Aug 292015
 

Silhouettes of a man and woman in Regency dress against a background of the number 80

Today, romance author, Andrea K. Stein, enlightens us on what may be Georgette Heyer’s most obscure historical novel, The Great Roxhythe. It is unlikely that many reading this article have ever read this book, for reasons which Andrea will explain. It has been included in Beau Monde’s Regency Turns 80 celebration of Heyer’s work, though sorely it stretches the definition of a romance, as Andrea also explains. Nevertheless, it is one of Heyer’s historical novels, and in the interest of completeness, it deserves our attention.

Whether or not you have read this novel, you are welcome to post your comments to this article.



*         *        *

Throughout Georgette Heyer’s The Great Roxhythe, a lavish tale of intrigue in the time of the Restoration, I kept wondering when the romance would appear. I’ve enjoyed a number of Heyer novels, but had never encountered this one. Turns out she crafted an elaborate triangle of loyalty, love, and infatuation among returning king Charles II; the enigmatic Marquis of Roxhythe; and Roxhythe’s naïve young secretary, Christopher Dart.

Heyer later suppressed this book from publication. She was only 19 when she completed the novel in 1922. In The Private World of Georgette Heyer, Jane Aiken Hodge describes The Great Roxhythe as "probably the worst book Georgette Heyer ever wrote."

At a critical turning point Roxhythe sends Dart on a dangerous spy mission without the young man’s knowledge. This cold-blooded decision forces his secretary to conclude he cannot tolerate the choices his master makes, in spite of the considerable infatuation he feels for the man.

While Roxhythe abuses his secretary’s admiration, his own loyalty and affection belong only to Charles II. He has been at his master’s side as a soldier since the turbulent days of the king’s return to the throne. Back in England, Roxhythe toils endlessly at Whitehall in his service.

Heyer’s ambitious fictionalized version of this tumultuous period details how Charles II’s flamboyant lifestyle put him at odds with the sober, Protestant leaning members of Parliament. The king’s constant need for funds led him to unwise secret agreements with his cousin, French King Louis XIV.

Some scholars say Ms. Heyer based the character of Roxhythe on George Villiers, second duke of Buckingham. His father, a favorite of Charles I, was assassinated at Portsmouth by the renegade officer John Felton. George was only seven months old and subsequently was brought up in the royal household of Charles I, together with his younger brother Francis and the King’s own children, the future Charles II and James II.

When the Second English Civil War broke out, he and his brother joined Royalist forces in Surrey, in July 1648. Buckingham served as General of the Horse for the 1st Earl of Holland. Buckingham’s brother Francis was killed in a minor engagement near Kingston upon Thames. Buckingham escaped after a heroic stand against six Roundhead opponents, his back against an oak tree, which became the stuff of Cavalier legend.

Like Roxhythe, Villiers also went into exile with Charles II and returned to England to serve the monarch when he was restored to the throne.



Author Andrea K. Stein is a retired newspaper editor and sea captain living at 10,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains west of Denver. She draws on her experiences delivering yachts up and down the Caribbean for the settings of her high seas historical romances. Fortune’s Horizon and Secret Harbor can be found on Amazon.

Connect with Andrea online at:
http://www.andreakstein.com
@andreakstein
Facebook/authorandreakstein

  9 Responses to “Regency Turns 80 — The Great Roxhythe

  1. Surprisingly enough, I have this book and have read it. It is not a romance except in the old fashioned sense but I suspect if it were written today it would be classed as M/M and the relationship between Roxhythe and young Christopher more…intimate. I found it fascinating in particular because of the relationship between the two. Roxhythe I believe genuinely cared about Christopher and the young man’s feeling for the older man verged on idolatry. But Roxhythe was bound irrevocably in service to the king and all other ties must fail when they conflict. The disillusionment of Christopher is very realistic and the inevitable fate of Roxhythe a tragedy. There is an echo of this relationship in The Black Moth with Andover’s friendship with Frank to whom he is a mentor though it was written first.

  2. Can’t believe I haven’t read this. From a Heyer perspective it sounds interesting to compare with her Georgians and Regencies. From an historical “romance” angle, I love the Restoration and am researching the period now. Thanks for this article, I am off to hunt down the book.

  3. This is the only GH book I haven’t read. I only heard of it recently but couldn’t find it. However although I have her other books including the detective stories and love them I don’t think I will read this one. Thanks for the great review as it has made my mind up.

    • Have you read her contemporary/modern novels? Very few people have, since they did not sell well when they were first published. After that, it is my understanding that she did not allow any of them to be reprinted.

      First editions of those novels can still be found, but they are rare. If you want to try to seek them out, the titles are:
      Instead of the Thorn
      Helen
      Pastel
      Barren Corn

      Heyer also wrote several short stories which were published in various magazines during the course of the 1920s and 1930s. One of the best places on the web to find a truly complete list of Heyer’s work, with information on their availability, is at Georgette-Heyer.com.

      Regards,
      Kathryn

      • Thanks Kathryn. I hadn’t heard of any of those but checked them out on Amazon. There were no book descriptions but the reviews made me think I probably wouldn’t enjoy them as much as her others and they were all over £20 which is a bit much for me. However I did notice a new detective story coming out in November which I have put on my wish list so thank you for that.

      • Kathryn, Heyer’s modern-set repressed novels were reprinted after her death; I own copies of them all, so they’re certainly not impossible to find. And Glynis, if you’re in the US, there is also inter-library loan! That’s how I read them at first. (And if you’re not in the US, perhaps there’s something similar.) I found them all interesting, though I “Barren Corn” I thought didn’t really work. “Helen” was my favorite of those!

        • Thanks Cara. I am not in the US but I will check it out. Meanwhile I will re read the ones I have for the millionth time 😊

  4. Thanks for all the great comments! My takeaway from this obscure Heyer novel is that she was a passionate writer who followed her heart. We can all learn from that lesson.

  5. I believe this and “Simon the Coldheart” are the only Heyers I haven’t read. A friend of mine has urged me to read Simon (calling it “really quite fun”) so I expect there will come a time when Roxhythe is my very last unread Heyer!

    Andrea, thanks for reading it and sharing your thoughts on it…I think it actually does sound rather interesting! Now if only it weren’t so long… 😉

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