Thursday, 4 June 2015

Georgette Heyer: who's your hero?

On Friday June 5th, English Heritage are putting up a Blue Plaque to Georgette Heyer. This gives me SUCH a warm, fuzzy, happy feeling that I can't even begin to describe it.

I read Georgette Heyer for many reasons. Like Mary Stewart, Diana Wynne Jones and Ngaio Marsh she is the literary equivalent of my comfort blanket.

I read her for her wit, for her ability to create a world within the space of a couple of paragraphs, for the way she invests even the most minor of walk-on characters with lives of their own.

I read her for her heroines, for Serena in Bath Tangle, for Frederica in Frederica, for Elinor Rochdale in The Reluctant Widow - and surely Sophy Stanton-Lacy (The Grand Sophy) is the most glorious creation in any novel anywhere.

But heroes... well now, Georgette Heyer's heroes do cause slightly ambivalent feelings to flutter in my breast.

The problem is not with the chaps themselves, there is no one I would rather have on my side over rough country than ex-Dragoon Captain John Staple (The Toll Gate) or Hugo Darracott (The Unknown Ajax). The problem lies rather in their interactions with their lady of choice.

There are exceptions, but Georgette Heyer's books tend to be very much main-character driven. John and Nell fall in love on sight in The Toll Gate, but it is at heart an adventure story with John playing the starring role (and none the worse for that). In another of my favourites The Grand Sophy, Sophy's foil Charles Rivenhall is masterful enough, but no match on the page for Sophy who sweeps magnificently through the book setting wrongs to rights and dispatching everyone to their proper destiny.

For a complete hero, I want a sense of equality, a sense of respect and willingness to let the other person play their part. Sir Gareth Ludlow and Lady Hester Theale come close to this in Sprig Muslin. Sir Tristram Shield and Sarah Thane come even closer in The Talisman Ring.

But my number one hero is another man entirely. He is the one our heroine trusts above all others, the one she unfailingly turns to, knowing he will have the answer to all life's problems big or small. His one object, throughout the book, is to make her happy.

Yes, he's a surprising choice (and I couldn't live with him myself, I'd want Kit Fancot from False Colours for that), but the crux for me was when - with events going into free fall around him and everyone screaming at him to do something about it - he takes the trouble to read the heroine's long, rambling letter with such concentration that he instantly perceives the one flaw in her plan - AND MAKES IT BETTER, JUST LIKE THAT.

 And then, as if that wasn't enough, he is ready to stand aside and let her go if that is really what she wants.

So, Freddy Standen of Cotillion, take a bow. You are my absolute, number one Georgette Heyer hero, and fortunately Kitty Charing agrees.

~ ~ ~

What about you? Who is your best ever Georgette Heyer hero? And why?


Anonymous said...

Damerel for me, in Venetia. Now there's a man who needs a companion who's up to his emotional and fighting weight. And he, too, is willing to stand back when he thinks he should.

Jan Jones said...

Oh, yes, Damerel. You don't think you'd always be battling his demons?

Anonymous said...

Vidal, for my mad adventurous side, but you're 100% right about Freddie. THAT book is a REAL portrait of true love, and it's ability to transform anyone. *sniff*


Jan Jones said...

*passes tissue to Anna*

Lesley Cookman said...

Before I'd got to the reveal I KNEW you were going to say Freddie! Lovely blog, Jan, and I hope today goes brilliantly. We have the same comfort blankets, I notice...

Liz Fenwick said...

I know I'll be shot down but the first Heyer I read was Regency Buck and it's still my favourite although I loved so many ...but Julian remains my favourite hero. lx

LizB said...

For me, it's got to be Rule. He's suave, handsome, amusing, kind, and totally capable. He deserves Horry. But yes, I adore Freddy, thoroughly enjoy spoiled wild boy Vidal, and have a soft spot for Cardross - probably because he's a little in the mould of Rule though not nearly as accomplished.

Catherine Owen said...

Freddy Standen has been my favourite book hero for years. You can keep your Mr Darcys give me Freddy any day! I would chose Cotillion as my Desert island Disc book in the unlikely event I was ever asked on the show!

Jan Jones said...

Cotillion is such a clever book, Catherine. It really stands up to any amount of re-reading.

Liz F - yes, Julian develops as a character over the course of the book, but he's still a bit high-handed for me.

Liz B - I like Rule too, but again, I wish he'd just talk to Horry more.