Romances like Georgette Heyer
June 28, 2013 3:15 AM   Subscribe

I love Georgette Heyer's regency romances, but as I'm not regular romance reader, the signal to noise ratio when trying to find something similar is very low. My searches have yielded mixed results, can you help?

The challenge I'm finding, is that that most romances (like most books, I suppose) are actually shit. And I don't like reading shit, or more accurately, I don't like the genre enough to deal with badness. My standards are pretty high for this kind of stuff, so only best of the best please.

Things I like about Heyers novels:

1. They are funny. This is what I like most.
2. They are accurate.
3. Lovely dialogue
4. Genuinely good quality prose.

Are there other romances like this? They don't have to be strictly Regency, but I suppose the historical aspect works for me, because of the kind of drawing room farce elements, and the dialogue.

Things I am not looking for:

1. Anachronism. I've read a few and glaring anachronisms particularly in speech and etiquette just killed them for me. There is nothing worse than reading contemporary dialogue, or stories that just completely disregard social mores of the time.

2. Bad, obvious writing. I like the "play-like" qualities of Heyer's work, and the often farcical elements. She writes the books with a light touch.

3. Porn. I have nothing against porn, but I read these books for the humour and the happy endings of a non-sexual variety. Sex is not a deal breaker, but I really don't want it overshadowing the narrative and characters. The book should not be a vehicle for sex scenes.

Can you guys help? Thanks
posted by smoke to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
You might fond the OP's original list and the follow-up posts in this thread of use. See also this, specifically about Regency romances.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:21 AM on June 28, 2013

As a Heyer fan, the closest I've gotten to the same sense and feel has been through Lindsay Davis' Marcus Didius Falco and Helena series. They are mysteries set in ancient Rome but the drawing room farce flavour runs through them gently.
posted by infini at 3:33 AM on June 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

I love Georgette Heyer! Definitely check out Shadow of a Lady by Jane Aiken Hodge. She has also written a biography of Georgette Heyer. I've never read anything else by her (never found any) but Wikipedia has a bibliography for her.

Also, I would recommend P G Wodehouse. Not Regency, but often very romantic and obviously - this being Wodehouse - always funny. Most of his books have a romantic plot going on, though some are more romantic than others (the Jeeves books are very funny but light on romance, although there is generally a couple-story, that's rarely the focus). Some of my favourite, more romantic Wodehouse novels are Summer Moonshine, Sam the Sudden, and Piccadilly Jim. The Blandings books also all have a significant romance subplot.
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:38 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Rosemary Edghill wrote some very readable Regencies. Strongly recommend if you can find them.
posted by bq at 3:42 AM on June 28, 2013

Please excuse me if this is too obvious, but Jane Austen was a major influence for G. Heyer.
posted by h00py at 4:15 AM on June 28, 2013

Jennifer Crusie writes contemporary romances that are just about as good as Georgette Heyer's regencies. Sadly - and I have been trying, I swear; I have read a lot of romances over the last year or two - I think the two of them may have locked it up for the romance genre. Nicola Cornick is not terrible but she's not anywhere near in their league. infini is right in recommending Lindsey Davis; she's very good but those are mysteries, a very different genre. In mysteries, I'm going to assume that you've gone back to the 30s and read Dorothy Sayers and Marjorie Allingham and Ngaio Marsh. While you were there, did you read Nancy Mitford? Because The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate are two of the best things ever. And never forget Cold Comfort Farm. This question of mine last winter, mostly for movies, got some good answers in books too and may help as well.
posted by mygothlaundry at 4:39 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Heyer's flapper era mysteries also have that same sense of romantic comedy of manners going on.
posted by infini at 5:30 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you can deal with a little bit of speculative fiction mixed in, you might want to check out Mary Robinette Kowal's Shades Of Milk And Honey. It's set during the Regency, and one of the things I love about the book is although it is fantasy, she did very rigorous research of the era and talks about the history in the appendix. Also, the fantastical elements have strict rules of their own, thre is no hand wave-explanations of the magic.
posted by bibliogrrl at 5:34 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You might enjoy Emilie Loring. She wrote contemporary novels from the 1910s through the early 1950s (with later books written by ghost writers working from her outlines) -- they are period now, but anachronisms are not an issue (heh). Much like Georgette Heyer, her books have silly plots and drawing room chatter and parties and dresses. She also wrote some turkeys (again, like Georgette Heyer -- Cousin Kate, amirite?), but her average book is pretty good and the standouts are very enjoyable. (I have yet to find her A Civil Contract, though.)

I also really love Shannon Hale's Austenland novels, which are contemporary but set in an Austen theme park (sort of). Very funny, very well-written.

For reviews of modern romance novels, try Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and Radish Reviews. There are good modern romances out there, both in contemporary and period.

Marion Keyes, Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips all write funny, well-written romances set in the modern day. For Marion Keyes, watch which one -- she is an awesome writer but does deal in very serious themes, and she has a couple that are funny but shattering. I recommend The Other Side of the Story for funny but terrific and well-written. For Sophie Kinsella, I liked The Undomestic Goddess best (if you are meh on that one, you probably don't like her thing; I can't read the Shopaholic series because I find the shopaholism so upsetting). For Meg Cabot, try any of her adult fiction (all funny, classic escapism; skip the vampire series). For Susan Elizabeth Phillips, start with Ain't She Sweet? which is a really terrific book, really her A Civil Contract.
posted by pie ninja at 5:43 AM on June 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

Marion Chesney, although I'd very strongly advise skipping her mysteries written under the pen name MC Beaton. Some of Julia Quinn's books maybe - I've only read two and there were significant flaws in each but they were still overall enjoyable.

If you are open to mysteries, I could recommend a whole bunch of authors who write about very detailed historical settings that include a dash of romance (Barbara Hambly, Elizabeth Peters, Anne Perry, Barbara Cleverly, Victoria Thomas). I find the romance in these much more satisfying than in traditional romances because it's secondary and there is a lot less for me to punch holes in.

But the answer to all romance book questions is Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.
posted by hydrobatidae at 5:47 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've enjoyed Angela Thirkell for a lot of the same reasons I enjoy Georgette Heyer. They aren't strictly romances, but have romances included in the plot. They are set in the 30s and 40s. They have funny elements, decent dialogue, and some of the same elements of drawing room farce as the Heyer books. You might also try the E.F. Benson Mapp and Lucia books.
posted by Cocodrillo at 6:52 AM on June 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think Jennifer Cruisie is classed as 'romance', but what I've read of her is very funny and lacking in cliche. However, they are contemporary and not historical. Mavis Cheek is similar, but British - her books remind me of Radio 4 plays.

I really enjoyed Meg Cabot's Queen of Babble series, and the books that start with Size 12 is Not Fat (which I spurned for ages as they kept the title in the UK where a size 12 is actually a US 8, and who thinks that's fat come on now). The first has a character who is bi, and the second has a character who is a larger girl, and - as someone who has read a lot of utter shit when studying to empty my brain - many many books cannot deal with either of these without treating them as a grotesque novelty. These don't, and I appreciated that. Her characters do not make me want to reach inside the page and throttle them, which you have probably learned is something of a common theme in anything approaching the 'romantic fiction' genre.
posted by mippy at 7:08 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Try Jeffery Farnol. He was older than Heyer but wrote Regency romances around the same time. They're centred on male heroes, and a bit more swashbuckling, but they're delightful and great fun. Farnol has the same sure hand in setting up a romance you know will work out but you're still fascinated to see how it will happen. The Amateur Gentleman would be a good first one to try.

His Wikipedia entry has a bibliography and some basic facts. The Life and Times of Jeffery Farnol is a short biography.
posted by wdenton at 7:28 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You'll probably do best with older traditional regencies, the ones that have held up well enough people still recommend them. More modern authors (Quinn in particular) are very charming and funny, but less concerned with accuracy and have more sex than the old-school titles did.

Regency Reads has a lot of great old Regency re-releases in ebook form, which will save you some time in used bookstores.

I'd suggest Diana Brown or Madeleine Robins (the latter has some available at Book View Cafe).

Meg Cabot's got a few regencies (both YA and written for adults) that I remember as being very funny (she always is) but her protagonists always seem to have the same sort of contemporary voice. I enjoy it, but it's not period. Try her contemporaries (seconding Queen of Babble).

Jennifer Crusie's fabulous; Bet Me is my favorite of hers and may be my favorite contemporary romance ever, for Reasons.
posted by asperity at 7:44 AM on June 28, 2013

Best answer: I really enjoyed Eva Ibbotson's romances. She writes about times and places she grew up in, and her 1920's - 1940's time feels accurate. A Countess Below Stairs is hilarious, The Morning Gift and A Song For Summer are also great books.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:45 AM on June 28, 2013

I adore Jennifer Crusie, but she does have sex scenes that, while not usually described in minute detail, may be more than you wish. They always advance the characters, though! She also sets her work in the present day.

I don't think most of Georgette Heyer's mysteries are very good, and they tend to be a little more revealing of some ideas of her time that are less acceptable/enjoyable to read about. I can usually gloss past them but most of them are just not all that interesting.

For romance, if you're not in general a mystery reader, you could just read Dorothy L. Sayers' works that include the character Harriet Vane: Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night, and Busman's Honeymoon. (But really, read them all, I'll excuse you if you want to skip Five Red Herrings, though.)

One of the authors that fits in the same mental space for me as Heyer is Mary Stewart. There's always a romance, generally imbedded in a Gothic-ish mystery or mild thriller of some sort. They're exciting and romantic and were written mostly in the 50s-60s and don't contain any explicit sex beyond a kiss or two. Nine Coaches Waiting might be a good place to start.

Also, some of Elizabeth Peters' lesser-known works also fall into this mold. The Seventh Sinner, Copenhagen Connection, the Vickie Bliss books all have strong romance elements that thread through the books, but they also have mysteries (mostly art or history related).
posted by PussKillian at 10:06 AM on June 28, 2013

I haven't read Georgette Heyer (I know, I know) but I've really enjoyed some of Amanda Quick's stuff. Just finished Ravished, which was highly, highly enjoyable. Somewhat sensual in parts, but not embarrassingly so. High fun factor, very high on the smart female character and crackling interplay factors.
posted by Madamina at 11:03 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Rafael Sabatini.
posted by adamvasco at 11:37 AM on June 28, 2013

I love Gerogette Heyer, too. The romances, not the mysteries.

They are not romances, but the Jack Aubrey novels by Patrick O'Brian are remarkable. They are written with a very similar style of excellent writing, deft turns of phrase, excellent dialogue, witty and subtle repartee, etc. Sort of Jane Austen for the sailiing crowd:
At a concert:
The high note came, the pause, the resolution; and with the resolution the sailor’s fist swept firmly down upon his knee. He leant back in his chair, extinguishing it entirely, sighed happily and turned towards his neighbor with a smile. The words ‘Very finely played, sir, I believe’ were formed in his gullet if not quite in his mouth when he caught the cold and indeed inimical look and heard the whisper, ‘If you really must beat the measure, sir, let me entreat you to do so in time, and not half a beat ahead.’

Jack Aubrey’s face instantly changed from friendly ingenuous communicative pleasure to an expression of somewhat baffled hostility: he could not but acknowledge that he had been beating the time; and although he had certainly done so with perfect accuracy, in itself the thing was wrong. His colour mounted; he fixed his neighbour’s pale eye for a moment, said, ‘I trust…’, and the opening notes of the slow movement cut him short.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:34 PM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Candice Hern writes very light, fun Regency romances. I'm currently on Miss Lacey's Last Fling, and it is most droll.

Barbara Metzger can be very hit and miss, but she is prolific, and her books are hilarious.

Outside of the traditional Regency genre, Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog captures the Georgette Heyer tone perfectly. The tale of a pair of time travelers going to Victorian and WWII Britain, it's an homage to Dorothy Sayers and that sparkling 1920s tone of the novels of that time.
posted by so much modern time at 9:39 PM on June 28, 2013

This may be a slightly off-the-wall suggestion, but as a lover of Regency romance, I've greatly enjoyed Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series. They're mysteries set in the World War I timeframe; Mary Russell is an astute observer of the world, a mathematics student, and becomes a pupil of Sherlock Holmes, so there is some male-female tension there. I like them because they're smart, well-written, have good and authentic dialogue, and have a good sense of place, and I love Sherlock Holmes.

You may also enjoy Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, which is a romance set in 18th century England between a hard, Darcy-type factory owner and a genteel, caring, Elizabeth Bennett type Southerner (she's actually a very good character - caring, but firm in her principles). Elizabeth Gaskell wrote in her own time period, so there's no concern about authentic dialogue there.

This is even more off-the-wall than Laurie R. King's books above, but you may enjoy Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. I love Regency, and I also love the last-vestiges-of-the-old-world timeframe too. It's a romance in one sense, but more between two male friends and the intensity of one man's longing to join a social world better than his own reflected in the intensity of his feelings for his friend who's introduced him to that world. (It's not homosexual, but there are slight elements of homoeroticism if you read very closely - IMO.)

A.E.W. Mason's The Four Feathers takes place largely in the Sudan, as a English man attempts to prove his friends and fiancee that he is not a coward. There's elements of drawing-room romance, and the old British empire flavor is always wonderful. This book has some gorgeous prose.

Of all of these, I think if you haven't read North and South yet, you should check that out for sure.

Waiting for the day I can put on a light empire dress, get into a time machine, and step out into a life of playing the pianoforte, taking long walks about my manor, and attending balls while altogether ignoring the Napoleonic threat to England.
posted by Unangenehm at 7:26 AM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Waiting for the day I can put on a light empire dress, get into a time machine, and step out into a life of playing the pianoforte, taking long walks about my manor, and attending balls while altogether ignoring the Napoleonic threat to England.

I picked up a matched set of books in the library on this topic - Jane Austen Society member wakes up in Northhanger Abbey or some such and the other ends up in 21st century Los Angeles. Aside from the novelty, it was meh, particularly since I also read a lot of sci-fi.

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by
Laurie Viera Rigler
posted by infini at 7:55 AM on June 29, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks all, highlight some answers that bear immediate investigation, but all were helpful. I have indeed read Aubrey/Maturin, Austen etc, but thanks anyway.:)

Cousin Kate, amirite?)

Yes, yes, oh a thousand times yes!
posted by smoke at 12:18 PM on June 30, 2013

I thought of another one: The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. It's pretty different from her Anne books. I also found a number of romances in her short story collections. At the Altar is all about romance, but Along the Shore, Across the Miles, After Many Days, and The Doctor's Sweetheart all had a lot of enjoyable romances too. (I'm not sure if you like just regency or if any well done historical is intersting, but I'm hoping the latter.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:53 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older How Are School Libraries Different Now than 20...   |   Dealing with casual bigotry? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.