I am a Georgette Heyer fan. There. In the full knowledge that many, probably most, of those who consider themselves serious readers will react to such a statement with a disdainful curl of the lip, I’ve said it. And over the nearly fifty years since I read my first Georgette Heyer, just enough other fans have stuck their heads above the parapet for me to know that I’m in good company.
We are a disparate bunch, a secret society so secret that we don’t even know who else belongs. We have her books so we don’t need each other. If we are rumbled – an inquisitive visitor comes across a row of her titles while perusing our bookshelves, say, or we leave a copy of our latest reread (her books must be reread more than those of any other author) open on the table – we brace ourselves for a sneer and rehearse a casual disclaimer. This is invariably met with a disbelieving ‘Hmm’ and a change of subject, but we have heard the clunk of our fall in their estimation. Strangely, this predictable scenario is almost easier to deal with than the obverse, for if the rumbler turns out to be another fan we will almost immediately fall out. The delighted ‘Oh you read Georgette Heyer too!’ is always followed by ‘Which is your favourite?’ And then the arguing starts. ‘How can you like The Toll Gate more than Devil’s Cub? There’s no comparison.’ ‘Friday’s Child better than The Grand Sophy? Never!’ Perhaps, all things considered, we do better to keep our devotion to ourselves.
Georgette Heyer was renowned for keeping herself to herself. Throughout more than fifty years as a best-selling author, she refused to be interviewed, never made a public appearance and only rarely replied to fan letters. Little is known about her early life beyond that she was born in Wimbledon in 1902, the e
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