To Kill a Mockingbird
Looking For Alibrandi
The Harry Potter series.
The Book Thief
The Diary of a Young Girl
The Secret Garden
And….. The Foundling by Georgette Heyer. What do all these books have in common?
The untitled Queen and the creator of the Regency Romance genre has a very special place in my heart. However nonsensical her plots, her dexterous story telling always keeps me gripped. There is never a dull moment… well, maybe there is, on some rare occasions, but much can be forgiven the author who can create side characters like Felix Merriville ( Frederica) and main characters like Freddy Standen (Cotillion). In fact, one never has to read her in a forgiving spirit, because one is laughing so much and exclaiming so much at some of her more extravagant pen sketches. Heyer is known for her style, and most importantly, for her impeccable research. Each Regency Romance and Georgian Romance is crafted in minute detail from furnishings to language to recreate a genuine feel for the times. Each character is lovingly fleshed out to make it real and palpable. The Foundling is a Regency Romance, even though the love story in it is secondary. I would rather call it a coming of age novel, set in the Regency period.
Twenty four year old Gilly, or, Most Noble Adolphus Gillespie Vernon Ware, Duke of Sale and Marquis of Ormesby; Earl of Sale; Baron Ware of Thame; Baron Ware of Stoven; and Baron Ware of Rufford, rolling in wealth, would rather be Plain Mr Dash of Nowhere in Particular. Hemmed in on all sides by well wishers and devoted retainers, Gilly is weary, longing for adventure. He yearns for the opportunity to know himself. When, out of the blue, such an opportunity presents itself, he shakes off his shackles, makes off into the unknown, and tumbles straight into one hair raising escapade after another.
I reread this book for the first time last weekend since the stars in my eye, girly romance, chick lit days. ( Not that we called it chick lit in those hoary days of yore). I remember not liking it. It was not lovey enough. The hero was not romantic or magnificent. He was shy, soft-spoken and self-effacing. The last not meaning that he was without self worth. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. Of course I expected it to be good reading. But I had either forgotten, or never noticed how funny it is. I had definitely missed how wise and multi-dimensional it is. I think I had kept looking for the romance. The beautiful, pert and sweet girl meets dashing, brave and witty boy. The scrapes the two get into, and out of. The everlasting declarations of love, and, the happily ever after feel.
This time around, remembering that the romance had been disappointing, I kept my reading slow. I determined even before I opened the first yellow page to savour the style and the wit, and not worry about the romance. Not being of that romantic teenager frame of mind anymore helped, of course.
I had belly laughs, and laughs that escaped me like a loud snort. I had to go back and read some paragraphs as I was laughing so much I missed details. I shed a few tears (I am an easy crier). But most of all, I fell in love with quiet, shy, Gilly. Gilly who knew his mind. Gilly who had a tender heart. Gilly who did not need to be loud, brash and overbearing to be manly. Gilly who was gentle and kind, and loving, and incredibly brave.
He does resort to stern speaking a few times in the novel, and has recourse to a couple of almost violent acts in self defence. But for a novel set in the early 1800s, with very few resources to save himself, he manages quite well. He learns his own power, he learns to value his blessings, and he learns that while he can fend for himself quite well as Plain Mr Dash of Nowhere in Particular, being Duke of Sale has its advantages. He comes home a grown man, and takes his place with sweet dignity. A novel before its time, almost. A SNAG in the days of footpads, and rogues and desperate people.
The romance which is almost an afterthought in this novel also turned out to be very satisfying to my current taste. Or do I mean current wisdom?
In fact, I think back to my teenage self, and wonder at how silly I was! In fact, from thinking of it as being one of the worst Georgette Heyer books I have read, I think this has taken up the favourite position. … Mmmmmm.. Cotillion still probably wins by a heartbeat. I will have to read both again, soon, and decide. If I cannot even then, at least I will have read two books full of laughter. Again.
So, Georgette Heyer not only writes the best Regency Romances, she also writes a killer coming of age story.
Do you ever read romances? What is your favourite romance? Would you recommend any? If you don’t read romance, what is your favourite genre? Any suggestions? I am forming a 2013 reading list.