Top Five Heyers

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.

Honorable mentions: The Talisman Ring, The Quiet Gentleman, and Sprig Muslin.

What are your top five Heyers?


  1. Dianna on August 29, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    Have you read Georgette Heyer’s mysteries

    • Sheila on August 29, 2017 at 3:52 pm

      I’ve read one, Penhallow, which was a well-written, horrible book. She wrote it toget out of a contract with her publisher.

      • Ellen Sheffer on August 29, 2017 at 6:04 pm

        Penhollow is indeed, in my opinion, dreadful. But her other mysteries are delightful.

  2. Sheila on August 29, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    These Old Shades, my first ever Heyer, and Devil’s Cub. Other places would be taken by whatever I am rereading at the time.

  3. Joanne M. on August 29, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    Hmmm, I have a different favorite depending on when you ask. So for today, I’d say Arabella, The Reluctant Widow, Devil’s Cub, Beauvallet, and Sylvester.

    Right now I’m on a Daphne du Maurier marathon…..not quite as prolific as Heyer but oh…so…good!!

  4. Jan Siler on August 29, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    So – I think my Top 5 would be:

    Black Sheep – love the “older”, non-conventional love story
    Devil’s Cub – Mary Challoner is a great heroine
    Arabella – not one I remember from my teen years (a long, long time ago) but a new favorite
    Frederica – love the family dynamics and Lufra the unrepentant dog
    The Nonesuch – and his “brats”

    I recently read Jane Aiken Hodge’s The Private World of Georgette Heyer… interesting a read!

    • Lauren on August 31, 2017 at 1:31 pm

      I loved that Joan Aiken Hodge bio! Particularly the bits about Heyer getting hopped up on gin and cold medicine to power through her books….

  5. Carrie Morrell on August 29, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    I need to pick some of these up again! I binge-read them in high school when i dated a guy whose mom had Every. Single. One. Literally (literaturally??), an entire wall of Georgette Heyer books. Thus, they are all a blur, but Arabella sounds really familiar.

    • Rachel Adrianna on August 29, 2017 at 8:31 pm

      “literaturally” 😀

      • Lauren on August 31, 2017 at 1:31 pm

        Best word ever.

  6. Rebecca on August 29, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    Richard Armitage has done a wonderful audio version of Sylvester. Sadly, it’s an abridged version, but it’s fantastic nonetheless.

    • Diana P on August 29, 2017 at 4:23 pm

      I agree! He was perfect as Sylvester and did a great job with all of the other characters.

    • Saralee Etter on August 29, 2017 at 5:09 pm

      I agree! Richard Armitage’s Sylvester is great! He also did Venetia and (I think) A Civil Contract.

  7. Diana P on August 29, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    It is so hard to pick…
    Regency Buck
    The Grand Sophy

  8. Judy on August 29, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    1. The Corinthian
    2. Frederica
    3. Arabella
    4. Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle
    5. The Grand Sophy

  9. Alison Doherty on August 29, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    You don’t have my two favorites Frederica and The Grand Sophy on your list. I’m shocked!

    • Lauren on August 30, 2017 at 3:49 pm

      How have I never read “Frederica”??? Just ordered it….

      • Carolyn Witt on August 30, 2017 at 7:49 pm

        You will really like it! Made me laugh!!! (out loud!!)

        • Jessica C on August 30, 2017 at 8:02 pm

          Oh yes! Lufra’s antics made me laugh loudly. On a train. I got some weird looks but just didn’t care

  10. Saralee Etter on August 29, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    My favorites are:
    These Old Shades
    The Grand Sophy
    The Talisman Ring

    But I love them all. I’m currently re-reading the mysteries. I like the way she tried to break the “golden rules” of mystery in some of her tales.

  11. Patricia McGee on August 29, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    1. Sylvester
    2. Spanish Bride
    3.The Grand Sophy
    5.Flase Colours

  12. Ellen on August 29, 2017 at 6:13 pm

    The Grand Sophy, Frederica, The Talisman Ring, The Unknown Ajax, The Tollbooth, and, and, and. Subject to change without notice!

  13. Karlene Barger on August 29, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    1. The Grand Sophy 2. Cotillion 3.The Unknown Ajax 4. Friday’s Child 5. Frederica

  14. BeverlyFontaine on August 29, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    Toooooooo hard! The Grand Sophy, These Old Shades, Devils Cub, the Nonesuch and A Civil Contract. I adore Georgette Heyer. I discovered her books in high school and have never stopped reading her. I introduced my three daughters to her books and they love them as well.

  15. Jessica C on August 29, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    Top 3 is easy – Sylvester, Frederica, and Cotillion.

    The next two are hard and rotate – The Masqueraders (my favourite Georgian), then a toss-up between Arabella, The Reluctant Widow, and The Nonesuch. I love the ones with naughty dogs and intelligent heroines – the mad romps with cross-dressing are fun but don’t engage the heart so much.

    • Jessica C on August 29, 2017 at 7:56 pm

      Also – A Civil Contract is great, I think of it as the most ‘Jane Austen’ of the Heyer novels. It has some of the feel of both Mansfield Park and Persuasion about it. Particularly MP – as I want to both hit both Edmund and Adam over the head with a cricket bat.

  16. Stephanie Barron on August 29, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    Top Five in absolutely no order:
    The Grand Sophy
    Faro’s Daughter
    Bath Tangle
    April Lady
    Devil’s Cub
    An Infamous Army
    The Reluctant Widow
    False Colours

    Yes, I’ve always sucked at math.

  17. Susan Broscvh on August 29, 2017 at 9:26 pm

    Death in the Stocks
    The Grand Sophy
    Unknown Ajax
    The Quiet Genteman

    The cousin thing is touchy, though.

  18. Lora Lynn on August 29, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    Hands down, Devil’s Cub is the best. These Old Shades is next. The rest are kind of a blur. I need to go back and re-binge.

  19. Kristin H on August 31, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    These Old Shades must come before The Devil’s Cub. Must, must, must. Then The Grand Sophy is just delightful.

  20. DJL on August 31, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Top 5 Heyers (today)…Arabella, Sylvester, The Masqueraders, The Black Moth, The Grand Sophy. Warning: this list is subject to change on daily basis 🙂

    • DJL on August 31, 2017 at 5:03 pm

      Oh yeah, and Regency Buck!

  21. Tracy Grant on September 1, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    So fun and so hard to choose!

    The Grand Sophy
    An Infamous Army
    a tie between Arabella and Sylvester

    We did a series “Literary Ancestors” posts recently on my Google Group and a number of Heyer characters came up as literary ancestors of the characters in my series – not surprisingly as she was such an influence on me.

    What a treat to discover Frederica, Lauren!

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