Georgette Heyer Regency novels are some of my favorite guilty pleasures. I stumbled across Heyer when in junior high – which must have been about 1981 or so – and I was initially fascinated by the fact that several of her books had female characters that disguised themselves as men. At the time there were no gay teen novels like there are now, and cross-dressing female characters were one of my first identifications with my sexual orientation, so I scoured the library for books about tomboys and other gender-role breaking females.
But I kept reading Heyer long after I had read those particular books, because she wrote strong, amusing characters and entertaining plots that paid detailed attention to rules of polite society in upper-class England during the Regency period. I hadn’t yet discovered Jane Austen, but when I did, I recognized the world she lived in, because Heyer was obviously inspired by Austen’s novels, although Heyer’s work is quite a bit more comical.
Georgette Heyer, along with Jane Austen, inspired the whole sub-genre of Regency Romance, but her novels shouldn’t be confused with cheap paperbacks; Heyer did a tremendous amount of research on the Regency period of English history. Most of her novels were written in the 1920s through the 1970s – but their popularity has kept them in print fairly regularly since then, and many have been reprinted recently by modern romance publishers.