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Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller

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Georgette Heyer remains an enduring international bestseller, read and loved by four generations of readers and extolled by today's bestselling authors. Despite her enormous popularity she never gave an interview or appeared in public. This title offers a comprehensive insight into the life and writing of this ferociously private woman.


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Georgette Heyer remains an enduring international bestseller, read and loved by four generations of readers and extolled by today's bestselling authors. Despite her enormous popularity she never gave an interview or appeared in public. This title offers a comprehensive insight into the life and writing of this ferociously private woman.

30 review for Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

    Oh, Netgalley, I kind of wish I hadn't read this. Don't get me wrong; it's not a bad book. I didn't hate the writing, and it didn't make me hate Georgette Heyer; it also didn't knock the acclaimed Regency (etc) author off any pedestal, since I didn't have her on one to begin with. I've only read (listened to) one book of hers so far, and kind of hated that, although I do have a box full of paperbacks I fully plan to read. I've heard many wonderful things about the books, and I chose this biogra Oh, Netgalley, I kind of wish I hadn't read this. Don't get me wrong; it's not a bad book. I didn't hate the writing, and it didn't make me hate Georgette Heyer; it also didn't knock the acclaimed Regency (etc) author off any pedestal, since I didn't have her on one to begin with. I've only read (listened to) one book of hers so far, and kind of hated that, although I do have a box full of paperbacks I fully plan to read. I've heard many wonderful things about the books, and I chose this biography with an interest in, cart-before-the-horse-like, learning more about an author I expect to become a favorite. Well, maybe her books will become favorites. The biography of Georgette Heyer's life lingers over her relationship with her father, and provides loving detail about how she wrote her first book at age seventeen and published at nineteen. And on through her prolific career, her tussles with publishers and financial woes, her marriage and motherhood, moves from residence to residence and publisher to publisher and ailment to ailment. And while I didn't finish up hating Ms. Heyer, I really, really don't like her. This is a bio written by someone is passionate about her subject, and even she couldn't make Georgette Heyer winning. She (Heyer) was … well, for starters, she was a hypocrite. She was the sole breadwinner for her family for many, many years – and also supported her brother and mother – and yet was vehemently against women having careers, much less running businesses. She was constantly in debt for more than half her life, and somehow didn't ever seem to twig to the fact that this was in large part because she spent money as though she had it in abundance; she and her family blithely continued to wear the best and eat the best and take month-long vacations, despite the fact that there were many times when, according to the letters quoted, she was afraid of local merchants stopping her credit because of past-due bills. She lived with a perpetual overdraft. She seems to have refused to acknowledge the fact that she was not of the silk-and-diamonds class she wrote about, and instead plunged into such projects as completely refurbishing her (rented) house. (I haven't a great deal of respect for her husband, either, or the brother who couldn't seem to hold a civilian job and seems to have sponged off her for decades without a qualm, yet was perfectly fit for service in WWII and acquitted himself quite well.) Heyer was blunt and tactless, violently unromantic, and the embodiment of the cliché of British coolness and reserve. She enjoyed a drink – or several – or many – and her use of shall we say other chemical enhancement as well raised my eyebrows. She was a horrendous snob: adamantly anti-American, at least mildly racist, surprisingly sexist, proudly unsympathetic (until, apparently, later in life) to those in shakier financial positions than her own (she called it being "conservative"), and oozed contempt for the fans who adored her books. Sometimes she expressed her contempt in tearing up fan letters; sometimes she expressed it by writing back. I'd bet money that were she writing today she would be a Goodreads Author Behaving Badly. She also seems to have embraced the Darcy characteristic: "My temper would perhaps be called resentful. -- My good opinion once lost is lost for ever.'' She could – and did – hold a grudge like a bulldog. None of this makes me like her any better. She was almost unfailingly self-deprecating – but in the manner of someone who downplays her achievement in the expectation that the person being addressed will correct her enthusiastically. She expected a conversation (live or by letter) to proceed along the lines of: "The new book I'm writing is rubbish" "No, what I've seen of it is wonderful!" "Really, the only place for it is the incinerator!" "No, truly, it will be a tremendous hit!" – and if her partner in the discussion did not play along she was peeved, to say the least. She claimed publicly at one point that she never read her reviews, which made me snort in disbelief, because she hung on them. And negativity in reviews nearly always meant that the reader was wrong, how dared they … yes, unless someone sat on her she definitely would have been on the bratty authors list on GR. (And God help anyone who found an anachronism in her writing.) However. This oughtn't to be a review of Georgette Heyer, but of Georgette Heyer, if you see what I mean. So to that end: not bad. Not great, but not awful. There is a fair amount of punctuation misuse which will hopefully be picked up before the final draft, comma abuse and overuse and so on (even above and beyond what Heyer herself was guilty of in the letters quoted). Formatting – block quotes and line breaks to indicate the insertion of a section of a letter – will also, I trust, be cleaned up. (Someday Kindle galleys will grow out of their awkward childhood, right?) All else aside, I found myself most annoyed by the repetitiveness throughout the book. The author set down a statement – such as that last sentence – and then explained and/or backed it up with an anecdote from Heyer's life. These brief stories seemed to take their tone and pace from whatever their sources were, for they were not uniform, but generally took up between a paragraph and a page. And at the end of it would come a summation repeating in much the same wording as that first statement, as though to make sure that the point had been gotten across. Once or twice would have raised a sigh, but over and over and over, reiteration reiterated, it became a frustration. It's awkward – but inevitable – that the correspondence quoted throughout the book is one-sided; Heyer did not keep letters, apparently. I can only imagine she would have been contrarily pleased that her correspondents kept her letters, though, as she made frequent jokes about her future biographers, with the same sort of tone as her self-deprecation: she wanted, desperately, to be reassured that she would be remembered, while fiercely protecting her privacy. However, this leads to unfortunate gaps and unanswered questions which niggle. It seems harsh to say this, but I can't help feeling there had to be another way to present the events at the end of Heyer's life. As she grew older, she became accident-prone – to an extent that I can't but think today's authorities might take a look into possible elder abuse. But as her books came less often and the ailments and accidents came more often it started to be almost farcical - Another fall??. It's certainly not funny to read about a seventy-year-old woman's injuries and illnesses, but after a certain point it just seemed like much too much: someone should have been looking after her better. And that's sad, because whatever else can be said about her she did sacrifice herself (however unwillingly at times) to tend her mother and mother-in-law and anyone else who needed it, all her life long. My other quibble about the end of the biography is that the author relied on jumping from Heyer novel to Heyer novel like stepping stones throughout her life. When Heyer's output began to falter at the end, so does the pacing of the biography; it suddenly picks up speed as though to sooner reach a point at which Heyer's legacy can be discussed and the book wrapped up. Unfortunately, this is part of why the injuries and sickness turns into something almost ridiculous; also, I found it distractingly annoying that another part of this was the mention in passing of the divorce of a couple who had, a few pages before, been blissfully happy. No explanation is given, or expansion of the circumstances; there is just the merest mention of a split and a remarriage and that's it. Finally, if I had to read the word "sparkling" one more time in regards to the Heyer oeuvre, I would have screamed. Roget. Just … Roget. Please. On the positive side, the research that went into this biography is almost as impressive as Heyer's own. The foreword details years of investigation and reading, and the discovery and thorough examination of what seems like reams of previously unknown or forgotten material. It's a wonderful effort, and obviously a labor of love. I just rather wish it had all come to more than this. I don't have to like, or even respect, an author to like her books. I just simplistically prefer to. So here's hoping.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Georgette Heyer has been one of my favourite writers since my mother gave me Friday's Child when I was about thirteen and told me that it had always made her laugh. Heyer's Regency and Georgian romances are the books I turn to when I am feeling sad or unwell, even though I don't generally read books which would fit within the romance genre. They are the literary equivalent of a cup of sweet black tea: warm, comfortable and reviving. Many of them make me laugh out loud. Most of them make me smile Georgette Heyer has been one of my favourite writers since my mother gave me Friday's Child when I was about thirteen and told me that it had always made her laugh. Heyer's Regency and Georgian romances are the books I turn to when I am feeling sad or unwell, even though I don't generally read books which would fit within the romance genre. They are the literary equivalent of a cup of sweet black tea: warm, comfortable and reviving. Many of them make me laugh out loud. Most of them make me smile. A couple of them have scenes which bring tears to my eyes. Heyer's novels are not great literature, but then Heyer didn't intend them to be. They are well-written, witty escapism; the best of them are comic romances with subvert the romance genre. Heyer also wrote witty (although not brilliant) mysteries, a number of historical novels and several contemporary novels which she lived to regret writing. This is the second biography to have Heyer as its subject. The first, The Private World of Georgette Heyer, provides an interesting background and an analysis of Heyer's novels which occasionally includes plot spoilers (as I discovered to my consternation when I wanted to check a detail of Heyer's life and had revealed to me the identity of the culprit in the mystery I was reading at the time). However, Kloester's work appears to have had the benefit of much greater access to Heyer's correspondence and to other records. In addition, while Kloester sets the writing of each of the novels in the context of Heyer's life, she does not analyse or discuss them in any depth and most definitely does not provide spoilers. Kloester has also been able to discuss much more frankly some issues touched on in Hodge's work, particularly the allegations of plagiarism which Heyer made (with apparent justification) against another well-known writer. However, for all of the access that Kloester had to Heyer's letters and to people who knew Heyer, the image which emerges of her remains hazy in some of its details. This is, I think, is because Heyer was so resolutely private. She did not give interviews, she did not pose for publicity shots, she did not keep a personal diary, she destroyed her manuscripts after publication of her novels and she disposed of most of the letters she received. The image of her which does emerge is not particularly attractive. Heyer was deeply politically and socially conservative, a middle-class woman with aspirations to a lifestyle beyond the income she had for much of her life, a poor money manager, emotionally distant and yet supportive of her extended family, intelligent but insecure. Kloester writes well. She indulges in relatively little speculation about Heyer's feelings or motivation - which is admirable given the somewhat limited nature of the resources at her disposal. In addition, she provides some insights into Heyer's life which contribute to an understanding of her novels. There's plenty to laugh at in Heyer's letters. One amusing episode describes Heyer's reaction to an invitation to dine at Buckingham Palace and her realisation that the Queen had found her "formidable". (This episode particularly tickled my fancy, I suspect because of my appreciation of Alan Bennett's novella The Uncommon Reader). Overall, Kloester's work reinforces my view that I would not have particularly liked Georgette Heyer. I have little in common with her and I have no sympathy for her social or political views. If I had been Heyer's literary agent, I would have been driven crazy. However, for all of that, I enjoyed reading her biography and I will remain a fan of her writing. Kloester's work is an excellent resource for anyone interested in knowing more about Heyer. This was another enjoyable buddy read with my friend Jemidar.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nick Imrie

    Jennifer Kloester has done some heroic work here - it's a very creditable attempt to make an engaging story out of what was a very ordinary life. Georgette Heyer was born into a happy, upper-middle-class family. She had a loving, harmonious marriage and one child. She wrote some excellent books. Her life was touched by tragedy but no more than any life: she lost a beloved father while still a young woman, but made it through the war largely unscathed, with both brothers and husband coming safely Jennifer Kloester has done some heroic work here - it's a very creditable attempt to make an engaging story out of what was a very ordinary life. Georgette Heyer was born into a happy, upper-middle-class family. She had a loving, harmonious marriage and one child. She wrote some excellent books. Her life was touched by tragedy but no more than any life: she lost a beloved father while still a young woman, but made it through the war largely unscathed, with both brothers and husband coming safely home to her. She had the ordinary share of trials and vexations: a fractious relationship with her mother; two dependent brothers; a reluctance to manage her own finances, disastrously mixed with a bitter hatred of the taxman, which led to the conviction that she was being persecuted by the state for the benefit of the workshy. She was a true Tory even if her politics mellowed in later life. It's difficult even to drag out a biography of her as a writer, if not as a woman, because she destroyed all her manuscripts. Her perpetual self-deprecation means that she left no serious record of her work method or artistic intentions (indeed, she would have howled at the insinuation that she perpetrated any such thing as 'art'). The most shocking thing in the enter book is the discovery that she used gin, cigarettes, and Dexedrine to stay up all night working. At this point I am beginning to doubt that any writer ever wrote sober and I'm seriously considering a mild drug addiction to aid my own creativity. If even a respectable conservative like Heyer needs amphetamines to write then what hope for the rest of us?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    If you ever feel like, as a writer, feeling like you’re a hack who doesn’t even write that fast, I do suggest you read this biography of Georgette Heyer — or just take a look at her publishing history. Holy wow. She started early and kept on going and going and going, producing books which people love to this day almost right up to her death. And yeah, she had a formula for the Regency books, in a way, but they still remained full of wit and humour which makes each one feel fresh, and she did ve If you ever feel like, as a writer, feeling like you’re a hack who doesn’t even write that fast, I do suggest you read this biography of Georgette Heyer — or just take a look at her publishing history. Holy wow. She started early and kept on going and going and going, producing books which people love to this day almost right up to her death. And yeah, she had a formula for the Regency books, in a way, but they still remained full of wit and humour which makes each one feel fresh, and she did venture beyond those bounds: she wrote a medieval historical novel, contemporary romances, short stories, a novel which is still used as an example for her portrayal of the battle of Waterloo… She was a versatile, accomplished and prolific author. I feel like she’d have got on with modern writers like Kameron Hurley in her outlook (though not, goodness me, politically or morally) on writing as a job, and one where she had to keep to deadlines, pay attention to her income, and constantly stay ahead of debt and the Tax Man. She may have loved it and it may have been a craft to her, and I think that is apparent, but it was also work and she took it seriously, using it to support her family. The personality of Heyer is a little elusive because she was a notoriously private person, giving no interviews. On the other hand, there is a wealth of letters written by her available, including some she wrote to fans and to her agent, so her personality shines through there: self-deprecating in a very proper British way, but proud of her work and her research where merited; conscientious about her commitments; blunt and to the point about her likes and dislikes, even when she’s trying to support a friend. There is quite a bit of repetition on these points, including a recurring theme of Heyer claiming that she doesn’t write well in adversity, and Kloester pointing out that she does. There’s a bit of repetition about her deep relationship with her husband (and the fact that it was not especially physical). But overall it’s an interesting biography which shines a bit of light on Heyer, and has made me scribble some of her works down in my list to read soon. Something about knowing the context in which she wrote them and the feelings she had about them makes them more intriguing. And oh, Heyer, how dare you not just adore The Taliman Ring? It’s so much fun! Originally posted here.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    While I understand why so many reviewers gave this book 3 or 4 stars, I can't do it. I enjoyed reading it too much to give it anything less than 5 stars! For all its flaws, Georgette Heyer by Jennifer Kloester is a fascinating biography about an author I deeply adore, even after discovering her feet of clay. And Georgette Heyer definitely had feet of clay. From her inability to manage her finances to her weird marriage to her extreme shyness, Heyer was a strange, snobbish woman who at the same t While I understand why so many reviewers gave this book 3 or 4 stars, I can't do it. I enjoyed reading it too much to give it anything less than 5 stars! For all its flaws, Georgette Heyer by Jennifer Kloester is a fascinating biography about an author I deeply adore, even after discovering her feet of clay. And Georgette Heyer definitely had feet of clay. From her inability to manage her finances to her weird marriage to her extreme shyness, Heyer was a strange, snobbish woman who at the same time is extremely recognizable. She really is "to be found in [her] work." It is always a wonderful surprise to me to find other people who love Heyer. I know she was a best seller and wrote remarkable novels, but I discovered her in such an isolated way as a 17 year old that it still amazes me to find other fans of her work. For many years I didn't know a single person who had even heard of her, much less read her books over and over like I had. This biography helped fill my craving for a little girly, gossipy time about Heyer and her work. Not that this book is at all gossipy. In fact, for those who don't love Heyer, it probably comes across as rather dry and repetitive. This extremely private woman did not leave much to go on beyond the basic facts. Kloester does her best to flesh the facts out, though, and often quotes Heyer extensively from her own letters. I enjoyed seeing the chronological order Heyer's books were written in. It actually helps put things into a lot of focus, especially her histories and the more swashbuckling of her stories. The way she felt about her mysteries also helps answer a question I've always wondered, namely, why she wasn't part of the Detection Club. From her regencies, I was delighted to learn that These Old Shades is the sequel of sorts to The Black Moth! I think what surprised and bemused me the most was how little Heyer and I would have agreed on her own works! She loved Penhallow while writing it, I found it one of the worst mysteries I've ever read. She didn't care much for Cousin Kate (I love that one!) She apparently didn't have much to say about The Grand Sophy and was sick of Frederica by the time she was done with it! She seems to have been most fond of the books I found meh, like Black Sheep or Lady Of Quality. I could go on. I read on with surprise and interest. This book was...inspiring. I'd recommend it to all authors. While in some ways I'm dismayed to learn that my favorite books came about because Heyer was trying to keep the taxman off her back, in other ways it is intriguing to witness the struggles Heyer overcame while writing. It is interesting to see her discouragement and frustration, followed by moments of inspiration and excitement. Heyer definitely knew the joy of the creative process. She was satisfied with her work. The picture Kloester paints of Heyer is not always a flattering one, but it is a human one. I really enjoyed this book. I found it beautifully written and intriguing. It wasn't perfect and it tends to be repetitive, but if you love Heyer and want to know more about her, this book is a must read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Susan in NC

    I really enjoyed this insightful biography of one of my favorite authors, which I read with the Heyer Fans group. I’ve not read many biographies, but this may prompt me to read more about favorite authors and historical figures. I guess I was afraid I’d find out they were awful or had feet of clay! But Heyer, though intensely private (which I can respect, in this tell-all social media age I find baffling), was indeed a witty, clever correspondent and incredibly hard-working writer. Especially as I really enjoyed this insightful biography of one of my favorite authors, which I read with the Heyer Fans group. I’ve not read many biographies, but this may prompt me to read more about favorite authors and historical figures. I guess I was afraid I’d find out they were awful or had feet of clay! But Heyer, though intensely private (which I can respect, in this tell-all social media age I find baffling), was indeed a witty, clever correspondent and incredibly hard-working writer. Especially as she aged, she appears to have maintained a rather formidable, crusty exterior which kept some people at bay, but Kloester points out most friends and associates who managed to get past that outer tough layer found a loyal, smart, clever woman underneath. Heyer wrote her first book before 18, and supported her extended family for many years, and was often financially strapped. She had extremely high standards and pushed herself hard, often writing through the night (with the aid of Dexedrine and cigarettes) to meet deadlines. She chose her life partner wisely; Ronald Rougier struggled at first to find his own success, but always supported Georgette’s writing career and helped with research and plot ideas for her murder mysteries. I was saddened to read at the end (view spoiler)[ that he committed suicide after Georgette’s death and his own cancer diagnosis. Understandable after 50 years marriage, but sad all the same. (hide spoiler)] I really enjoyed this, not just for the insight into some of her books (several of my favorites are mentioned), but for finding out someone who has given me so much reading pleasure was as interesting, smart and witty as her books! Satisfying to know.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mela

    One of the reasons Georgette's characters live for her readers is that they lived so vividly for her. I think it is a book for fans (or readers) of Georgette Heyer. It is hard to me to imagine that someone who doesn't like her novels could read this biography with much interest. Furthermore, I love Heyer's books and still I think it wasn't a very engaging, gripping book. Perhaps, it was so because Heyer was a very secretive person or that her life was rather without many events. Although it One of the reasons Georgette's characters live for her readers is that they lived so vividly for her. I think it is a book for fans (or readers) of Georgette Heyer. It is hard to me to imagine that someone who doesn't like her novels could read this biography with much interest. Furthermore, I love Heyer's books and still I think it wasn't a very engaging, gripping book. Perhaps, it was so because Heyer was a very secretive person or that her life was rather without many events. Although it is difficult to believe in the latter, because she lived during two world wars and wrote so many great stories. Nonetheless, I read it with interest (and quite fast) and I found out many interesting facts, some of them made me rethink my opinions of her books. For example: --> It was surprising to find out that Heyer read and was inspired by Ethel M. Dell books. They wrote so different. Although I like to read Dell's novel from time to time I would have never connected these two writers. --> I was sad when I read that Heyer hated Simon The Coldheart. I loved it so much. --> I must admit (what I didn't notice before) that she wasn't historically accurate regarding the role which religion had in the past on people lives. It didn't bother me then, I was too much gripped by the story but I must agree she skipped very important aspect of the medieval life. --> I wanted to read her contemporary novels: Pastel, Barren Corn, Helen, Instead of the Thorn and also a historical fiction: The Great Roxhythe but since I found out that she hated it so much that she forbidden to reprint them I decided that I will not read them. You can call it a tribute to her. Although, knowing that her contemporary novels (especially 'Helen') are much autobiographical and contain Heyer's thoughts, reflexion about many things, e.g. about the women, love and marriage, it is a big temptation to try to find a copy. --> How is it possible that during her life Heyer tried so many times to sell rights to make movies of her books but now we can't wait to at least one adaptation? I can understand that she didn't like those two which were done but even knowing them she tried to convince somebody to make another (better) movie. --> It is interesting to know that she valued the most The Spanish Bride, An Infamous Army, Penhallow, and probably even more Friday's Child. --> I had read somewhere earlier that Barbara Cartland was inspired by Heyer, but I wasn't aware that Heyer (and her fans) thought that Cartland (also Kathleen Lindsay, who wrote under many pseudonyms) was a plagiarist. I had thought, I would try Cartland's novels, but now, I am not sure I will. --> I was shocked to learn that Heyer took dexedrine (an amphetamine enantiomer), mostly for cold but also for other illnesses, since 1952. And she wrote, since then, many novels under the influence of this. Heyer was a great professional as a writer. I hadn't thought how much. I simply trusted that she was mostly accurate. But, she wanted to be totally perfect describing e.g. Regency world and she was. She had a splendid wit and her romances were wonderfully unmelodramatic. This is why we read and we will reread her novels. But, thinking about what I have read about Georgette Heyer I must admit that she wasn't a person I would prefer she would have been. I think that for some fans the truth about her could be painful. So, I recommend to them to consider if they want to read her biography. If you (as a fan) want to know her better (mostly her bad sides) you can save your time and read Tracey's review - if you do it, read the whole review, but I warn you you won't probably like what you read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sherwood Smith

    Kloester had access to tons of extra papers--but none of them really grant any insight into Heyer, who burned her drafts, and her private correspondence. Who only gave one interview, and that on her own terms. So the biographer is left to guess at Heyer's process and her emotional development by extrapolating possible guesses from the author's early fiction (always dicey at best) and trying to guess at her thinking through the medium of a long correspondence with publishers. It is fairly clear fr Kloester had access to tons of extra papers--but none of them really grant any insight into Heyer, who burned her drafts, and her private correspondence. Who only gave one interview, and that on her own terms. So the biographer is left to guess at Heyer's process and her emotional development by extrapolating possible guesses from the author's early fiction (always dicey at best) and trying to guess at her thinking through the medium of a long correspondence with publishers. It is fairly clear from the extensive quotations from those letters that Heyer chose her agents and editors not for their skills but for how much they flattered her. She was constantly in debt; though she was the support of the family, she and her spouse apparently insisted on living far above their means. In short, what comes out of this bio, though Kloester paints Heyer with sympathy, is a picture of a highly unpleasant woman, supercilious, bigoted, snobbish, and yet she turned out those fun reads! Given how fiercely Heyer protected her privacy, I don't think the book everyone really wants (how she did it) can be written. I suspect (but could be wrong) that the readers who will most appreciate this bio will be the completists, and the people who are unstintingly enamored of all things Heyer.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christy B

    A decent biography about an insufferable person. I'm not big on Georgette Heyer's books anymore, but I'm always interested in learning about the real lives of authors. Well, Ms. Heyer and I would not have been friends, let's just say that. The book in itself had problems keeping my attention. Dry biographies that basically just state fact after fact bore me to tears. I can find that stuff out on the internet. I never felt engaged, and often skimmed pages. The book was highly researched, and it show A decent biography about an insufferable person. I'm not big on Georgette Heyer's books anymore, but I'm always interested in learning about the real lives of authors. Well, Ms. Heyer and I would not have been friends, let's just say that. The book in itself had problems keeping my attention. Dry biographies that basically just state fact after fact bore me to tears. I can find that stuff out on the internet. I never felt engaged, and often skimmed pages. The book was highly researched, and it shows, almost too much. There aren't that many Heyer bios out there, so I recommend this if you want the facts of her life. Unfortunately there's not much else I can think of to say.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

    All biographies of GH are going to suffer because of GH's desire for privacy & her original manuscripts being lost during WW2. I really wish she had agreed to having her voice recorded - I would have loved to hear it! The picture that does emerge is of a driven workaholic who was the main support of her extended family for most of her life. Her huge workload didn't even allow her the time to get rid of publishers she was unhappy with & manage her financial affairs properly. I'm glad to "hear her v All biographies of GH are going to suffer because of GH's desire for privacy & her original manuscripts being lost during WW2. I really wish she had agreed to having her voice recorded - I would have loved to hear it! The picture that does emerge is of a driven workaholic who was the main support of her extended family for most of her life. Her huge workload didn't even allow her the time to get rid of publishers she was unhappy with & manage her financial affairs properly. I'm glad to "hear her voice" in the surviving correspondence. If she liked you, she was an entertaining companion. If she didn't you certainly knew it. Also interesting is the amount of cooperation between her three biographers (Aiken Hodge, Wahnestock-Thomas & Kloester herself) This will give us as complete a record as we are going to have. The most annoying thing about this book was although there is very little discussion of some of her books, there were plot spoilers of two of her mysteries which meant I had to put aside this biography to not risk having rereads spoilt for me. So this has been a very drawn out read for me.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Abigail Bok

    Biographers of writers (and other creative types) face a dilemma: to what extent should they engage with their subject's art? It's not a simple problem. The art is what makes the person a worthy subject for biography, but one can all too easily fall into the trap of using the person's life as a vehicle for explaining their art. The person is simultaneously more and less than the art he or she produces. Tainting the art with too much biography is reductive, and so is interpreting the person's lif Biographers of writers (and other creative types) face a dilemma: to what extent should they engage with their subject's art? It's not a simple problem. The art is what makes the person a worthy subject for biography, but one can all too easily fall into the trap of using the person's life as a vehicle for explaining their art. The person is simultaneously more and less than the art he or she produces. Tainting the art with too much biography is reductive, and so is interpreting the person's life solely in terms of artistic product. Georgette Heyer would have appreciated the various dimensions of this dilemma, I believe. Throughout her adult life she maintained a clear barrier between her writing and her quotidian existence. At home and in public she was always Mrs. Rougier; Georgette Heyer the novelist almost never was photographed or interviewed, promoting the notion that like her characters she existed only on the page. That fact might tempt the biographer to imagine Heyer's life solely through her literary output--but that would be falling into a trap, because Heyer would surely loathe the notion that she had anything in common with her stories, most of which she regarded as light-minded fluff. Jennifer Kloester clearly considered these issues well, and the result is a biography that for the most part avoids making facile comparisons between Heyer's life and her work. (Her account of Heyer's suppressed novel Helen is a reasonable exception.) It also avoids, almost to extremes, the amateur psychologizing so common among biographers. The result is a narrative that comes across as scrupulously accurate but ends up being rather plodding, as we march through the uneventful days and nights of a workaholic. Many biographies of writers use the opportunity to assess their subject's books. In this regard as well Kloester has practiced almost excessive restraint. She takes a few stabs at celebrating Heyer's skills and refers to a few people who believed her work rose above the level of pulp fiction, but there is no sustained argument here for Heyer's place in British literature. That seems a missed opportunity to me. There is little literary analysis here or close textual reading; maybe there is more in Kloester's other book about Heyer, Georgette Heyer's Regency World, which I have yet to read. Still, this is a very competent and thorough account of Heyer's life and the basic motivations that drove her. Fans will find it absorbing.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lady Wesley

    If you're a Georgette Heyer fan like I am, you'll enjoy this book. I've given it four stars, as it's well done as a biography, but I enjoyed it only about three stars worth. I would have liked a bit more discussion of her most popular books and a bit less discussion of her schedule and her constant worries about money. If you've always wondered where she got her plots, I'm afraid the answer is, "she just made them up." She started out writing mostly mysteries, and a few historicals, before she d If you're a Georgette Heyer fan like I am, you'll enjoy this book. I've given it four stars, as it's well done as a biography, but I enjoyed it only about three stars worth. I would have liked a bit more discussion of her most popular books and a bit less discussion of her schedule and her constant worries about money. If you've always wondered where she got her plots, I'm afraid the answer is, "she just made them up." She started out writing mostly mysteries, and a few historicals, before she discovered that the Regency era was her perfect setting. Her humor, which led her to create fabulous dialogue, seems to have been innate, as evidenced by excerpts from her letters. But she doesn't come across as a particularly pleasant person herself. In fact, even after reading this book, she remains something of an enigma. She was born in 1902, and she remained an Edwardian for her entire life. She was quite class conscious, and thought England's class system was just dandy. Although she fretted about being "poor", and her husband did not bring in much income (until he was middle aged), she and her husband always had servants and hand-tailored clothing; they went on lengthy holidays and sent their son to public school. She claimed not to be a prude, but by today's standards she certainly was. In many of her romances, the hero and heroine do not so much as kiss. I expect that she would be delighted to know that she is remembered as being the inventor of the Regency romance but would be horrified to read the Regency romances being turned out today. Interesting facts: for several years, she and her husband lived in a set at Albany in London. (Oh, my dear, never call it a "flat" in "The" Albany.) (Albany appears in many other authors' Regencies as the abode of aristocratic bachelors.) After several unsuccessful careers, her husband read law and eventually became a QC, as did her son Sir Richard George Rougier. He husband was quite handsome, and seems to have been a charming man, and their marriage seems to have been fairly affectionate but passionless. She did a prodigious amount of research for both her historicals and romances, and she seems to have been able to just sit down and write a book in only a few weeks. She was incredibly disciplined, and her first draft often would be her last. Most of the time, her publisher not only did not edit her books, he never even read them. I came away with a renewed respect for her talent and for the influence she has had on the many authors who came after her.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    This book sated my curiosity for Heyer, the person and the Regency Romance Master. Now I just need to somehow find her out-of-print contemporary novels and I'll be a happy clam.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Damaskcat

    I've been reading Georgette Heyer's novels since I was in my early teens and they are still a pleasure to read nearly fifty years later. I was aware that Heyer refused to be interviewed and I knew next to nothing about the rest of her life so I looked forward to reading this biography. I was not disappointed as it is compulsive reading. The author is enthusiastic about her subject and hugely knowledgeable but this does not mean she glosses over Heyer's imperfections. Here is all the background to I've been reading Georgette Heyer's novels since I was in my early teens and they are still a pleasure to read nearly fifty years later. I was aware that Heyer refused to be interviewed and I knew next to nothing about the rest of her life so I looked forward to reading this biography. I was not disappointed as it is compulsive reading. The author is enthusiastic about her subject and hugely knowledgeable but this does not mean she glosses over Heyer's imperfections. Here is all the background to Heyer's relationships, sometimes fraught, with her publishers and with her family and friends. I always wondered why she changed from Heinemann to the Bodley Head in the 1960s and it was interesting to read about the reasons behind the change. At that time `The New Georgette Heyer' was always top of my Christmas list and I was desolated if no new book was published in a particular year. It was interesting to find out why Heyer herself refused to allow reprints of her modern novels - , `Barren Corn', `Instead of the Thorn' and `Pastel'. She did not consider them to be her best work. An early historical novel `The Great Roxhythe' went the same way and has still not been reprinted though Simon The Coldheart has been reprinted since Georgette Heyer died in 1974. This book brought Heyer vividly to life for me and I felt as though I knew her by the time I had finished reading the book. She was a highly intelligent, witty person with great stamina and dedication to her work. She had a well developed sense of the ridiculous which must have been obvious to anyone who has read her books. At the same time she had diffidence about her abilities which at times prevented her from seeing how really excellent many of her books are. An Infamous Army for example is considered to be one of the best books of fiction or non-fiction about the Battle of Waterloo. I had not appreciated how prolific Heyer was at times - writing more than one book a year and sometimes finishing them in a matter of weeks. Her publishers for many years never even bothered to read her manuscripts and just sent them sent straight to the printers. Heyer herself rarely revised to any great extent and the stories seemed to just flow from her brain into the typewriter fully formed. The novels which were based on historical events such as Royal Escape and The Spanish Bride took longer to write because of the research involved. She was rarely faulted on her historical accuracy though the author does point out one or two relatively minor mistakes in some of her novels. The book has plenty of information about the author's sources, an index - though this is not interactive on the ebook version I read - a full list of Heyer's novels and short stories published in the UK and the USA. The publisher has clearly gone to some trouble to ensure that the illustrations display properly in the ebook version and these are very good. This has to be the definitive biography of one of our most popular authors and I would recommend it to anyone who has read and enjoyed her novels.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Garnette

    Reading Regency novels used to mean laughing through a Georgette Heyer. Reading an authorized, somewhat scholarly, biography of her life a hypnotic bore. Surely Jennifer Kloester, with carte blanche to Heyer’s papers, letters, contracts, family and publishing history would also delight readers with some of the same tongue in cheek humor. Not at all. But, having read Heyer through high school, college, seminary, motherhood, divorce etc., I knew the only way to get my sealegs back after the biograp Reading Regency novels used to mean laughing through a Georgette Heyer. Reading an authorized, somewhat scholarly, biography of her life a hypnotic bore. Surely Jennifer Kloester, with carte blanche to Heyer’s papers, letters, contracts, family and publishing history would also delight readers with some of the same tongue in cheek humor. Not at all. But, having read Heyer through high school, college, seminary, motherhood, divorce etc., I knew the only way to get my sealegs back after the biography was to re-read one of the novels. As it happens I only had a battered 1985 Bantam paperback of The Nonesuch. Why? Because I heard Germaine Greer in the early seventies (remember her?) bashing Heyer at Washington’s National Press Club for being an anti-feminist, mind-altering drug for silly women. Well, there it is. Most of her books I borrowed from the Bethesda Public Library. Then some wandered into my bookstore later, but I only had the one on my bookshelves this weekend. One thing Heyer wasn’t was a silly goose, like the ones she contrasted with the strong-willed, slap up to the mark, canny females, the focus of each plot. For women are the reasons for the books. Not a ninnyhammer among them. Bird-witted sure, some but not the protagonists. There for contrast of how a wise woman runs her life. Yet I do recommend the biography. Did you know that this frippery author wrote her first novel at seventeen, published it at nineteen in order to support her mother, brothers and grandmother after the sudden death of her father? That she put both husband and son through the rigors and expense of the English lawyers’ education and establishment. That she struggled all her life, and mainly won, for her publication and royalty rights. That she was fierce and strong and half Russian. That she INVENTED the Regency novel, all others are knock-offs of her historical research. That her favorite author was Jane Austen – for Austen's wit, and the sharp-eyed incision she preformed on her society. Jane Austen, btw, did NOT write Regency novels. On the other hand, Heyer, although later she preferred the pronunciation HARE, was beyond conservative in her politics mainly as I read it, because she despised having the heavy taxes taken out of her royalties. So yes, I am glad I read the bio. I recommend it for any working writer/reader to see how hard she worked. Twenty thousand words in a weekend. To see how she took a bit of idea into a plot. How diligently she wrote – often staying up all night for the sheer writingness of it. Just like I did to read her latest book as they came out in the previous century. That fierce energy is there in the novels, it gave us something to go on. Will I re-read more? Maybe, I pretty busy writing novels myself. What a blast of encouragement this bio is for women, for writers, for readers. I guess I will have to give it four stars for the subject – and all the hard work of the biographer. Kudos.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Wealhtheow

    Georgette Heyer was the first child of middle-class parents, was very well educated by them (she never attended college), and began making up stories to amuse her younger brothers. In 1921, when she was just 17, the first of her novels (The Black Moth) was published. Since then, her novels have been continuously in print, even during world wars and when paper was extremely restricted through rationing. Writing, on average, at least a novel a year (along with innumerable short stories for ladies' Georgette Heyer was the first child of middle-class parents, was very well educated by them (she never attended college), and began making up stories to amuse her younger brothers. In 1921, when she was just 17, the first of her novels (The Black Moth) was published. Since then, her novels have been continuously in print, even during world wars and when paper was extremely restricted through rationing. Writing, on average, at least a novel a year (along with innumerable short stories for ladies' magazines), Heyer published 55 novels before dying at the age of 72. Although Heyer wrote detective stories and novels set in time periods ranging from the 1200s to the modern day, what she is most famous for are her 43* Regency-era romantic comedy novels. Her meticulously detailed research (done at a time when she had to compile it herself, without use of historians' notes or books) is still marveled at today, even if the mindsets she gives her characters feel a little more Edwardian than Regency. I would only recommend this book to those who have read at least several Heyer novels, preferably at least half of them. Much of this biography is basically a short synoposis of Heyer writing each novel, interspersed with quotes from letters from and to her discussing it. The rest of it is basically a recounting of her financial doings (Heyer had astoundingly complicated finances) and medical woes. Heyer's character comes through, a woman who was deeply classist and touchy about taste and class, who loved to travel, research and write, who was very conservative for much of her life. Her letters are witty, all sarcastic asides and playful tangents; the substance is all subtext. This biography helped me appreciate Heyer's novels a great deal more than I had previously; I hadn't realized how incredibly rapidly she wrote (sometimes she wrote the entire thing in just a couple months!), nor had I realized that her books were never edited--hell, her agent and publisher hardly ever read them! She generally turned over the first draft and it was immediately published, even at the very start of her career. Often her novels were published serially in magazines, as she wrote them. Nor had I realized just how many books she churned out--no wonder her characters feel a bit same-y, given that she was writing several novels a year! I was also quite pleased to find out that Heyer wrote short stories. There isn't a complete list or index anywhere, but the biographer did manage to track down 26 that were published in various magazines. Sounds like they'll be good morphine once the Heyer heroin runs out! *to be precise, only 30 novels were set during the actual 9 years of Prinny's regency; the others, like the famous These Old Shades are set a bit earlier.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    This book is a must read for die-hard Heyer fans. Incredibly detailed, the book tells of Georgette’s life through a meticulously researched and fascinating read. Apart from the chronology of Heyer’s book writing and process, there is the biographical aspect that brings you right into her life. Who was this clever author who’s ongoing captivating writing has us all hooked? What was she like? In GEORGETTE HEYER, author Jennifer Kloester reveals a woman who, contrarily to her very reserved exterio This book is a must read for die-hard Heyer fans. Incredibly detailed, the book tells of Georgette’s life through a meticulously researched and fascinating read. Apart from the chronology of Heyer’s book writing and process, there is the biographical aspect that brings you right into her life. Who was this clever author who’s ongoing captivating writing has us all hooked? What was she like? In GEORGETTE HEYER, author Jennifer Kloester reveals a woman who, contrarily to her very reserved exterior persona, spoke through her characters; allowing them to feel and express as she may never have been able to do so herself. The book is filled with interesting aspects that bring you closer to understanding Georgette Heyer. For instance, I was surprised to read that she didn't accept any opinions on her books, except those from her husband. He was the only one whose opinion she trusted. She also allowed him to help her with the plots. As a writer of historical fiction, Georgette was brilliant and after reading this excellent book I am of the opinion that her sparks of genius were also mirrored by bouts of eccentric thoughts. For instance, when Georgette was ill, and at some point it happened rather frequently- she would immediately think that death was imminent. Indirectly, through Georgette Heyer’s letters, much of what she felt was revealed and these also formed the basis by which we discover the depth of her person. I learnt so much about her life and her work! This gem is sure to satisfy all curiosity on the famous author- it does not disappoint. I highly recommend GEORGETTE HEYER, by Jennifer Kloester- it’s extremely well researched and offers a wealth of info that’s fascinating to read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Irene Davis

    A detailed biography of the author who invented Regency romance as we know them today, including many excerpts of her entertaining and witty personal letters.

  19. 4 out of 5

    QNPoohBear

    Ms. Heyer was born in 1902 to an upper middle-class British family. She loved to watch the stage coaches come rolling down the street, an image which stayed with her for the rest of her days and helped her Regency world come to life. A bright and imaginative child, her parents allowed her imagination to run free and her father encouraged and influenced her story telling. At the age of 19 she published her first book, written to amuse her invalid brother Boris. She published one or two novels a y Ms. Heyer was born in 1902 to an upper middle-class British family. She loved to watch the stage coaches come rolling down the street, an image which stayed with her for the rest of her days and helped her Regency world come to life. A bright and imaginative child, her parents allowed her imagination to run free and her father encouraged and influenced her story telling. At the age of 19 she published her first book, written to amuse her invalid brother Boris. She published one or two novels a year almost every year for the rest of her life. Her early marriage to George Ronald Rougier and the birth of her son Richard did not hamper her career. Her husband was supportive and even helped shape the plots of her early mystery novels. Miss Heyer's early novels were contemporary and dealt with the issues of a woman's place, marriage and other topics of the day. Her fun mystery novels paid the bills and allowed her the freedom to research for her historical novels. History was her true passion and by the 1930s, she was writing nearly exclusively Regency novels. Miss Heyer was notoriously reserved and very private. She almost never gave interviews and was very demanding in regards the the publication of her books. She was conservative, snobby and prejudiced by modern standards though she was very much a product of her upbringing in that time and place. She admired and idealized the Regency era and drew her world from her own memories of the Edwardian era and extensive research. Her attention to detail and ability to bring characters to life made her books instant best sellers. Her death from lung cancer in 1974 was a great tragedy in the world of literature. Ms. Kloestner built on a previous work by Joan Aiken Hodge to create a complete picture of the life of one of the 20th century's most prolific and beloved authors. Ms. Kloestner interviewed Miss Heyer's son, friends and others who knew Miss Heyer well. The biography is also drawn from archival sources (my favorite!) such as private correspondence and publishing records. The biography is well-written and the writing style is accessible to anyone. Though it is long, it moves along quickly, at least if one doesn't ready every word! The book goes into great depth, almost too much at times, about the life of Georgette Heyer and those who were close to her. Ms. Kloestner quotes extensively from Miss Heyer's correspondence and the back of the book includes lists of Heyer's novels, short stories and Ms. Kloestner's sources and acknowledgments. There is even a section of photographs, many never before seen from private family archives. I am very impressed by Miss Kloestner's research and think this is a wonderful biography. Short of any new information that comes to light in the future, there can never be another book about Georgette Heyer equal to this one. I highly recommend it to those who want to know more about their favorite author.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hurricanekerrie

    Unlike other reviewers, I found myself liking Georgette Heyer after reading this biography by Jennifer Kloester. I enjoyed reading Heyer's own "voice" through her numerous letters to friends and publishers. She had spunk and a signature biting wit and more than a sprinkling of self-importance. If not for these qualities, she wouldn't have written so acidly to her purported plagiarists (Barbara Cartland & Kathleen Lindsay) though apparently, her need for privacy outweighs any need to sue, therefo Unlike other reviewers, I found myself liking Georgette Heyer after reading this biography by Jennifer Kloester. I enjoyed reading Heyer's own "voice" through her numerous letters to friends and publishers. She had spunk and a signature biting wit and more than a sprinkling of self-importance. If not for these qualities, she wouldn't have written so acidly to her purported plagiarists (Barbara Cartland & Kathleen Lindsay) though apparently, her need for privacy outweighs any need to sue, therefore nothing ever came of these conflicts. So there. I enjoyed reading about her thoughts on her stories, and learning that she was under the influence of gin and Dexedrine while writing my favorite book of hers, "Cotillion". I was also quite relieved after reading that Heyer was "allergic to Russian literature" as I am-- though for completely different reasons-- her reason is "loathing their fatalism", mine is just their propensity towards loquaciousness and downtrodden, sorrowful musings. There's a funny bit at the end of Chapter 25, where Georgette Heyer writes her publisher a satirical 9-point "Principles of Successful Novel Writing". For example, #3 says: "Brood for several weeks, achieving if not a Plot, depression, despair and hysteria in yourself... This condition will induce you to believe yourself to be the victim of Artistic Temperament, and may mislead you into thinking you really are a Creative Artist." And #9: "Book a room in a good Mental Home." (She apparently liked to capitalize.) I have not read many biographies to be able to categorically say whether this one was good or not. At the end of the book, I have learned many straightforward facts about Georgette Heyer's life, but not much analysis into the what's and the why's of her literary career. I would've loved to know of Heyer's writing process (she wasn't schooled on writing; she just wrote.) or how certain characters were developed, alas there were none of that. Kloester ventures to say that Georgette Heyer was a snob and Anti-Semitic despite being middle class and of Jewish lineage but she does not delve deeper into that either. I would also have wanted an analysis on why Heyer's works are not given due literary merit, if only for the quality of her historical accuracy. Whether these ommisions were from lack of source materials (most likely) or a bias on the author's part, I don't know. But despite the fact that this biography merely skims the surface of Heyer's ultra-private life, at the end, I'm still a Heyer fan and plan to read all the rest of her novels at leisure.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    It's important to separate the quality of this biography from what you make of its subject. Jennifer Kloester has researched and written as good a biography as any writer could wish for. She hasn't left any stone unturned, although the professional neautrality tends to slip a little at times. The critical article of GH by Marghanita Laski is misrepresented, for example, as belittling the author, when in fact she made some valid points: that the same 'props' are used again and again in the novels It's important to separate the quality of this biography from what you make of its subject. Jennifer Kloester has researched and written as good a biography as any writer could wish for. She hasn't left any stone unturned, although the professional neautrality tends to slip a little at times. The critical article of GH by Marghanita Laski is misrepresented, for example, as belittling the author, when in fact she made some valid points: that the same 'props' are used again and again in the novels, and more importantly, that Heyer's heroes lack any sexuality. Apparently you mustn't criticize Georgette, and that is a problem because apart from being an hugely popular best-seller, and an immensely hard-working woman, she was not a pleasant person: snobby, snooty, elitist, homophobic, rude, despising of fans. There was an emotional retardation about her, too: JK describes how the physical manifestations of love made Georgette uneasy and that 'she baulked at the physical act of intercourse', which may explain why her heroes only have sawdust in their veins, and nothing at all in their modish breeches except possibly a trendy snuff box. Georgette was a reactionary sort of person, hiding behind right wing politics and attitudes, a hangover, we are told, from her Edwardian upbringing. That may be so, but Maugham and DH Lawrence were from that era, and they managed to get with it. Apparently after her death the Daily Telegraph called her the 20th Century Jane Austen. Sorry, but no. Jane worked on a piece of ivory. Georgette, on the other hand, left us yards upon yards of wallpaper all written on. And I don't think anyone would ever accuse Jane of writing trashy pot -boilers, but.... The Corinthian?? well, I won't labour it any more.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary

    I was fascinated, but would only recommend this to a diehard Georgette Heyer fan. It's obviously been very well researched and I was eagerly anticipating the points where Heyer would write each of my favourites, but for anyone who doesn't love her books it would be heavy going.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ness Kingsley

    I love Georgette Heyer's books. I do not hide this fact. I love the wit. The heroes. The heroines. The side characters. The plots. And so I decided to read this biography. Previously, I've read a book about the personal life of a favourite author and it rather put me off the woman. But in this case? No. Not at all. Georgette Heyer seems are rather ... intriguing, paradoxical person. She was beset with financial woes (it was a little depressing to be constantly reading about them - and it must have I love Georgette Heyer's books. I do not hide this fact. I love the wit. The heroes. The heroines. The side characters. The plots. And so I decided to read this biography. Previously, I've read a book about the personal life of a favourite author and it rather put me off the woman. But in this case? No. Not at all. Georgette Heyer seems are rather ... intriguing, paradoxical person. She was beset with financial woes (it was a little depressing to be constantly reading about them - and it must have been even more so to be actually facing them!) and was so. very. self-deprecating. all. the. time. In her personal life, I felt sad for her - she didn't have a certain amount of emotional intelligence (it shows) and her marriage seemed to be - though a meeting of the hearts and minds - rather passionless, which was a wee bit dispiriting to know. (One wants a favourite author who writes such wonderful romances to have a completely complete HEA herself.) She was an extremely strong character; the sort I'd probably dive under the sofa to avoid because I'd be Deathly Afraid to make a Bad Impression on them. (though diving under the sofa to avoid someone and admire them at a distance has the makings of a bad first impression) (but I digress) (DID YOU KNOW SHE MET THE QUEEN AND THE QUEEN WAS A FAN AND I KNEW THE QUEEN HAD GOOD TASTE?!) (ahem) All in all, it's an interesting biography of one of my all-time favourite authors. Do read if you are a fan. She once said that she was to be found in her work, and I'll enjoy finding her there. She wrote such awfully good books.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marianna Green

    A thorough biography about a fairly unsympathetic and extremely successful purveyor of romantic fiction from an Australian writer who is so obviously an admirer that it would be impossible for her to be objective. This book is very kind about Heyer. Regrettably, this biographer doesn't seem to probe much into how Heyer's right wing, consensus based view of history affected her portrayal of the 'Regency era' which is regrettably often accepted as a realistic depoction by readers not well versed in A thorough biography about a fairly unsympathetic and extremely successful purveyor of romantic fiction from an Australian writer who is so obviously an admirer that it would be impossible for her to be objective. This book is very kind about Heyer. Regrettably, this biographer doesn't seem to probe much into how Heyer's right wing, consensus based view of history affected her portrayal of the 'Regency era' which is regrettably often accepted as a realistic depoction by readers not well versed in UK history. I think only seeing the British class system as a foreign phenomenon, the biographer underestimates how it affected Georgette Heyer, and in turn her depiction of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century UK and European history. I am not saying that this biographer is ignorant of history; but I am saying, that here at least, she seems to choose to ignore its implications. In reality, the Regency was a time of great social unrest, what with the Corn Laws, enforced enclosures, and the beginnings of industrialisation. Certainly, the historical facts are grim; it is understandable that many readers would rather view the late Georgian era through Heyer's beguiling lens. And it is a beguiling lens... I do think that this reads like an official biography- I get the impression that the author, besides being a fan of Heyer, was anxious not to upset her descendants. She glosses over situations which I think the family wished to keep secret. I can understand how difficult it must be to get the balance right in both writing an objective biography which tells all the facts, and which doesn't offend descendants too much. Georgette Heyer was a mass of contradictions - an unromantic woman who sat tanked up on gin, Dexedrine and nicotine, writing romances through the night to support a vaguely upper-class lifestyle, though she disapproved of women working. She was massively successful, but she aspired to write serious fiction. However, when she tried to vary the formula of her books, sales plummeted. She despised her fan base, and this makes it the more ironic that she has a following who often defend her so passionately. She was a writer of women's fiction who clearly suffered from internalised misogyny. Heyer, typically, hated Freud, and notoriously, her heroines 'don't exist beneath the waist'. In that way, her writing is quintessentially Edwardian. I may not like the impression I have of Heyer as a person, and I do consider her work frequently to be overestimated by her admirers; still, I would like to express my admiration for the sort of stoic, British courage which made her able to write one of her funniest novels, 'Faro's Daughter' in the darkest days of World War II for Britain, while the blitz continued, the Battle of the Atlantic raged and only a weeks' food supply stood between Britain and starvation. I do think the massive debt that Heyer owed to Pierce Egan's 1823 'Life in London' on 'Corinthian Tom' and his 'Coz Jerry' was not sufficiently acknowledged, for she borrowed massively from this book for many of the charcteristics of the male characters, their speech, attitudes, the venues, the pursuits of the 'young bucks', the slang, and all the rest of what is generally seen as exclusively her invention. To be fair, though, she did change the role of women to appeal to a female readership: that was a piece of marketing genius, and the source of her huge success. In Pierce Egan the woman are not virtuous, respectable young things; they are experienced matrons up for a bit of intrigue with Tom or Jerry or 'woman of the Town'. In fact, Tom and Jerry are more romantically susceptible about their mistresses than Heyer shows her heroes as being. It is understood that Jerry will marry a respectable young lady of family from the country, but this is hardly depicted in a romantic light. Heyer fans will very much enjoy Kloester's work. On this, I wonder why this author has not discovered the influence of the Victorian best seller Charles Garvice on Heyer's novels. I can also see his influence in many of Heyer's works, particularly in the 'wild young earl' theme and the machinating cousin onel. Charles Garvice's novels may yet enjoy a revival, if only as an historical curiosity...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sher

    This book gets a 5 for sheer enjoyment of topic. I'm a huge Georgette Heyer fan, and I have read many of her Regency novels, so it was very interesting to learn about Heyer's 50 year writing career, her relationship with publishers, her relationship with friends and family, where her ideas came from, and even a view into the very private world of Georgette Heyer herself. Highly recommended!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dilly Dalley

    Early in 2018, I joined the Jane Austen society of Australia. While I was at their most excellent bi-annual conference in Canberra, I came across a book of Georgette Heyer appreciation essays. Given I read through most, if not all, of the Regency romances when I was in high school, I thought “I wonder if her novels have stood the test of time?”. According to the book of appreciation, they had. So, I re-read Devil’s Cub and ordered this biography from the library. I haven’t reviewed Devil’s cub y Early in 2018, I joined the Jane Austen society of Australia. While I was at their most excellent bi-annual conference in Canberra, I came across a book of Georgette Heyer appreciation essays. Given I read through most, if not all, of the Regency romances when I was in high school, I thought “I wonder if her novels have stood the test of time?”. According to the book of appreciation, they had. So, I re-read Devil’s Cub and ordered this biography from the library. I haven’t reviewed Devil’s cub yet but as for this biography by Jennifer Kloester, I’m giving it 4 stars. I found it easy to read, comprehensive, a straightforward linear biography (started with her childhood and went through to her death and legacy), and it seemed a balanced portrayal from someone who was clearly a fan of her novels. Georgette Heyer had some attitudes that many today would find unpalatable (a belief in a class society as the natural order, a dislike of taxation and the rise of the welfare system, bigotry towards some groups in society - that kind of thing). Jennifer Kloester effectively casts her as a product of her time and class, a person who retained her Edwardian values into the modern world. On a personal level, I did not learn anything about her that made me deem her art to be not worthy of my time and energy. I am of the camp that believes the personal is political and will not support the art of those who commit blatant injustices towards groups or individuals (as in I won’t go to any more Woody Allen movies or read any more Bob Ellis). But Georgette Heyer came out of this story as an interesting and complex person, with a great and easy talent, which she worked hard at, driven by a combination of economic necessity and her effervescent urge for characters and storytelling. She was constantly worried about money because she was the primary source of income for her Mother, brothers and husband for most of their lives. Yet she lived well and gave generously to family and her small group of friends. She protected her writing life by keeping her social life small, tight knit and private. And she lived in the Albany - trust me, you’ll be fascinated - look it up. This biography is a comprehensive piece of scholarship. The author was researching and writing nearly 30 years after Jane Aiken Hodge’s biography of Georgette (which was written less than 10 years after Heyer’s death), so she was exposed to more letters and archives. Georgette Heyer’s only child, Richard was an elderly man when she started the research and I don’t think he lived to see its publication. He seemed keen for the biography though and gave her full access to all the archives. As a literary biography, I feel it was successful in showing Heyer’s development as a writer, what influenced her and what literary successes and challenges she experienced through her life. One fascinating tidbit I learned was that the Booker prize earned its prize money from the purchase of the copyright of some of Britain’s most popular authors - Georgette Heyer & Ian Fleming being two of those. Both of whom have sold millions of copies of their novels and both of whom would never win the prize that they funded. There’s the reality of publishing in a nutshell.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis

    Ms. Kloester who was quick to point out the errors of Heyer's prior biographer, Jane Aiken Hodge, does the unpardonable in her biography of Ms. Heyer. With virtually no evidence, Ms. Kloester asserts that Heyer and her devoted husband, Ronald Rougier had a marriage of the minds and was non-sexual. She based this conclusion on the few modern novels written by Ms. Heyer (many prior to her marriage) and the fact the Heyers slept in separate beds during much of their marriage. Ms. Kloester ignores t Ms. Kloester who was quick to point out the errors of Heyer's prior biographer, Jane Aiken Hodge, does the unpardonable in her biography of Ms. Heyer. With virtually no evidence, Ms. Kloester asserts that Heyer and her devoted husband, Ronald Rougier had a marriage of the minds and was non-sexual. She based this conclusion on the few modern novels written by Ms. Heyer (many prior to her marriage) and the fact the Heyers slept in separate beds during much of their marriage. Ms. Kloester ignores the fact that Ms. Heyer often wrote at night so that she could spend the day with her family. Also, Ms. Kloester is guilty of thinking Ms. Heyer's generation as being less sexual for women. Ms. Kloester mistakes that generation's reticence about sex to indicate non-sexuality. Ms. Heyer understood human nature. Nothing in her writing indicated that she thought that a platonic relationship between spouses would be appealing, particularly to the male spouse. When I read Ms.Kloester's baseless conclusion, I immediately thought of this passage in April Lady. In a conversation between husband and wife, Giles makes the following angry enquiry. "Tell me, my sweet life, at what figure do you set your beauty, your dutiful submission, your admirable discretion, and your unfailing politeness?" The woman who wrote this line understood that a man wanted his spouse to be an equal partner in their sexual congress. Of course, all Heyer fans should read this novel. But they should also make sure to read the Hodge biography. Kloester did an admirable job on the early portion of Heyer's life. She falters in the later half. It is easy to understand why. Ms. Heyer was extremely private. She lived a quiet life with her husband, son, and a few select associates. She had hoped to be remembered by her letters to various associates. Yet clearly these letters don't tell the full story. Now Nearly 40 years after her death at 71, Heyer's contemporaries are also dead. While Kloester never really captured the essence of Heyer, she did provide an enough information to give the reader clues about the woman. Heyer loved and lived for her writing. But she was also a woman of strong will and intelligence, who enjoyed wit and humor. She loved her gin and cigarettes. Financially pressures plagued her for a majority of her life, yet she managed to live a very comfortable lifestyle with vacations and servants. In conclusion, Ms. Heyer was largely successful in keeping her private life private. Instead, she left a legacy of work to speak for her. Ms. Heyer lives on in her novels, which amply display her intelligence, her wit, and her firm grasp on human nature. Nearly 40 years after her death, her books remain in print and are still hugely popular.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Linda Baker

    I am latecomer to the Regency "romances" of Georgette Heyer but have been reading both the books and listening to the audio books available on audible. I had read many of her mysteries years ago but they had not prepared me for the wit and charm of her comedies of manners set in the Regency period. As I am one of those people who like to know something about the personal lives of those authors I admire, I was surprised to learn that Georgette Heyer had made it her mission to obscure any informat I am latecomer to the Regency "romances" of Georgette Heyer but have been reading both the books and listening to the audio books available on audible. I had read many of her mysteries years ago but they had not prepared me for the wit and charm of her comedies of manners set in the Regency period. As I am one of those people who like to know something about the personal lives of those authors I admire, I was surprised to learn that Georgette Heyer had made it her mission to obscure any information about herself. Jennifer Kloester was given exclusive access to the remaining papers of the Heyer estate and has constructed an interesting survey of Heyer's writing life. As for the woman herself, she succeeded in keeping her personal life just that- personal. I was left with an impression of a woman that I would not have liked very much. The title of the first part is "The Young Edwardian" and it seems that she remained that throughout her life. She carried all the class-consciousness, prejudices and manners of that period through two World Wars and all the social upheaval in Britain during the first half of the Twentieth Century. To her great credit, Heyer assumed the responsibility for the support of her mother and two brothers after the relatively early death of her much loved father. It was a responsibility that both she and her husband, Ronald Rougier, seemed singularly ill-suited for. Money, or the lack thereof, was a major preoccupation with her, but never did it seem to occur to her to cut back on her lifestyle or get really competent advice on financial matters. I found the first half of the book somewhat heavy going because of the continual financial difficulties. After Rougier had set up as an attorney and in fact become a Queens Counsel did financial pressures let up somewhat. By that time Heyer had also become an extremely successful author worldwide. Georgette Heyer seems to have been a woman of extreme contrasts. She could be very kind to some of her readers and scathing to others. She was loyal to her family but seems to have been able to cut off old friends and advisers without a backward glance. The portrait that her correspondence paints is that of a woman who is somewhat emotionally cut off. So how does one reconcile her emotional distance with the witty and wise novels that continue to be loved today? I don't know. In the end I don't think it matters. There are a selection of family pictures sprinkled throughout the book and one of them is indicated as Georgette Heyer's favorite picture of herself. It shows an open faced, smiling and happy woman. I think that is the real face of Georgette Heyer, perhaps one that only her loved ones saw. RATING- 3.5 stars

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Georgette Heyer is one of my favorite authors. I feel like I discovered her late in the game as I was in the latter half of my twenties when I happened to pick up one her novels at my local library. I thought it was wonderfully written and very witty. I went back for more and soon read all that my library had. Luckily that was not nearly all of Heyer’s novels, and I still have many more to enjoy as the years pass by. I knew nothing about Georgette Heyer before reading Jane Aiken Hodge’s biography Georgette Heyer is one of my favorite authors. I feel like I discovered her late in the game as I was in the latter half of my twenties when I happened to pick up one her novels at my local library. I thought it was wonderfully written and very witty. I went back for more and soon read all that my library had. Luckily that was not nearly all of Heyer’s novels, and I still have many more to enjoy as the years pass by. I knew nothing about Georgette Heyer before reading Jane Aiken Hodge’s biography. Aiken Hodge’s biography focused on finding Heyer through her novels, explaining them, and the context in which they were written. It was an excellent book and I break it out whenever I read a new Heyer novel to get some background information. Although it was a good biography, it left me wanting more. Georgette Heyer by Jennifer Kloester fills that gap. Kloester was given access to Aiken Hodges research archive as well as exclusive access to many of Heyer’s letters. She used this information to weave an intriguing story of Heyer and her life from childhood, through her prolific writing career, to her death too early from cancer. I was especially intrigued by Heyer and her finances. After her father’s heart attack while Heyer was in her early 20’s, she became the primary bread winner for her family. After her marriage, Heyer was at times not only supporting herself and her own husband and son, but her mother and two brothers as well. This caused significant stress to Heyer, especially as she had to at times put away passion projects to focus on the regency romance and mystery novels that made her money. The tax rates in Britain at the time also took a significant amount of her income (something like 85%) so that did not help. Although Heyer was often motivated financially to work on certain novels, she did in depth research and enjoyed creating intriguing characters. It was interesting to read her letters back and forth with her publishers on the topics. I was sad to read about her untimely death, and even sadder to read about the suicide of her husband not too long after. If you are a lover of Georgette Heyer novels, this novel is a must read. It is also a great read if you are looking for a book about a strong woman who beat the odds to become a very successful author in the twentieth century. Book Source: Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you! This review was originally posted on my blog at: http://lauragerold.blogspot.com/2013/...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    This Georgette Heyer biography gives a look at the woman and the author. Most times either personal life or work life override the other. Not here. There is depth to the origin of her tremendous fount of imagination and skill within words that were both so mentored by her father. Jennifer Kloester traces these early years well within excellent record. Georgette's self-starting habits of publishing early and often are absolutely phenomenal. The put-downs that revise to present comparisons of beha This Georgette Heyer biography gives a look at the woman and the author. Most times either personal life or work life override the other. Not here. There is depth to the origin of her tremendous fount of imagination and skill within words that were both so mentored by her father. Jennifer Kloester traces these early years well within excellent record. Georgette's self-starting habits of publishing early and often are absolutely phenomenal. The put-downs that revise to present comparisons of behaviors, criticize her independent spirit, question her mood waves, scorn her politico belief and general life habits or spending in general-they arise from an inability to accomplish what she did accomplish. She did. She did not talk about doing, if she could help it. From 17 years old onward, she endlessly and in mammoth amounts of work hours, produced. Her work still remains within considerable wit of dialog and manners, and has passed the test of time as significant entertainment. The woman changed genre and started off-shoots into others. The amount of publisher information and the later years of tremendous Georgette "self-knowledge" to know where and how she could write best and most, were not as good as the first 1/2 of the book. Also I disagree with several reviews about author sympathy and guesswork. Georgette's letters and friends' notes support her direction. Georgette never, ever spoke with a victim's voice. Look at Georgette's story to see one path to a truly emancipated and fully human female life. It may not be the path exalted in the present. She was all about writing, and supported herself and at least 7 others in an environment in which she could do that the most and at her best. What a woman! Eons of core self-knowledge way, before a time when it was common for a woman to hold such strength of direction. But most of all she basically killed the simpering maiden and replaced her with a girl who likes to have fun. No small thing.

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