Name of the author: Georgette Heyer
Main genre: Regency romance (non-explicit), comedy of manners
Main audience: All ages, but clearly directed at a female readership
Main books: The Grand Sophy (1950), Frederica (1965), The Nonesuch (1962)
Short summary of the author: Georgette Heyer authored several dozen novels over her 50-year career, and she is credited with single-handedly establishing the genre of "regency romance" that was later absorbed and reshaped by the paperback romance industry. Her first book, The Black Moth, was originally written to entertain her sick brother, and it was later revised by Heyer and published in 1921 when she was only 19 years old. While Heyer primarily wrote light romantic novels reminiscent of Jane Austen, she also authored several mystery and gothic novels. Her final novel, My Lord John, was published in 1975, a year after her death in 1974 at the age of 71.
- Self-aware heroines. While Heyer does not aspire to the type of broad social critique that has made Austen's works so enduring, her female protagonists offer a more modern take on women during the Regency era. Heyer's protagonists are older, usually between 25 and 30, and know themselves well enough to see both their own faults and others' clearly. They never lose their heads to a flirt, and can quickly take the measure of anyone they encounter. There are a lot of opportunities for humor that Heyer takes full advantage of, but her characters almost always remain sympathetic and likable.
- Extremely accessible historical fiction. Despite the extensive research which Heyer employed in writing her books to be somewhat accurate in their depiction of Regency England, she was highly aware that most readers were not familiar with the mannerisms and rules of etiquette which ruled people's lives in those days. Part of what keeps her books accessible for today's readers is that Heyer does an excellent job of gently educating the reader on these details without letting them detract from the actual story.
- Predictability. Heyer was an immensely successful author during her lifetime, and it is clear that she did not feel a need to tamper with a winning formula. As a result, it is difficult to binge-read her novels, since it becomes very easy for the reader to spot exactly who is supposed to end up with who, turning the experience into an exercise in patience while you wait for the characters to hurry up and figure out what you already know. The witty, reasonably attractive lady spars with a witty, extremely wealthy and sporty gentleman, they work together to rescue a youthful acquaintance from their own foolishness, and in the process realize that they have finally met their match. While I enjoy each book, I cannot deny that they various couples quickly begin to blend together.
- Mid-century sexism. While I do credit Heyer with depicting her female protagonists with complexity and realism, I would not call her a progressive author. Despite her heroines often refusing to marry for reasons other than love, marriage is still very clearly the pinnacle of a woman's happiness. A woman might be clever and resist acting "missish" but she is always respectable, whereas a man can get away with almost anything as long as he is wealthy, fashionable without being a dandy, and an athletic sportsman. In most cases, the sassy heroine is transformed into a demure and satisfied woman when she finally agrees to become the hero's wife.