Book Review: Georgette Heyer’s Regency World

Georgette Heyer’s Regency World

Jennifer Kloester

Sourcebooks

387 pages

I’ve always been a big fan of the time period referenced in Georgette Heyer’s and Jane Austen’s books, so I was immediately drawn into this book.  I love to know every single detail about the time period–in fact, the more obscure the information, the more my attention is piqued.    Some of my favorite chapters were . . .

At Home in Town and Country

-Houses built in town were at least three, and sometimes four, stories high

-Servants actually had their own social status; the steward and the Groom of the Chambers were the upper echelon, whereas you didn’t get much lower than a scullery or laundry maid.

-Toilets were just coming into the picture.  Besides the few wealthy enough to actually buy and install toilets in their home, a person could also use a chamber pot or a privy, which was located in the backyard.

The Gentle Sex: The Regency Woman

-A girl’s education was usually just reading, basic arithmetic and occasionally a foreign language or two.  However, girls also were taught such talents as singing, painting, embroidery, dancing, sketching, and music.

-Not only did a married woman lose control of any money or land she may own, but that’s not all.  Even jewelry, clothing and household items became the husband’s possessions as well.

-The majority of girls hoped to be married or affianced by their first season–if not, then definitely by the second, or third at most.

What to Wear

-The men’s frock-coat wasn’t introduced until 1816.  Until that time, a man’s coat would have two long tails in the back that reached to behind the knees. 

-You knew women always wore gloves, but did you know men did too?The fabric and color of the gloves depended on the occasion and time of day.

-A woman’s hat was indicative of the age of the wearer.  An older woman might wear a lace cap or turban

-Morning dresses were rarely worn outdoors but could be as ornate and embellished as any other dress.

My biggest issue with this book is that the references were over my head.  I have loved the Heyer books that I have read, but I haven’t read much, so when one of Heyer’s books was referenced pretty much every paragraph or two, I was a little lost.  I was afraid of that before I even picked up the book though.  Obviously, givene the title, I knew to expect that.  Still, Heyer’s body of work is HUGE, so Kloester may have wanted to keep the references reigned in a bit more.

If you’re interested in this time period, this would be a great book to read for more background information, especially if you’re a Georgette Heyer fan!

Other Reviews:

Readin’ and Dreamin’

I received a copy of this book for review.

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Classics Circuit: Frederica

Frederica

Georgette Heyer

Sourcebooks Casablanca

448 pages

Welcome to the Classics Circuit.  This month’s featured author/theme is Georgette Heyer.  I want to start off by admitting that this has been my most anticipated tour yet.  That is somewhat shameful to me because I sign up for the tours in order to have motivation to read classics that I have yet to read.  However, I need no encouragement when it comes to Heyer.  I hadn’t even heard of her until I began blogging this past August and a few months after that, I read The Convenient Marriage.  The wonderful thing about Heyer is she takes Jane Austen-esque themes and time periods and makes them modern and hilarious without being over-the-top.  And let me tell you, they are SUPER readable.

Frederica is the story of the Merriville orphans.  They have come to London under the tutelage of oldest sibling Frederica.  Frederica’s goal is to introduce her sister Charis into society so that a well to do marriage can be established.  Charis is drop dead gorgeous but takes absolutely no note of it.  She is a very humble girl but seemingly dingy as well.  Frederica is the opposite—considered pretty, her looks pale in comparison to those of Charis, but all the common sense Charis lacks, Frederica has in excess.

The two girls are accompanied by their younger brothers Jessamy and Felix.  Head of the household Harry is away at school.  I wonder if anyone who has read this book could not have fallen in love with Felix.  He is the youngest (twelve I think . . . maybe younger) and he is as mischievous as they come.  Much of the book involves Felix and his childish antics.  He is one of the most loveable characters in fiction, in my opinion.

So anyway, the Merriville’s move to London and Frederica decides she must encroach upon her distant relation, Lord Alverstoke, in order to have Charis introduced in society.  Lord Alverstoke is quite selfish, but in an odd way.  I guess because of the fact that he realizes his character flaws, Lord Alverstoke is a very likeable character.  He decides to act as guardian and introduce Charis at a “ton” held at his home in honor of his niece Jane.  In fact, he only agreed to host the gathering as a way to get back at Jane’s mother, Louisa, his sister, because she was always pestering him to things for her as if it were his duty.  Louisa is relentless, and she is aghast and infuriated when she sees Charis at the ton and realizes what a beauty she is.

I really haven’t delved too far into the book synopsis at this point, but I think the little I have described embodies the merriment of the whole book.  Even with hystertically funny books, I usually only laugh on the inside, but with Frederica I was whooping it up as I read.  Take this exchange between Lord Alverstoke and his sister Louisa.

He had gone across the room to the side-table; and, as the butler withdrew, he turned his head, saying: “Sherry, Louisa?”

“My dear Vernon , you should know by now that I never touch sherry!”

“Should I?  But I have such a shockingly bad memory!”

“Not when you wish to remember anything!”

“Oh, no, not then!” he agreed.

That is just a small taste of Lord Alverstoke’s wit.  Like I said earlier, he’s a likeable character and very entertaining as well.  Frederica is also quite likeable, even when you’re not entirely sure if she is doing the right thing.  She is overly sensible, to the point where she refuses to do anything herself and instead lives for the fulfillment and happiness of her siblings.

As far as characters I didn’t particularly care for—I loathed Harry.  He was such a good for nothing and because Frederica was able to take better care of the family, he attempted to undermine her.  I also found Charis somewhat deplorable, although I almost felt guilty for it because she was such a nice girl.  I just got irritated by the way she acted towards the end.  On one hand, I wanted her to stand up for herself, but on the other hand she did it so half heartedly that I couldn’t respect it.

One thing I thought of while reading Frederica is that a Georgette Heyer challenge would be so much fun.  And then I discovered that there is one!  It’s a perpetual challenge hosted by Becky of Becky’s Book Reviews and you can find more info here.  I would like to read more of Heyer, so I am going to strive for one of her books every three months (that’s four a year!).  Hopefully I can read Why Shoot a Butler ? Soon since it’s been languishing on my shelf since Halloween!

In closing, I would just like to implore any of you who haven’t read any of Heyer’s work to do so ASAP.  You won’t regret it.

Other Reviews:

One Librarian’s Book Reviews

The Curious Reader

Fabula: A Book Blog

Becky’s Book Reviews

Lesa’s Book Critiques

The Bookworm

I borrowed this book from my local library.