This month we’re blogging at YA Outside the Lines about books that touch us, or make us laugh, or lift our spirits. They’re crucial, I think, in these pandemic days.
I’ve been doing almost exclusively comfort reads since March. Okay, there’s always an exception. The exception, of course, would be books for work: research or craft books, or YA novels that help keep my writer’s voice in the mind of a 17-year-old girl.
(For better or worse, though, my mind usually IS that of a 17-year-old girl.)
I’m currently working on a series about a high school for psychics, so I’ve been rereading Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and the Oh. My. Gods. novels by Tera Lynn Childs. (Brutal work, but someone’s gotta do it.) And Save the Cat by the brilliant and way-too-short-lived Blake Snyder.
But just for me? I’ve been reading historical romance: my ultimate comfort reads.
The tricky thing for me as a writer is that whatever I read can unconsciously affect my own novels. Years ago, I was reading Bridget Jones’s Diary when I suddenly caught my own characters talking about “shagging,” and that was it for Bridget until I finished writing that particular novel.
The language in historical novels is so utterly different from my own that, even if it pops up in my writing, I immediately recognize it. A couple of examples: “ninnyhammer” and “watering pot.” THOSE aren’t happening in a modern novel, YA or otherwise.
Historical novels are also filled with ballrooms, debutantes (a few of whom, including the heroine in almost every story, are quite clever), and English dukes, earls, viscounts, etc., some of whom are delicious rakes. Totally not part of my life or general way of thinking. I love that.
Historicals are an escape. In 2020, escape is the ultimate quest.
And since 2020 makes me crave a GUARANTEED escape, I’ve been rereading a lot of historicals. One series I love is the Westcott series by Mary Balogh. It starts with Someone to Love, featuring poor-orphan-turned-major-heiress Anna Snow and Avery Archer, the Duke of Netherby. Avery is the closest competition I’ve seen to my ultimate historical romance hero, Jo Beverley’s Lord Rothgar, who first appeared in My Lady Notorious and who makes Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy look ... well, yawn. Anyway, I just reread Someone to Love last week. Swoon!
But there are escapes, and there are ESCAPES. So now, at the end of this blog, I finally get to its subject line.
I LOVE YOU, GEORGETTE HEYER.
When I was a young pup of a writer and still practicing law, my then-secretary gave me Georgette Heyer’s Frederica and basically told me that I would never amount to anything as a novelist until I read Georgette Heyer’s novels.
Barb Miller, you were so right. Thank you. And I still love Frederica to death.
Georgette Heyer died in 1974. Before her death she produced an amazing number of historical romances and other novels, filled to the brim with humor and extremely lowbrow slang and twists and turns and, yes, romance. She’s often called the next best thing to Jane Austen, but she’s really nothing like Jane Austen. I love them both, but Jane completed a mere six novels in her lifetime and Georgette (who clearly KNEW I would be desperate for comfort reads in 2020) wrote more than 50.
Aside from Frederica, which will always have my heart (yikes, there goes my YA voice!), I can’t possibly recommend one or three or five of her novels, because my favorites are usually the ones I’ve just read. But I WILL note that in These Old Shades, the Duke of Avon is Georgette Heyer’s entry in the “Who Can Possibly Compete with Jo Beverley’s Lord Rothgar” contest. Heh heh.
So go read some Georgette Heyer already!
Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at marystrand.com.