people who have loved it from the start.

SARA-MAE: I understood they had the rolling rights? I don’t really know why they haven’t made something before now. Do you have any idea why?

ANDY PATERSON: Well, there’s a difference between the drama department and the film department. And I’m not sure how much I can say about that. The rights you refer to are with the drama department who tried to do something… perhaps different. Certainly, it did not include Sophy so we are on a very separate track.

SARA-MAE: As fans, we’ve been dying for some kind of representation of some of our favourites, particularly the Regency romances. Having seen how successful things like Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility [are]… why isn’t there room for someone like Heyer there? Why do you think it is? You obviously are in a great position to postulate on why…

PETER BUCKMAN: Ever since I took on the agency to represent her 13, 14 years ago, I’ve been trying to get television companies and film companies to produce her work. And there are several people who claim to be great fans… it’s the controllers of drama who have not gone ahead, because they give various excuses…

SARA-MAE: As a scriptwriter himself, Peter knows a lot about the ins-and-outs of getting literary property into production, yet even he, with his years of experience, is clearly frustrated. Reading between the lines, it seems as if several Heyer projects popped on and off the radar with the BBC, never coming to fruition.

PETER BUCKMAN: We had options with the BBC at one stage, and sample scripts and a whole what is called ‘the bible’, which would be the stories that would take it beyond one episode or a whole series, these had been prepared and were knocked on the head by the then Controller of the Drama, who said, ‘oh we do too much period, and it’s all too expensive’. Then, of course, they go and commission another version of Poldark. Which is fine. Great.

ANDY PATERSON: I can only tell you what we’ve done, which is to come to them with a very specific proposal for one film. And we’ve had no difficulties.


SARA-MAE: Why is it that Andy’s had such a different experience. Has he more personal relationships within the BBC. Is it simply that it’s easier to close the deal with a risk averse drama department, when you’re a film producer with a proven track record of literary adaptations under your belt? Yet, Peter’s worked on projects like Inspector Morse and others, so he’s hardly a neophyte in this area. Whatever the reason, Andy seems loath to comment on it. You’ll have to get Peter Buckman to tell you the answer to all those questions, I’m not going to speak out of school.

PETER BUCKMAN: The answer is – it’s a question of getting the right combination of talent and timing. And I’m hopeful that a film of The Grand Sophy will actually move into production, but it’s been eight years since we started negotiations as its gone through several versions of the script, the later script is by Olivia Hetreed, who wrote Girl with a Pearl Earring, and they’ve got a director, they’ve got an actor lined up to play Sophy, and various others. Whether it will happen, who knows!

More exciting is… I’m not allowed to give names, but there is an Oscar-winning woman writer who is a huge Heyer fan and she is keen to initiate a television series of Regency romances, [for] which we have a major broadcaster, [who] has taken an option on this.

SARA-MAE: Wait. Oscar-winner? What? Peter can’t say. Bummer.

PETER BUCKMAN: …And that seems to me potentially a goer, because the writer is well known and respected, the broadcaster is keen to use her work. We’ve got a production company who I’ve worked with on other projects, and greatly respect, who are taking this forward. So, who knows what will happen, but you have to be an optimist in the business, because otherwise you’d give up! So, I’m very aware of the fans’ desire to see her work up there on screen, little or big screen, and I’ve been working very hard to make it happen.

SARA-MAE: Oh man, I feel sorry for Peter, bearing the brunt of all this frustration, knowing how much fans like me are longing for Heyer adaptations. I wish there was something I could do to…oh right. I’m making a whole entire podcast about her work and her life…so I’ve done my part. I guess it’s up to you listeners out there to rate and subscribe…it’s the only way to prove how much we want this to happen. He he…

PETER BUCKMAN: Sometimes when I despair of publishing, because they’re so cautious, I then talk to film producers and all the nonsense they have to go through, all the hoops they have to pass, with the money and everything else, raising money from a whole variety of sources, all of whom want a say in how things go. I am then grateful that I mainly work in publishing.

In the end, it comes down to like everything else, the subjective decision of one or more persons who are heads of drama, or whatever. And we’ve got at the moment a Head of Drama who is keen to proceed, but I remain optimistic.

SARA-MAE: Working on something like this, which is so beloved…

ANDY PATERSON: We have to please the obsessives!

SARA-MAE: Is he referring to moi? Hmmm. That’s fair.

SARA-MAE: There are so many people who are massive fans all over the world. Is that a bit daunting?

ANDY PATERSON: Well it certainly helped to have Peter Buckman in the loop, representing the estate, because I think the first port of call is to make sure they know what you’re doing. So, that you know that they’re going to support the vision for the film.

I think that with any book, with any film in fact, you have to ask yourself, why it needs to be told as a film. The book is a wonderful book, you don’t want to do it unless you feel that the people who love it are going to love what you’re doing.

SARA-MAE: I mentioned to Andy that I recently re-watched Girl with a Pearl Earring and it struck me that the power of the film lay in the silences. The way Scarlett Johansson had to communicate so much with her eyes. Because as a servant she was powerless, in many ways because of her status. To me Sophy has a lot more agency and power, and most importantly the ability to speak her mind in spite of societal mores, which restrained women at the time.

SARA-MAE: She’s a bit of a proto feminist, isn’t she? She’s like an Austen heroine, but without those constraints.

ANDY PATERSON: You talk about constraints; those are in many ways things that really help a film. Olivia wrote the screenplay for Girl with a Pearl Earring, one of the reasons that movie works, one of the genius things about the screenplay is that she really understands what it is to be a woman in a world when there are so many limits. And the tension, and the stakes in GWAPE come from the fact that you really understand the danger that this girl is in. She has such a strong sense of what she believes in, but she knows she doesn’t have the right in this world to say that. I think that’s one reason that really connects.

And Sophy has that same feeling. And Sophy, the character, is so compelling, that you look at the character and go, ‘OK what’s the story? What does she go through that’s going to make it a great film? You stay true to the character that Georgette created. Then you look at it and go, ‘OK, there are all kinds of things here that Georgette hints at, that people talk about that isn’t necessarily in the story’.

SARA-MAE: I’m always interested in how people turn books into scripts, what do you focus on, what do you take out. I can’t wait to hear what Andy and Olivia thought about when looking at The Grand Sophy.

ANDY PATERSON: So, the first thing we’ve done, a big thing to do, is go, ‘She talks in the book  about Sophy being in Brussels during the Battle of Waterloo’, and we went; ‘Ooh. That’s a huge thing, what happened?’ We’ve moved the story to just before Waterloo, not least because, in our dreams, we will continue.

SARA-MAE: In my dreams too Andy, in my dreams too.

ANDY PATERSON: The first thing Olivia said about Georgette is that she is underrated in many ways, but one of them is she is such a great historian. She researches, she writes her stories based on a lot of historical fact. And you look at that and go, OK, so, what would she have thought if we had said to her, ‘You’ve got Sophy at Waterloo, there are lots of mysteries about Waterloo, that maybe we will discuss in future films. But let’s not squander this character, let’s do it just before Waterloo, it changes nothing about the story itself, but it allows us to explore the history alongside the character and the story itself.

The loveliest thing that happened on Girl with a Pearl Earring, was that Olivia and Tracy Chevalier got on so well, that when Tracy read the script she said ‘you’ve done things I wish I’d thought of’. And, to have that kind of relationship, where you can take what someone’s created and that gave us this the idea to do this, this and this, that’s completely in keeping with the original. But allows you to take a character that’s been invented by somebody and go further. I love that we can take what Georgette hints at in the book and go, let’s play with that.

You do sit there thinking, if Georgette was in the room would she approve. And given the research, the nature of these stories, the characters she’s created… that’s the hardest test. Would she go, ‘Oh I see, that’s within character, you can explore that’, or would she go, ‘what are you doing?’

So, I hope where we’ve explored further, she would approve.

PETER BUCKMAN: I was actually told by her son, that she really didn’t like the dramatisations or adaptations that were made of her work in the forties and fifties, and she was against it. Of course, television wasn’t the force then that it is now.

SARA-MAE: There’s a false idea she herself was anti film as a medium for her work. According to Jennifer, it was the particular adaptation of The Reluctant Widow in the fifties, they’d sexed it up in her mind, and she didn’t approve, but she still was very keen because she was always concerned about money.

PETER BUCKMAN: Money!

SARA-MAE: And the taxman taking it all.

PETER BUCKMAN: What we have done to try and safeguard that is that we include a phrase… something like ‘the producer will be faithful to the spirit of the book’. So, while we have to acknowledge the film company who buys the rights will have the final say, we hope by putting in, and making clear, this earnest desire, we hope to safeguard the image of Heyer, which is actually much more mischievous and full of wit and wickedness, than perhaps people who haven’t read her imagine.

So, I think there’s enormous scope and the script I’ve seen of The Grand Sophy shows this, you can take the basis of the story and the characters and re-imagine them for the screen. And still be faithful to the spirit of the books without sexing them up, or dumbing them down, which is equally possible.

SARA-MAE: So, you don’t think that that might be something that might put film makers off? Or create issues for them? This idea they have to remain true… do you think that that might be one of the factors, that’s contributed to…?

PETER BUCKMAN: I don’t think so, because, the number of Jane Austen adaptations, and the strength, if you like, of the Janeites who pounce on any deviation, or misinterpretation of the text, has I think got people used to the idea that you can be faithful to the spirit of the much-loved novel and still make it attractive to a contemporary audience, many of whom probably haven’t read it. I think it’s the cost, because all costume dramas are more expensive because the costumes and the location. And the BBC has these periodic fits of saying we do far too much period. And then they immediately commission something else. So, there’s a lack of consistency and courage among broadcasters. But I think, if we managed to get a first series going, and it’s as well done as I hope it will be, then I can see lots more following. And there are plenty of Regency novels to choose from.

SARA-MAE: In this particular climate as well. I think we all need a bit of beautiful, frivolous period drama.

PETER BUCKMAN: Exactly. I totally approve, but as I have to work with these guys, I’m more diplomatic when I’m in their presence!

SARA-MAE: [Laughs] Good, yes.

SARA-MAE: I tell Andy you about the rumours that had been going around after the Sony hack. Remember that? Gosh, that feels like a zillion years ago, and it was only 2015. Anyway, one of the emails mentioned this project, describing the reimagined Sophy as a lady spy. I wanted to know if they’re planning any other major departures from Heyer’s plot.

ANDY PATERSON: She’s not going to be Jane Bond as somebody once said in one of these things. But, you know, she is a girl who has been raised by her father, dragged around the trouble spots of the world. She is somebody who’s incredibly capable, has clearly done lots of things. And we’re certainly going to explore that a little bit. But the arc of the story is a girl who finds herself as the fish out of water in London, trying to, in a sort of Emma kind of way, solve all the problems of that household. And she’s a girl who, you know, thinks she can basically solve anything, except the one thing she doesn’t expect, which is that she’s going to fall in love and that scares her more than Waterloo.

SARA-MAE: One thing that strikes me when I read the book is that Sophy casually refers to experiences she’s had in the war that are actually quite dark. Though the tone throughout the book is light, with the humour always at the forefront. Will Andy and Olivia be keeping the same tone, or will there be devastating flashbacks of a traumatised Sophy, cutting through the narrative? I have to admit, I’m not sure how I’d feel about this. I can’t help still being bitter about the Netflix version of Anne of Green Gables, in which they kept undercutting the flow of the story with scenes from Anne’s troubled past. It really didn’t work for me.

SARA-MAE: You’re going to keep the comedy of her work and the wit going through?

ANDY PATERSON: Absolutely. It’s the most wonderfully entertaining script. The feeling of the script is that you never quite catch up with Sophy. But she just has this kind of sense of wow, there she goes, doing all these things. And so, it’s hugely entertaining. It’s hugely funny, I hope, but it has a really cracking story too.

SARA-MAE: Well, I’m so excited. I wish it was ready now, but how are you going to get somebody who’s going to embody those characteristics of Sophy? I mean, that must be quite a big ask.

SARA-MAE: I’d heard on the grapevine that Jessie Buckley was their top choice for the role of Sophy. Something which fills me with joy because she’s so brilliant Wild Rose anyone? Not only does she have a fabulous voice, but her acting chops are well established.

ANDY PATERSON: We’ve cast Jessie Buckley, because she has that kind of extraordinary. She’s so full of life. And when you meet her, when you see her on the stage, she is just breathless. I think we fell in love with her, we felt she was Sophy. I’m a Producer, you must forgive the hype sometimes. I haven’t had that feeling we had about Jessie, since Scarlett Johansson walked into an audition for Girl with a Pearl Earring, when she was unknown.

SARA-MAE: Wow

ANDY PATERSON: And we just went oh my lord how are we going to get this done? Because nobody knows who this girl is yet. But she is that girl. And I haven’t had that feeling again until Jessie walked into the room.

SARA-MAE: Have you cast Charles Rivenhall?

ANDY PATERSON: We are going to shoot spring or summer next year, we are just looking at contenders for Charles at the moment. I will have the decisions to make quite soon. Cos it’s a big one. And I know what people are going to want, so it’s just about finding the right guy, who will be surprising but at the same time in the end the right reward for Sophy. What’s so good about this story is that the last thing she is interested in is falling in love with a man. She doesn’t think like that, it’s part of the world but. Certainly not what she’s looking out for, in a world where everyone is on the marriage mart. That’s not what she is interested in. So, you have to find someone that you can believe is worthy of her. And she’s so extraordinary it’s a really tough ask.

SARA-MAE:   Kit Harrington, Harry Lloyd? His great-great-great grandfather was Charles Dickens, so that might be a nice literary connection…

ANDY PATERSON: Throw them out we are interested to know what people think of as the right answer for Charles.

SARA-MAE: I’m pretty sure Andy immediately regrets the invitation! As I start a long list of suggestions.

SARA-MAE: Aidan Turner…

Colin Morgan…

Bill Nighy…

There are so many wonderful people aren’t there.

ANDY PATERSON: Funny you should mention Bill Nighy…

SARA-MAE: Is he in the movie?

ANDY PATERSON: Not yet.

SARA-MAE: But there’s one person I’ve been longing to suggest, ever since our interview,

SARA-MAE: You have to have Stephen Fry, he is a huge Heyer fan.

ANDY PATERSON: ok. I don’t know who Stephen would play.

SARA-MAE: The real question is who couldn’t he play! This is national treasure, extraordinaire. Stephen Bloody Fry, we are talking about. Plus, I’ve often paired Heyer and PG Wodehouse in my mind as comic geniuses. Genii, is that a word? And it would be wonderful to have a connection to Wodehouse, by including Jeeves himself in the cast.

SARA-MAE: He could play her Dad? What do I know? Why am I telling you about casting?

SARA-MAE: Why don’t we ask the man himself? (extract from longer interview, episode one)

SARA-MAE: Apparently The Grand Sophy is being made into a film.

STEPHEN FRY: Yes, that’s right. That’s an interesting choice, isn’t it? One of my favourites. I’m sure it’ll be fascinating,

SARA-MAE: I’m surprised that you are not playing Sir Horace, her Dad.

STEPHEN FRY: (laughs)

SARA-MAE: How has that not happening?

STEPHEN FRY: I don’t know. I suppose you have to hear these things are happening. And apply or something. It’s fine. I’ll be very happy to go and see if. That’s most important thing isn’t it. Maybe if one praises its success it will give rise to others.

SARA-MAE: I move on to a question about the one troubling aspect of this book. There’s a scene with a Jewish money lender which has been seen by many as anti-Semitic. I wondered how Andy and Olivia had decided to deal with this troubling plot point.

ANDY PATERSON: Yes. There’s just no reason to go there. He’s a great character. I think we’ll play him slightly against type but it’s just not important. He is a money lender. What matters is that she goes off into his lair and does these amazing things. So, we are just going to completely ignore that. I’m sure if Georgette was writing the book now there would be entirely different sensibilities and would be something that would be in there. That’s best got rid of.

SARA-MAE: I ask Peter to weigh-in on the difficulties of adapting for the screen. Has he any advice to give to potential screenwriters?

PETER BUCKMAN: I did quite a lot of dramatizations myself when I was a full-time writer and my feeling is if you’ve got a good book, trust it and go with it. But then, you have to make various choices of what to leave out. There’s far too much of it in the book, there’s too much dialogue. If you look at any exchange between Heyer’s characters, they go on sometimes for pages. And witty and lovely though they are, you have to cut those, because viewers are even more impatient than readers.

But I would say in case we then get inundated with people who want to adapt her. I appreciate everyone’s desire to see her novels on screen, but we can only deal with production companies rather than individual writers. I get a lot of requests as an agent for the estate from individual writers who love her books and want to be allowed to do their own version of an adaptation. I’m afraid I have to say no, because without the production company behind you, there is absolutely no point. Especially if you’re not a very well-known writer. There is no point putting the work in and paying an option fee, when there is almost no hope of having it produced and broadcast. I have done some deals with an American Theatre Company, in Chicago.

SARA-MAE: This is the Lifeline Theatre, http://lifelinetheatre.com/ we were lucky enough to chat to Dorothy Milne and Christine Calvitt who worked on several book-to-play adaptations, look out for that in the coming weeks.

PETER BUCKMAN: It’s an amateur dramatic company with a loyal fanbase and they have done adaptations of several Georgette Heyer novels, on stage. And they go very well for their audience. Who are all loyal Heyer fans. And that’s the sort of thing that we are happy to countenance, and so if anyone is burning to adapt their favourite novel my suggestion, and you didn’t prime me to say this! Off the top of my head. My suggestion would be get an amateur dramatic group together and a place to put it on, and do it that way. Because that would be fun for all concerned. And we would be happy to license such a thing.

SARA-MAE: It’s clear that Peter’s seen a lot of attempts, come and go, in trying to get Heyer’s works to the screen. One can easily see why he’s recommending a course for writers that has a much greater chance of actually succeeding. How I wish I could have seen the Lifeline Theatre Productions. If only I could afford a ticket to Chicago. The main issue with the film seems to be how long it takes to get all the intricate pieces together, funding, cast, director and so on. And if anyone of these elements falls away the likelihood of success deteriorates rapidly. With that in mind, I ask Andy when we can expect to actually see The Grand Sophy in theatres?

ANDY PATERSON: Everything takes a long time in the movie business. We hope to shoot it May/June/July next year. But the process at the end of that, editing and finishing, marketing, means it’s usually, a good year after that. Usually it’s a good year between shooting and releasing.

SARA-MAE: Listen to future episodes for updates on The Grand Sophy and when it’ll come out. What can I say? I’m a tease.

SARA-MAE: Please keep us updated. Thank you so, so much for talking.

ANDY PATERSON: it’s a great pleasure. And it’ll be fun to update it as things go along. Who knows what you’ll think about the Charles decision, when the time comes.

SARA-MAE: Have a good day, bye.

ANDY PATERSON: Thank you for your enthusiasm, it’s great.

PETER BUCKMAN: Thank you very much.

Sara-Mae:

It was great to get an insight into the film process from such an experienced producer, there’s such passion underlying Andy’s pragmatism. And it’s great to imagine him and Olivia working on The Grand Sophy, exploring ideas about how to make this fab novel come to life for the screen. I can’t believe he indulged me in my casting ideas. For a minute there, I felt as though I was really part of the process. For a cinephile like me, was pure bliss.

As for Peter, he’s been an invaluable and generous font of information and advice throughout this process. None of this would have been possible without his kindness. We’ll be touching base again in later episodes to discuss further developments with the film and other *coughs* projects. So, if you are a Heyerite, stay tuned for that.

Next week it’s another Book Club Episode. Yay, this time I’ll be trying to convert Comedian Dom Patmore, who has the most amazing curly-wurly moustache you’ve ever seen. He and my cousin Talitha. Yes, another cousin, I have an enormous extended family. And I consider it my duty to indoctrinate as many of them as possible. They will be reading The Quiet Gentleman. Get it on your kindle or from Audible now at: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/The-Quiet-Gentleman-Audiobook/B004FTBIIA  or borrow from your local library. You’d have to be doing it much too brown to say you’re not interested in listening. Till next time, this has been Heyer Today.

This episode was recorded, produced and edited by me, Sara-Mae Tuson. With production, writing and research help from Beth Keen and Will Dell from Aurality for production support. Mike Scott for laughing at my jokes and production assistance. Thanks also to Geraldine Elliot, Talitha Gamaroff and everyone who supported me in creating this work. Thanks to Suzy 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 One, as well as Jerome Alexander’s luscious Message to Bears Tunes. Original music was composed especially for the podcast by myself and Tom Chad. Comment and take part in our discussions on social media we are @fablegazers on Instagram, and @fable_gazers on Twitter. Heyer Today is a Fable Gazers Production.

Meet our Musical Heyerette Heroines

Barbara Bartz
In this week’s fresh new Heyer Today episode, Sara-Mae attempts to convert two musical babes to Heyer’s work. Barbara Bartz is one of the most sought after fiddle players in the London Alternative Folk music scene, and Emily Lee is an up and coming singer songwriter – both of them could easily be Heyer heroines.Both ladies were kind enough to meet me at my home studio (before lockdown) and chat all about one of Sara-Mae’s favourite Heyer novels, Venetia.

Barbara is also a masters graduate of literature and an ardent reader of poetry, so Sara-Mae couldn’t wait to leap in and dissect this fab novel with them …

We also take a look at Heyer’s life at the time she wrote the novel, and learn more about her favourite book cover illustrator, Arthur Barbosa. Plus, we have audio drama magic as Sarah Golding and Karin Heimdahl play Heyer and her friend Carola Oman discussing Charlotte Bronte’s heroes.
Emily Lee
Next week on Heyer Today, Sara-Mae picks the brains of best-selling regency romance author Mary Jo Putney about the art of building a believable regency world and the pitfalls of this kind of writing.

If you’d like to join in on the action, do check out our reading list, where you’ll find all the books we’re covering. And don’t don’t forget that every download, rating and review makes a big difference for us! Have a listen to Episode 16 here.

For hearing-impaired Heyer fans, transcripts of many of our episodes are available here, with more to come! We’re committed to making our podcast as accessible as possible and are super grateful for the support of our volunteers with making this happen: Kunak McGann, Maham Aziz, Jacqueline Garton Hudson, Morgan Nichols,  Zoe Barraclough, Jennifer Kloester and Jill Livingstone. If you’d like to get involved, even if it’s just one or two episodes, get in touch here.

Listen to our newest Heyer Today episode here!

We hope you’re enjoying Heyer Today! Remember to help us spread the word so we can reach more Heyer fans – and potential converts! 
P.S.  Fancy  buying us a cup of tea? You can make a donation via our support page here.

Can Art Save Your Life?

We’re looking ahead to our next project! This time, it’ll explore art and how important it is in our lives, especially in the wake of the pandemic. We’ll be doing an exciting collaborative project with a group of artists and creators, highlighting the importance of creativity in nurturing our souls and hearts!

The premise is: Can art save you? Sara-Mae and her band Scarlet Starlings set out to write a song that could actually save you… well, in a mental health sense. And while we’re at it, we ask other artists to create a piece they hope can save someone too. Do you think art has this sort of power? AmyBaker thinks so. Enjoy this gorgeous teaser she made with the gorgeous Urte Ugne Juodvirsyte.

HEYER TODAY EPISODE 12: COTILLION

Transcribed by Jill Livingstone

Listen to this episode here: [link to be added: https://fablegazers.wordpress.com/binge-our-podcasts-now/]

Also available on any good podplayer, iTunes, Spotify or Amazon Music.

SARA-MAE: Previously on Heyer Today.

JEN KLOESTER: In a way, the PhD was really a means to write Georgette Heyer’s Regency World. And having the imprimatur of the university meant that when I contacted people like Georgette’s son, Sir Richard Rougier or Jane Aiken Hodge, there was a reason, you know, as a research student at the University of Melbourne, it lent me a credibility that I may not have had otherwise.

And I just hugged that bag to my chest all the way back to London. I just couldn’t believe it. And, I tell you, if you had offered me the crown jewels, I would not have swapped them for that bag. I would have hung on to that bag, as if my life depended on it. I still have that bag, you know.

Look, she came from a very not tactile generation. You know, public displays of affection were certainly never going to happen. But I don’t know that she was particularly interested in sex that’s certainly been said to me in the course of my research, from people who had things said to them by Georgette Heyer.

SARA-MAE: Hello, and welcome to Heyer Today, season two of Fable Gazers podcasts. We’re spending this season exploring the life and work of Georgette Heyer, so if you haven’t listened from episode 1, do go back to the start, as we’ve had some cracking guests like Stephen Fry, and many more.

This is one of our fortnightly book club episodes in which we ignore Heyer fans and experts and try to convert Heyer virgins to her work. So far, I’ve got six converts out of eight victims …[cough] willing participants.

Who’ll be joining me today? What dastardly methods have I used to coerce them…. well, I’d have to be a nodcock with bats in my belfry to tell you wouldn’t I?

My lovely friend Jojo Thomas is a trained Co-Active coach, master hypnotist, writer, editor, speaker and public speaking trainer. Apart from all her other qualifications Jojo brushed off an English Lit degree to chat to me about this week’s book, Cotillion. Did I have to hypnotise her into it? Judge for yourself.

The other person who’s delved into the book with us was Aiden Truss. He’s a novelist and copywriter – and a lover of horror fiction, so, Regency romance is definitely not his milieu. But did I manage to win him over? You’ll have to wait and see….

As ever this episode is chock full of spoilers as we discuss the book in depth, so do read it first, it’s available on Naxos as an audio book if you’d like to treat yourself. But first, what was Heyer up to when she wrote the delightfully frothy Cotillion? Here’s Mike to fill us in:

MIKE: A cotillion (from the French for petticoat) is a dance for four couples. A courtly version of a country dance, interspersed with ‘changes’ – figures breaking out of the square formation.

What a perfect metaphor for the 1950s. It’s the beginning of a decade of exciting change – it’s like Britain is changing fast – from post-war monochrome to vivid colour.

For a start, in 1952 the country has a new monarch – Queen Elizabeth II – just 27 years old. Her coronation was the first to be broadcast to the world on TV.

The cinemas in the West End would have been showcasing fellow Albany resident Dame Edith Evans and Margaret Rutherford, at their scene-stealing best in the film version of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

And just a bus ride away from Albany and Piccadilly, in 1953, scientist Rosalind Franklin is working at King’s College. She’s experimenting with high resolution photographic images that would eventually capture the structure of DNA.

But it wasn’t all English roses and Union Jack bunting….

In 1950 and 1951 the Mau Mau Rebellion declared a state of emergency in British ruled Kenya.

In 1952, Vallentine Mitchell Publishing releases the first UK version of The Diary of Anne Frank, from a manuscript kept by Anne’s father Otto, her family’s only Holocaust survivor.

In five days in December 1952, the Great London Smog kills around 4,000 people and makes thousands more ill, quite possibly also affecting Georgette who experienced persistent colds and flus around this time.

Rosalind Franklin’s lecture about her unpublished findings on DNA was seen by American biologist, James Watson and shared with English physicist, Francis Crick. They would eventually win the Nobel Prize for the discovery. (While Franklin’s work was acknowledged, unfortunately, she died before the end of the decade and the Nobel committee did not give out prizes posthumously.)

Also, Georgette’s beloved Fortnum & Mason’s was taken over by a Canadian following a boardroom coup!

The power of TV was on the rise – The Flower Pot Men and Sooty make their BBC TV debuts. Before TV really takes over, there is still radio and magazines – lots of magazines.

Perhaps because of the changing roles for women during and in the aftermath of war, the 1950s were the golden age of women’s magazines – when most women (83%) read at least one magazine a week. And of course, Georgette can be included in this readership herself.

As Heyer fans know, since the 1920s, the magazines had been a lifeline for Georgette, publishing short stories and serialisations. They provided a useful supplementary income on the same novels that were selling in the bookshops, and were a way of introducing new readers to the Heyer romance canon.

It was usually the romance titles that were popular. In fact, when Georgette offered up her latest mystery novel, Detection Unlimited in 1953, Dorothy Sutherland of Woman’s Journal was one of several editors who rejected it.

When her brother Boris announces his engagement in early 1952, Frere offers to advance her £3000 for Cotillion to help out. Instead, Georgette dashes off a batch of short stories as a way to fund the wedding reception.

These stories are published in Illustrated London News, Good Housekeeping, Everywoman, and the Woman’s Journal. (After the wedding, bills from her dentist and the tax man force her to call in the advance after all!)

In addition to the many British journals, there was also a US and colonial market in Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.

The times may indeed have been changing. Georgette – now in her 50s – must have felt the need to boost her potential readership pool, because she agrees to meet an Aussie journalist – former war correspondent and writer for women’s magazines, Coral Craig. They meet for an interview at Albany. It is Georgette’s first – and last – interview.

British literature in the 1950s is also going through a golden age with bestselling titles by Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, William Golding, JRR Tolkien, Iris Murdoch, Anthony Burgess, Ian Fleming, Kingsley Amis and Agatha Christie.

The literary and magazine worlds collide when Georgette attends a launch party for the New Windmill Press in Kingswood. A photo of Georgette, Frere and Pat Wallace is captured by Tatler magazine. At the party they meet writers and editors – including Arnold Gyde and Noel Baker.

Georgette is still Heinemann’s star, but appearing as Mrs Rougier she is perhaps not as instantly recognisable as her more famous nom de plume.

NARRRATOR: It’s June, 1952. Georgette is talking to Pat Wallace and Frere at a glittering party to celebrate the grand opening of the New Windmill Press in Kingswood. Somerset Maugham is to open it, and Georgette is present as one of Heinemann’s star authors. Tatler is taking snaps.

PHOTOGRAPHER: Miss Heyer! Over here please!

GEORGETTE: It’s Mrs Rougier, actually.

PHOTOGRAPHER:  Who’s she? Mr Maugham, Mr Maugham, over here!

PAT: Oh dear.

GEORGETTE: [Laughing] It seems Mrs Rougier isn’t of much interest to the huddled masses.

FRERE: Darling, I’m just going to go and slap a few backs – don’t flirt too much with all the famous writers.

NARRATOR: Frere pushes his way into the crowd, leaving the ladies by themselves.

PAT: Well? What do you think of all the glitz and glamour?

GEORGETTE: It’s a squeeze, isn’t it? I’m sweating commas and clauses.

PAT: Rather like one of your Regency Almack affairs.

GEORGETTE: Don’t you dare start spouting Corinthianisms. The last thing I want to do is bore on about my books – especially amongst so many authors. Really, Pat, I would have thought you’d know better, being married to a publisher!

PAT: I abase myself. So…?

GEORGETTE: Well, I haven’t forgotten that they rather dropped the ball on An Infamous Army. I handed them the best thing I’ve ever done. I put my whole heart into that book, and I expected my publishers to put some of theirs into its production. Ah, there’s Arnold Gyde, the head of editorial. He had the touching but misplaced confidence not to read Army, and he let some meddlesome and illiterate person take it upon himself to change my spelling and punctuation after I’d passed the proofs on for publication.

PAT: Scandalous! Oh, he’s caught my eye… he’s coming over here.

NARRATOR: Arnold Gyde approaches with Noel Baker.

ARNOLD: May I introduce you to Mr Black. This is Lady Jones, whose pen-name is Enid Bagnold. 

GEORGETTE: Well, I am not Enid Bagnold.

NOEL: Nor am I Mr Black.

ARNOLD: Oh, I say. [LAUGHS NERVOUSLY] I hope very much that you’ll put that down to mental exhaustion. It’s just that…uh…

NOEL: Mr Baker.

ARNOLD: Mr Noel Baker, of course! He said to me, ‘Who’s that fine-looking woman?’ and so I came over here to, er…that is, I must have confused him with Mr Black of The Daily Mail. I uh, oh do excuse me, I have to go and see to the er…

NARRATOR: Mr Gyde dashes off, flushing a bright cherry red.

GEORGETTE: Very nice to meet you, Mr Black.

 NOEL: And you too, Miss Bagnold.

[THERE’S A BEAT AND THEN ALL THREE, PAT, GEORGETTE AND NOEL LAUGH.]

MIKE: Today Tatler is very glossy and glamorous, and calls itself ‘the original social media’, but in June 1952, it was still mainly printed with its distinctive red masthead featuring the red-coated ‘man about town’ motif, and on plain (but high quality) newsprint.

Despite its early literary origins, by the 1950s, it was more busybody than bookish. I suspect that Georgette was secretly beaming to have made it to the famous ‘Bystander’ pages among the full-page ads for chic attainments and lifestyle aspirations.

Ironically, when you try to access the Tatler archive today, you are greeted with a pop-up advert for Find My Past DNA test – not something Rosalind Franklin could have anticipated.

Considering the times, making the pages of Tatler is an achievement. Let’s face it, London was becoming a city for the young – with curvy pretty girls in full multi petticoated frocks on the arms of angry young men.

And these hep cats needed a place to let loose – London’s coffee bar craze begins, and Frith Street in Soho is rechristened “Froth Street” due to the plethora of new coffee bars serving European style cappuccinos!

Georgette did not always appreciate the speed of social change, famously sputtering: “Oh Christ, why did I have to be born into this filthy age!”

When Cotillion is published in 1953, Georgette was 51.  Cotillion had an initial print run of 140,000 copies and was to become one of her most cherished novels.

Georgette knew, in Regency times, the uncertainty caused by the constant presence of war and revolution made dancing incredibly popular. She also proved adept at adjusting her step when the dance moves changed.

She’s a survivor and would continue to twirl on the dance floor with elegance and grace. After all, she’s only halfway through the song and ready to promenade into the second half of her writing career.

SARA-MAE: Now that you know what Heyer was up to while writing Cotillion, here’s our interview with Jojo and Aiden. I hope they’ll both love it as much as I do.

Hi, Jojo.

JOJO: Hi, Sara.

SARA-MAE: Welcome to Heyer Today.

JOJO: Thank you.

SARA-MAE: Can you tell me who you are?

JOJO: I’d love to tell you who I am. So, I’m Jojo Thomas. I’m a life coach and public speaking trainer. A long, long time ago, I did an English literature degree, and I’m a passionate book lover.

AIDEN: I’m Aiden Truss. I’m a 45-year-old copywriter. I work at the Royal Academy of Dance – that pays the rent, but in between that I write. I’ve had a novel published a couple of years ago Gape, which hasn’t bought a yacht yet, [laughs] so yes, I just try and fit in as much reading and writing as possible in between visits to the pub and the office.

SARA-MAE: Before I asked you to read any Georgette Heyer, had you ever encountered her before?

JOJO: Absolutely no clue who Georgette Heyer was.

SARA-MAE: And what would you say the genre that you’re kind of most comfortable writing in and also that you enjoy reading?

AIDEN: Well, I grew up as a big horror fan and when I set out to write my novel, I envisaged it as a fantasy horror, but it kind of evolved into fantasy, comic horror. I don’t actually read very much horror or fantasy. I’m more into factual books and art history and things like that. I don’t have a set genre. I like to kind of flit between genres and read a bit of everything. Everything except for Regency romance up until now. [laughs]

SARA-MAE: Uh oh, this doesn’t bode well for my converts tally. I’m guessing he’s not a fan of Austen. Never mind Heyer.

SARA-MAE: You missed that.

AIDEN: The closest I’ve read to that was probably Vanity Fair, which this book kind of reminded me of that sort of vibe, but yeah, I’ve gotten no further than that. Obviously Thackeray had a social point to make. I’m not sure this book did. I don’t think I’d wander into a bookshop and head for that particular section. It seems like it’s writing by women aimed at women.

SARA-MAE: That’s an interesting if rather sweeping statement. Funnily enough, I know loads of women who really love fantasy, myself included.

AIDEN: People I’ve discussed it with say yeah, I used to love Georgette Heyer when I was a teenager, I couldn’t get enough of it. You mention it to another guy, and get – who? It’s very similar with Jane Austen. It’s all part of the canon of English literature, but I must confess, I’ve seen a couple of screen adaptations, but never actually read her stuff. My wife reads her, she loves her stuff, not sure that she is actually aimed at me in any way.

SARA-MAE: Why do you think they’re sort of seen as being particularly aimed at women?

AIDEN: I assume it’s the escapist aspect of it. I’ve no data to back this up but I’ve always assumed that fantasy is…although Game of Thrones has probably changed that now… It’s always predominantly been a male genre and the same with science fiction. And that historical romance always seems to have been the purview of women.

And there were times when I was thinking – God this guy needs to grow a pair – I mean these women should be stronger. What’s going on? It’s an accomplished piece of writing that sometimes you read more as a historical document.

SARA-MAE: What were your sort of preconceptions? What were you expecting?

AIDEN: My reading voice in my head is normally my own voice. But the first chapter of this one I was a really bad Lady Bracknell.  What really struck me was the language – it kind of seemed a bit more historical, just because… I flatter myself I’ve got a fairly decent vocabulary, but I read the Kindle version, so luckily, I was able to highlight words, but even that floundered sometimes where it just couldn’t find some of these old slang terms, the first one I highlighted, they just had me roaring with laughter actually, where someone was accused of being ‘dicked in the nob’. [Laughs] A set of gudgeons. What’s a set of gudgeons? Another one I highlighted – ‘dashed bacon brained notion to take into your cockloft’. I thought what’s a cockloft? It’s very simple when you look it up, it’s part of the gable of a house or whatever.

But I think I spent two thirds of the novel actually going through looking things up. So in that way, it was a really good experience. She obviously did tireless research on the argot of the time, which I really appreciated.

SARA-MAE: Did you find as a writer that enjoyment of the language and did it give you any sort of inspiration to think about maybe phrasing things in your own work a little bit differently?

AIDEN:  No, I’m kind of a subscriber to the parsimonious style of writing of people like Hemingway, and if you can say it in fewer words, and less flowery language. I guess the fiction I tend to read is a bit more modern and a bit more edgy. Reading things like you know, DeLillo and people like that.

I really did struggle with the length of some of her sentences. It’s so prolix and ornate. Yeah, not for six chapters at bedtime. A chapter at bedtime. Hence finishing the book this morning, rather than last week, I had to take it in sort of small doses – I have the same problem with Dickens, who… I absolutely love his stuff.

But yeah, it’s kind of… you have to retrain your mind, get used to it all through the book, then you’re there. And then the best time to read another Dickens, of course, is after reading Dickens. I suspect it’s the same with Heyers.

SARA-MAE: You do enjoy them even more as you go along. She’s very famous for the humour that she uses. Did you get her humour?

AIDEN: I did. There were some nice ones and I sort of underlined another one of Freddy talking to Kitty at one point says that, ‘you’ve a deal more hair than wit’ and I thought – I totally saw that the way that they were always talking about their appearance. And is this the right shade? Is this the right material? It was such a preoccupation. And the thing is, he’s such a dandy himself. So yeah, there were bits that I just thought were very funny.

SARA-MAE: Were you by any chance wondering what Stephen Fry thought of Cotillion?

STEPHEN FRY: Oh, Cotillion is a great one, isn’t it? I love…

SARA-MAE: Freddy, Freddy Standen.

STEPHEN FRY: Is it Freddy? Yes. He’s a bit like Ferdy Fakenham isn’t he? Quite Wodehousian  but very, very honourable and likeable – quite a lot of ‘dash it’!

It’s an unusual one, it’s much less guessable as to who’s the hero is going to turn out to be in that sense which makes it very likeable. And it’s got a big family – what’s the name – Penicuik the Penicuik family, all ghastly.

JOJO: So, very quick precis of the plot and how it starts out is that your leading lady is an orphan, Kitty Charing, who has been sort of informally adopted by an old friend of her family who is your typical, grumpy, old, miserly character and he considers himself on death’s door. And he has a fortune, of course, and he wants to leave this fortune to Kitty but on the condition that she marries one of his great nephews. So, the premise right at the beginning is which one of the great nephews is Kitty going to choose? Indeed, if she chooses any of them.

SARA-MAE: Yes. Matthew Penicuik.

JOJO: Yeah, Penicuik. Its spelled ‘cuik’, but again I looked it up, but it’s Pennycook, apparently.

SARA-MAE: I’m glad one of us has done their research.

JOJO: According to Wikipedia.

SARA-MAE: Oh, dear Wikipedia pronunciation versus Stephen Fry. What do you think, is it [Penny-quick] or [Penny-cook]?

SARA-MAE: He’s a really irascible old man, isn’t he?

JOJO: That is exactly what you’d call him. He’s grumpy, he’s a little malign, you get the feeling that he really likes putting people’s backs up. You do occasionally get little flashes of humour coming from him. And I suppose you also have this sense that he must have some goodness to him to have raised this child as his own to have given her a home even though it hasn’t been a particularly happy home for her. He has looked after her.

SARA-MAE: And it is quite funny because they sort of imply that he was perhaps in love with her mother who is a French woman.

JOJO: The French woman! He thinks she (the mother) is probably the only beautiful woman that he’s ever really seen in his life. So yeah, there is that sense and there is a question quite quickly dispatched of whether or not he might in fact be the father of Kitty. But the sense is that actually, that’s not the case, it’s just a rumour that’s gone round.

SARA-MAE: The French link comes back into play in the novel, doesn’t it?

JOJO: It does, indeed, later on we meet the Chevalier d’Evron.

SARA-MAE: Ooh la la! Isn’t Jojo’s French accent good?

JOJO: Who is Kitty’s French cousin, and he appears and he plays the role of one of these dancers in the cotillion. He’s very dashing and you do wonder right at the beginning if he is going to be a….

SARA-MAE:  Contender.

JOJO: Yes, is he a love interest for Kitty? She holds him in very high esteem.

SARA-MAE: She also does because he’s one of the few family that she has really. We find out later in the novel, that’s a bit of a thing with her because she’s sort of always had to feel beholden to this grumpy, great uncle and he’s really begrudged every penny [to] poor old Fishguard who’s her governess…

JOJO: Yeah, old Fish.

SARA-MAE: I loved her.

AIDEN: Initially, I thought it was quite a stilted thing but then as you get to read more into the characters, and Fish, she’s absent for most of it. But every time you hear of her, she makes you giggle.

SARA-MAE: She’s always quoting from these Romantic poets that she adores. And has filled Kitty’s head a little bit with this romanticism, which spurs the plot on.

JOJO: It really does. And what you’re saying about family is so important. So, Kitty is really alone in the world. She doesn’t feel connected to anyone really. She calls these boys, the great nephews of Matthew Penicuik, her cousins, but really, they’re not. She doesn’t have any blood ties until the Chevalier d’Evron shows up – Camille.

SARA-MAE: I suppose we should introduce the suitors for her hand. We’ve got Lord Dolphinton….

JOJO:  Dolph.

SARA-MAE: Who plays a massive role.

JOJO: Yes. So, one of her second cousins, he’s a sort of hard-up Irish peer. And really what Dolph wants to do is go and breed horses on his Irish estate. He’s not a great communicator. He’s very, very frightened of his mother. She’s a bully, and she’s constantly trying to make him do things that he doesn’t want to do. But he is a dolt.

SARA-MAE: So, we have Lord Dolphinton, who’s clearly not in any way a legitimate suitor, but he even says that he’s been kind of coerced into coming along.

JOJO: Oh, he’s the first to propose, you get your first proposal in the book within about 10 pages.  And he makes it very clear that he’s offering for her because his mother’s told him to and he looks absolutely petrified that she might say yes. And he’s so relieved when she says, ‘don’t worry, Dolph, no intention of accepting you at all’.

SARA-MAE: But it’s a really funny interaction between the cousins because I mean, there’s a bit of Basil Expositioning going on where they’re talking about who is and isn’t there. And Jack Westruther is who they all thought had Kitty’s affections already. And so everyone’s kind of thinking, where’s Jack? Why isn’t he here? So, you’re really introduced – oh, maybe this guy’s the hero.

JOJO: Absolutely. So, the first people that you have in the house are Dolph. You have Lord Biddenden, George and his brother, Hugh.

George is married. And Dolph makes a very big point of saying that he wasn’t invited, which in fact, he wasn’t. So maybe Dolph’s not as stupid as he looks. So actually, in the room, you have three people, George, Dolph and Hugh. And Hugh is a rector and very stiff, very proper. And Hugh also offers for Kitty.  He doesn’t really care about the money, but – I will marry her because she needs somebody to show her the ways of the world and look after her and she’ll be a very upright young lady under my tutelage – which of course, Kitty is totally unwilling to do.

My actual first impression of the book was one of frustration. Because there were only three people in the room. It shouldn’t have been that complicated. But Heyer keeps flipping between their first names and their second names. And they’re talking about people, flipping between first names and second names as well. And I had no clue what was going on for the first three or four pages. I was – who are these people? Who are they talking about? I’m utterly lost. So my first impression was, I don’t think I’m going to like this book because it feels like a mess. It’s nothing to the way Austen so elegantly lays out who you’re looking at and talking to in very simple terms.

SARA-MAE: Yeah, no, I get that. I’ve read it many times. So, it was a bit easier for me to slip into that. If they’re a lord, they have a separate name. So, for example, Lord Biddenden is George Rattray, brother to Reverend Hugh Rattray, but then he’s called Lord Biddenden. And I agree with you actually, the first chapter for me is not the greatest of her introductory chapters. But once the action kicks off, once we meet Freddy really….

JOJO: Let’s go to Freddy. So Freddy is another of the great nephews. Indeed, it transpired he’s also been invited to this great event, at which Kitty is going to bestow her hand theoretically, but he’s running a bit late because he really dithered about whether to come or not.  He wasn’t going to come because he doesn’t really like being summonsed in that way. Also, Freddy is of absolutely independent fortune, his father’s very wealthy. He doesn’t need any of Uncle Matthew’s money, not that he knows what the summons is for. So, he just has this random summons and he thinks – I’ve got better things to do than this. I’m not going to go.

But then he bumped into a couple of people, which again, you discover later who slightly goad him in different ways into going. And I think one of the people he met is Dolph’s mother, who evinces absolute delight that he’s not going which of course makes him want to go. But he’s running late and he’s stopped at the inn for a drink and something to eat basically. So he stopped at the inn just outside Arnside, which is the property where, Uncle Matthew and Kitty and Fish live and he’s just relaxing in the salon, there’s a nice roaring fire, the innkeeper’s looking after him and who should bundle in but Kitty.

Kitty is running away. Now she’s running away for a couple of reasons. On one level, she’s horrified by what’s happened and these awful proposals from Dolph and Hugh and she’s feeling like – why should I be chattel in this way? I’m not property.  But actually, she’s really sore because the person that she is in love with, Jack, the other cousin, hasn’t shown up. She feels abandoned, forsaken by him. So, she decides to run away. She’s put no thought into this at all. And she’s got literally 10 to 15 minutes outside of the house, and she stopped at the pub, basically because she didn’t know what to do. And who should she run into but Freddy. And she’s furious with Freddy.

They’ve always had a nice cousin-like relationship and she’s like – what the heck are you doing here? Surely you didn’t come to propose marriage to me – that is atrocious. I thought better of you. I thought you were a better person. You don’t need the money. Why would you do this?

Freddy of course, had no idea, absolutely baffled.  Good God Kit, you know, what can you be thinking? Of course I didn’t do that. At which point she immediately goes – oh, thank God! Fine, I’ll sit down and think what I’m going to do because really, I’ve run away from the house without thought. Everyone thinks I’m upstairs in my bedroom. And actually, I have no idea what to do. She proposes becoming a housekeeper or a chambermaid, which obviously Freddy finds laughable because she’s been brought up to do nothing much.

AIDEN: She was considering all these domestic roles she might be able to take on just to look after herself, which kind of seems retrospectively progressive. I mean, I’m saying somebody was writing in the 50s about the 18th or 19th century. Again, it just adds to Kitty being this more well-rounded, fleshed out character.

SARA-MAE: As Hugh points out to her, she isn’t very accomplished either which I didn’t think was particularly tactful of him.

JOJO: Hugh is not a tactful gentleman at all. Of course, the problem is Fish, who’s this nanny, who’s the companion who’s been employed to look after Kitty most of her childhood. She loves this poetry and she spouts it left, right and centre but she’s probably not very good at anything else. You know, she hasn’t taught her French and Italian and Latin and her sewing’s not up to much, her pianoforte playing’s not up too much. She’s not an accomplished young lady, particularly.

SARA-MAE: Except when it comes to remembering quotes from poems.

JOJO: Well, Fish is very good at doling out quotes from poems at all occasions, much to everyone else’s sort of horror.

SARA-MAE: What was your first impression of Freddy?

AIDEN: He does come across as the most human character. He’s not the most eloquent.

JOJO: Charming, not the sharpest tool in the box again, so not Dolph levels, but, just a lad about town quite happy in himself. He uses an awful lot of slang. And this was my other struggle with the book. Having not read any Heyer before and in fact, not that much Regency romance. The slang was shooting over my head, I had to keep looking things up. And there are some passages in the book where I was – just let this page wash over you Jojo, because you’ve got no idea.  Every other word is something I haven’t heard of. So, he’s a lad about town, he’s obviously in with the fashionable folk. He seems pleasant. Not really much of a care in the world. Not a very deep character, that’s probably your first impression.

SARA-MAE: Yes, he’s very amiable and kind is the word really and what Kitty grows to really like about him, as opposed to the other people in her life, who are patronizing, who are kind of telling her what she should and shouldn’t do… He’s not really like that. And she manages to steamroll him into this quite ill-conceived plan to help her to get to London. She realises that that’s the best thing for her. If she can go to London, she can maybe have at least one month of fun. And you know, ‘who knows what might happen in a month’, she actually says to him. And he’s very reluctant at first. I mean, he is someone who is very concerned about his clothes. And the first time I read it, I very much wrote him off as a fribble.

JOJO: Yeah, I mean, I didn’t know much about Regency romance. But of course, the character read from the modern day, I’m like, well, he’s gay. She’s painting this picture of someone who’s absolutely – one of the first things you see about him is that he gets distracted by – is his buttonhole slightly off centre? Or, has he got some water on his face from the rainy journey he just took? He gets distracted by his appearance, very much and he’s really into fashion. He’s got this incredible eye for colour. And he’s constantly advising people how to dress. If you’re reading that in the modern day you’d think well this is a bit of a stereotype of a homosexual man. So, you think that he’s a bit player.

But Kitty who’s the absolute queen of ill-conceived plans thinks – aha! right, here’s Freddy. He doesn’t want to marry me, great. I don’t want to marry him either. But he does have an independent fortune. He does have a family in London. He’s got access to all the places.  

Kitty is desperate to see something of the world, to experience parties. She’s dressed in very dowdy clothes, that’s all that gets made for her. She hasn’t got anything pretty or bright and no adornments apart from some topaz jewellery that was left to her by her mother. 

And she wants to get out there and see the sights and the bright lights and enjoy herself and she thinks – right, Freddy. ‘What if we just said we were engaged, just for long enough for me to have a month in London? Meet, or remeet your family and enjoy myself? And then I don’t know what we’ll do, but we’ll sort it out. And Freddy says no, absolutely not, old girl. Not going to happen, not going to happen. And then the innkeeper who’s just trying to eavesdrop on the conversation, comes in with a massive bowl of hot punch. They both have two or three cups of warming rum punch and get a little bit drunk. I mean, there are so many words for slightly tipsy in the vocab. And I can’t remember any of them right now. They’re quite funny.

 SARA-MAE: ‘A trifle disguised’.

JOJO: Yes, disguised, right. But he says no, she starts crying and the next thing you know he’s agreed.

SARA-MAE: So Kitty goes back to Arnside, Freddy proposes, and they sort out the intricacies of getting her to London.

SARA-MAE: So, let’s cut to London. He fully enters into her feelings when she talks about why she wouldn’t marry of the three that were there, obviously the only potential one was Hugh and he’s so ‘saintly’, she says in a really disgusted tone. Indeed, you don’t really want that for her to have never seen the world to just settle into life with Hugh. And so, she arrives in London, because they’re foisting her… without having told his parents that she’s coming… It turns out that there’s some kids that have measles, and the upshot is she can’t stay there. So, Freddy, surprising his father, who’s a great character… I don’t know if you enjoyed his character?

JOJO: I very much enjoyed the father and I enjoyed the father’s enjoyment of Freddy. So, Freddy is slightly written off by his father as not the bright one. They’ve got a younger son Charlie, who’s at Oxford, but Freddy’s considered a bit of an airhead by his father. But his father’s quite indulgent and a very nice, caring sort of a father, but doesn’t think much of Freddy’s intellect, and really enjoys watching Freddy problem solve, which he in fact, divulges a bit of a talent for. He keeps saying – ‘I’m sure I’ll think of a way’ and then sure enough, he thinks of a way.

So, Freddy’s sister, Meg, is married to Lord Buckhaven who’s gone off to China (of all places) on some sort of tour. They’ve only been married a year. Meg is pregnant and her odious mother-in-law is demanding that she come down and stay with her in the country while Lord Buckhaven’s away, for propriety’s sake. She probably knows that Meg is a little bit of a girl about town. She’s also really into fashion. She likes to have a good time, she’s not demure. Of course, Meg’s pregnant, she can’t go and stay at her parents’ house because of the measles.

So poor Meg is about to be foisted back off to the country and Freddy is – ‘aha! what we’ll do is we’ll install my fiancée’, although they don’t announce the engagement in the Gazette which is where it should in fact properly be announced. They don’t announce it there because of the measles. And also obviously, because they’re not really engaged. Propriety is covered, measles not a problem. They’ll be fine. Sure enough – great solution for everyone.

So, Kitty, having arrived and then being horrified finding the house in sickness, is then moved across to Meg’s house which is very comfortable and very nice. ‘Yes, I’ve got my month in London!’  And by the way, she doesn’t just want to see the sights, her secret plan is to show Jack Westruther that she’s engaged to Freddy, make him jealous, have him come and propose to her.

SARA-MAE: In her innocence… because she is an innocent. She’s not a scheming minx by any means.

JOJO: No, no, no, she’s formed a very real attachment to Jack. You know, it’s never absolutely revealed what’s been said between them, but for sure he encouraged her affections.

SARA-MAE: I like the fact that we got to see the different people’s perspectives. Which, actually you don’t get so much in Austen. You know, you certainly don’t get the male perspective as much.

JOJO: At all, I don’t think you get it at all.

SARA-MAE: And Jack, it turns out, was deeply offended and annoyed by the summary demand that he come down to Arnside. And so, he deliberately didn’t go down out of pride.

JOJO: And also because he’s so absolutely full of himself, that he feels totally safe in Kitty’s affection. He’s sure she won’t marry anybody else. Heyer gives us this internal monologue where he says he always intends to eventually make Kitty his wife.

So, what’s really interesting here is, when you first meet the idea of Jack, you assume that he is the romantic interest of the book. And personally, if I was writing a book like that, I might have tried to keep that going a little bit longer. So, if you think of Wickham, or Willoughby in Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility, there’s a good old chunk of time where we think that is a believable hero love interest for our female character. With Jack, it takes all of one meeting with him before you go – no way in hell. I mean, he’s a jerk, he’s unkind, he likes taking the mickey out of people, he’s entitled…

SARA-MAE: It’s funny that you say that though because I think, having read maybe more of her books, she certainly has a certain type of hero, who could be seen as this kind of ‘bad boy’. And then gradually he changes over the book, through the love of a good woman. Is, if not reformed… because Heyer has a lot of time and affection for these bad boy characters. So, there’s characteristics that aren’t as charming as the other rakes.

JOJO: Maybe if I’d read other Heyer books beforehand, I might have had more of a sense of – oh, what’s his journey of redemption going to be? But as it was, I went – he’s a jerk, nah, yeah, no thanks. But I guess that leaves space for your head to go – right, so who is a love interest? Is it going to be Camille the Chevalier d’Evron? Is it going to be somebody else that we haven’t met yet? Who is going to come in and whisk Kitty up and transform her life, which is, of course what we’re yearning for when we’re reading this book.

SARA-MAE: What I loved in the book was Freddy’s journey, because he starts off, as we said, as this complete fribble that you sort of write off, you know, he’s very sort of self aware in the sense that he’s always talking about how he’s not the bright one and whatever. But through the course of the book, through all the scrapes that Kitty pulls him into, he comes up with these very ingenious and practical ways of subverting the problems that face them, and overcoming the obstacles, which is really lovely to see, particularly when you see him in exchanges with Jack, who is the sexy one, who is the one that all the women want, and who’s convinced that he’s got Kitty in the bag.

And, as you say, it’s surprising that Heyer allows us to see him thinking that because it is so off putting. Like there’s a moment where he  says he prefers the idea of her staying in that village like a sleeping beauty.

JOJO: That’s it.

SARA-MAE:  Which is so awful when you think about it.

JOJO: Yes, he wants the little woman at home. He sets up mistresses around town. He pays for women to have a very nice life and not be his wife but be there at his beck and call.

SARA-MAE: This reminds me of our British Podcast Award winning season 1: The Sugar Baby Confessionals. If you’re over 18 do give that a listen. It’s all about modern-day mistresses and it’s much naughtier than this one, so approach with caution…

JOJO: And he would like his virtuous, plain dressing, meek, mild Kitty sat at home waiting for him. And that is probably the life he would have given her. If he’d shown up that day to Uncle Matthew’s summons, that’s the life she would have had, she wouldn’t have been allowed to go anywhere. She would have been left there locked up in Arnside as the ‘sleeping beauty’.

SARA-MAE: Of course, he still thinks as soon as soon as Kitty and Freddy are going around town and Freddy’s doing his duty by Kitty… he really takes it seriously, which is very sweet… You gradually realise that he’s got this gentility of character where he goes to great shifts to protect Kitty from lots of different types of knowledge, like the knowledge of certain things that would hurt her. She befriends this lovely young woman just randomly…

[SOUND OF BAZAAR]

JOJO: She sees Olivia, a very pretty young, blonde lady at the bazaar where she’s encouraged Meg to come because Meg goes and shops at all the most exclusive boutiques, but Kitty gets a shock as soon as the price of the first dress is revealed and says we must try somewhere cheaper. So off they go. Olivia is at the bazaar with her again, horrible mother. There’s a few of those.

SARA-MAE: She’s very vulgar, isn’t she?

JOJO: Very vulgar. She’s trying to get her pretty daughter married off, or indeed not married off, to the wealthiest suitor, to the highest offer. And you get the sense that this is… it’s quite shocking, actually. That she would quite gladly pimp her daughter out. If someone offers lots of money for Olivia to be a mistress, she’ll take the highest bidder. And that’s pretty grim.

Kitty has a very sweet, kind heart and she wants to help people. She spots Olivia being browbeaten and bullied by her mother. She casually befriends her, to Meg’s horror because these people are significantly below the social standing.  But of course, it’s a bit too late now, Kitty’s made friends with Olivia.

Olivia shows up at the house a few days later, although without the mother who had the good sense to know she wouldn’t be welcome and, so develops a friendship and Olivia is one of the people that Kitty wants to help, [she] wants to help get her out of the situation she’s in and solve the problem.

SARA-MAE: Yes, it reminds me a little bit of Emma, you know, in the relationship between Emma and… what’s the name of the lady?

JOJO: Oh, the sweet little red head that falls in love with the reverend briefly.

SARA-MAE: Harriet Smith is the name of the character we’re racking our brains to remember.

She just wants to help this young woman. She just seems so sweet… and she is sweet. But it turns out later that it causes a lot more problems than she thinks because she is, in fact, the target of several men about town, including Jack, you gather later on, who have their eye on her as their next mistress because she’s so pretty. And you also find out that, in fact, her mother may have been a ‘prime article’ as they’re described, in her youth in Covent Garden, which is why she doesn’t mind the idea of…

JOJO: Having a daughter set up in the same way. So, Olivia, she’s the object of affection of a creepy old Lord, who’s going to theoretically offer for her and then indeed does offer for her – Sir Henry Gosford.  At some point they meet Sir Henry Gosford out in the gardens. Olivia and Kitty are taking a walk and Olivia is talking about how difficult it is and how her mother wants her to get married off. And then Henry Gosford shows up and they have this horrible creepy walk where they can’t avoid him.

SARA-MAE: I like the fact that when he’s talking about how he’s completely disconcerted, he says – ‘Ah, Amaryllis and her attendant nymph!’

JOJO: And Kitty, who knows all the quotes in the world can correct him on his use of that piece of literature.

SARA-MAE: And that is what draws his attention to her. Only to find this very clear-gazed young woman, not one of the vulgar people that Olivia is normally with, who would sort of ‘wink wink’, let him walk alone with Olivia. Instead, he’s got Kitty clinging like a burr to Olivia to protect her from having to spend time with him, because he kind of foists himself on them and tells him he will give them his company. And I just like the way… there was a moment where he thought – could she tell that he was wearing corsets?

JOJO: That’s right, yes, he’s suddenly like somebody is seeing the rot beneath the surface. The corsets and the powder on the face and actually the old, ugly person that he is inside.

Kitty is the queen of ill-conceived plans, but she has spirit. Actually, when it comes to it, she won’t stand for certain things. Even though she gets in a muddle and flustered and makes mistakes. There’s no way in hell she’s leaving Olivia alone with this creep. And that is something that I came to really admire about her. For all that she’s been brought up without access to society and a really clear idea of how she could be in the world, she’s got a strong moral compass inside that means she’s not going to marry someone just for the money and she’s not going to leave her friend to the wolves in that way. And that’s really cool.

SARA-MAE: It is lovely because, not only does she have innocent good intentions, she’s not a snob. There’s several moments where she befriends people that she really, really shouldn’t. In fact, she’s advised against when she helps Lord Dolphinton with his little love affair, which we discover later on.  He’s fallen in love with a very, very plebeian woman who is just very nice, very practical, who would suit Dolph down to the ground. And she doesn’t stoop to visiting her and helping them, offering her assistance, even though she doesn’t think it through enough. And Freddy has to help her and often extricate her from these situations.

JOJO: Absolutely. She hasn’t been enough in the world to have learned that society has a hierarchy and that she has a place in it, which she should respect. Which is why at the beginning, she’s like, ‘well, I could be a housekeeper, I could be a chambermaid’. She doesn’t see any shame in that work and she doesn’t see any shame in Olivia, you know although she’s not of a family or born and bred in the same way. She does start to realise the differences and… what is right and what is not right.

So, for example, Hannah, who is the love interest of Dolph and as you just explained, is quite a practical, not a beautiful lady. She’s quite a simple person. She’s smart, she’s set and she is not romantic. She cares for Dolph and she can see a very happy life for them. She feels like she’ll look after him. So, she is someone from a different social class who is portrayed as a totally good, honest, kind, sensible person.

And then you’ve got all of the family surrounding Olivia.

SARA-MAE: What are they called? The Scrotons? The Scortons. [Laughs]

JOJO: Yeah, the Scortons. I’m pretty sure I read it as Scrotons all the way through!  The Scortons.

SARA-MAE: The thing that was lovely was Kitty learning that there’s society’s rules and whatever. But also, it’s not like they’re saying you should be a snob or something. Because in actual fact, if not for her interventions… yes, she does need to be extricated and helped out of them because of her lack of street smarts or worldliness. If not for her taking these steps, there would have been really bad outcomes for all of the people – Olivia, Dolph – it’s really a combination of her good intentions, innocent and ill-conceived as they are, and Freddy’s practicality in helping her to navigate the world that they find themselves in. He has a lot of street smarts as well. Like he has a lot of knowledge about how society works. So, you gradually realise he’s not just this really kind of… unthinking person. He’s very knowledgeable about what will make her life easier, what won’t… and I think that’s quite a nice combination. She often apologises for getting herself into these scrapes because she didn’t listen to certain advice she was given…

JOJO: Yes, I know exactly what you mean. And it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because we were talking about Emma just a second ago and all of Emma’s attempts at matchmaking are slightly disastrous. And they don’t end up the way they were supposed to. Whereas actually, you’re right. The things that Kitty does, even though she goes about them in a thoughtless way, have positive impacts for the people that we want to see positive impacts on.

And I suppose I don’t know how much of this is in the text or how much it’s something that I want for myself and something that therefore I’m interpreting – Freddy, he comes to see a lot of value in Kitty’s just raw heart and the fact that she wants to help people. So even though he’s practical, and he does see the social separation, and what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in inverted commas, and to do things that maybe wouldn’t be considered proper by society – I hope that he comes away with a sense of, well, there’s some goodness in what she’s doing, even if she’s doing it in a crazy way and I think that’s why they make such an interesting pair.

SARA-MAE: I love how we’re talking about them as though they’re real people. For me, that’s a true sign of a book coming to life.

SARA-MAE: No, completely. If she hadn’t come into his life, he would have gone on living this very facile… he described himself as not being ‘in the petticoat line’. She really makes him change, she makes him reach into himself and discover these depths which constantly amaze his father. I mean, you see the father throughout, popping up… and every time he encounters Freddy, you know Freddy’s got some new problem – but ‘don’t worry, Dad’, you know, kind of thing. He’s going to solve them.

JOJO: ‘Bound to think of something’.

SARA-MAE: Yeah. And it’s really funny because his dad is actually more like one of the heroes in the rest of her books… this kind, but quite sardonic, very clever person. And you can tell that he’s never really anticipated his oldest son having these depths and that’s quite sweet to see their relationship changing as well.

JOJO: It’s lovely. We’ve maybe written Freddy off at the beginning and that’s what his dad has done as well. And, he’s done. And,  as everyone stops writing Freddy off or starts to notice that he’s got more depth, so do we, as the reader start to feel that.

SARA-MAE: We do have the Chevalier come into the scene and actually where we left her and Olivia, she’s met the Chevalier a few times. He’s very urbane, he’s very suave. He’s got this allure of the French aristocrat.

JOJO: So, the Chevalier is in attendance to a wealthy widow, who is again, you know, caricatured.

SARA-MAE: The picture that they paint of her is not very appealing.

JOJO: No, and we first see them at the opera and she comes in and she’s with an attendant sister who’s scrawny and tall, so you’ve sort of got a dumpy one and a big skinny one come in, and it’s not a charming picture.  And there is Camille in attendance and of course, the supposition of the society [at large] is that he is courting her in order to secure a fortune. It is Jack who reintroduces the Chevalier to Kitty. And she’s very thankful to him for that and she thinks he’s doing it out of some sense of real care for her and, you know, bringing her this family connection, but actually Jack just likes throwing the cat among the pigeons. He knows the Chevalier is a gambler.

SARA-MAE: He’s a bit of a pretender. His aristocratic…

JOJO: It’s all a bit vague, you know, who is the family? Where are the blue bloods? Are they there at all? And indeed, at Freddy’s request, Freddy’s father goes off to see if he can find out what the provenance is. What’s the story? Who is this family?

But Jack actually, what he’s doing is, he wants to see what happens. He’s enjoying watching Kitty in this world. Jack knows right from the beginning that the betrothal between Kitty and Freddy is fake. He just knows because he is so confident in Kitty’s adoration of him. So, he likes seeing what chaos he can cause, he enjoys the teasing. He enjoys setting people up to fail.

SARA-MAE: And perhaps he thinks she might fall in love with the Chevalier and that will punish Freddy. The fact that Freddy is even attempting to pull the wool over his eyes – Jack’s eyes – when Jack is so much his superior in every way. And it’s nice seeing Freddy get little moments of one-upmanship on him because I mean, Freddy is so unconcerned with being one up, he genuinely doesn’t care. He knows Jack is trying to tweak him. No, that’s the lovely quality that he has. He really doesn’t give a damn about being seen as ‘better than’ or whatever. He just wants to get on with his life…

JOJO: Yeah, in the nicest clothes possible.

SARA-MAE: Exactly.

JOJO: To look as good as he can.

SARA-MAE: And help Kitty. He sees it as his responsibility to steer her through the shoals of high society. So that’s one thing that Jack’s done to cause a rift. But it doesn’t really cause a rift because she’s so innocent. Although yeah, there is a chance… I was thinking maybe the Chevalier will be the one because he’s a very charming, handsome young man. He’s got a sense of fun about him…

JOJO: He also seems kind. He seems to know himself quite well. You definitely feel warm towards him straightaway.

SARA-MAE: Yeah. And then he comes to her and Olivia’s rescue in the park.

JOJO: That’s it. So, they’re walking with the creepy old Lord, who Kitty has steadfastly refused to abandon Olivia to, and then who should sweep in, but the Chevalier d’Evron. So, he sees the appeal in Kitty’s eyes, she’s staring at him – help! And they very swiftly between them contrive to dismiss Henry Gosford, which is absolutely delightful. He has no choice but to leave. And of course, what happens in the moment between Kitty introducing Olivia and Camille is a coup de foudre.

SARA-MAE: Dang girl!  I’m loving this French Jojo keeps coming out with…

JOJO:  It’s love at first sight for both of them. There’s nothing subtle about that, Heyer tells you that’s what’s happened. Of course, as soon as that happens… one thinks, well, probably these two are meant to be together. Although, of course, there’s always the possibility, isn’t there? That that will be Emma-like…

SARA-MAE: A red herring.

JOJO: Exactly.

SARA-MAE: Of course, Kitty is really chuffed. It’s her first attempt to match-make and she wishes them both well.

JOJO: Yes, although she realises fairly swiftly that this has its attendant problems, because actually are they equally matched? Will the Chevalier’s family accept Olivia?

SARA-MAE: Because she’s not really abjectly born, Olivia, because she’s got a father who was a Lord. But as Freddy later explains to Kitty – because Kitty can’t understand why she shouldn’t make a good match… And of course, it never enters her mind about the mistress thing until later, until the Chevalier basically blurts out to her that there are other men, including Jack, who’ve been setting out to set her up. And this is deeply shocking to her. But of course, she pretends that she’s worldly enough to know that already. And of course, Freddy has been protecting her from that knowledge all along. Freddy knows very well that Jack is very annoyed with Freddy for allowing her to befriend Olivia. And Freddy’s like – ‘listen, it was an accident. I wouldn’t do that’. And I think Jack knows that he’s got no machinations in him.

So, it’s a very complex imbroglio. On the one hand, you’ve got Chevalier and Olivia in love.

This is where we find ourselves in the book, Kitty’s been quite pleased with the results of her campaign to punish Jack, but also hopefully win him.

JOJO: Yes, which Jack has a mix of amusement and, actually, his back’s starting to get up about it, especially because Kitty is not shy to compliment Freddy and the compliments that she gives are real. They’re things that she genuinely believes. She believes him to be a good person and a kind person, the ‘best dancer in London’. So, she refuses to stand up with Jack at a dance and then she goes and dances it… ‘the only person I’m comfortable dancing a quadrille with is Freddy’. She’s also doing that because those are things she really feels about Freddy. And that’s really lovely. And of course, it bothers Jack because he knows the things she says to be at their heart, true. He probably deep down knows that Freddy is a good person and he is not, I assume.

SARA-MAE: Hmm. I mean, not that that kind of puts any dent into his confidence. I mean, unbeknownst to Kitty. I mean, in her innocent mind, she’s quite happy with the fact that she seems to be able to hold her distance from him and draw a line between the young girl who was just adoring and everything and this young woman who’s getting a bit of town bronze. We’ve got Chevalier and Olivia, of course… once Jack learns of that he warns the Chevalier off behind the scenes.

JOJO: Yes, in no uncertain terms, because Jack has been making a real play to set up what is – again a bit of vocab that I didn’t know in this context – the ‘carte blanche’. Which is the relationship between a wealthy man and a mistress, whereby he would set her up with a home and everything that she needed to just be there at his beck and call, until such time as he tires of her.

So, he’s had his eye on Olivia and she’s a real prize because she’s very beautiful and charming and demure.

SARA-MAE: And innocent.

JOJO: I’m not sure she’s as innocent as Kitty is. Jack is absolutely not going to have this upstart Frenchman come in and pinch his conquest that he’s just on the brink of making so he really in no uncertain terms, sees him off the property.

It turns out that Jack has a piece of knowledge, which is that the Chevalier ain’t no Chevalier. He’s just Camille from the outskirts of Paris. It’s not a high-born family. He’s made up this provenance in order to make his way and find his fortune in London.

And Jack says – ‘look, if you don’t want to be uncovered for who you are, you’d better just give Olivia a wide berth’. And so the Chevalier does indeed after that warning, leave Olivia alone, stop dropping in at her home with the Scortons slash Scrotons and goes back to paying his compliments to the wealthy widow.

SARA-MAE: We sort of glean this from Kitty’s interactions with Olivia and Olivia saying to her, have I done something to annoy him? And this is when everything is coming to the boil. Kitty has, by now, met Hannah Plymstock, Dolph’s beloved. She’s agreed to help them to appease Dolph’s mother. She’s been going out on drives and walks with him. And obviously, actually, they’ve been going to Hannah’s house, so she’s allowing them to carry on their romance.

JOJO: Which, it must be said, is one of the few things that really piques Freddy. Even though the engagement between Freddy and Kitty is not official, of course, lots of people know that it’s unofficial. And they say, ‘why, dash it all! What’s Kitty doing going around with Dolph all the time, does she mean to actually marry him instead?’ Because he is an Earl.

SARA-MAE: ‘Tip him the doubler!’

JOJO: Exactly. That’s the only thing really that piques Freddy because he doesn’t like being made a fool of.

SARA-MAE: Eventually he follows her. He’s like – ‘typical of Dolph to take her to this really bad part of town for his dalliances’ and ‘Kitty, what are you trying to do?’

It’s very sweet the way she’s very grateful to him, and she’s like, ‘I am a wretch for putting you in this position’. But this is the story. So, she unburdens herself. All the way through it’s very sweet the way she feels very comfortable in telling Freddy… He always hears her out, listens to her, gives her advice, and does his best to help her which is quite nice, because in a lot of these books, often there’ll be like, but for someone merely just having a conversation with someone, things could be resolved quite easily. And in this case, she actually does unburden herself all the time. They have a very comfortable rapport. I love the scene when they go to see the sights of London and obviously, Freddy is completely appalled. It’s like really infra dig to go to all these…Westminster…

JOJO: The British museum. Yeah, he hates it – to see the Elgin Marbles. Oh God!

SARA-MAE: He thinks it’s a huge cheat on the public because they’re missing arms and legs.

AIDEN: Heads missing… why would you want to look at that?

SARA-MAE: She has to stop him from going to give them a piece of his mind that people are wasting their money going to see this.

AIDEN: And the guide book said that St Paul’s wasn’t worth looking inside. It’s only the outside. I mean, this is a marvel of Baroque architecture. I mean, this is incredible, but no, the guidebook says it’s not worth it. So, we just looked at the outside. Just dismissed it. [Laughs]

SARA-MAE: He’s looking for any excuse, you know, to get out of it.

AIDEN: Exactly, he likes the writer of the guide book more and more. [Laughs] That made me laugh as well, because he had nothing good to say about anything, so they could move on to the next thing and not waste Freddy’s time. So, he was becoming more and more enamoured of the guide book writer.

SARA-MAE: He almost gets sidetracked when talking to his father later because he’s feel so incensed about it.

JOJO: He wants his father to do something about the fact that people are being tricked into going to see the Elgin Marbles. It’s quite delightful.

SARA-MAE: So, he is always fully aware of what’s going on with her various little things that she’s trying to sort out.

JOJO: Yes, it’s true. She never tries to hide anything from Freddy. It’s quite refreshing as a reader, because so often it’s the case where, as you just said, but for one conversation, things don’t have to be this bad. And she always does unburden herself to him – and you’re like, oh, thank goodness, right. And we quickly come to rely on him to solve the little problems. She doesn’t have the artistry to quite do it. And he comes in and he says – ‘well, bound to think of something’ – and indeed, he thinks of something and it’s such a relief when Freddy shows up.

SARA-MAE: It is, isn’t it? And we have a particularly strong sense of the tide changing in terms of her emotions towards him when she goes to dinner at the Scrotons. And she already knows even at the dinner, that she shouldn’t have really come to their house. Because they’re very vulgar, and they kind of – not forced her – but out of politeness, she’s sort of forced to go with them to this masquerade.

JOJO: She gets tricked essentially, I think, and it’s not malicious on their part, but it’s very thoughtless. And this is what I was going to say before about, you know, Heyer, not necessarily painting classist pictures. Because you’ve got Hannah, who’s this plain, simple person, not from the upper classes. And then you’ve got the Scorton/Scrotons, who are probably a similar, maybe even slightly higher, but who live in – and I thought that whole scene, the scene, first at the dinner party and where they’re playing lottery tickets, and then they go to the masquerade, was really elegantly drawn.

I found it very uncomfortable, because she quite artfully paints a picture of debauchery, and lack of propriety that really Kitty shouldn’t be anywhere near that, she’s not worldly enough. She didn’t make a conscious choice to be there. Interestingly, at this masquerade ball, she spies Meg, also in a mask, but in this lilac gown everybody disapproves of. She recognises the gown.

And so it’s really interesting that interplay between the social level and propriety and just what you’re into, and actually Meg likes a bit of a ruckus, she likes a bit of a party and she’s feeling constrained by her pregnancy and her marriage. And she goes out, of course, she’s escorted by Jack who has no qualms about taking a proper lady into such company. But it’s a really smart picture of how money or no money, you can choose how to behave and how to treat people. And it’s very, very overwhelming for Kitty. And she’s desperate to get out of there and she feels the impropriety of it deep in her bones. She’s learned so much from her time in London that she knows immediately – I shouldn’t be here, but what do I do?  And that sense of pressure and discomfort, I think is transmitted to the reader really, really well.

SARA-MAE: It is, yeah, because it just gets wilder and wilder and it’s a moment where you really realise that Jack has no qualms, as you say. Jack takes great pleasure in seeing Kitty’s discomfort, and he makes it worse by egging her and Meg on. Because obviously, when Kitty sees Meg and she sort of tells her off, and I mean, fair enough for Meg to be like….

JOJO: Who the heck are you to tell me where I should be?

SARA-MAE: Exactly. And Meg then swans off with Jack leaving Kitty to these wolves. Kitty has seen and conversed with the Chevalier. So I think Kitty sort of thought he might help to extricate her but it turns out that he’s more concerned with his own problems.

JOJO: So this is the big moment where Olivia had written to the Chevalier saying – where have you been? Come with us to the to the party tonight. And so, he of course, had followed the tug of his heartstrings, despite Jack’s warning to stay away from Olivia and had come to the party. And then upon seeing his beloved, had unburdened himself to her and said – look, you need to know I’m not who I say I am.  I’m not an aristo. And he unburdens himself out of pure love for her, and then he sees Kitty and he unburdens himself to Kitty – this has just happened. At which point Kitty realises what she’s done by introducing these two so thoughtlessly, and she realises that she goes about things a little bit half-cocked, and – oh gosh, Freddy was right. You know, I’ve been playing with fire.

SARA-MAE: What’s fascinating is this idea of nobility because actually, there’s a contrast that becomes very clear to Kitty in this moment. She doesn’t see it as noble for him to tell Olivia. She actually says, you know, if you’d just not gone and seen her she would have gotten over you. But the fact is that now you’ve made yourself into this romantic tragedy. You know, you didn’t have to do that, it would have been a stronger move [not to]. It would have been what Freddy would have done. He would have protected her at his own expense. And that’s not what the Chevalier has chosen. He followed the tug of his heartstrings, as you said, because it made him feel better to unburden himself, and to Kitty, which he really shouldn’t be doing. Because not only does he tell her the exact circumstances of why he and Olivia can’t get together, he also inadvertently tells her about Jack being this kind of thing. And it’s a horrible moment for Kitty because she was still holding out hope….

JOJO: That she loves him in some way.

SARA-MAE: And when she hears there have been these men luring and he’s one of them, it breaks her heart a little bit. And she has to pretend that obviously she knew. And the fact that she has to go back to this horrible group of people who are getting louder and louder, and I actually thought something bad would happen to her then.

JOJO: Yes, I was expecting something really bad from the party because the sense of peril is built up so well. I thought soon there’s going to be a real disaster here. And of course, what happens? Freddy swoops in.

He went to pick her up from the dinner party she was supposed to be at, thinking it’s not right the coachman was sent away. So he asks her coach driver – where’s Kitty? What time are you picking her up?  He says, I’m not picking her up, the Scrotons are bringing her home. That’s not on? I’ll go and pick her up. Finds out they’re not there, finds out they’re at the ball. Immediately goes. And what’s so lovely is he doesn’t tell her off.

SARA-MAE: No, he never tells her off.

JOJO: He doesn’t patronise her. He doesn’t condescend to her. He doesn’t tell she’s a silly little thing. He whisks her out of there. And then they have a conversation about it. And she’s the one who says, I knew as soon as I got there that it was wrong, and I didn’t want to be there. And I’m so thankful for you. And he never rubs that in her face, he’s not patronising at all and it’s really nice.

SARA-MAE: It leads to one of the cutest little discussions that she has with Meg because they make up when they get home. Because she sort of saves Meg’s bacon a bit in front of Freddy, because if Freddy had known Meg had been there…..

JOJO: He would have been really horrified.

SARA-MAE: Yes, so she kind of pretends that Meg has been waiting up for her, which clearly she wasn’t.

JOJO: Kitty covers Meg’s back and Meg who’s all ready to be furious with Kitty for ticking her off at the masquerade ball is so thankful to have been saved the embarrassment in front of her brother, that all is forgiven immediately.

SARA-MAE: And they fall into a little discussion. And you hear Kitty really going into raptures about Freddy, to Meg’s real astonishment which is quite funny because she really struggles to think of her brother in that way. But it’s a very sweet exchange in the moment, which is like – in romance, I always thought I wanted to like a romantic hero to sweep in on a horse.

JOJO: Lord Galahad, yes.

SARA-MAE: But, of course, if you think about it in real life, that wouldn’t be very useful it’d probably be quite uncomfortable.

JOJO: Yes, one  never actually needs anyone to slay a dragon at a ball. It’s great. She channels Fish, talks about the romantic heroes and comes to that realisation that, that’s not what a hero looks like. And actually to her, Freddy really is a hero. Meg is sort of blinking away at this like – good Lord, never thought of Freddy in that way. But it’s really charming. And again, it’s part of Kitty’s growing up, that realisation that the dashing gallant is not actually necessarily going to bring you what you need in your life.

SARA-MAE: Whereas having someone who always is there for you, who appears at just the right moment, because he’s thought about you, and he’s taken measures to, at every turn, to make her life more comfortable. He is just as shocked whenever Kitty pays him a compliment, you know, she keeps going – oh, you’re so clever. You always know what to do. And he’s like – oh, you must be thinking of someone else.

JOJO: Yeah, right. Right. You see him have these moments of – what is she talking about? But you’ve sensed that he grows in confidence through that. And he does start to believe in himself even more through that. It’s really smart how they balance each other out in that way.

SARA-MAE: So this all precipitates several events that could end in disaster. We have the Chevalier and Olivia who feel that they might as well just take their own lives because they neither of them can possibly have any affection for anyone else. We’ve got Hannah and Dolph. Kitty finds out that Dolph’s mother is holding the ultimate threat over his head. And this is pretty dark, where she’s threatening him with a doctor who she’s got under her thumb to say that he’s not mentally equipped…..

JOJO: To have him committed to it to a mental institution. It’s very dark.

SARA-MAE: And obviously then she’d be able to control his wealth what there is of it.

JOJO: There’s not much of it. Dolph’s mother doesn’t want him to do anything unless it’s her bidding. And of course, Dolph is terrified.

SARA-MAE: But that’s why Hannah is such a good match for him. She just makes him feel comfortable. Their plan is that they …..

JOJO: If they can just get married. Hannah is convinced she’ll be able to square things off with the old lady as she calls Dolph’s mother. Even though Hannah has said, I’m not in love with him. I don’t think anyone could be in love with him, but I believe we should do very well together. And you can see that that’s true. She’s kind and gentle with him. She’s sort of unromantic in the way that maybe Charlotte is and Pride and Prejudice.

SARA-MAE: So Kitty’s faced with this problem. How are they going to get them married? And of course, they don’t want to do like an eloping to Gretna Green.

JOJO: Dolph would lose his mind on the way up to Gretna Green.

SARA-MAE: Kitty says – Look, we’ll pretend that we’re going to elope together. And that way your mother will be perfectly happy to just let it happen because she’s got her spies.

JOJO: It’s important to say at this juncture that Freddy has had to dash off to Oxford, to dig his little brother out of a scrape. So, Freddy is not around. For some reason, it’s crunch time for Hannah and Dolph. And Kitty says – I know what we’ll do. We’ll get you down to cousin Hugh, who you remember is a pastor, is a reverend, and he’ll marry you. And once you’re married, all will be fine because there’s nothing that she can do. That’s her plan.

She wants Freddy to know but he’s not there. So, she writes him a long letter explaining in great detail everything that’s about to happen. Eventually the three of them, Hannah, Kitty and Dolph get into the carriage and off they go to Hugh’s. So it’s all going well, the elopement’s going to happen, Hugh will marry them as soon as they arrive, everything will be fine. That’s the plan.

SARA-MAE: And you do get this sense that she sort of feels like…..

JOJO: She’s resigning herself to you know, Jack’s not the one for me. My fun’s coming to an end. Let me do this one good thing before I basically have to release Freddy from this engagement.

She’s noticing that it’s not doing Freddy any good socially, because people are tittling about the fact that she’s been going around with Dolph. She feels like she’s making life difficult for Freddy and she doesn’t want to do that anymore.

My sense at that juncture is that she cares for him, but she doesn’t have any self awareness around that being romantic. I think she just feels like – he’s been so good to me. He’s been such a stand up friend. I need to release him from this engagement because it’s not fair.

SARA-MAE: But of course, then Freddy comes back into town.

JOJO: Meg talks at him for half an hour about how weird it was that Kitty was here and that lady, Hannah whats her name was here. I don’t know what was going on. And she tittles and tittles and tittles and Freddy’s about to go off and see if he can find out and Meg says – oh, by the way, Kitty left you a letter. So dash it all, Meg, you’ve been prattling away this half an hour, just give me the damn letter, just like you. Anyway, she gives him the letter and he sits and reads it. And he reads it with great concentration. And then he leaves.

SARA-MAE: He goes to meet with the Chevalier who’s desperately distraught.

Jojo brings up a great point about all our couples, romantic Olivia and Camille, practical Hannah and Dolph, with Kitty and Freddy trying to steer them through all their problems.

JOJO: If you think about it in the context of a cotillion, in fact, a dance between couples, it would be a right mess of a dance. Because you’ve got some people that know the steps and some people that just want to freestyle all over the place. So, I find that very funny.

SARA-MAE: We’ve had the contrast between Freddy and Jack and then we’ve had the contrast now between Chevalier and Freddy who is very, very practical. He’s like – I’m going to sort you out now, this is one other loose thread.

JOJO: What’s the solution? Well, obviously you two if you’re that in love with each other, you ought to elope.

SARA-MAE: And Chevalier has just got all this highfalutin kind of language of heartbreak. Oh, but I could not do that to my angel. And then Freddy is like, well, what’s the alternative? If you don’t rescue her, she’s going to become someone’s mistress. Tout de suite. And that’s a far worse life than living with you who she adores.

JOJO: Dash it all, it’ll be fine! And it’s great because he, you know, he lifts the Chevalier from the depths of despair to sudden hope and animation. But in the midst of all this desperate gratitude and excitement and romance, Freddy just wants to dispatch Olivia and Camille off to France as quickly and efficiently as humanly possible. He’s like, right, if you’re going to do it, we’re going to do it. We’re going to get you the heck out of here.

SARA-MAE: Here’s an extract from the audio book of Cotillion, courtesy of Naxos and read delightfully by Claire Wille…..

‘Came to tell you Miss Broughty’s in the devil of a fix’. The Chevalier had walked over to the window, but he turned swiftly at this. ‘You would say that Miss Broughty is in trouble?’ ‘That’s it,’ nodded Freddy. ‘Run away from Hans Crescent. Not the thing, but can’t blame her. Never saw such a set of rum touches in my life as those relations of hers!’ ‘For the love of God – –!’ cried the Chevalier impatiently. ‘What has happened to her? Where is she?’ ‘Left her with m’sister,’ Freddy replied. ‘She came to ask Kit to help her.’ ‘Ah, she has a heart of gold this Kitty, and she will do so!’ the Chevalier exclaimed, his brow lightening a little. ‘Daresay she might, but she ain’t there,’ said Freddy stolidly. ‘Not there! Where then is she?’ ‘Gone down to my great-uncle’s. Poor girl’s at a standstill: don’t know what to do! Seemed to me I’d best come and tell you about it. Thing is, she can’t stay in Berkeley Square. First place that Broughty woman will think of, when she starts searching for her.’ ‘But tell me, I beg of you! It is not – mon dieu, it not that madame has discovered — ? It is not I who am the cause –?’ ‘Oh, no nothing of that nature! You know Sir Henry Gosford? Offered for her.’ ‘She will not consent to marry that ancient!’ the Chevalier said contemptuously. ‘No, very likely not. Seems to me she’ll accept a carte blanche from my cousin Jack,’ said Freddy brutally. ‘No! no!’ ejaculated the Chevalier turning pale. ‘You shall not say such a thing! ‘Have said it. Very understandable thing to do. Frightened of her mother: won’t return to her. You go off to France: nothing else she can do! Must know Jack would treat her devilish handsomely: at least, he would while she was living under his protection. Trouble is, these little affairs don’t commonly last long. Mind, I don’t say Jack would turn her off without a shilling, because he wouldn’t. Shabby thing to do, and he ain’t shabby. But –’. ‘Stop! Stop!’ said the Chevalier hoarsely. He cast himself into a chair by the table, and buried his face in his hands. ‘Every word you speak is torture! Ah, why did I cross her path? I have brought misery upon her!’ ‘Don’t see that at all,’ objected Freddy. ‘Dashed good thing you did cross her path! Able to rescue her.’ The Chevalier raised his head, and flung out his hands. ‘But can you not understand that I am without power? Never would that woman permit me to marry Olivia! Ah, do you imagine that I do not care, that I do not desire with all my heart to call her my own, to take her to France, far, far from such as her mother–that Gosford–that roué, your cousin?’ ‘Well, why the devil don’t you do it?’ demanded Freddy. The Chevalier’s hands dropped. He sat staring at Freddy, as though thunderstruck. ‘Do it?’ he repeated. ‘An elopement,’ said Freddy helpfully. ‘Carry her off to France before her mother finds her.’ The Chevalier’s eyes flashed ‘But–It would be an infamy! I tell you, I have for that angel a respect, an adoration beyond your comprehension! To steal her in that manner–I, a gamester, an adventurer! –is a villainy too great!’ ‘Shouldn’t call it a villainy myself,’ said Freddy. ‘It ain’t the thing, of course: not saying it is. Mind, if you didn’t mean to marry her, it wouldn’t do at all!’ ‘If it were possible, I would marry her at this instant!’ the Chevalier said impetuously. ‘Well, it ain’t possible. Marry her when you get to France.’ The Chevalier began to pace about the room. ‘I would take her to my mother. She is not such a one as Madame Broughty, rest assured!’ ‘Very good notion,’ approved Freddy. The Chevalier drew a deep breath, and flung open his arms. Freddy’s eyes started from his head with horror, for it seemed, for one hideous moment, as though the Chevalier had every intention of embracing him. However, the excitable Frenchman contented himself with seizing both his hands, and exclaiming in a voice of profound emotion: ‘My benefactor!’

JOJO: What’s funny is that even though he wants to do it as quickly as possible, Meg packs a bag for Olivia and then she comes to the house looking for Kitty because she doesn’t know what to do, because she’s meant to marry. Her mother’s putting a real threat on her head that if she doesn’t say yes to Sir Henry, she’s going to be cast to the wolves. She finds Meg and Freddy at home. Freddy’s like right….

SARA-MAE: Just stay here. There was a line like, some people might not have had confidence in Freddy’s abilities to sort the problem out. But she did not number amongst them.

JOJO: Absolutely, absolutely. So Freddy goes, gets the Chevalier, says right you’re going to meet us here you’re going to jump in the coach. It’s all going to happen.

Dash back, tells Meg – go and pack her bag. Just give her some of your clothes. He gets Olivia in the coach. They’re on the way and then he’s like, hang on a minute, Meg packed the bag.  What’s in the bag love? And there’s like a shawl and a dress. And he’s like – is there a toothbrush in there? No, there’s no toothbrush. And despite everything, despite his hurry, he stops the coach and goes and buys a toothbrush and a comb for Olivia. Because the poor girl needs a toothbrush and a comb. And I just think that was such an adorable thing to do.

So, let’s jump back to the arrival of Kitty, Dolph and Hannah at Hugh’s. Now you remember the plan is, they arrive at Hugh’s and Hugh says – Oh, wonderful, I’ll get you guys married.

Of course, this is not what happens, because firstly, Hugh does not approve of the whole thing. And he makes it very clear that he doesn’t approve. And so we have a great amount of despair suddenly evinced, especially by Dolph and Kitty.

SARA-MAE: I mean, Dolph is at his wits end. He’s, you know, they’ve been driving for a long time. And he’s, as you said ….

JOJO: He’s a nervous wreck. So, when eventually they convince Hugh, he’s right, where’s the licence? Where’s the bit of paper and everyone goes, what bit of paper? Because of course, Kitty didn’t even think that they might need a special licence to get married without the banns being published. Now they’re stuck. At some point very soon, Lady Dolphinton’s going to come and she’s going to have Dolph committed to the asylum. And it’s going to be heartbreak and tragedy. And all through this process, Dolph is so on edge. Anytime there’s the slightest noise outside, he hides either under the table or in the cupboard. And this thing goes on for a while. And I actually was properly giggling away at the idea of Dolph hiding from his mother in the cupboard at his cousin, the reverend’s house. I thought it was very, very funny, very smartly done.

AIDEN: And Dolph, that’s one of the best comic scenes, that he’s absolutely petrified. He keeps hiding in the cupboard, thinking his mother’s going to arrive at any time. And he thinks he can protect her by taking her into the cupboard as well.

SARA-MAE: Well, I love that when, his cousin’s saying to him, listen, stand your ground, come on, protect her and he goes, she can go into the cupboard with me.

AIDEN: Simple.

JOJO: In the midst of this Jack shows up, there’s been a scribbled letter from the Fish, the governess, full of strange lines of poetry that Kitty couldn’t make head nor tail of…

SARA-MAE: Referencing Catherine of Aragon.

JOJO: Exactly. That was her excuse for getting the carriage and going – so we’re going to go and visit Uncle Matthew. Although, of course, what we’re actually going to do is go and get Hannah and Dolph married.

So, there’s this letter, and Jack’s got wind of it. And of course, what’s happened and I have to credit myself with really guessing this a long time before. When Fish was complaining about being left alone with Uncle Matthew when Kitty went to town, my little smart brain went – I bet they’re going to end up getting married. And of course, that’s what happened, which of course means where’s the inheritance going to go? If Fish who is actually not as old as she looks, has a baby? That’s the end of it. Cuts Jack out, cuts Kitty out.

SARA-MAE: He completely believed with all his heart …..

JOJO: That money’s for him. So he’s got wind of this betrothal and he’s in hot pursuit to see if he can’t persuade Kitty to accept his hand in marriage and then they go as two of Uncle Matthew supposed favourites and convince him to irrevocably bestow his fortune upon them. And he shows up and of course is completely unsympathetic to Dolph and Hannah.

SARA-MAE: Doesn’t give a damn. Like the nail in his coffin in terms of Kitty’s affections, isn’t it?

JOJO: Yeah, because he just shows himself an out and out cad, a rake, only interested in what he can get for himself. And he’s not even embarrassed. I feel like…

SARA-MAE: No because he thinks he can charm her and he can crook his finger.

JOJO: Exactly. And he is alarmed and distressed to find that that is not the case.

SARA-MAE: You know, every time there’s a carriage coming up, poor Dolph is like in and out of the cupboard, popping in and out like a Jack in the box.

And Hugh is, of course, very annoyed. His small house has been taken over. He doesn’t approve of any of this nonsense, and he’s exacerbating the situation because he’s got no patience. And him and Jack are rubbing up against each other, and of course who comes to the rescue?

JOJO: So Freddy’s carriage pulls up outside and what do you think dear reader, Freddy shows up with?

He actually surmised from Kitty’s garbled, very detailed, over detailed letter that – Freddy has read this letter and his brain, which is a whole lot sharper than he gives himself credit for, has gone: now she hasn’t mentioned the special licence. Can it possibly be that my dear young, harebrained Kitty didn’t know that they would need a licence to do this? So what has Freddy done? He’s gone and he’s got the licence. And it’s a lovely, satisfying little trope where he shows up says – oh, this licence – whips it out of his inside pocket. And there it is, saves the day in the most spectacular manner.

SARA-MAE: I love that, but my favourite moment comes where he actually stands up to Jack, because Jack is pouring scorn on their relationship and telling Kitty to sort of get over this, stop playing these games with him and everything. And you know Kitty’s basically like no Jack, leave it and Freddy’s overcome for the first time in his life and punches him. Upon Jack insinuating that Kitty’s done it out of some kind of deep cunning plan to get Freddy’s title and money.

AIDEN: He has his high point here, doesn’t he?

SARA-MAE: He does pretty unexpectedly even to himself. Just punches him and he’s aided in this by the fact that he trips over a table and falls down.

AIDEN: Yeah, but even then, Jack’s more worried about his apparel, more worried about that than whether he’s got a bruise or cut lip or whatever.

SARA-MAE: I think it was quite nice because Freddy admits that he wouldn’t have been able to land a punch, because Jack is this great sportsman. And Jack – this is something that shows him in a good light in that he takes it in good part and he realises that he was wrong and he obviously doesn’t want to just have a fight with Freddy for no reason.

AIDEN: Yeah, he’s too nice. He’s not the buccaneering sort of swashbuckling type, is he? He just wants a quiet life and he’s done this and that’s true bravery, isn’t it? Stepping out of your usual character and doing something like that.

SARA-MAE: And it shows how much he feels for Kitty. He would never do that in normal life.

AIDEN: And that clinches it for him with Kitty as well, doesn’t it, that she’s she sees his bravery and this big gesture that he’s made for her.

JOJO: It’s absolutely delightful. And again, it’s quite farcical. There has been referenced a couple of times previously, where Jack’s been quite rude to him, where Freddy’s really wanted to punch him in the face. In fact, I think Kitty wanted to punch in the face at some point.

SARA-MAE: Everybody wants to smack Jack.

JOJO: Yeah, everyone wants to smack Jack. But it’s this wonderful moment of surprise. Jack’s humiliated but also realising he can’t get what he wants.

SARA-MAE: It’s the one redeeming moment for Jack where he’s like, at least acknowledge that you could never have landed that punch, you know?

JOJO: Yes, if you hadn’t taken me by surprise.

SARA-MAE: And Freddy’s like, yeah, of course.

JOJO: Obviously, obviously.

SARA-MAE: And I really liked that interaction between the cousins. Jack isn’t a total dick about it. Once he realises that it’s not a game that she’s playing he does give Freddy his due doesn’t he?

JOJO: Probably there’s a little complex series of emotions going on in his head. One of which is: she’s not my slave anymore. She’s not my, my puppet anymore.

SARA-MAE: Which is good for his ego.

JOJO: And he never loved her.

SARA-MAE: Again. I could see a spin off though, where he also…..

JOJO: Is redeemed. Yeah, and I suspect that from what you’ve said, some of the characters in the other books are, you know, are Jack’s a bit further down the line?

SARA-MAE: So, what did you think of the final scene?

JOJO: The two of them in the coach.  Kitty is so thankful to Freddy and she’s also so shamefaced about the terrible hash she feels she’s made of everything, and then she finds out that he’s sent Olivia and Camille off to get married and she’s so grateful.

She says – right, now I don’t know what to do. I must release you. How are we going to make it happen? And Freddy, deeply romantic says, well dash it all, Kit, you know, there’s only one thing to do, isn’t there? Publish it in the Gazette and get married.

And she’s absolutely floored by it, you know – you can’t do that Freddy.

And then he gives this little speech. But I think he says, I love you. And I know you can’t possibly love me, but shall we?

And she says, I love you more than you could ever imagine. And I genuinely think that’s the moment she realises it. I don’t think she’s known on any….

SARA-MAE: Conscious level.

JOJO: I think it’s buried very deep. In fact, that’s why she’s able to be so genuinely complimentary of him throughout the book, because she’s not associating that with love. So, it’s such a lovely moment. And it’s over, it’s over. I was actually a bit shocked. I was like, it’s done. Oh, gosh, okay, but it was so neat.

SARA-MAE: From a writing perspective I find it very interesting and I think that in her oeuvre, she’s so good at what she does. I don’t know there’s something to be said – you can read your great literature and your postmodern works, classic works – DeLillo – and that’s a different level of enjoyment, but everybody has I think their kind of guilty pleasures.

AIDEN: Yeah, totally. It’s the same thing – it’s nice watching a good French film or whatever, but it’s always good to watch Diehard or something like that.

SARA-MAE: Speaking of movies and blockbusters, what do you think about the potential for this book to be made into a film?

AIDEN: Well, I’m not sure on artistic or literary merit and I don’t say that to do her down, but I imagine it being quite successful just because of the fact that that kind of thing is popular at the moment. Whether it’d actually be a movie or a six part BBC costume drama.  It just seems like we can’t get enough of that sort of thing. And so, it’s not the kind of thing I generally tend to watch. Downton Abbey even fell out of favour with me after one episode. I got fed up with watching people who couldn’t dress themselves and then insisted on getting dressed five times a day, it’s ridiculous. We’ve even had Jane Austen set in the world of zombies recently, haven’t we? People seem to be really into this.

SARA-MAE: Don’t talk to me about that.

AIDEN: Yeah, we won’t go down that route. It’s one of these things, art reflecting culture and this time of austerity and we’re more class conscious than we’ve ever been I think, because of the current situation. The Americans love it because it’s British and upper class and we tend to love it because we are just so class obsessed. We say we’re not but we absolutely are.

SARA-MAE: Yeah. In the very beginning, you had your reservations.

JOJO: Yes. So as I said at that first chapter, I felt oppressed by …. felt it was confusing. It wasn’t clear who was who and I thought if the whole book’s like this, I’m going to be in trouble. And once I was allowing myself to not worry about that, I really enjoyed it, it was a total page turner. And in fact, I hoped from quite early on, that she would get together with Freddy and I kind of thought that was what was going to happen. So even though it wasn’t packed with surprises, there weren’t massive twists, there weren’t massive revelations like there often are in Austen. It was just a damn good, page turning read with a very satisfying end. So of course I enjoyed it.

SARA-MAE: So can I say that you’re a convert?

JOJO: I’m definitely a convert, and I’m going to ask you which one I should read next. Hundred percent.

SARA-MAE: So happy. Thanks so much, Jojo. That was amazing. What an odyssey, I feel like we’ve really covered the book.

JOJO: We have! We’ve gone into – I hope your listeners were ready for that level of detail.

SARA-MAE: So, Aiden, it’s come to this. Have you been converted to Georgette Heyer?

AIDEN: I’ve been converted in as far as I would recommend Georgette Heyer to any of my friends that I speak to about books. I would say try, because I came into it thinking I’m really not going to, this is going to be such an onerous thing but came away thinking actually I’m glad I read that, try it. When it comes to female friends – I hope that doesn’t come across as sexist, unhesitatingly I’d say, read Georgette Heyer, especially if you like Jane Austen. If you like that sort of sort of milieu then, you know, definitely read it. Yeah, I just think it appeals more to the feminine side of people than the masculine. Even though as we’ve said, these what could have been very stereotypical male characters came out to be slightly more fleshed out than we initially imagined. I’d recommend her, but with qualifications, put it that way.

SARA-MAE: So you’re a partial convert.

AIDEN: Put me down as a partial convert. You can have a partial win on that.

SARA-MAE: Yes, I’ll take it. Thank you so much for spending the time to talk with me.

JOJO: Heyer today, Heyer tomorrow.

AIDEN: No problem. My pleasure. It’s been really good, really interesting.

SARA-MAE: So that was Cotillion, one of our longest episodes so far. Jojo and Aiden were both fantastic and I’m now forced to recline on a sofa to recover!

In episode 13, we’ll be interviewing Susanna Fullerton, president of the Australian Jane Austen Society. She’s helped organise several Georgette Heyer festivals and has written about many of our favourite authors, including Austen and Heyer. I can’t wait to chat to her.

Till next time, don’t be a bacon-brained nodcock, rate, review and subscribe.

This has been Heyer Today.

This episode was recorded, produced and edited by me Sara-Mae Tuson with production, writing and research help from Beth Keehn and Will Dale from Aurality for production support. Thanks also to Mike Scott for editing assistance. Plus, once again, this week Mike’s is the voice you heard reading our historical segment.

This week’s voice talent features audio drama heroes Sarah Golding as Georgette, Fiona Thraille as Pat, John Grayson as Frere, We Fix Space Junk’s Beth Crane and Hedley Knight as the photographer and the discombobulated Arnold Gyde, respectively.

I’ll be including information about this stellar group of actors in the show notes.

Thanks to Geraldine Elliot and Talitha Gamaroff, as well as all the other people who supported us throughout the process of making this podcast, including Suzy Buttress in particular, and the podcast community at large for invaluable support and advice. Read more about Jojo’s counselling and other work here. Joanna Josefina dot com that’s Josefina with an F. https://www.joannajosefina.com

More news and information about Aiden’s writing can be found here: aidentruss.com

The music used in this episode is from Emma Gatrill’s fantastic album Chapter 1, as well as Jerome Alexander’s amazing Message to Bears Tunes. Original music was composed especially for the podcast by myself and Tom Chadd.

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

Heyer Today is a Fable Gazers production.

HEYER TODAY EPISODE 11: A JOURNEY TOWARDS KNOWING GEORGETTE, WITH JENNIFER KLOESTER

Transcribed by Jill Livingstone

Listen to this episode here.

Also available on any good podplayer, iTunes, Spotify or Amazon Music.

SARA-MAE: Previously on Heyer Today…

[AUDIO DRAMA SEGMENT]

GEORGETTE HEYER: I want to cut it off, our association.

L.P. MOORE: Cut off? But my dear, it’s been… it’s been thirty-six years! I promised your father that I would look after you.

[INTERVIEW]

DOM PATMORE: Do not waltz.

SARA-MAE: Don’t you dare waltz!

DOM PATMORE: Don’t you dare waltz. You haven’t been presented. Don’t go waltzing.

SARA-MAE: I mean, you might as well just rip your skirt up and show everyone your ankles, you know what I’m saying?

DOM PATMORE: Yeah, exactly. You might as well, you know… calf… just show them calf, I mean.

SARA-MAE: Don’t even say that word! The c-word. [laughs]

DOM PATMORE: [laughs]

TALITHA GAMAROFF: I would much rather read one of these as a light-hearted [form of] escapism than some modern rubbish.

SARA-MAE: I’m extra excited for today’s guest, Jennifer Kloester, as she’s one of the most knowledgeable Heyerites on the planet. From the beginning, she’s been incredibly helpful and kind. I feel like her work has been intrinsic to this podcast. Not only does she write exhaustively about the Regency world, but her biography on Heyer is one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever read, packed full of insight and fascinating facts. Plus, it made me cry at the end. Yep, even though I knew what was coming. I mean – spoiler alert – she dies. Yet her description of Georgette’s passing was so touching that I got a major case of the feels. We’ve chatted a few times over the past few years and struggled a bit with getting the sound right across oceans and continents, as she’s in Australia, and I’m in London. But nevertheless, I hope you’ll enjoy hearing from Jennifer and that it inspires you to buy her book.

SARA-MAE: Hello, Jen. It’s lovely to talk to you.

JENNIFER: Well, it’s my pleasure to be here and thanks for having me.

SARA-MAE: Great. When I was researching you, I obviously read your book – that was wonderful! –  but I also read your doctoral thesis.

JENNIFER: Wow. That’s pretty impressive, I have to say. You’re one of the handful, Sara-Mae.

SARA-MAE: No but I really enjoyed it, actually. I was quite surprised to get really excited about someone’s doctoral thesis. [laughs]

JENNIFER: Yeah. One doesn’t expect someone to get excited about reading a doctoral thesis.

SARA-MAE: It was really, really well written, I think, probably far better written than a lot of doctoral theses… thesi? [laughs]

JENNIFER: Yes, theses. Indeed, no. Theses. [laughs]

SARA-MAE: You know, there’s loads of references. I felt that in your book, you did have quite a few references, but obviously not quite as many.

JENNIFER: Yeah, I would have loved to have had references to everything in Georgette Heyer’s Regency World and then in the biography, particularly the biography, but of course, commercial publishers… you know, Random House don’t want that. They really want a very free and flowing read for their general public. And so, I did the best I could. What I did do was put the archives of letters in chronological order so it would give a sense of where a lot of the quotes from the letters were coming from, because the archives don’t tend to overlap all that much. But yeah, it would have been thousands and thousands of references, and the book would have been twice the size.

SARA-MAE: Well, I would not have objected to it being twice the size. I love footnotes.

JENNIFER: Well, I do too. And I must say, I did actually, at the time, think when I finished writing the biography, that I did think perhaps I should have written a version with all of the references and then perhaps I could have done something with that later, but it’s a huge amount of work and it was sort of after the horse had bolted, so to speak. So, this year I’m planning to do a lot more blogs on Heyer on my website. I’m going to bring in some of the pieces that got cut from both the biography and from Regency World – two whole chapters went out of Regency World. There’s quite a lot of material there that might be interesting to Heyer fans that I can pull out and put up – because we have the interweb. Hooray! [laughs]

SARA-MAE: You being able to use the internet to do more research allowed you to find a huge collection of letters.

JENNIFER: Yeah, that was pretty amazing. That was very early on, I mean, in the early days of the internet. I actually began researching in the late 90s, but I began my thesis in 2001, and it was only in 2000 that the University of Tulsa, for example, actually catalogued their Heyer letters and put them online. So had I been looking online, say in the mid-90s, I wouldn’t have found them. So, it was rather serendipitous, actually.

SARA-MAE: Well, let’s go back to the beginning. What first brought you to Georgette Heyer?

JENNIFER: Well, we actually lived as ex-pats in some places around the world, and we spent five years living in Papua New Guinea, literally in the jungle, in a small mining town, and had a young family, and it’s fairly isolated, and so a lot of reading. They had a wonderful little, tiny weeny library – a YWCA library – and it was full of Georgette Heyer’s books, and it was really where I read my first Heyer, which I think was These Old Shades. And that really began me hunting out her novels.

SARA-MAE: So, you were in Papua New Guinea.

JENNIFER: Yeah.

SARA-MAE: And you were delving into these books that you were finding in the library? What were your first impressions?

JENNIFER: Well, I mean, she made me laugh out loud. That was always the thing that just caught me from the very beginning. You know, it’s a rare author that can do that to me, and I found it just wonderful. And she was so vivid, that sense of actually being there. It’s not just a great story but characters that you come to know, and wonderful language, and she’s just so witty. And it’s all so vivid and visceral, and I think that that’s just one of her hallmarks. I didn’t know that at the time, of course, I was just enjoying reading any of the books that I could get my hands on. Whenever we went out on R&R, I’d go to second-hand book shops or anywhere that I could find her and buy her books. So that’s what began it.

SARA-MAE: It must have seemed like a world away from the jungle.

JENNIFER: Oh, absolutely. And it was funny because years later, when I began researching her life, and then I discovered that she also had married an engineer and she’d gone off to live in East Africa, in a very remote part – not jungle, but still really, really remote – and so I could really relate to that, living in that sort of isolated environment. And so, it was quite interesting along the way, on my journey of discovery I actually discovered that she and I had quite a lot of things in common which… I suppose that probably would happen with any life, but I just found that very interesting. So, there were things that I could probably understand about her life and her reaction to things that perhaps people who hadn’t had those experiences wouldn’t have understood. So, I certainly understood that isolation.

SARA-MAE: When did you start becoming inclined to apply an academic slant to your passion for her?

JENNIFER: Some years later, we went off and lived in in the Middle East, in Bahrain, and they had a fabulous library in the company town and it had a huge collection of Georgette Heyer novels, which was pretty amazing, really. So, I read her again and she became my real comfort reading, my escape reading, my just joyful reading. And I was doing my Bachelor of Arts as an off-campus student. I’d been doing it when we were living in New Guinea, and then when we were living elsewhere, and then again in the Middle East, just working away, one subject a semester. And so, I was in touch with a good friend who also lived in the same town, and she was doing her PhD at Yale, in Literature. And so, we were talking and I introduced her to Heyer. She’d never read Heyer. Anyway, she fell madly in love with Heyer’s novels and couldn’t get enough of them. We both really mourned the fact that there was no way of really easily knowing what some of the things in the Heyer novels meant or what they looked like. Things like some of the clothing: what were half boots of orange jean, or what did a spencer look like? And what was a barouche? And a lot of the etiquette. You know, you understood them from reading Heyer, but you didn’t have a complete understanding because you couldn’t always know exactly what things looked like. A high perch phaeton, for example. So, we thought it’d be marvellous if there was some kind of a Georgette Heyer regency handbook. And so, when I came back to Australia from the Middle East, I finished my Bachelor of Arts and I said to my husband, ‘Before I get a real job, I’d like to spend a few months working on this private research project.’ And look, this is really kind of OCD, Sara, but I actually combed through every Heyer novel in chronological order, and I sort of pulled out everything that I thought might be mysterious or obscure to a modern reader. And I made these alphabetical lists and note cards and… Angouleme bonnets and all sorts of things – you know, people, places, traditions, money, fashion, anything that I thought might be mysterious. And anyway, I just did this for a while. And this was all by hand, so on note cards and in alphabetical books. And then one day I was having lunch with my former professor from my degree at the university, and I told him about my little project. Anyway, it was quite funny because he sat back in his chair, and I sort of held my breath and thought, oh, he’s going to say ‘Oh, what a waste of time’. And instead, he sat back and said, ‘That’d make a fantastic PhD’. And I just had this epiphany. I’d never thought of a PhD or doing anything like that. And I had this vision, suddenly, of me in a puffy hat. And spending time researching the Regency and Heyer and her novels, it seemed like a distant dream. But anyway, I set about it. I did honours, I got a first, I got a scholarship to the University of Melbourne and did a PhD.

SARA-MAE: Everything else you’ve done has sort of flowed from that, hasn’t it?

JENNIFER: Yeah, well, in a way the PhD was really a means to write Georgette Heyer’s Regency World. And having the imprimatur of the university meant that when I contacted people like Georgette’s son, Sir Richard Rougier, or Jane Aiken Hodge, there was a reason: it was as a research student at the University of Melbourne. It lent me a credibility that I may not have had otherwise. And then when I finished it, I pretty much got straight on with writing Regency World, which was that illustrated companion to her novels and to the era. I loved writing that book. That was just a fabulous experience. The biography grew out of that. In the course of doing all those years of research for my PhD, I discovered all the new archives of letters. There were untapped archives, letters that weren’t in the public purview. So, I was the person to go out and find them and make use of them.

SARA-MAE: Because Jane Aiken Hodge hadn’t had access to them.

JENNIFER: No, no, she wouldn’t have known they existed, most of them. Her biography was a really terrific account of Heyer’s life. Jane had a lot of really good insight. She was a very fine writer and had a brilliant mind, Jane Aiken Hodge, but she only had access to material that was directly about Heyer from 1944, when Heyer was already forty-two and very successful. So, all those early years – the formative years – were really missing. I think the first forty-odd years of Heyer’s life is just the first couple of chapters of Jane’s book, whereas my biography, the first two thirds are the first forty years of Georgette Heyer’s life.

SARA-MAE: That’s what’s so wonderful.

SARA-MAE: I asked Jennifer if she thinks the perception of Heyer’s work by critics and commentators has evolved. Most people, as far as I can tell, still lump her in with people like Barbara Cartland, whereas I think she’s much closer to her idol, Jane Austen, or PG Wodehouse.

JENNIFER: The thing I’ve really noticed in the last ten years or so is this decided shift in attitude to Georgette Heyer. And I think that’s to do with the enduring nature of her novels. The fact that she’s still a bestseller nearly a hundred years after she published her first book. And the further away we get from her death and the more she continues to sell, I think, the closer she comes to becoming a true classic author. I think it very likely that in the future Georgette Heyer will be studied, perhaps like Dickens is studied now. Her novels – fifty-one of the fifty-six novels are still in print, and the five that are not in print are because she has self-suppressed them – she’s still selling. What is it, this year will be forty-five years since she died? She’s read by five generations of readers now and being discovered all the time by the rising generation, which is great. Her books endure because she was a great writer, her prose is superb, she was a master of plot and character, ironic comedy, and of course, her dialogue. Stephen Fry really nailed it at the blue plaque opening. When she was nominated for an English Heritage blue plaque, which is a very prestigious thing – they only award twelve a year. That took ten years of investigation by the committee for them to then finally approve her as a recipient. And so, she received that honour, obviously posthumously. But in 2015, Stephen Fry, he unveiled it, and he was very clear about the reasons for why she received that honour, and it was all to do with her mastery of language, her contribution to culture and to literature. And I think that’s a massive change in the modern period. In her own lifetime she was highly regarded by her readers, both men and women. She was read by a lot of people in the law, and there were a group of Oxford dons who apparently used to meet to discuss her novels. She was very highly regarded by her publishers of course, and given as much kudos as people like Joseph Conrad, Elizabeth von Arnim…

SARA-MAE: Fun fact about Elizabeth von Arnim: the Australian-British writer had a torrid relationship with Georgette’s friend and publisher, Frere. The novelist, whose impressively chequered personal life is the stuff of legend, was thirty years Frere’s senior at the time. I find this literary connection delicious for some reason.

JENNIFER: …JB Priestley, writers who were very highly regarded in the day. And then, I think, in the 60s, 70s, 80s, when she became less well known, a lot of people just disregarded or dismissed her books as some kind of sort of trashy, pulp fiction or trashy romance. And only ever by people who had never read her books. Those who’ve read her books understand completely her extraordinary expertise.

SARA-MAE: Well, I think it’s the question of what makes a classic novel. It’s something I’ve talked about with other people as well, because I find it very interesting, particularly with regards to Heyer. Is it just distance or has it got to do with mass appeal, which she certainly had – being a bestselling author never being out of print – but so did Dickens and Austen as well. Do you think she’s on a par with those two?

JENNIFER: She’s very different from them. I mean, Austen is writing contemporary fiction about the period in which Heyer set her historical fiction. And Austen was Heyer’s favourite author and Heyer herself would never ever have compared herself or put herself in the same sphere as Austen.

SARA-MAE: As Jennifer says, Heyer was self-deprecating to a fault when it came to the quality of her writing. She thought it very unlikely that her books would go on to be remembered at all. Here she is in 1949, giving her ironic summation of her personal principles for successful novel writing.

[SARAH GOLDING AS OLDER GEORGETTE, READS]

1. Induce your publisher to hand over at once a sum of money grossly in excess of what the book is likely to be worth to him. This gives one a certain amount of incentive to write the thing, and may be achieved by various methods, the most highly recommended being what may be termed as ‘The Little Woman Act’.

2. Think out a snappy title. This deceives the publisher into thinking (a) that he is getting the book of the year and (b) that you have the whole plot already mapped out. The only drawback lies in the fact that having announced a title you will be slightly handicapped when it comes to hanging some kind of story onto it.

3. Brood for several weeks achieving if not a plot, depression, despair and hysteria in yourself and a strong desire to leave home. This condition will induce you to believe yourself to be the victim of artistic temperament and may even mislead you into thinking that you really are a creative artist.  

4. While under this delusion, jab a sheet of paper into your typewriter and hurl it on to Chapter One. This may give you an idea, not perhaps for the whole book but for Chapter Two.

5. Introduce several characters who might conceivably be useful later on. You never know, they may take matters into their own hands.

6. Assuming that he has been properly trained, read over what you’ve done to your husband. His extravagant enthusiasm may lead you to think you’ve perpetrated something good and this will inspire you to churn out a bit more.

7. Think out a grand final scene with the maximum number of incongruous characters massed together in some improbable place. Allow your sense of farce full play. This will, with any luck at all, make the reader forget what the rest of the book was like.

8. Try and work out how and why these characters got together, remembering that it is better to ‘gloss over’ by technique (which if you haven’t learnt in thirty years you ought to have learnt) than to put your head in the gas oven.

9. Book a room in a good mental home.

Finally, a few things to be avoided while engaged on this work.

  1. The thoughts that you are enduring this agony only to enrich the Inland Revenue.
  2. All thought of the book that has obsessed your mind and so for the past six months.
  3. Any rational thought whatsoever. To indulge in this can only mean that you will stop dead realising that you are writing unmitigated rubbish and would have done better as a charwoman.

JENNIFER: I mean, Austen is one of the truly great authors, that extraordinary observer of human nature, and her books are deservedly classics. But Heyer had her own gifts and she’s doing something very different from Austen, but there’s certainly a huge Austenesque influence and a Dickensian influence too. Dickens was another of her favourite authors and Heyer’s father had brought her up reading Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare, the Renaissance poets, and the Greeks. So, she was extremely well read and had a really comprehensive understanding of plot based on the writings of those iconic authors. So, she really had imbibed a lot of the skill that those authors had developed. She would never put herself on par with them, but she’s certainly doing something new and unique in her own writing, and her Regency novels have certainly stood the test of time. She’s certainly deemed a classic author by the British Library Service, and she’s always in the Top 10 of their most borrowed classic authors, which I think she would find extraordinary and secretly be very pleased about.

SARA-MAE: In your book, there’s lots of quotes with her going, ‘I should be shot for writing this kind of nonsense’.

JENNIFER: [laughs] Well, that’s a multi-stranded thing. One is that she would have felt it to be very vulgar to have, as she would have said, puffed off her consequence. So, to have actually acknowledged publicly that she was good at what she did, she would have thought that was conceited, and conceit would have been being vulgar, and to be vulgar in Heyer’s world was to commit the unforgivable sin. Another reason is, you’ve got to take into account the context. Now, here she is, she’s a woman writing. And so, coming through that long tradition of women writing fiction and often being denigrated for their fiction by the Academy, not so much the mass market or the mass audience – because they have always loved the sorts of books the Mrs. Gaskells, the Brontës, enormous audiences. And so, often just by virtue of being female, you might be denigrated. She was also a peer of writers like Somerset Maugham and Jane Howard and J.B. Priestley and Francis Brett Young and Forster, so I think also not having had a formal education, really…she didn’t go to university, she only had a very limited formal schooling, which didn’t mean she wasn’t educated – she was highly educated – but I think to grow up in a world where women were beginning to go to university, where women were often treated as sort of second class citizens, and in many cases still are, I think that she probably had a kind of cultural cringe. And it didn’t help either that both her husband, who was in fact her first reader and a great supporter, and her publisher, A.S. Frere of Heinemann, both of those men many times said ‘When are you going to jack up this Regency and write a real book?’ So, there was always that sort of external message being imposed upon her about what made literature literature, what made a book valuable, what gave it credibility, and she wasn’t made to feel that her writing was worthwhile in those ways. They weren’t the sort of books that the Academy would set for, you know, students at university. But by golly, they were loved and hugely popular and read by an extraordinary cross-section of society.

SARA-MAE: And still are, aren’t they?

JENNIFER: Yeah, absolutely. And they stood the test of time which, of course, she doesn’t get to know that. And she did once say, ‘I expect my books will die with me, but one or two might continue selling for a while.’ Well, she’s sold over a million books in the last two years.

SARA-MAE: Wow.

JENNIFER: So, she’s doing just fine.

SARA-MAE: I wonder what it is that’s given her this truly lasting quality. I think you mentioned to me in another conversation that you get people who are very perceptive by human nature, but they don’t tell a great story, and vice versa. And you mentioned Sir Walter Scott as an interesting case in point.

JENNIFER: Oh, very interesting. I mean, the great bestseller of his day, in the early 19th century right through to probably the early 20th century. He sold, I think it was a quarter of a million copies of Waverley and it would have been in the home of most Regent families, that book. He was an enormous bestseller. And yet today, very few people read Walter Scott. He’s read in some universities. But if you gave a Walter Scott novel to a teenager today, very few of them would ever read him. He’s considered difficult. He takes ages to get to the story, and the language is considered hard. Heyer is different. She has an elegant prose, her prose is stylish, her syntax and grammar flawless – she’s a master of English. But her books are often joyful, they’re highly entertaining. Her characters live and breathe. She endures too because the Regency is a period that has become enormously romantic for millions and millions of readers all over the world. I mean, Heyer created that genre, really. Austen began it and Heyer really consolidated into an accessible way of writing about that period. And any modern author of Regency novels, most of them would acknowledge their debt to Heyer and at the same time acknowledge that no one writes like Heyer. No one recreates the Regency…

SARA-MAE: Acknowledge? I mean, some of them shamelessly copy!

SARA-MAE: We discussed Barbara Cotton’s instances of plagiarism in her first historical fiction trilogy, for which she borrowed heavily from Heyer. We discussed this already in Episode 10, so do listen to that for more details.

SARA-MAE: I suppose the reason is because it wasn’t as though Heyer was making up all these lovely colloquialisms and turns of phrases, she was doing very, very deep research and buying letters at auction, wasn’t she?

JENNIFER: Yeah, that’s true. That particularly refers to the phrase ‘to make a cake of oneself’ which is to make a fool of oneself. And she had found that phrase in a private memoir, written by a soldier who’d been in the Napoleonic Wars, and it had been lent to Georgette Heyer by a descendant of that soldier. And she knew that Barbara Cartland had never seen that memoir. It was the only place that Heyer ever found it.

SARA-MAE: Yeah.

JENNIFER: You know, she was incredibly accurate, historically,

SARA-MAE: A real stickler, wasn’t she? And she had copious notes.

JENNIFER: Oh, yes, yes.

SARA-MAE: So, before doing your research on Heyer, what preconceptions did you have about her? And did you find that they were correct? Or were they completely tossed out the window?

JENNIFER: I loved her books, but I knew nothing about the author. And then I read Jane Aiken Hodge’s biography, The Private World of Georgette Heyer, which is a really good book and beautifully written. And then I wrote to Jane and actually she invited me to lunch when I was on a research trip, where I met Sir Richard, Georgette’s son, and then went and had lunch with Jane Aiken Hodge.

SARA-MAE: Like Heyer, Jane Aiken Hodge was a prolific author of historical novels and contemporary detective novels. She’d also been a civil servant and later worked for ‘Time’ magazine. Her admiration for Heyer’s work is clearly communicated in The Private World of Georgette Heyer and is well worth a read for Heyer completists. I’m fascinated to hear how the two biographers got on.

JENNIFER: She was marvellous, just marvellous. Extraordinarily sharp mind, really clever woman. And we had this fabulous lunch. We just talked and talked. And she had very kindly asked her housekeeper to get down from the attic, her notes from the biography that she had written. And there were twelve manila folders just jammed with all sorts of notes and photographs, original Georgette Heyer letters, notes from interviews that Jane had had with people who had known Heyer who were no longer alive. And so, she said to me, ‘I thought you might be interested in looking at these.’ Of course, I was pretty much salivating, really, but we’d spent this time talking – so interesting, Jane – and we ran out of time, and I needed to leave, and I hadn’t really looked at them. So, I was standing there quickly, you know, opening the first folder and seeing these riches, and Jane said ‘Just, you know, take anything you want.’ And I’m thinking, I’m like, ‘Well, no,’ because as an academic researcher, to me it would be a crime to break up an archive because the archive itself is a historic artefact, which has context of its own. And so, I just thought, ‘Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly.’

SARA-MAE: That must have been so unbelievably tough for Jennifer to have essentially a treasure trove in her hands and have to put it down. I love this honourable act and what it says about her integrity as an academic.

JENNIFER: And then she said, ‘Oh look, why don’t you just take it? Take the lot!’ And I sort of gasped and went, ‘Oh no, I couldn’t!’ and she disappeared out of the room and came back a few minutes later with this bag. It was a Swan Hellenic cabin bag – she’d obviously been on a cruise at some point. She proceeded to shove these manila folders into the bag, zipped it up and shoved it into my arms ushered me to the door and saw me out. Well, I was speechless really. I mean, I thanked her, but I didn’t know what to say. She lived in Lewis, and it was just a short walk to the station, and I caught the train back to London. And I just hugged that bag to my chest all the way back to London. I just couldn’t believe it. And I tell you, if you had offered me the crown jewels, I would not have swapped them for that bag. I would have hung on to that bag as if my life depended on it. I still have that bag, you know. I sat on my bed and just opened it and just spent hours just going through it and just couldn’t believe my luck. Because there were these, you know, interview notes from A.S. Frere of Heinemann, Max Reinhardt, who’d been Heyer’s publisher at the Bodley Head, Pat Wallace, who’d been her great friend, Dorothy Sutherland who’d been the editor of ‘Woman’s Journal’, all sorts of people who were dead and who I would therefore never be able to interview. And so, it was another layer of material. And then when I got these archives of letters, to be able to draw on the Jane Aiken Hodge archive, as I called it, and marry it to things in the letters was just fantastic. So, I felt very lucky.

SARA-MAE: What a lovely experience, in the sense that you were kind of enlarging and continuing on the good work that she had done. And the fact that she’d sensed that in you to such an extent that she was, like, ‘Take this incredible trove of mine and, sort of… I mean you could have been a… you could have done anything with it!

JENNIFER: Oh, absolutely. Well, I had that experience a lot. It was quite extraordinary. And whenever I went back to England – because I did, I think it was nine research trips to England in about eleven years, pursuing anything I could find about Georgette Heyer – whenever we would go back (and my husband sometimes came too), we would go down and visit Jane and take her out to lunch. And she was just the most marvellous conversationalist. She was just this extraordinary woman, I mean, she was a really successful author in her own right too. And so, in I think it was 2007, we take her out for lunch. And I’d always had this little bit of guilt about taking the archive. And I’d said to her, ‘Jane, are you sure you don’t want it back?’ and she said, ‘No, no,’ she said, ‘I was so relieved to pass the mantle to you, and I’m so pleased that you’re looking after it and making good use of it.’ And she died two years later, which was just tragic.

SARA-MAE: Sadly, Hodge took her own life by means of an overdose in June 2009. In her ‘Times’ obituary, it stated that she left ‘a letter expressing her deep distress that she had felt unable to discuss her plans with her daughters, without risking making them accessories.’ After undergoing a six-month legal ordeal, Professor Joanna Hodge and her sister, Jessica Hodge, were cleared of assisting their mother in her death. Joanna said Jane had been planning it for over fifteen years and called for assisted suicide laws to be changed. It’s unclear why Jane wanted so badly to take her own life. In a ‘Mail on Sunday’ article before her death, she spoke of ‘how much happier’ she would be if she knew she had a ‘reliable exit strategy planned for the dubious future’. Still, the fact that she planned this exit for so many years implies a long struggle with who knows what mental or physical challenges. Perhaps it was indeed a relief to hand over her Heyer archive to someone whom she knew would respect and care for the contents as well as Jennifer’s done.

JENNIFER: I felt very honoured. I’ve always felt just so grateful to have this experience. And to have had the opportunity to do this research and to meet some extraordinary people. I mean, my life has been changed by Heyer in so many ways. And I’m so privileged and so blessed and lucky to have had this opportunity. And people have been extraordinarily kind and generous.

SARA-MAE: Did Jane actually get to read your finished book?

JENNIFER: Jane read Georgette Heyer’s Regency World and loved that. And then she read a draft of the biography. And what was fantastic was that not only did Jane Aiken Hodge read it, but also Jean Frere – so, A.S. Frere of Heinemann’s daughter-in-law, who had in fact worked in publishing, worked for the Bodley Head, and knew many of the people that Georgette Heyer had known: she’d married Frere’s son – and she also read the manuscript. And I had this extraordinary experience one evening. I used to ring both Jean Frere and Jane Aiken Hodge from time to time and talk to them, and they were both incredibly helpful and very kind. One night I’d rung them, and Jane had read the manuscript. And she said, ‘Now, Jennifer dear, you do need to be careful. Don’t be too hard on Georgette. You need to be kind to her.’ And then that same evening, I spoke to Jean Frere, who’d also read the manuscript. And she said, ‘Now, Jennifer, you do need to be very careful. You mustn’t write a hagiography. You need to show the dark side of Heyer.’ And so, I thought, okay, I must have done both. Maybe I’ve got the balance right. I mean, it’s a challenge, you know – I’d never written a biography before. I probably will never write one again, to be honest, but this was something I was very passionate about and really wanted to do. And I wanted to do Heyer justice. But I really didn’t want to write a hagiography. I didn’t want to just write that she was this amazing, fabulous woman because nobody is.

SARA-MAE: Without allowing that kind of judgmental voice to creep in, which I don’t like when people do in biographies sometimes, their own opinion of the author colours it. Which you never do at any moment.

JENNIFER: Oh, good.

SARA-MAE: But you still manage to give a very full and rounded [view of her]… And that makes me sort of like her more.

JENNIFER: Yes. Well, she could be difficult – no question. She had emotional issues: losing her father as she did when she was twenty-two. She never recovered from that tragedy. And I think she shut itself down in many ways, emotionally, in her personal life, and kept a very small circle and was very private. And she had very strong opinions about things. But she was also very shy. Her son, Richard, always used to say she talked nineteen-to-the-dozen to hide that shyness. But, you know, she had her outlet in her books – that was, I think, her great emotional outlet. And so, she was a complex person – look, as we all are. And the thing too, I think, that people have to remember is that any biography is just a rough approximation of a life. If any individual thinks about their own life, and someone writing that life, how could anyone ever truly capture a life, you know, all of its subtleties and complexities and its nuances, the micro life as well as the macro life, you know? Think about all of the millions of decisions we make in a lifetime. And all I’ve really had is Heyer’s letters as primary source material.

SARA-MAE: These days, biographers have a wealth of different things and videos, and also, we literally only have these letters. Which makes you finding the Tulsa archive really remarkable because that began from when she was twenty, wasn’t it? 1923, they began?

JENNIFER: Well, that’s right. And before that, I had the small Society of Authors archive, which is held at the British Library, and that began when she was eighteen and had just received the contract for her first novel, The Black Moth. And that’s a fascinating, small archive, because in it, she shows off her acuity and her business acumen and her ability to question a contract. So instead of just going, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got this contract and of course I’m going to sign it,’ she actually wrote to the Society of Authors and asked them to examine the contract. And she raised several issues about it, questions she wanted answered, which at eighteen, I think pretty remarkable. She probably had help from her father, but she wrote several letters herself. And, you know, at one point in a reply to the Society of Authors, she says, ‘I was thinking of asking for a higher royalty, but as this is my first book, I’m not going to do that. I’ll wait until I’m better established,’ which you sort of think, wow! You know, she had a lot of courage. And that’s the thing that’s so paradoxical because there, as you said before, she’s so self-deprecating in her later life, but as a young woman, she had enormous confidence in her writing and in her ability, and she knew that what she was writing was good. I think that’s what I was trying to say before. Heyer always knew that what she wrote was good. She had a great belief in her writing, and she would defend it, but it wasn’t something she was going to publicly say out loud. She was going to say things like, ‘I should be shot for writing such nonsense, but I do think it’s good literature if you’re in an air raid shelter or recovering from the flu.’

SARA-MAE: [laughs] I love that quote.

JENNIFER: That’s the quote that’s always cited. But her son, Richard, told me that she would say those things, but it wasn’t what she really thought. And that she would talk about having to write another Regency to pay the tax, but it wasn’t true. She loved writing those books and she was a compulsive writer. Jane Aiken Hodge says this: ‘You can’t make up stories like that, you can’t write books like that, unless you love the writing process.’ And she certainly did.

SARA-MAE: L.P. Moore obviously spotted that in her first book, The Black Moth. [He was] her first agent, who shepherded her through that early stage of her career, but obviously Jane never had access to those letters.

JENNIFER: No, no, she didn’t. No, not at all. Nor to the Frere archive. A.S. Byatt, when she wrote that excellent article in 1975 about Heyer, she had access to some of the letters from the Frere archive. But that’s held by the family, and I only got permission to read that archive and to transcribe it because Sir Richard actually wrote a very nice letter about me to the Freres and gave me his stamp of approval. I had written to them asking if this archive existed because some of the things that Heyer had said in her business letters to Heinemann suggested to me that there must have been a private correspondence between her and A.S. Frere, who was CEO of Heinemann from the late 30s right through to 1960s. So, I managed to locate the Frere address, from Georgette’s daughter-in-law Lady Rougier, and wrote to them.

SARA-MAE: I really enjoy hearing about Jennifer’s sleuthing. She spent an incredible amount of time creating this biography, rich with the details of an intensely private person’s life. And it was these painstaking steps, coupled with her ability to genuinely endear herself to people like Jane Aiken Hodge and Georgette’s son, Sir Richard Rougier, that make the book such an absorbing and informative read. Plus, I always like a good detective story.

JENNIFER: And they were very uncertain until they wrote to Richard. And he wrote back and said, yes, that I was good news and worth helping. And so, amazingly, they then invited me into their home, and I stayed with them for four days – a complete stranger at the beginning, of course, and I hope a friend by the end – and I transcribed that entire archive. It was ninety-three letters, 70,000 words in four days.

SARA-MAE: Wow! There were no digital cameras or anything like that in those…

JENNIFER: Well, no, there weren’t, but they wouldn’t allow me to anyway. No, I was allowed to transcribe it. That was all. And then after that, they closed the archive.

SARA-MAE: That is so extraordinary, because essentially that means that future biographers and historians are not going to have access to those links, unless you very kindly do the same thing that Jane did and pass on everything that you’ve transcribed. [laughs]

JENNIFER: [laughs] That’s right. So, I don’t know what they’ll do with it in the end. You know, maybe their descendants will have a different attitude, and that would be good. They’re wonderful letters. They’re my favourite, the letters she writes to A.S. Frere, because they became great friends. He was her publisher. So, her first publisher was Constable, and we don’t know anything about that because they only published The Black Moth and their archive was bombed during the war, during the Blitz, so a lot of publishers lost their archives. And so, we lost a lot of really valuable documents. So, Constable, and then she was published by Hutchinson. And again, we don’t have any archival material about that. And then she was published by Longman’s, and they don’t have anything. But I do have all of her contracts, which is really good. They’re in the Random House archive. And then we have Heinemann, and Heinemann have an archive of her letters, but they’re mostly business letters. And they started in 1944 and go through to 1963. And then after that, we have what I call the Bodley Head archive, which Max Reinhardt’s widow, Joan Reinhardt, very kindly allowed me to borrow on one of my trips to London and – for twenty-four hours – and I took it away and had it photocopied, and then returned it to her. So that was exciting. But the Frere archive is a personal archive. It’s letters written by Georgette to A.S. Frere, who was the CEO of Heinemann. He and his wife, Pat Wallace, who was Edgar Wallace’s daughter, became great friends with Georgette and Ronald. And they both lived in Albany, they both had apartments or sets in Albany.

SARA-MAE: That’s one of the lovely things about the biography is getting these insights into her letters to them and their letters back. I mean, it’s really unfortunate that in the end, they sort of seem to fall out.

JENNIFER: Well, it was. It was an incredibly important friendship to Georgette through those years from 1937 onwards. But in 1963, Frere got, as they said at the time ‘kicked upstairs’ and eventually he was forced out of Heinemann. And when that happened, three authors, Graham Greene, Eric Ambler and Georgette Heyer, were very angry about it. They were great friends of Frere’s. And so, they left Heinemann and went to the Bodley Head as a kind of act of protest. And so, from then on Georgette didn’t see Frere as much. In 1966, also, she and Ronald moved out of Albany, because the concrete steps leading up to their apartment became too much for her, and they moved to German Street. And so, the contact was naturally less, both because they weren’t at the same publishing house any longer, but also they weren’t in the same building any longer. And so, I think there was a sort of natural separation as sometimes happens. But the other thing is that there was some kind of a rift. And I have letters from Frere, from Ronald, Georgette’s husband, and from Richard, her son, after Georgette died, in which each of them expresses… they say it’s a mystery as to why there was this rift. It has been suggested by a few people, including her son, that Frere never particularly liked Ronald, and that that was one of the reasons that they went their separate ways at the end, because Georgette was intensely loyal, and she would have always been loyal to Ronald first. But whether that’s actually true is not absolutely certain. You know, obviously, when you’re writing the biography, and you’re relying on testimony, there’s all sorts of factors that could make testimony unreliable. But in the end, that’s all you’ve got, often, and so you’ve got to use it the best you can and deduce as much as you can, with evidence to support the deduction.

SARA-MAE: Yeah, that’s another thing about the skill of writing a biography is knowing when to come down with a little bit of certainty, because otherwise you’re sort of leaving people hanging. I think you did a very good job of that.

JENNIFER: Oh, thank you.

SARA-MAE: Because she was very private.

JENNIFER: Mmm, intensely.

SARA-MAE: To glean what kind of relationships were important to her and…with the L.P. Moore thing I find interesting, because you would imagine being her first agent that he would have almost become like a father figure to her. And he was her agent for quite a long time.

JENNIFER: A very long time.

SARA-MAE: So that when she sort of parted ways from him, and I think you didn’t have any of his letters, unfortunately, back to her, so we couldn’t get his side of the story.

SARA-MAE: The incident I’m referring to is the one we dramatised last week, in Episode 10, in which Georgette summarily fired Leonard, after thirty years as his client.

JENNIFER: Just regarding L.P. Moore, I do think that if you follow the trajectory of Georgette’s relationship with Leonard Moore – he became her agent in 1921 when she was nineteen and he remained her agent until 1953, I think, so more than forty years. And early on, she treated him like a kindly old uncle. And through the middle period, she would sort of often write teasing letters and, and then she would take him to task because it seems that a lot of the people who should have read her work before publication didn’t ever read it. Her agent, her editors, no-one read it. She was not edited at all. They would just receive the manuscript, send her the proof pages, she would amend them, send them back, and they published the book. And it would then sell 100,000 copies or more, depending. So, you know, that would never happen today. After the war, he, to her mind, made the fatal error of moving out of Central London to St. John’s Wood. And she really resented that, I think. She felt that he was no longer available or accessible to her. And I think she found that very difficult. But Frere had also come on the scene by then. Frere was younger, he was charming and stylish and a real cosmopolitan man, a sort of a renaissance man, very intelligent, and she really was drawn to Frere very strongly. And I think Leonard Moore really was past his use-by date to some extent, which seems a bit hard. But I will say in her defence, her contracts changed after the war, and no one ever picked it up. So, her royalties went from 25% down to 20%.

SARA-MAE: And that would have made a massive impact, because she was always – throughout her life, as indicated in the biography – very concerned with money because she was supporting family members, she was supporting her husband when he was retraining to be a barrister. She seems to have been very concerned with the tax man taking her money and all this kind of stuff. So that would have been almost an unforgivable oversight in her mind. JENNIFER: I think. But also, there were options in her contracts that she didn’t know about, and so she wasn’t very happy about that, either. But, you know, he was a good man and very well-meaning and I don’t think he ever really understood her. I don’t think he ever understood her particular brand of humour in her letters or her sort of teasing way. And sometimes she would write him letters where she would, I guess, what we’d say today, she’d vent about this or that thing, and I think give him the impression that he was meant to sort of do something. I don’t think that’s what she wanted at all. I think she just wanted the outlet. Perhaps he never understood that. But whatever happened was that by the end of the relationship, she was saying, well, he was a bit of a silly old man. But that hadn’t been her attitude all the way through. And I think as humans, we all often rewrite history. We change something in the now very much from what it actually had been in the past. So that takes a level of self-awareness that perhaps she just didn’t have, I don’t know. But for all that, I’ve always found this extraordinary that she had this amazing insight into human nature and was able to write so well, and that’s one of the reasons her books endure, I’m sure, and yet in her own personal life she was often quite blind to human nature and to her own foibles and failings, and to reasons for why people might do the things they did. So, I’ve always found that a really interesting paradox about her.

There’s almost no two-way correspondence between Georgette Heyer and anybody that she wrote to. I have one letter from an American gentleman who wrote her a fan letter and she wrote back, so I have his letter to her, and I have her letter to him. But it’s very rare because most of the correspondence that she received, she destroyed – in fact, pretty much all of it apart from a couple of fan letters. She destroyed all her manuscripts too except for My Lord John and An Infamous Army. Richard said, ‘That’s because they mostly lived in flats, and so they didn’t have the room to keep everything.’ But I think it was just a habit with her too, to destroy things.

SARA-MAE: It’s so annoying! I wish that she hadn’t.

JENNIFER: Oh, I know. I know. Well, I was really hopeful, when I was researching, that her great friend, Carola Oman, who was a very popular author and very esteemed biographer herself. Georgette had written to her for years – right, I would have thought, from the early 1920s, and certainly probably from East Africa. And so, I had this great hope that there would still be an archive of Georgette’s letters to her. And so, I contacted Julia Trevelyan Oman, who was Carola Oman’s niece – and luckily, a couple of years before she died. And she was very kind. We spoke on the telephone and she said, ‘Oh no, our Carola never threw anything away.’ So, I had this just great hope. So, she went off and investigated, asked various cousins and relatives, but nobody had any idea of where such an archive might be, or had never seen any letters. So, I can only think that they were destroyed, because she did outlive Georgette by a year or two. And so, I wonder if perhaps she destroyed the letters after Georgette died. But perhaps one day they’ll turn up?  

SARA-MAE: I know, that would be great, wouldn’t it? I mean, it’s the same with Jane Austen’s family. They sort of heavily redacted or…

JENNIFER: Yes.

SARA-MAE: I asked Jennifer how protective of her legacy Heyer’s family were, particularly Richard.

JENNIFER: Well, he was very protective. It took him a long time to trust me, and I kept turning up and they’d have me to stay, and we got on very well. We became very good friends. And we had a lot in common in terms of books we’d read growing up, and we had a lot of common interests. Richard was a great raconteur, a great conversationalist, so it was always a pleasure to meet with him, and on every ensuing visit, he would come out with something new. I remember one visit where he brought out Georgette’s baby books that her mother had kept about her. And he very casually said, ‘Oh, I thought perhaps you might like to see this.’ And it’s like gold because there are things about Georgette from when she was born. She was obviously an early talker. She was an early reader. She was obviously very bright as a toddler. She was making up stories as a child. So, all these little nuggets of information that I would never otherwise have had. Then, one year he brought out all the photo albums, so they were the family photo albums, and then there’s the African album, which proved once and for all that she really did live in a grass hut when she was living in Tanganyika, as it was at the time. And that was funny because my PhD supervisor, he was a South African who’d been a Rhodes Scholar, and one day when I was talking to him about Heyer and my research and I said,’ Oh, of course, you know, she lived in a grass hut.’ And he sat back in his chair and said, ‘Don’t be ridiculous. No English expatriate living in South Africa in the 1920s would have ever lived in a grass hut. That would just be a family legend, she would have lived in a bungalow,’ and he was quite certain about it. So I dutifully altered that in my thesis. But it was actually true! But I didn’t know it until I saw the photographs in this gorgeous little photo album, which shows her crossing Lake Victoria and then going in this terrible sort of truck through the grasslands and getting all the way to this very, very distant… one hundred and fifty miles from the nearest settlement, and then living in a compound made of elephant grass, and she’s living in a grass hut! As she called it, ‘The Manor House’, which I think just delightful.

Richard would bring out more and more information and he began to tell me stories, and then I would write to him. I wrote him letters and I would ask questions and he’d say, ‘Oh, you set me another exam paper.’ And then he’d write me any answers that he had. But there were things he didn’t know. I mean, you must remember that he grew up in many ways separate from his parents because he went to prep school, he went to boarding school, Cambridge, and so much of his life was lived away from the family home. And they were very stiff-upper-lip sort of English people who weren’t tactile, didn’t believe in talking about feelings, and the sorts of things we do today – Georgette would have had a fit, she would just think it was so vulgar.

SARA-MAE: So, did meeting him give you some sort of insight into her personality?

JENNIFER: She adored him, but very proper, very formal, even when Richard had children. They would be brought downstairs by Nanny to say goodnight to Granny and Grandfather. It was all very much that sort of upper-class way of being with children. And she loved him, but they only had the one child and they taught him to play bridge, and they taught him to fly fish, and they taught him to play golf from a very young age. So, I don’t know that he had what we would consider a sort of fun childhood where Mum and Dad get down in the dirt and play with you. I can’t imagine that ever happening, really, but perhaps it did. I mean, part of the things we don’t really know. But photos of Richard as a little boy, even when they’re on holiday, he’s in a full school suit with a tie at the age of six or seven.

SARA-MAE: Wow!

JENNIFER: I mean, that was typical of the time. Many things have changed, so that’s why I tried to have to be so careful not to impose a modern sensibility onto that life. And that’s why I really wanted to let her speak for herself as much as possible. But again, I think it’s really important to remember that what we have of her is from her letters and her books. And that’s a very limited representation of someone’s life and feelings and way o.f thinking and way of being. Of course, some things come through. And I think you get, as I said, a rough approximation, but a letter, too, is written in a moment or a series of moments on a particular day in which you might have a particular reason for writing as you do that’s unknowable to the reader. I think it’s always going to be paradoxical and complex, but interesting, nevertheless,

SARA-MAE: The fact that you managed to speak to people so you could widen the aperture through which we get a sense of who she is, is amazing, but a lot of them have passed away now, unfortunately, like Richard.

JENNIFER: I know. That was terrible. Yeah.

SARA-MAE: Richard died on October 25th 2007. At the time of his death, he was described in his ‘Telegraph’ obituary as an outspoken and colourful high court judge, generating headlines for his high-profile cases, despite ‘his frequently professed abhorrence of personal publicity, a trait he shared with his emotionally inhibited but materially extravagant mother’. A bit of a glib way to write off our complex Georgette, isn’t it? In an eerily prescient remark, he told one interviewer, ‘I have strong views. I despise dirt and squalor and the rat race. The attitudes of the war years and those that followed were far healthier and considerably safer. I dislike the current lack of respect for people, the awful ‘I, I, I’, the total lack of restraint.’ Like his mother, he had a talent with words, apparently dispensing justice and bon mots weighted with literary and classical allusions – his memory for such being exceptionally good. Jennifer told me, in a previous conversation, that he might have written books if he’d wanted to but, apart from one tome on British birds and a poem on Caratacus, he never followed in his mother’s footsteps.

JENNIFER: I found him incredibly kind and incredibly generous. I think perhaps the best compliment I ever had for Georgette Heyer’s Regency World was after Richard had read the manuscript. He said, ‘I think my mama would have approved.’ And I always thought that was just wonderful.

SARA-MAE: What did he say about the biography?

JENNIFERL He was happy. He always said to me, as long as you don’t write anything scandalous. There’s been a bit of a thing in recent years for some biographers to write that this person or that person was gay or lesbian, or they like to find some kind of a hook – which isn’t to say that it’s not true, perhaps it is true. But I think sometimes, it’s a little bit of a long bow in some cases. And I think perhaps he didn’t want me to take that kind of an approach to his mother, to look out for some scandal in order to sell more copies. Well, I was never going to do that. I mean, if there’d been something scandalous, I would have done my best to put it out there and to be honest, write honestly about it, give it its proper historical context, but she lived a pretty private, reclusive life.

SARA-MAE: Some people have speculated about her sexuality because of the fact that, as you’ve documented in the biography, there did not seem to be a very sexual side to [Georgette and Ronald’s] relationship, and she used to joke about his ‘blonde’.

JENNIFER: His floozie, yeah, that’s right. Look, she came from a very not tactile generation. Public displays of affection were certainly never going to happen. But I don’t know that she was particularly interested in sex, that’s certainly been said to me in the course of my research, from people who had things said to them by Georgette Heyer. I certainly would never suggest that she was a lesbian. I don’t know that that’s out there as a suggestion, and there’s no evidence whatsoever for that.

SARA-MAE: But she could have been asexual.

JENNIFER: Yep, absolutely. It’s quite possible she just wasn’t particularly interested in sex. I mean, when you think about it, a lot of women didn’t know very much about sex and there certainly wasn’t an expectation that we were meant to enjoy sex in that period, necessarily, depending on what class you were from. And so, it may have been not particularly enjoyable. So, who knows? I mean, the fact is, Sara, we will never know. And it’s all very well, to speculate and come up with all sorts of scandalous ideas, but I’m a historian as well as a writer and I’m not going to make stuff up to please the public taste for scandal.

SARA-MAE: Or re-jig it so it looks a certain way, yeah.

JENNIFER: Yeah. Oh, certainly not. You know, I was able to say that in the biography, and I only said it in a very sort of low-key way, and that’s because I had had it said to me by people who then asked not to be named. So, I couldn’t reference it. I couldn’t say, ‘So-and-so said this,’ but I was allowed to actually say that she wasn’t terribly interested in sex. So, it’s difficult as a biographer because if you’re going to retain your integrity, then you get constrained. I think any biographer worth their salt recognises that at the outset that there are going to be things that are going to be possibly off the record. I mean, when Jane Aiken Hodge wrote her biography, she didn’t name Barbara Cartland because she’d been asked not to. It was off the record. And if something’s off the record, well, you don’t have any choice. I believe in honour and integrity very strongly. You know, I’d rather sell fewer books and maintain my integrity.

SARA-MAE: The end! I tweeted you [about this]… I know how it ends, and obviously, it’s her life, I knew it was going to happen: she’s going to die at the end. And the sadness of that, because you created such a living picture of her…

JENNIFER: Oh, thank you.

SARA-MAE: And then the fact that her husband was ill himself and committed suicide. I just, it just broke my heart.

JENNIFER: Terrible, isn’t it? Yeah.

SARA-MAE: It must have been so hard for her son.

JENNIFER: It was, yeah. Dreadful. Well, the thing, too, is that Ronald, being Ronald, he set about it in a very methodical way. He made sure that Richard and his wife were away at their country property that weekend and organised it down to the last detail, very much like in the way that he used to work out how the murder had been committed in Georgette’s detective novels. It was terribly sad. But he didn’t want to go on living, he had cancer of the jaw and he didn’t want to go on living like that. And so, he took matters into his own hands and did the best he could, I believe. I think, there’s no doubt that he did what he thought was the very best he could to protect his son from hurt and from pain, but the fact is you can’t when you kill yourself.

But he did do a great thing in getting A.S. Byatt… he gave her access to the family album, and he spoke to her and he got people to talk to her so that she wrote this terrific article in 1975, the most comprehensive account of Georgette Heyer that had ever been written up to that point. A.S. Byatt did a terrific job with that and wrote very insightfully and intelligently about Heyer. So, Ronald ensured that that was done, and I think that was his last great tribute to his wife.

SARA-MAE: Is there anything new that surfaced that you can tell us, that you wouldn’t have known since you wrote the biography?

JENNIFER: Well, obviously, we have the blue plaque – that was a very big deal. And the re-issued anthology, which has the three additional short stories. There are moves afoot to try and get up a film of one of Heyer’s novels, and there’ve been suggestions about a web series, which I think would be terrific, of one of the novels.

SARA-MAE: Do you know which?

JENNIFER: I think the web series is The Talisman Ring? And certainly, The Grand Sophy’s meant to be in production at some point. But we thought about trying to do a Kickstarter project to fund, perhaps a web series or see about getting a film into production? Because I do think that once one of her novels is produced as a successful film, they’ll just fall like dominoes after that, because there’s so much marvellous material there. It seems to be a no-brainer. I mean, look at the success of ‘Downton Abbey’. Austen’s been filmed to death, but still popular. We’ve just got to get the right script and the right production values.

SARA-MAE: What about Netflix?

JENNIFER: Yeah, Netflix would be fantastic. There are several books that would make brilliant TV series. Certainly, The Talisman Ring was produced very successfully as a play in Chicago. They did a wonderful job with that, and it was hugely popular.

SARA-MAE: I got to chat all about this production to Chicago-based director, Dorothy Milne, and writer Christina Calvert. These two ladies adapted The Talisman Ring for Landline Theatre. Our conversation gives an insight into the difficulties and creativity involved in producing a book for the stage. Look out for that in Episode 19.

SARA-MAE: Did you go to see that? I wanted to but couldn’t make it.

JENNIFERL: I did see Cotillion, which I thought was marvellous. But I think The Talisman Ring is really accessible and it’s so… it’s such a clever plot and so funny. So, it’s got a lot of great Heyerisms in it, I think. And two pairs of wonderful characters in Ludovic and Eustacie, and Sarah Thane and Sir Tristram. So look, I think there are some things afoot, bubbling away there that hopefully will come to fruition. And of course, there’s your fabulous podcast!

SARA-MAE: Of course. Do you know why her books haven’t been made into a film? There’s this kind of widespread notion that she was ‘agin’ it?

JENNIFER: No, she wasn’t. And I’ve written about that on my website under a blog called ‘Mythconceptions’. No, Heyer always wanted her books made into films, right from the very beginning. Simon the Coldheart was the first book she thought would make a terrific film. She wanted book after book after book. And many of them have been optioned, but for this reason, for that reason, they’ve just never got to greenlight. It’s a great shame because they would make wonderful films, TV series, web series, Netflix series. I think it’ll happen. The stars need to align a little bit. It’s like anything that’s successful: you need an element of the right people being in the right place at the right time. A bit of luck. Certainly, we’ve got the right vehicle. She’s got probably a dozen of her books, at least, that would be…

SARA-MAE: Yeah.

JENNIFER: So, it isn’t that people haven’t tried. And it certainly isn’t that she didn’t want it to happen. She most definitely did. And her son did too. So, the estate certainly wants a production company, and they certainly want the right script.

SARA-MAE: Fabulous, fabulous. Thank you so much, Jen. I really appreciate you…

JENNIFER: No problem at all. Great to talk.

SARA-MAE: Wonderful to speak to you.

JENNIFER: No worries.

SARA-MAE: Bye-bye.

JENNIFER: You too. Bye.

SARA-MAE: I’ve adored talking to Jennifer about Heyer’s life and work. Her integrity and obvious ability to win people over is inspiring. And one can’t help thinking that the two qualities are interlinked. I’m getting a wee bit emotional again thinking about the three people connected to Heyer, dead now and two by suicide. Suicide is such a harsh word. It sounds violent and terribly lonely. I can only imagine the resolve or suffering it takes for someone to be driven to doing it, and the terrible toll this violence takes on those left behind. Ronald’s death would have scored a deep mark on his son, Richard, the scar of which he clearly revealed to Jennifer, his mother’s biographer and ultimately good friend. I can’t help but wonder how many secrets Jennifer was privy to: darkness revealed or simple prurience kept under wraps. What a responsibility to hold the details and confidences of someone’s life. ‘I don’t think I’ll ever write another biography,’ she said, and I wonder if it’s because this burden is too heavy to bear.

Jennifer is a marvellous writer of fiction too. And her latest book, Jane Austen’s Ghost, is available to buy now on Amazon. Do support her by reading it. It’s an imaginative romantic romp, bringing Jane Austen into the modern world and exploring themes of love, literature, and life everlasting. If you’re a Regency romance fan, her book, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, is a must-buy packed full of information about the colourful details of the period. If you don’t know your barouches from your curricles, then take a peek inside. Her biography, of course, is a wonderful read, painting a picture of a flawed yet brilliant person, one who lived her best life through her books. And it’s there that I hope to find her over and over, forever.

Next week, I’ll be reading Cotillion with Jojo Thomas and Aiden Truss. Why not get it as an audiobook from Audible now? You’d have to be an oyster-faced clench to miss out.

This has been Heyer Today. This episode was recorded, produced and edited 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 nappy changing and production assistance.

Sarah Golding is our fantastic voice talent this week, a true legend. I’ll be putting info about her into the show notes. Thanks also to Geraldine Elliot, Talitha Gamaroff and everyone who supported me in creating this work. Thanks to Suzy 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 amazing 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.

Jennifer’s website is jenniferkloester.com, where you can find all her news as well as information about her novels, non-fiction work and appearances.

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Heyer Today is a Fablegazers production.