A (Time) Traveler’s Review of Georgette Heyer’s Regency Novels

As it turned out, I enjoyed writing the last one of these, so I’m trying it again. To sum up (modifying my explanation from the last post a little, to make it more general): these reviews are meant to combine my love of travel with my love of reading, and approach books not asĀ books, but as vacations that happen to take place in words.

This post’s “vacation”: the Regency novels of Georgette Heyer. Before we get started, though, a quick disclaimer: I haven’t by any means read all of Georgette Heyer’s novels, Regency or otherwise. That’s because while there’s a very long list of titles to choose from, these books are still a finite resource, so I’m fairly careful about doling them out. That having been said, I have read 9 of her novels now, according to my list, and according to Wikipedia, 7 of those were set in the Regency era, so I’ve started to notice some similarities. For instance…

The World: Generally speaking, this is a genteel place that belongs to another time. Also, as I had reason to notice on my most recent visit: this world can sometimes be rather lush. As an impatient girl, I don’t always want to sit and drink in the scenery (or interior design) as much as my narrator-guide sometimes wants to, but I do like the feeling of immersion, so it’s sort of a trade.

The People: You will often yourself in the very best of company. Or at least in some very engaging company. Although occasionally, you may find yourself face to face with some far less reputable types as well. Overall, if you’re at ease with Jane Austen’s crowd, you’ll very likely be at ease here. One thing I should perhaps warn you of, however, is that this is most certainly a past era, so the views represented by your hosts and acquaintances may not sit well with you, as a modern visitor. That’s just one of the risks of time-travel vacations.

Dining and Activities: These are often very posh. You may be invited to balls, or to go riding/driving–and almost certainly, you will be invited to do some shopping, or to spend some time with a tailor. There are some rowdier options available, as well; on my last visit, for instance, I was compelled to attend a prizefight. Those things aren’t my cup of tea, but they are out there. In general, however, these aren’t very action-oriented vacations, so don’t expect explosions or anything like that. There may be some running around–possibly a duel or two–but most of the activities are of a more social nature. In other words, expect there to be a lot of talking.

Other Assorted Hazards: These can vary rather widely. You may run into people who are in danger of losing their money, their reputations, their lives, or their hearts. Or some combination thereof. So keep your wits about you–try not to stay too long at the gambling table, be aware of the pitfalls if you plan to move in the most fashionable circles, and bring your own first-aid kit, because that’s always a good idea for these things. Speaking of which…

Things to Pack (aside from a first-aid kit):

  • Appropriate attire, or the money with which to purchase it.
  • A book of Regency slang and customs, for the individual who likes to know all the nuances of the world, and wants to be able to confidently use slang expressions. Personally, I don’t find such a book necessary for my enjoyment of the world (certainly not necessary for my understanding of events), but there’s no telling whether it may enhance the experience.
  • Tea. Because always tea. Unless, again, you intend to purchase it once you’re there, but sometimes I just want to curl up in bed with tea, and that’s maybe a tad informal for this time period, so you know. I smuggle it in and hide it from my narrator-guide. As you do.

The occasional grievances of dated worldviews aside, I usually enjoy my visits to Georgette Heyer’s Regency England. They tend to be very quick, lighthearted stays, and they’re quite affordable–I get almost all my “tickets” free, from the library. A nice way to spend my time while I’m working on the kinds of writing projects that make it hard to focus on someone else’s fantasy/sci-fi universe.

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