Monday, August 25, 2014

"...I am Roxhythe."

THE GREAT ROXHYTHE by Georgette Heyer

    Set in Medieval England, this book was published in 1923.

Often this is a hard one to find. I remember watching several copies on various websites, with prices going up into the hundreds of dollars; then I finally found a copy that was around $32.00 including shipping. Mine is hardcover, without a dust jacket, in very good shape, and a second edition printing. I do not think that a paperback was ever published of this book; although with the new paperback GH re-issues that are coming out this year, I wouldn't be surprised if they are planning to print one now. 

As an early Heyer, again, just like the one before it, I think it shows us Heyer's talent and to what we have to look forward. The time period in which it was set was, I believe, a favorite with Heyer. I have read other readers' comments who've not cared for the book because it is so long, because the language is sometimes stilted, and because the ending isn't all they would like it to be.

Personally, I really enjoyed reading the book, once I was able to obtain a copy. I do not believe it will be one that I can re-read regularly like I do so many others, but I believe I'll crave a re-reading once in a while.

The character of Roxhythe, himself, is conceited about his own accomplishments, powers, strengths, charm, and wit. But the reader can't help liking him. You see, he really is all the things he says he is; and he is loyal, sometimes uncomprehendingly so, to his King (Charles II) and country. Heyer modeled Roxhythe after The Duke of Buckingham, according to Hodge, although she doesn't give her reasons for saying so.

The secondary character, Christopher, is one of my favorites of Heyer's. It is through Chris' eyes that we learn to see into Roxhythe; to see past the facade that he puts up for most of the world; to see the deeply-rooted convictions and loyalty, the love that he really has for his country. And it is through Chris' eyes that we see the gentle side of Roxhythe. There is, of course, a love story as well in the plot, and it is, refreshingly, a very realistic telling of a relationship between a man and a woman in love.

One of my favorite lines in the book is when Chris is speaking in some doubt as to Roxhythe's power to get some gentlemen of the court to do his bidding. Roxhythe reassures him on that point, saying simply, "....I am Roxhythe."

As in all of Heyer's novels, there is plenty of humor and wit in ROXHYTHE. The book spans several years, and it is easy to get bogged down in it. It is not her usual fare; set during the intrigue and politics of Charles II's reign, it is a far cry from the Regency- and Georgian-period romances for which she is so well-known. But, especially remembering that Heyer was only 21 at the time of publication, I have to say that the book is quite a splendid accomplishment, and I could only dream of having had the knowledge and ability to write such a book when I was 21 years old. 

I read a review in which the writer said that it is not up to Heyer's "usual standards"; considering that it was only the second of her novels to be published, I have to say that she hadn't really yet had time to set any standards. And it should be remembered that she wasn't at all satisfied with it herself (she often wasn't satisfied with her books). And still, though written by an "immature" writer at the time, it is still a very "mature" book. I believe the problem that some people have with the book is that they are accustomed to the light hearted romances or the wonderfully well-written who-done-its of Heyer; when they finally have the chance to read ROXHYTHE, it is so entirely out of that realm that they are disappointed. So, I advise that if you get the chance to read it, you should do so with an open mind. Imagine it isn't Heyer writing it, but some other 21-year-old, newly published author.

As for the ending -- I appreciated it. I cried, but I thought it was well-done.

Copies of THE GREAT ROXHYTHE can be found at a reasonable price. Do not be suckered into paying a fortune for one. If you are so fortunate as to have a copy in your local library (which I highly doubt) take advantage of it and give it a try. 

Next Entry: Well On Her Way

Saturday, August 16, 2014

First Crack Out of the Bag



Heyer began The Black Moth as a serial story to amuse her brother Boris who had a form of hemophilia. At the age of 17 (Boris was 13) they went to Hastings in order for him to get over a bout of illness, and she made up the story to relieve their boredom. Her father, who had a connection to a literary agent called Christy, suggested, after hearing some of the story, that she prepare it for publication. He made the arrangements, sending the manuscript to Christy's partner, Leonard P. Moore. Moore sold the manuscript to Constable in England and Houghton Mifflin in the U.S. On the original book jacket Heyer's picture appeared in a central medallion -- something she would never allow in later years.

"First crack out of the bag," are the words she herself used to describe the publication of her first novel. Her mother, it is said, had a few qualms about her daughter being a novelist, but her father and her agent were very enthusiastic.

In later years Heyer did not like it when some of her fans insisted on preferring TBM to her other books; I suppose as she matured it didn't seem to be the type of book she would want to be known for or raved after. But, although not a favorite of mine, I prefer it to anything written by Baroness Orczy or even Jeffery Farnol! It is what it is, and there is nothing wrong with a wildly romantic, a bit over-the-top, period romance once in a while!

Next entry: The Great Roxhythe

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Story For A Convelescing Brother

THE BLACK MOTH By Georgette Heyer




The Black Moth was published in 1921 when Heyer was just 19 years old.
She had written the story to amuse her convalescing brother, Boris, and was encouraged by her father to have it published. Imagine, she wrote this when she was 17 years old! 

The Black Moth tells the story of Diana Beauleigh, a country-bred lady who, as the book jacket says, "inflamed the passion of a great Duke." Before the Duke of Sale can manage to abduct the lady, an unknown masked man rescues her and is, of course, injured in the process. And of course, who gets to nurse the man back to health and fall in love with him before finding out he is not a highwayman? Diana, of course.

Heyer did not write sequels, but characters in this book are revisited in THESE OLD SHADES and DEVIL'S CUB. 

I have a copy of this Georgian novel in paperback and a good-quality hard cover with a dust-jacket, published in 1968. 

THE BLACK MOTH is special simply because it was Heyer's first book. It is good, without being great. It is not in my top 10 of Heyer's books, but it definitely showed what Heyer was going to be able to accomplish as she got older. I can't imagine writing anything nearly so good at the age of 17, much less a period piece in which knowledge of Georgian England would be necessary.

I do recommend reading it, because there is nothing wrong with it. It is a good, enjoyable read, and it does introduce characters that are brought to life in different forms in two other novels. Besides, as I said, it is her first book! That alone is reason to read it. 

Written in 1919, Published in 1921


Next Entry: "First Crack Out Of The Bag"

Friday, August 1, 2014

Yes, I'm a Heyer Addict


I thought I'd list all her books in the order in which they were written. I now have at least one copy of all but two of her 55 books. And I'm very close to getting the other two. I plan to write about each one and also to put them in some kind of order of preference.
Books By Georgette Heyer In
Chronological Order ----------
1921 -- THE BLACK MOTH (GEORGIAN)
1923 -- THE GREAT ROXHYTHE (MEDIEVAL)*
1923 -- POWDER AND PATCH (G)*
1923 -- INSTEAD OF THE THORN (POST WWI)*
1925 -- SIMON THE COLDHEART (HENRY IV)
1926 -- THESE OLD SHADES (GEORGIAN/LOUIS XV)
1928 -- THE MASQUERADERS (GEORGIAN/JACOBITE)
1928 -- HELEN (POST WWI)
1929 -- BEAUVALLET (ELIZABETHAN)
1929 -- PASTEL (POST WWI)
1930 -- BARREN CORN (POST WWI)
1931 -- THE CONQUEROR (HISTORICAL BIOGRAPHY OF WILLIAM)
1932 -- DEVIL's CUB (G)
1932 -- FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK (MYSTERY)
1933 -- WHY SHOOT A BUTLER (M)
1934 -- THE CONVENIENT MARRIAGE (REGENCY)
1934 -- THE UNFINISHED CLUE (M)
1935 -- REGENCY BUCK (R)
1935 -- DEATH IN THE STOCKS (MYSTERY); published in U.S. as MERELY MURDER
1936 -- THE TALISMAN RING (R)
1936 -- BEHOLD, HERE'S POISON (M)
1937 -- AN INFAMOUS ARMY (M)
1937 -- THEY FOUND HIM DEAD (M)
1938 -- ROYAL ESCAPE (CHARLES II)
1938 -- A BLUNT INSTRUMENT (M)
1939 -- NO WIND OF BLAME (M)
1940 -- THE SPANISH BRIDE (R)
1940 -- THE CORINTHIAN (R); published in U.S. as BEAU WINDHAM
1941 -- FARO'S DAUGHTER (R)
1941 -- ENVIOUS CASCA (M)
1942 -- PENHALLOW (M)
1944 -- FRIDAY'S CHILD (R)
1946 -- THE RELUCTANT WIDOW (R)
1948 -- THE FOUNDLING (R)
1949 -- ARABELLA (R)
1950 -- THE GRAND SOPHY (R)
1951 -- THE QUIET GENTLEMAN (R)
1951 -- DUPLICATE DEATH (M)
1953 -- COTILLION (R)
1953 -- DETECTION UNLIMITED (M)
1954 -- THE TOLL-GATE (R)
1955 -- BATH TANGLE (R)
1956 -- SPRIG MUSLIN (R)
1957 -- APRIL LADY (R)
1957 -- SYLVESTER: OR THE WICKED UNCLE (R)
1958 -- VENETIA (R)
1959 -- THE UNKNOWN AJAX (R)
1960 -- PISTOLS FOR TWO, A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES (R)
1961 -- A CIVIL CONTRACT (R)
1962 -- THE NONESUCH (R)
1963 -- FALSE COLOURS (R)
1965 -- FREDERICA (R)
1966 -- THE BLACK SHEEP (R)
1968 -- COUSIN KATE (R)
1970 -- CHARITY GIRL (R)
1972 -- LADY OF QUALITY (R)
1975 -- MY LORD JOHN (MEDIEVAL -- PUBLISHED POST-HUMOUSLY)
*The Great Roxhythe, Powder and Patch, and Instead of the Thorn were all published in 1923. On some lists, The Great Roxhythe is listed as her second book, while on others it is listed as the third. Jane Aiken Hodge, in The Private World of Georgette Heyer, lists Powder and Patch as the third published novel, which is probably correct. The first lists I ever saw listed it as second, so that is how I made my lists and ordered my entries in my other journal. However, I have changed this list and the order of entries in this journal to put Powder and Patch as the third published novel, as Hodge states it is.

Next Entry: A Story For A Convalescing Brother