Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer


After my previous read for the Back to the Classics Challenge (a nonfiction memoir about life in a Russian gulag), I was in dire need of something fun to read. When the going gets tough, the tough need comfort reads! I'm not a big romance reader, but I've read a few of Georgette Heyer's Regency romances, and her books are fun, frothy light reads. 

Published in 1956, Sprig Muslin is a charmingly silly screwball comedy set in the Regency era. After his fiancee died in a tragic accident years before, Sir Gareth Ludlow put off marrying until his older brother dies, leaving him the heir apparent. On his way to make an offer of marriage to the quiet and steady Lady Hester Theale, he stops at an inn and encounters a young girl, Amanda, whom he soon realizes is running away from her family so she can elope with her young swain, an Army officer. Sir Gareth knows that she's out of her depth and needs protecting, but with completely noble intentions. He takes her along to Lady Theale's estate, where naturally her family assume young Amanda is his paramour. Naturally there are lots of mistaken intentions, escape attempts, and snarky comments about the fashionable Regency set. Of course all comes right in the end. 

Heyer's books are frequently recommended to fans of Jane Austen, and though the settings are in the same era, the similarities end there. Heyer is no Jane Austen, and after six or seven of her novels, I'm starting to see basic characters and situations repeating themselves -- the charmingly impetuous ingenue who is running away (often from an arranged marriage); a loyal young man who befriends the ingenue to get her out of a jam; a handsome, eligible bachelor (with a title, naturally) who saves the day; and a patient, quiet woman who ends up marrying the hero. 

Bits of it became a little tedious -- Amanda is really headstrong and spoiled, and she can't stop making up stories to convince people to help her -- and she gets away with everything because she's so pretty, which is truly annoying. That's not to say I didn't enjoy this book. I don't know if it's the best book I've ever read by Heyer (so far I think The Grand Sophy and Sylvester are my favorites so far) but it was very enjoyable. 

I don't usually read romances but sometimes one needs a break from reality -- and I'd much rather read one of Heyer's comedies than yet another Jane Austen knockoff. Heyer wrote more than 40 Regency romances and a dozen detective novels. They are usually funny and Heyer did extensive research into Regency history and society, so her descriptions and references to Regency life are very accurate.   I also own a recent biography of Heyer that I found at the Half-Price Books last year and I'm hoping to get to that soon. 

Has anyone else read a good romance by Georgette Heyer? What romances are you reading for the Back to the Classics Challenge? 

17 comments:

  1. I love Georgette Heyer, even if the books are getting a bit repetitive. Regency Romances all seem to recycle and recombine plots. My favorite so far is probably Friday's Child. It's very silly but very entertaining.

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    1. I haven't read Friday's Child yet! Must move it up on my TBR list.

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  2. I love Georgette Heyer's books, but haven't read this one yet, although the plot sounds very similar to Charity Girl, which I read last year. She certainly does seem to repeat the same characters and situations, but I don't really have a problem with that as I find her books so enjoyable anyway. I still have a lot of them to look forward to, including the two you've mentioned, The Grand Sophy and Sylvester!

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    1. There's a wonderful audio version of Sylvester narrated by Richard Armitage. It's worth listening to though I must warn you it's abridged. Several of the downloadable Heyers are abridged which I find terribly annoying.

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  3. I so agree with you about the Jane Austen knock offs. I've read quite a few Heyers and although they're good light entertainment I prefer her murder mysteries, they have the same witty banter between characters - good fun.

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    1. I've only read one of her mysteries, Why Shoot a Butler?, which I quite enjoyed.

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  4. Yep, the later books especially get repetitive. I started reading Heyer only a few years ago and when I did I read nearly all of them, but now I wish I had taken notes so I could remember the ones I particularly liked and would want to reread - the descriptions are little help. However, the good ones are excellent escapist reading - along with Susan, I recommend Friday's Child, and also Cotillion. I've seldom been enamored of Regency fiction, but one that I did enjoy was Indiscretion by Jude Morgan (does not qualify for BTTC, though). Joan Aiken's historical pastiches are also fun, though they can be quite over the top. I will have a look at everyone's reviews for more ideas!

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    1. I read Cotillion last year and enjoyed it, though I'd completely forgotten the plot now that you mentioned it! P. G. Wodehouse also recycled plots. I suppose it's tough to come up with new material after the first 20 or 30 books.

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  5. Frederica, The Grand Sophy, and, The Reluctant Widow are my Heyer favourites.
    (Rather fun to see a Heyer post here :-) )

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    1. I was a little hesitant to add the Romance category but there are a lot of classic novels with romantic elements, so why not? Classics can be fun too, right? And I think I'm bringing back the Children's Classic and Classic Humor categories for next year's challenge.

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    2. So true! Classics can be fun :)
      Looking forward to seeing what you read with those 2 next categories...I don't participate in the reading challenge but do enjoy reading your posts.

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  6. I have only tried one of Heyer’s romances previously “Black Sheep”. It was fine, but like you, I am not a big romance reader. I have had “Spring Muslin” recommended to me, however, and it is on my TBR.

    Interestingly enough, I am also reading a Gulag book (A Day in the Live of Ivan Denisovitch) too for my Russian pick and as a counterweight I am reading Dragonwyck by Anya Seton for my romance category.

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    1. I've never read anything by Anya Seton but Dragonwyck is intriguing -- I still haven't decided on my Gothic read for the Back to the Classics Challenge so it might be just the thing!

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  7. I read this quite a while ago, and I remember thinking that it was same old, same old. I had been reading a lot of Heyer, and there wasn't anything fresh in it. You're right, Heyer is fun, but she's no Austen. That said, I read her from time to time just for fun, escape, light reading. My favorite is The Reluctant Widow, which I've read at least twice and maybe even three times now. It holds up well, makes me laugh out loud, and has my favorite Heyer heroine. I also really like Sylvester and Cotillion. And, of course, The Infamous Army is fantastic!

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    1. I haven't read The Reluctant Widow or The Infamous Army! I'll put them on the TBR list.

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  8. I read many of the romances awhile back, but the ones that stuck in my mind are her historicals, The Spanish Bride (Napoleonic war in Spain with good charecters in a historical romance), and The Infamous Army (the Waterloo Campaign with some characters from Spanish Bride spilling over). Its been too long, I really should go back for a reread.

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  9. I love Heyer. Her books are some of my top comfort reads. I suppose they do get a bit repetitive but I still enjoy them. Sometimes I need a book that is just plain fun and that is what Heyer is for me. Cotillion, A Civil Contract, and The Unknown Ajax are some of my favorites. Her mysteries are fun and witty as well.

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