The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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book: these old shades and the devil's cub by georgette heyer
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
Having now read Georgette Heyer's These Old Shades and The Devil's Cub, I can say the woman is officially one of the few authors who does not often write the same story; I can honestly say the woman who wrote that was like, five million miles from Cotillion or Frederica like whoa.

These Old Shades has the distinction of reading for the entire Leon section like the creepist creepy-creeper slash in history. I kept stopping even knowing why it was happening because hello, as reader, I knew (I mean, I hoped at that point, because I was trapped within that narrative and wanted to be able to look at myself in the mirror the next day with something like respect), but everyone else in the story didn't so what the hell, debauched French aristocrats? I get this was a different time period, and yes, I know the stories of what Louis XV's court was like, and the entire donkey and girl show of legend, but--

--seriously, the entire sitting at Monseigneur's feet while he stroked his page's face and talked gleefully--and often, let me point out--about how he owed him body and soul--I AM QUOTING--my God.

Even like, the Token Upright and Moral Friend is like "OMG SHOCKING" but I did not see him grabbing Leon and running, running, running for the hills either. Or for Champagne, anyway.

I recommend it on pure WTF AM I READING and because it's idfic at it's most blatantly glorious, Justin is so fucked up it's a surprise he stands upright, and all the characters are just not exactly lovable but it kind of doesn't answer because Georgette Goddamn Heyer must have had a blast writing it and you can damn well tell she was laughing into her very proper sheets every night.

The Devil's Cub, the sequel-ish about Justin and Mysterious I Will Not Name Heroine Because Spoilers's sociopathic offspring (if you read the first, you cannot be surprised by this), leaped upon my kinks like an Olympic gymnast Gold-medaling the trampoline--holy God, nothing she wrote ever hit like that.



The thing is, you start the story with Dominik, Marquis of Vidal, See My Sociopathy Is Fairly Inherited From Both Sides (and How!), shooting highwaymen and splattering their brains upon the ground on the way to a party. Then he kind of--leaves the body there. And you are not feeling this is going to be say, a romance you will entirely understand, which is the genius of this thing--Georgette is hitting tropes out of the park--but you really can't see it because you are so unnerved when you realize he's the hero and wtf are you reading?

Yeah, like that.

The young Marquis is a sociopathic dick to everyone, which they seem to be healthy enough to find unnerving but also, being well, really unnerving themselves, also charming. Dominik is all about shooting people. Highwaymen, peers of the realm, random passers-by, he drinks heavily, carouses, kind of seems to hate everyone, and from context, how he got to this with parents who are supposed to be sympathetic being Hero and Heroine before this is a mystery you don't care about because you kind of hate them and him anyway, so whatever.

And also, he like, duels at the drop of a wine bottle in gambling hells and trying to seduce bourgeois girls of respectable family who are not terribly bright but gorgeous and kind of not respectable themselves. He's miserable--you really get the feeling this is some kind of really anachronistic disorder--and his dad after the entire gambling hell thing exiles him to France and tells him to keep his hands off the bourgeois girls, which means he tells her he wants to make her his mistress and run away with him.

Sadly for his aspirations of ruining, Not Bright But Gorgeous has an older sister who is levelheaded, kind of even-tempered, and Not Happy Dominik is trying to make off with her sister (who may be willing, but fuck that shit, Mary is not putting up with her sister being dumb) and intercepts the letter and takes her place. Dominik, being in a hurry and rather drunk, doesn't notice until they get to--a place where you get on boats to go to France, whatever, where Mary decides to reveal herself and fuck with him liek whoa.

So Dominik, being a fucking sociopath, kidnaps her bound for France and says he'll get her drunk to get her on the ship. Mary weighs her options and declines alcoholic assistance, then gets seasick at which time Dominik has on his hands a woman with a really terrifying weapon of projective vomiting, and it's suddenly hilarious.

It's really hard to explain, but that's when I liked Dominik a little, holding the basin and thinking evil just got very strange when you are cossetting the abductee and holding a basin for her.

Later, he gets drunk (shock) and tries to seduce her, at which time Mary takes out the pistol she stole while in the carriage and clarifies his intentions toward her hymen are unwelcome. The entire seasickness thing did not penetrate, apparently; Dominik starts toward her and Mary shoots him. She really doesn't want to do it, and apologizes afterward and Dominik kind of stares for a while and then gets a fever, with the understanding that Mary is a lady who can shoot you with her eyes closed and still strike a direct hit and will also bandage you up afterward. But she will shoot your ass again if you threaten her virtue, and still feel bad about it. And bandage it again, of course. I'm going to say, as heroines go, I kind of love her for that. I get the feeling she would shoot and bandage until the lesson sank in, and feel terrible, but that doesn't affect her aim all that much. At all.

This is when Dominik realizes Mary is a Lady (and knows how to shoot people); conscience-stricken (I KNOW) he says he has to marry her. She's appalled at the idea. As one might very well be.

Anyway, Dominik and Mary go to Paris with grim determination while Mary makes plans to run run run to be a governess somewhere, being ruined and all, while Dominik prevails upon Juliana, his cousin, to take her BFF Mary (they were friends in school) into her house with Tante Elizabeth as chaperone. Then he realizes The Horrific Roadblock to Marriage--they're Anglicans in France and they have to find a Protestant parson.

I am not joking, this is the roadblock. (Can't go to the embassy due to teh embassy being obvious for reasons regarding ruining. It's very convoluted but it makes sense when you read it.)

Dominik's sociopathy is somehow restrained, possibly due to Mary's entire "I won't ever marry you even if it kills me" and Dominik's "You wish death would get you away from me!" which Mary finds less scary than just goddamn irritating. Unlike Dominik, she is not one to use exclamation points when periods are fine for punctuation. There's a secondary plot with the sensible Comyn, who is not a lord but rich and came to Paris to sensibly elope with Juliana. Comyn knows he is in the wrong story altogether and deals with it all very calmly and coolly, up to and including calmly and coolly (and hilariously) letting Juliana in a fit of pique break their engagement and grimly go offer his hand to Mary immediately so to get the hell away from these people.

(That would have been the scariest marriage ever. Comyn is calm, cool, sensible, and has no need whatsoever of Mary's calm, cool competence at all. They couldn't have gotten through their wedding night without backgammon. It's actually brilliant how Georgette really made you afraid of this going through. Just, no. I mean in all seriousness, the scariest part of the story was their flight to Dijon to the Anglican pastor that Dominik unearthed.)

Dominik, who had the night before showed really uncomfortable signs of returning breaks with reality when Comyn was caught doing something so ungentlemanly as visit Mary and kiss her hand, has an epic breakdown when Mary and Comyn run off together. Comyn, being as I said calm, cool, sensible, honorable, and possibly suicidal, left a letter for Dominik helpfully explaining what he's doing and where they're going. Juliana throws a fit her former sekrit boyfriend made off with Mary and the two of them hit the road like the fist of an angry god (Dominik's default setting).

Comyn, being suicidal, is not getting Mary rushing their asses to Dijon (having been there, done that with Calais to Paris with Dominik, she's aware that stopping to breathe is a bad idea, much less for anything else), and they finally get there and into beds while Mary waits for Dominik to leap from the shadows (she's a smart girl; she knows this will happen). Dominik and Juliana find them at the inn, where Comyn, being again fucking suicidal (he's seen Dominik drunk off his ass calling for a duel in a gaming hell and then Comyn was second to the guy Dominik dueled and then he ministered to the almost-dead guy, so what the fuck, Comyn) says that he and Mary are married.

At which time Dominik tries to strangle him to death right then and there.

Mary gets a urn of water and throws it at them, at which time Dominik goes with what he knows and calls for a duel in the inn to the death because widowhood would suit Mary much better. They start the duel, Juliana is hysterical, Mary is nearly bouncing with frustration and finally grabs a coat to catch at their swords and Dominik's sword makes a tiny cut in her shoulder.

By the way Dominik reacts to that, you wonder for serious about his time in bedlam, as in, why was he never there. Hysterical (so not kidding), he half-strips her in the middle of the inn common room so he can tenderly cover the scratch with a handkerchief and stare at Comyn hatefully and crazily promise he can marry Mary all he wants but he'll never, ever, ever, ever have her as she is Dominik's and it's so ridiculously hot I had to stop and kind of love everything in the universe.

(Oh fuck it, judge away; the entire sequence was insanely hot.)

Anyway, Dominik sends Mary tenderly to her room and Comyn admits he wasn't married to Mary, at which time even Dominik is staring at him saying "ARE YOU FUCKING WITH ME? WITH THE CHOKING AND THE SWORDS AND SERIOUSLY?" As one does. At which time Dominik's mom shows up and Mary hears her say how much she hates the ruined girl Dominik will marry and decides it's time to run away again, which honestly, she's quite good at. Jumping on a stagecoach, she takes off to parts unknown while Dominik declares he'll kill everyone and be disinherited and all but he will marry Mary even if she will never ever let him near her hymen.

Meanwhile, in a different town, Mary is treated badly by a landlord and his wife before a Mysterious Yet Weirdly Familiar Older Nobleman shows up to help her get a room and beguile her into dinner. At which time he charms the story out of Mary and realizes she's actually a human-shaped anti-sociopathy treatment regime and possibly, a mid-tier deity of some kind. Mostly, she just wants a nice post as a governess somewhere, as being in love with Dominik is bound to just end in his family hating her (this is what she worries about. Not so much Dominik, which in a weird way you get. Around her his powers of I Am a Serial Killer become dimmer, like IDK, crazy-kryptonite). He'll be disinherited, which is also problematic from Mary's perspective, I suppose because they won't have the money to get all the bloodstains out of Dominik's clothes with his crazy-killing.)

Dominik shows up to stare in horror at his father and Mary; his father states he sucks and Mary could do much better than this, but if she's okay with it, he's already put a plan in place to marry them off and all is fine. Apparently, as long as they have the money for the aforementioned bloodstain problem, marriage is fine, and so Dominik's mother meets her and loves her and its' all good.

I love this book so much I'm stupid from it. It's ridiculous. It's cliched. But during the narrative, you do not see the cliches because it's just that--IDEK. Amazing.

ETA: A passage that should have badly freaked me out is this entire convo with Juliana that was a reminder that, right, Dominik is fucked up sociopathic, while he told Juliana he could force her to eat and do whatever else he wanted to her, dammit, since he had her in his power just like he had Mary but Mary was totally not having vapors about it (being one with the vomiting on him and shooting him and such). It's so goddamn creepy and it was actually just Dominik's really terrifying version of a romantic declaration. It's unreal. There's a sense of "daww" how cute while Juliana is going "I AM IN THE POWER OF MY PSYCHO COUSIN MURDERER" and yet. Daww. Dominik, you crazy-puppy.





Dominik, Marquis of Vidal to Juliana, his first cousin, on the way to Dijon:

"You think it was vastly romantic for Mary to be carried off by me, don't you? You think you would enjoy it, and you cannot conceive how she should be afraid, can you? Then think, my girl. Think a little! You are in my power at this moment, I may remind you. What if I make you feel it? What if I say to start with that you shall eat your dinner, and force it down your throat?"

Juliana shrank back from him involuntarily. "Don't, Vidal! Don't come near me!" she said, frightened by the expression on his face.

He laughed. "Not so romantic, is it, Ju? And to force you to eat your dinner would be a small thing compared with some other things I might force you to do. Sit down, I'm not going to touch you."

*****

Justin, Duke of Avon, to his son Dominik, Marquis of Vidal, on his betrothal to Mary:

"Delay your affecting demonstrations a moment longer, Vidal. I have to inform you that your late adversary** was, when I left England, on the road to recovery."

"My late adversary?" frowned his lordship. "Oh, Quarles! Was he, sir?"

"You not appear to feel any undue interest in his fate," remarked Avon.

The Marquis was looking at Mary. He said casually,"It makes no odds to me now, sir. He can live for all I care."

**The gambling hell thing that made Avon send Dominik to France.

Same convo:

"I comfort myself with the reflection that your wife will possibly be able to curb your desire--I admit, a natural one for the most part - to exterminate your fellows."



Ms Heyer, I salute you. You are brilliant.

Posted at Dreamwidth: http://seperis.dreamwidth.org/92755.html. | You can reply here or there. | comments

The Devil's Cub is one of my favorites :)

ME TOO. I KIND OF BOGGLE AT IT BUT MY GOD IT WAS AWESOME!!!!

Unlike Mary, I will allcap and exclamation point like whoa.

User insaneneko referenced to your post from thing i read today saying: [...] writes about These Old Shades and Devil's Cub in a rather difficult to read but fun post [...]

Hi, I'm a lurker. And as you might guess from the user name - a long time Heyer fan. The Duke and Duchess of Avon, my first and still favorite OTP!

"These Old Shades" is one of Heyer's earliest books (I think it's her first published romance) and owes more to the Baroness Orczy then it does to Jane Austen. It doesn't explain the creepiness, but it does explain the stylistic differences.

Now that you've read the middle two books, you should read "The Black Moth" (a prequel even though the characters don't have the same names) and "The Infamous Army" in which Vidal's granddaughter flirts her way through Brussels on the eve of the battle of Waterloo. "The Infamous Army" may have the best five page description of the battle of Waterloo ever written.

Or if you haven't read them read "Venetia" and "The Grand Sophy" which are probably her best books and maybe tied for best regency romance ever.

The Grand Sophy up until Devil's Cub was with Cotillion my favorite Heyer. But Devil's Cub is just--insanely awesome. Now I have a thresome of awesome.

I'm re-reading the Nonesuch (God, talk about whiplash) but I downloaded Infamous Army and Venetia both and they are up next. Kindle makes this ridiculously easy, dammit. Next up after that is to grab The Reluctant Window and Sebastian I think.

...Venetia is moving up now into next, I think.

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--seriously, the entire sitting at Monseigneur's feet while he stroked his page's face and talked gleefully--and often, let me point out--about how he owed him body and soul--I AM QUOTING--my God.

*grins* I love that ridiculously kinky book. The Devil's Cub is my favourite but I love These Old Shades as well.

Also, totally with you on the insanely hot here:

By the way Dominik reacts to that, you wonder for serious about his time in bedlam, as in, why was he never there. Hysterical (so not kidding), he half-strips her in the middle of the inn common room so he can tenderly cover the scratch with a handkerchief and stare at Comyn hatefully and crazily promise he can marry Mary all he wants but he'll never, ever, ever, ever have her as she is Dominik's and it's so ridiculously hot I had to stop and kind of love everything in the universe.


Try A Civil Contract. It feels even more completely different from her other books.

Civil Contract is my hands-down favorite, for its sheer ADULTNESS. Not in the sexytiems way, but because it is filled with people who think about their actions.

I love a lot of different Heyers, but yeah, Devil's Cub is for when I want more DRAMA.

The Devil's Cub is flippin' glorious. I love it like pie. It's so aware of and mocking the tropes it's using, and simultaneously just...working them for all they're worth. Sort of like the Mary/Vidal pairing, really! Half level-headed sense of humor, half batshit crazy and obviously everything that's bad for you but really goddamn hot.

The whole sequence of,

VIDAL: I sexually menace you now!
MARY: Do you have any Pepto-Bismol? *ulp!*
VIDAL: ...LOL. Okay, here, I'll hold your hair back.

followed by

VIDAL: I sexually menace you now (again, for serious)!
MARY: I will so totally shoot you.
VIDAL: Pfft, you don't have the guts.
MARY: *totally shoots him*
VIDAL: ...Okay, you have the guts.
MARY: OMG poor baby, are you okay?

Is one of my favorite things in any book ever.

crap, I had a good long comment all written and pinche lj ate the sumbitch.
tl;dr: yarrr.

slash authors = "boys' love" = romance authors of a sort, nu? only, y'know, with a lot moar wordiness and all impressive an' that...

*looks shifty, scurries away*

Yesterday I saw a car with the license plate BL PRDE. As we are on the East Coast and there was a black dude driving it, I am pretty sure it meant "black pride," but I giggled to myself for a good few minutes.

those are two of my favourite Heyer novels and I think I have read them all - a friend gave me the set when Random House re-released them a few years back

She makes you laugh out loud at some of the comments her characters use and the things they do....I just love them

I love those books insanely. My 13-year-old self devoured them and my much older self can still get caught up in them. Going back to her books now is like rediscovering old friends.

I love Cotillion too and am also very fond of Venetia, Arabella and...actually most of them.

OMG Devil's Cub! <333 So many awesome, awesome lines. For all that the romance connects right into my id, I think my favorite parts are:

1. Mary's talk with the Duke of Avon ("a gentlemen of intuition I see" and then Vidal walks in and :DDDD omg amazing payoff/pacing)

2. Vidal's valet's speech. Seriously. Heyer just put that in there. This man's heartburnings over Vidal's dress when he goes off inconsiderately poorly-attired on adventures.

I swear this might be one of my most reread books ever. These Old Shades and Grand Sophy and The Convenient Marriage and 10 other Heyer books aren't far behind though.

Vidal's valet's speech. Seriously. Heyer just put that in there. This man's heartburnings over Vidal's dress when he goes off inconsiderately poorly-attired on adventures.

Oh my God, that speech. YOU ARE PERFECT MY LORD and just--you just don't. See. That. Coming. PEOPLE I HAVE WORKED FOR BEFORE WERE NOT PERFECT OH WOE I HAVE REACHED BLISS LET ME PUT THIS PATCH ON YOU.

Just. What the hell was that awesomeness?

I... seriously. Are you me? Cause EVERY SINGLE THING in this post could have been written by me.

What the fuck. I don't need to write. Imma have another glass of wine and reread Devil's cub RIGHT NOW.

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*blinks slowly* Okay, I'm impressed. That's a fantastic litmus test.

Man, she would have been an epic fanfic writer. *wistful* Imagine her taking on slash tropes. God, we have missed greatness.

best recap ever !! (Anonymous) Expand
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Devil's Cub was my first Geogette Heyer book. I then read all the others. I have become less enamored with it over the years, but mostly because I think Mary deserves WAY better. On the up side, Vidal will kill a lot less people this way, although Mary may have to shoot him on the way out to get his attention. In the end, I love Mary and she wants Vidal, so I'm glad she gets what she wants. It does remain a very fun book, that I still reread.

My favorites are Fredericka, Cotillion, Friday's Child, Sylvester, Sprig Muslin and A Civil Contract. As someone mentioned above A Civil Contract is a contrast to almost ALL of Heyer's work, but I love it anyway.

I think the Heyer romances contain everything - no matter what your kink, preference, or type, there's a Heyer character that will likely fit your needs!

I love Frederica, Venetia, and the Grand Sophy, but I also have strong love for Faro's Daughter (I need to reread that...I think she ends up shooting her love interest as well!) and, because of my deep and abiding attraction to big, capable blonds, The Toll Booth.

Seperis reviewing 'The Devil's Cub"? EPIC WIN!

Seperis, I love your writing. LOVE.IT.

And... I used to read Georgette Heyer, way back in the day, in my teens (wont tell you which decade). Heyer was WAY more talented than Barbara Cartland, her heroines had more brains and spirit than Mills & Boonery, PLUS you got a lot of accurate historical scene setting.

'The Devil's Cub' is one of my favourites.

So, to get a Seperis review of my favourite Georgette Heyer novel, seen through a slash and 21st century perspective... HOW CAN IT NOT BE MADE OF WIN????

I squeeeeddd when I saw this- and, given that I am a sedate University tutor etc, that was most embarassing.

Srsly :):)

You're right- Vidal IS a sociopath. And Mary is Ms Practical, and she and Comyn have wandered in from an entirely different universe. The clash of perspectives takes it outside the usual cliches.
But its only reading your review-cum-analysis that made me realise that its both subversive and slashtastic.
Im going to RE-READ EVERY HEYER I'VE EVER READ (whilst 'the son and heir' -i.e my 21 yr old- is away)OVER THE WEEKEND!!!

You, are a Goddess of Fiction and Literary Criticism. You should be doing online courses for us, deconstructing Heyer and, oooh Tanith Lee (just re-read 'Sabella'. Really. My mind, it was boggled) and similar subversives.

I kneel at your feet.
I erect a shrine.
I go put on a t-shirt, declaring 'Seperis Rules!'
I give you puppy dog eyes, to see if you will write MOAR *puppy dog eyes*

Yinka

P.S Now if only you would finish some of those SGA AUs, like the one where John is an FBI undercover junkie-hooker,Kolya is his drug baron sugar-daddy...or the one where all the Atlantis crowd are psychopaths, I want to know how Rodney gets John away from Chaya..)

Re: Seperis reviewing 'The Devil's Cub"? EPIC WIN!

Psssst. The best way to get an author to finish something unfinished is to go leave an enthusiastic comment on the work itself, and then wait patiently. I have seen fanfic authors annoyed into dropping WIPS because too many people asked or demanded for the next part.

I read The Devil's Cub a few years back, had no idea it was a sequel at the time I bought it, and can't really remember much of what occurred. But I'd marked These Old Shades as being one I needed to make a point of buying next time I'm in a Heyer mood, and from there I'll reread Devil's Cub. And maybe even wander back here to read your commentary on both. (Clearly I should read them sooner rather than later. Just as soon as I'm done wading through 1000+ page fantasy epics. Next week, maybe.)

Clearly I need to read these books. This sounds like fantastic idfic pleasure.

They are. It's just--I read her other books first and some owe much more to the propriety of Jane Austen, so these hit like a religious experience. Especialy the first part of the first book with HOLY GOD CREEPER LIONS RUN RUN CREEPER ALERT which is--in retrospect--hilarious.

I need to read this. I need to read this right now. My expression throughout your post was stunned bemusement. Oh charming sociopaths, my one true love.

Mine too. Like, Dominik's habit of killing people at random meant we would DEFINITELY SEE A DUEL and just, love. LOVE.

I have a weakness for sociopaths of this level of adorableness. And you know, crazzzyyyy.

Mary Challoner is my favorite Heyer heroine (with Sarah Thane from Talisman Ring being a close second). Her ability to approach Dominick's crazy with equanimity is amazing. My favorite part is when Dominick discovers (upon being shot!) that he's dealing with a Lady of Quality, offers his hand in marriage, and Mary comes back with "lol I'll become a governess. Or a milliner."

I'm not quite sure how to square Mary's employment plans with her sudden willingness to marry Comyn. But their elopement (at the end of which they realize that they were too sane for each other) is hilarious.

The milliner bit was hilarious because she meant it. And you could see her tiny milliner shop with Dominik dropping by going "MARRY ME" and her "I AM FINISHING THIS HAT RIGHT NOW". It's adorable.

I'm not quite sure how to square Mary's employment plans with her sudden willingness to marry Comyn. But their elopement (at the end of which they realize that they were too sane for each other) is hilarious.

Honestly? I suspect Dominik's terrifyingly "I WILL MARRY YOU" was starting to convince her even a life of millinery wouldn't get her away from this (imagine the bodycount of gentleman outside her shop door!).

God, contemplating the Comyn/Mary marriage just--it's like everything wrong in the universe.


linkspam has a great deal of editing to do

User cofax7 referenced to your post from linkspam has a great deal of editing to do saying: [...] that he's necessarily wrong. * Jenn reviews These Old Shades and The Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer [...]

I love Mary SO FUCKING MUCH oh my very dear god.

I also highly recommend Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels, which is so totally an homage to this, with an even steelier heroine and an even brattier hero.

I, um, may have a thing for heroines shooting heroes. Just a small one.

I love that one. Loretta Chase throws me as much in her sheer variety of circumstance. Perfectly ordinary Regency heroines! Who have a.) perfectly amiable first husbands or b.) illegitimate children or c.) are courtesans.

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It is brilliant in its crazy way--though if you like it, try Mary Davys and Eliza Haywood, for out and out idfic of the highest order.

Hee! I am currently making my way through All The Heyer Ever, because I am home nursing a newborn and I cannot deal with anything tough to read or sad or basically at all like real life in any way, and I have a Kindle app on my phone. Yeah, I'm gonna go broke. Anyway, these books are amazingly good, and yes, the Avon-Léon relationship was very....I have read this fic before... and your post makes these books even better. Now I am thinking of Comyn and Mary Challoner's hypothetical wedding night and shuddering.

Now I am thinking of Comyn and Mary Challoner's hypothetical wedding night and shuddering.

Backgammon. Hours of backgammon. Due to serious malfunction. Just--no. God, no.

Hee! I am currently making my way through All The Heyer Ever, because I am home nursing a newborn and I cannot deal with anything tough to read or sad or basically at all like real life in any way, and I have a Kindle app on my phone. Yeah, I'm gonna go broke

If you haven't hit Cotillion yet, OMG--the hero is the most unlikely choice in the history of Regency romance and perfect. Frederica has the adorableness of a guy falling for a girl and her baby brothers. The Grand Sophy is goddamn grand.

I started reading Heyer in my 20s as, believe it or not, historical novels (not having ever wanted to read romances). So I started out with the ones equal parts history to romance.

There's "The Conqueror" (about William the Bastard Duke of Normandy) which, now that I think about it, has so many slashy elements your head will swim, not least the relationship of mutual admiration-doomed-to-tragedy between William and Harold. And if you like Mary Challoner, you'll adore Matilda of Flanders - who, bonus, really existed.

Then there's Beauvallet, about an Elizabethan-age pirate who goes into the heart of Inquisition Spain for his bride.

Someone else mentioned "The Spanish Bride" and "An Infamous Army," Heyer's Napoleanic War novels where real events drive the romantic plot.

I did read the romances, and loved most of them. To all the other recs allow me to add "The Masqueraders." More cross-dressing in this one; she seems to have really liked having her characters masquerade as the other sex.

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