Monday, February 7, 2011

Guilty Pleasure - Georgette Heyer

Thank you, Elizabeth, for the invitation and also the Lauren Willig recommendation. I am always dying for book recommendations!!!

My guilty pleasure is Georgette Heyer. Here's how I was introduced to her:

When I was growing up, my local library was the Jenkintown Library - tiny, dark, built in 1836. The librarian was a formidable and stern young lady named Edith Prout. I would go in every week and check out a tower of books, take them home and put them on my bed and then read them one by one. Well, eventually, since the library was so small, I had simply read nearly every book in the children's and young adult section. I must have looked forlorn one day, because Edith took me aside and said, "Do you need a recommendation?" and I said, yes please. She took me over to the adult section (thrilling! because I was 11 or 12 at the time) and handed me "These Old Shades" by Georgette Heyer. Done and done! I looooooooved Georgette Heyer. Her books were funny and smart and elegantly-written, and the romances were just chaste enough and just mildly racy enough to make them appeal to my 11-yr-old heart. Edith Prout never ceased to chide me about my voluminous late fines and only occasionally granted me a smile, but I am eternally grateful to her because she introduced me to Georgette Heyer.

Fast forward 30 years. Because I lived nearby, I had checkout privileges at all the local libraries. My parents still lived in Jenkintown and one time while visiting them I decided to take my 4-yr-old son to the Jenkintown Library to look at their children's books. I walked in the door (I have not been there in 30 years or so at this point), and I hear a voice say, sternly and matter-of-factly, "Hello, Diana." It is Edith Prout, still behind the desk, never missing a beat, as if I had been in every week like I did when I was a teenager!

I still turn to Georgette Heyer when I'm in between weightier tomes or when I need a break, mentally. My favorites are "Sylvester", "Arabella", "The Devil's Cub". And of course, "These Old Shades", the book that started it all.

Guilty Pleasures: Lauren Willig

A long time ago, when I was working in bookstores in Maine, I had a coworker friend (you know who you are) -- a smart, educated, interesting woman -- who was hooked on Regency romances. One of the perks of working there was that you could borrow books to read, ostensibly so you could sell them better, but really because they paid us so little that they felt they had to offer something, anything, to make it a little bit better. Well, I thought, here's a person with a brain who loves these books, so let me give them a try. And they were fun -- silly, but fun, and many of them were quite well written. Time passed, life changed, and I hadn't read one for literally decades.

Then, about 5 years ago, another friend let me borrow Lauren Willig's first book, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. It took me back to that era of English history, but so much better! The historical adventure/romance is framed by a contemporary plot involving an American grad student desperately in search of material for her dissertation, a handsome Englishman, a mysterious family archive. . .

I gobbled up each of the subsequent books the minute it came out. But I'd kind of forgotten about them until a Facebook friend "liked" Lauren Willig and led me to her newest, The Orchid Affair. Completely satisfying. I think it's the 7th one of the series, and you really should read them in order, if possible.

Willig knows how to tell a story; these books fall firmly in the category "intelligent fluff," and are a far better use of your time and brain cells than TV.

So confess -- what are your guilty pleasures (we're talking books here).