6. These Old Shades (1926) read twice as of 2021
This is the romantic tale that put her on the map, and was such a huge seller that her career went to the next level. And the interesting thing is that it’s not as though she was doing badly in sales before this book. But the story she tells here is mythical, with much of the structure of a folktale. It’s about an orphan and how the orphan is taken up as a servant by a very dark natured Duke. But they redeem each other. There is a lot to this one, more than even a snapshot can really delve into.
It’s also a reskinning or reimagining of The Black Moth. It also has, as a fairly major plot point, the young beautiful girl dressed as a boy.
7. Helen (1928) read once as of 2021
This is one of Heyer’s moderns she wanted suppressed. The usual argument from Heyer fans is that it’s just too autobiographical. I can understand that argument. It’s about a girl with a very close relationship with her father, as her mother dies bearing her. Her attachment to her father runs so deep it affects her ability to choose a suitable man to marry, and the book is the story of how she navigates her grief in order to find the right man (at least, who happens to still be alive, because it’s set around WW1 and afterwards).
8. The Masqueraders (1928) read twice as of 2021
This is a fun one. It is set around the Georgian era, same as These Old Shades, The Black Moth and Powder and Patch. Heyer began, after her first few books to center in on a specific historical period rather than casting about all over the past with no rime or reason. This set the stage for her to move into the Regency world, where she nestled into a clear and extended career. This one features her most hilarious crossdressing riff: a brother and sister swap sexes because they’re on the run as Jacobites and they both have the misfortune to fall in love with their same-sex (supposedly) best friends.
Their father, The Old Gentleman, is a character, in every sense of that word.
9. Pastel (1929) unread as of 2021
I scored a cheap copy of this hard to find modern that Heyer wanted suppressed. I haven’t got round to reading it yet because I own it.
10. Beauvallet (1929) read twice as of 2021
‘Reck not! It’s a rip roaring thrill ride kind of book, but spiced with a delicate romance. It is a sequel to Simon the Coldheart, about one of Simon’s descendants and his adventures in Spain during the era of Raleigh. The romance comes from Nick Beauvallet winning a sea battle and taking a Spanish lord prisoner, but his daughter is on the ship too…and one thing leads to another, and before you know it, Beauvallet is dodging French and Spanish efforts to take him alive or dead (mostly dead) while also trying to bring his lovely love interest back home to the family.
It’s a notable feature of Heyer’s early work, before she shifted almost entirely into pure Regency writing, that she did sequels and linking novels. This all disappears after 1940 with a single exception, but I’ll get to that eventually.