Heyer, Georgette (The Book Club, edition 1951 (orig 1950), ISBN – n/a)
I was at a social event back in the 1990s and someone was reading a copy of The Grand Sophy. Soon there was a collection of us standing around laughing and giggling in reminiscence of it’s amusing scenes. The boyfriend of one of the girls wandered over to see what we were talking about.
“Oh,” he said. “A romance book.” And he attempted to walk off. The poor man, he never understood till then exactly how offending a bunch of nerds can go down so very badly. He was sat down and lectured for about two hours on the merit of Georgette Heyer and how, while romance was part of it, it was a genius comedy he was dissing out of hand. I believe I recall his feeble excuse was that his mother had some Georgette Heyers. We all then agreed his mother must have excellent taste in books.
I’m not sure why he thought a bunch of total geeky people (women and men) who were seriously into science fiction, would all have read and enjoyed a book that he was ready so happily to dismiss so out of hand as something he assumed only old ladies would read. I’m still confused at his leap of judgment, but it occurs so often. Publishers too market Heyer as pure romance – and there are a number of very sickening covers on the most recent lot that makes you think they are as vacuous and empty as much of the romance genera tends to be. This book is NOT the story of Sophie getting together with some bloke, rather it is the story of Sophy using her artfully delightful manipulation and trickery to change the lives of an entire family (for the better) she has ended up living with. It has such reread merit. It will make you laugh aloud. I’ve been advised not to read it on public transport cause you cannot help but giggle the entire way through it.
Is The Grand Sophy classifiable as a romance? Well yes, I guess so, if you classify Pride and Prejudice as one too. It’s not romantic at all but there are hook ups all the way through it. I would call it a comedy of manners with a number of components to it, romance, gambling, shooting, horses, money lenders, regency era manners, historical fiction, and a big part of pure comedy gold.
Nothing, nothing, beats the final duckling scene where all the plots and subplots come together in a giant delightful resolution mash up.