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Out of Time
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lil_shepherd
I have been finding it difficult over the last month to either read or write, apart from forays onto the Internets, where I am enjoying the spats between the Gnu Atheists and the Accommodationists, particularly as the Gnu Atheists are so much more articulate...

Anyhow, in an attempt to read something that isn't Empire or Horse and Hound, I picked up a number of lightweight books from various charity shops. The first of these was Georgette Heyer's Why Shoot a Butler? because the title was intriguing and it was a thirties country-house mystery, and what can be more brainless than that while not being chicklit?

Anyhow, apart from figuring out who-dun-it and why within the first sixty or so pages, I developed an intense dislike for the hero, who seemed to have no redeeming features, with the possible exceptions of intelligence and kindness to animals. He is arrogant, lazy, snobbish, rude, and generally insufferable. Then it hit me. He is one of GH's standard Regency heroes transferred to the 1930s - and he does not belong there. So, as I rather like Mr Darcy and can occasionally put up with GH's heroes in their proper setting (though I am not keen on the genre), why is it that transporting one of these characters to a more modern setting kills any empathy or liking for such a character stone dead.

Or is it just me?

(It's a very mediocre book - and quite incredibly snobbish, even for the period. The police - and the local magistrates and Chief Constable - are all stupid, the servants on the whole venal, and the Upper Classes flighty but honourable. There was one great line, though, from the police sergeant, watching one of his constables be very sick at the sight of the results of a shotgun on a human, "Easy to see you wasn't in Flanders.")
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It's not just you. I can't bear her mysteries, or most of her non-romance historicals.

I was quite impressed by My Lord John when I read it many years ago. Of course, it was unfinished, but the research seemed good, and the politics of that period are more interesting - to me at least - than Regency romance. However, I now know a bit more about the House of Lancaster, and in particular about Henry V, than I did then, so my opinion might change if I re-read it. I was most impressed by her attempt to write the dialogue in a close (modern-spelling) approximation of early modern English.

I don't think I ever tried to read that one. I do remember hating The Conqueror, though.

I will have to see if I can get my hands on this book so I can observe the phenomenon first-hand (so to speak.)

It does occur to me that people can be irritating or not-irritating in relation to the people around them. For example _The Female of the Species_ is incredibly insulting to women (we don't understand justice? We can't consider ideas with scholarly detachment but only react to them on an emotional level?) but for its time, not so much.

Perhaps this hero, taken out of his time, seems noticeably less sympathetic because the people around him show more um, modern attitudes to women and servants and so on?

You'd have to judge for yourself, but I would say not. In fact, the heroine is also a typical spunky-but-wrong well-bred but impoverished GH heroine. It is certainly closer to Agatha Christie (or even 'Sapper') in tone than to Allingham or even Sayers.

You're not alone. I tried reading 2 of Heyer's mysteries (don't ask me which ones), and couldn't get thru either of them. But I love her Regencies. Some more than others, but that's normal for me with any writer.

I am pretty indifferent to the Regencies, I'm afraid, but I don't actively dislike them, the way I did this book. Normally the attitudes of the participants don't affect me very much, and I quite enjoy Christie, who can be as bad - but the plotting in Christie is so much better!

That was the first Heyer mystery I read - I think, it was a hellava time ago. I've read them all, and have them (mostly in tatty 2nd hand paperback) but I agree with you: the plots (worked out by her lawyer husband, BTW) are okay, though they tend to remain cardboardish; but the fleshing-out lacks the fullness, interest or attractiveness of (some of) her Regency novels. Invariably classist and chauvinist-piggish - though there are smarter and more fun heroines (and less horrid heroes) in some of the other mysteries.

A Blunt Instrument is notable for the female lead (intelligent and businesslike authoress - term used advisedly, since she also looks like a conventional dyke of the time, but that's superficial - whose "heroine" sister is a wonderful portrait of the womanly woman who drives everyone except her manly husband around the twist, showing that Heyer can caricature some aspects of her own society) and for the male lead (exceedingly bright young man who prefers to live in debt, a novel position which he sustains well, and whose attitude to his own milieu probably makes him more sympathetic than most of Heyer's mystery heroes) as well as a noticing copper. There are other pleasures, too, which only reading can give you. Actually, that novel is closest to social comedy of the 30s; I still read it with enjoyment (and I have tried to avoid spoilers, here, in case you give it a go).

I enjoy reading the Regencies, but have thought ever since my first, at about 14, that I'd hate to be any of her heroines, or live in proximity to any of her heroes. Sobering to think that her women still had better lives than most of Jane Austen's. Boring, boring, boring, OMG. On top of financial dependence and all the other stuff.

Sad to say, GH was herself a raging snob, so it's no great surprise that a novel set in her own class in her own heyday should reflect her own attitudes.

I read Jane Aiken Hodge's biography of her, wished that Jane didn't admire her quite so blatantly much, and decided to avoid the mysteries. (Tho' I yield to no one in my pleasure at the Regencies.)

I'm told, by others (see above) that some are better, but am in no hurry at all to find out.

Currently reading an omnibus edition of Jill Patton Walsh's Imogen Quy novels, which I know to some extent from the radio plays recently repeated on Radio 7, and am finding them much more to my taste.

Having read a few of the Regencies in my teens and not been impressed, I have recently returned to them - reading five or six, randomly selected - with some enjoyment. I've never been tempted to try anything but the Regencies, though. And now I don't have to. Thanks for the warning.

I don't own any of the Regencies, but have dipped into them occasionally while staying with friends who like them. If there's nothing else to read I can take them in very small doses, and tend to skim-read.

Oddly, modern SF and fantasy writers who claim to owe a debt to her are sometimes to my taste - Sorcery and Cecelia for instance - but this is often because they are actually, you know, better written...

I think my interest was originally rekindled by Lois McMaster Bujold's comments about her debt to them and the obvious homage in 'A Civil Campaign' where Miles goes a-wooing.

You're right, reading them in small doses is the best way.

Yes, I adore A Civil Campaign though, to be honest, part of this is seeing Miles get his comeuppance. I think one of the things it that this book is hilarious (and Sorcery and Cecelia is funny too) and Heyer isn't.

I often laugh out loud at LMB's books, but A Civil Campaign has me in stitches. The first time I read it I was laughing inappropriately while others tried to watch serious TV. Not just at the butterbug debacle either, though that was very visual and slapstick.

I don't think it is the best of her books, but it is my favourite, and a great comfort read.

My all-time favourite Bujold book is Curse of Chalion - so different from the Vorkosiverse books that it might almost be a different author, except for the skill in storytelling. My favourite Miles book is... I don't know. I like them all for different reasons. My least favourite is the most recent - but a least favourite Bujold is still pretty close to the top of the pile of books in general. 'Warrior's Apprentice' is my Miles comfort-read book. Then there's 'Memory' which is not a _comfort_ read at all, but is brilliant. I don't think I've ever read a Bujold book I didn't like.

I think when it came to mysteries Heyer was a great romance writer.

I'm not in a position to judge romance writers... but she's a lousy detective story writer.

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