The other day, when I posted about my recent Heyer-a-thon, a funny thing happened in the Comments section: an impromptu discussion of Top Five Heyer novels.
Not four shall you count, not six, but five. (Sorry, Monty Python.) Why five? Perhaps because it’s so impossible to pick just one Heyer. Or, for that matter, three or four. Even picking five is tough– but upping it to ten feels like cheating.
So I thought I’d give it a go. Here, in no particular order, are my top five Heyers:
— Devil’s Cub. Georgian, rather than Regency, this book captures the elegance and danger of an era when rakes wore ruffles and thought nothing of running a man through in the road. Vidal, the devil’s cub of the title, is a real rake, not a cutesy imitation one: mad, bad, and genuinely dangerous to know. Fortunately, the heroine, Mary Challoner, a woman of spirit and principle, is more than a match for him and refuses to give him any quarter– until he deserves it. (Side note: this book was the direct inspiration for the third in my Pink Carnation series, The Deception of the Emerald Ring, with its elopement gone wrong.)
— The Nonesuch. This book is the archetypal Regency romance, with its country community that can’t help but make you think of the world of Pride and Prejudice, a gentlewoman turned governess for heroine, and a top of the trees (but not toplofty) hero who turns the community upside down by dint of his appearance. (There’s even a secondary romance a la Bingley and Jane.)
— A Civil Contract. This one, while also a Regency, is a little different from the usual madcap romp. It’s more sober than Heyer’s other Regencies. The heroine is a “cit”, a rich merchant’s daughter, with none of the graces of the usual Heyer heroine. She’s a short, stout, housewifely soul. The hero, on the other hand, is a romantic, forced to sever his connection with the woman he always believed he would marry. But he discovers, over a year of marriage, that perhaps he’s not such a romantic as he thought, and that his practical Jenny may suit him better than flighty Julia. People seem to either love or hate A Civil Contract. I fall into the “love” category. (You can read my thoughts on it by scrolling down here until you get to the essay titled A Not So Fine Romance, from way back in September 2008.) In the end, is it a love match? That’s up for debate. I think it is– but you can see for yourself.
— Arabella. Back to the madcap, Arabella is one of the brilliantly funny Heyers, in which a parson’s daughter come-to-town decides, in a moment of pique, to pretend to be an heiress– but never imagines just how much she’ll be caught up in her own deception. The hero knows almost from the outset, but plays along, first out of annoyance, and later because he’s come to care for her too much to figure out how to tell her he knows the truth. This also falls into the “proud and wealthy hero knocked down from his pedestal and made human” category.
— Sylvester. Speaking of proud and lofty heroes…. It takes a novelist (also a twittery sister-in-law, a fop to end all fops, and a determined small child) to crack the ducal reserve of the eponymous Sylvester, with lots of hijinks and some of my very favorite comic scenes along the way.
What are your top five Heyers?