Since today is Georgette Heyer’s 109th birthday, it seemed a good time to share some of the ways in which Heyer has influenced the Pink books.
I’ll confess: I was not initially a fan of Heyer. I picked up my first Heyer back in sixth grade, primarily because there was a quote from Judith McNaught on the cover. At the time, I was a fan of Victoria Holt and Johanna Lindsey. I took my rakes rakish and pirates were a plus. Heyer was just so… quiet.
Fast forward seven years to the summer after my freshman year of college. I was meeting my best friend for coffee at our favorite Starbucks, the one on 87th and Lex. I’d thrown Heyer’s The Nonesuch into my bag, primarily because it was small, and I’d just re-read Nancy Mitford’s Pigeon Pie, which was my usual small-enough-to-fit-into-my-bag book. She was running late; I was running early; the book came out of the bag. And that was that. By the time Anthea resolved not to think about Sir Waldo at all and therefore stayed up thinking about him all night, I had been Heyered.
But I did promise I’d talk about Heyer and Pink, didn’t I? Heyer was out of print in the States. It wasn’t out of print in England. During my research year there, I would smuggle Heyer into the British Library along with my notebook and laptop. At lunchtime, I would take my watery bowl of potato soup from the BL cafeteria and escape into a world of rakes and fops and heroines who had little patience for either.
The botched elopement in The Deception of the Emerald Ring was borrowed straight out of Devil’s Cub. Any resemblance between the hero of The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, the world-weary Lord Vaughn, and the hero of Devil’s Cub is more than coincidental. Those two are real rakes, not a mealymouthed imitation. I borrowed the phrase “Cheltenham tragedy”, an expression invented by Heyer and unwittingly adopted by imitators who believed it to be the real deal. And anyone who’s read The Grand Sophy will recognize that one poetic Augustus has a great deal in common– at least on the face of it– with another.
The most bizarre connection, though, has to do with Mrs. Selwick-Alderly. During my time in England, I was invited to tea by a very gracious lady, a friend of a family friend– who also happened to be the wife of Heyer’s publisher. Her drawing room was filled with Heyer first editions. (She left me alone with them while she fetched the tea tray, which I considered an act of great trust on her part.) Her cozy sitting room and her treasure trove of Heyer novels provided the direct inspiration for Mrs. Selwick-Alderly and Eloise’s cache of papers.
Happy birthday, Georgette Heyer! Which is your favorite Heyer? And which was your first?