This year, the Beau Monde is celebrating the 80th anniversary of the origins of the Regency romance genre by posting a series of articles on the novels of Georgette Heyer. Yet, today, romance author, Charlotte Russell, tells us about a Heyer novel, The Foundling, which may, or may not, be a "romance" novel. Have you read this novel? Do you agree with Charlotte? Could it be that Georgette Heyer is responsible for originating yet another genre of fiction?
Everyone is welcome to share their views on this novel in comments to this post.
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Embarrassing confession: Despite being a voracious reader of Regency romances, I had never heard of Georgette Heyer until I began writing Regencies myself. It’s true. While I started out reading the likes of Victoria Holt/Jean Plaidy, I soon moved on to the historical romance writers of the late ’80s/early ’90s and didn’t become aware of Ms. Heyer’s writing until after the turn of the century. Needless to say, upon the recommendation of fellow writers, I quickly remedied the gap in my reading history. I have since read more than a half dozen of Heyer’s novels and in due time plan to read them all.
For the 80th anniversary celebration of Heyer’s first Regency, I was thrilled to read her new-to-me romance, The Foundling. However, I cannot in all good conscience label The Foundling a romance as it seemed to me more wonderful coming-of-age madcap adventure.
I will admit I was disappointed in the lack of romance, even by Heyer’s subtle standards. I was even doubtful of our hero, the Duke of Sale or Gilly, after he was described thusly:
He was slightly built, and of rather less than medium height. He had light brown hair, which waved naturally above a countenance which was pleasing without being in any way remarkable. The features were delicate, the colouring rather pale, the eyes, although expressive, and of a fine gray, not sufficiently arresting to catch the attention.
Can you imagine a hero in a current historical romance described as such? The duke is not even cut from the same cloth as other Heyer heroes like Damerel and Ravenscar. He’s young and has been cossetted his whole life because he was not just his late father’s only son but also sickly as a child. I trusted Heyer, though, and Gilly himself after I saw a spark of life in him while dealing with his overbearing uncle in some early scenes. By the halfway point of the story, like all those who encounter the duke, including his kidnapper, I couldn’t help but like and admire him.
Why yes, I did mention a kidnapper. This story has that and so much more: a cow racing backwards, an infamous purple silk dress, a breach of promise suit, blackmail, our hero disguising himself as a commoner, our hero’s cousin accused of murder (oh, Gideon-now there is a man whose story needs to be written), the heroine rescuing the duke from the clutches of the magistrate, and yes the veriest hint of romance with the duke discovering that he does, after all, quite adore the bride his uncle chose for him.
As you can see, The Foundling is a fun story. The Duke of Sale makes his way from being quite uncertain of himself and unable to stand up to either his uncle or his servants to becoming a man who knows who and what he believes in and who will stand up for those things at all costs. This is a story of a young man finding his way and discovering exactly who he is. Indeed cousin Gideon declares, "…his Grace has found himself."
Thus, while I cannot describe The Foundling as a romance, I do believe I’ve just read my first New Adult book!