Jan 052015

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

The Beau Monde is pleased to begin our year-long celebration of the 80th anniversary of Regency romance with an article by Alina K. Field on the very first Regency romance novel, Regency Buck. Alina is a Regency romance author herself, as well as a Regency romance reader, and she brings both viewpoints to her discussion of this seminal Regency romance novel.

We invite our visitors to post comments sharing their views on this article and the book which gave us our favorite romance genre.

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The buck: The term generally referred to the bloods or sporting types, but could also mean a man of spirit.
From Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester

Source Books cover of Regency Buck, with a man and woman in Regency costume standing side by side in a Regency drawing room

My favorite books have a romance, a bit of mystery, and at least one secondary character who makes me laugh, and I found all those elements in Regency Buck. When I discovered my 1966 Bantam Books edition in a used book store, I had no idea this was the first Regency romance novel. How I wish I had read it before I wrote and sold my first Regency.

Besides the pleasure of the author’s voice and the story, Georgette Heyer brings the Regency story world to life. It’s as if she poured all of her research into this book, from the opening page’s post-chaise-and-four, to the historical figures of the Prince Regent, the Royal Dukes, and Beau Brummell, and the strict social etiquette of the ton. Heyer’s lengthy scenes of a boxing match, a cockfight, and a curricle race are goldmines of information.

Reading those scenes, I could hear an invisible editor whispering quietly:   they don’t move the story along, you don’t need all of this. Cut. Cut.

But as a Regency fan, I find the wealth of detail intriguing. As an author, I’m humbled to watch a master incorporate her vast research into an engaging, humorous, and to my taste, well-paced tale.

If you haven’t read this book, let me share a bit about it. The romance begins with an unwelcome kiss and plays out with all the wit and subtlety of a 1930s’ romantic comedy. Besides the fact that the heroine, Judith Taverner despises the hero, Lord Worth, they cannot be together because she is his ward, at least for the next several months until her twenty-first birthday. In spite of that first kiss, stolen before he knew her identity, Worth is a man of honor—he is worth-y—and he will not pursue a romance with the young heiress while he serves as her guardian.

Does Worth, after meeting the delectable Judith, dispense with a mistress? We are not told. When he kisses her, is it on the cheek or the lips? We are not told. There is much touching of chins, and cheeks, and hands, subtle cues to the characters’ feelings, that any author writing at any "heat" level can learn from.

Heyer does go deep into Judith’s point of view, but not so with Worth. He is not one of our smoldering, wounded, modernly-written heroes. He’s more like another early 1930s’ character, Nick Charles, of The Thin Man, always ready with a droll comment or clever quip for his rebellious ward.

Heyer brings humor through this sparkling dialogue, and through the depiction of the heroine’s younger brother, Sir Peregrine Taverner. Wealthy and impulsive, nineteen-year-old Peregrine throws himself into the sporting and social life of the ton, restrained only by his guardian, Worth.

Besides the romance between twenty-year-old Judith and the thirty-something Worth there is a mystery. A string of attempts on the life of Peregrine are told in bloodless cozy mystery fashion, and, because Peregrine is involved, with wry humor. To protect him from the last attempt on his life, an abduction, Worth doses Peregrine with laudanum and packs him off to his private yacht.

Peregrine is only momentarily fazed. With his usual gusto, he plunges enthusiastically into yachting and plagues Worth to allow him to buy his own vessel.

"…sailing a yacht, you know, has even curricle-racing beat to a standstill. I like it better, at all events."
"I hope you do it better," commented the Earl.
"Well, I believe I shall," said Peregrine eagerly. "And that is what I wanted to ask you. Nothing will ever satisfy me until I may have a yacht of my own! Pray do not say no!"

Peregrine is the character who stuck with me. Peregrine is the "Regency Buck."

While I like a humorous secondary character to break the intense emotion of a romance, Peregrine’s mad dash about England upstages the already muted central love story, turning Regency Buck into a different kind of story than a straight romance. Still, when I finished this book the first time, I knew it would be a keeper worth reading again, to look more closely at Heyer’s development of Judith and Worth’s romance, to have a smashing time at a boxing match and cock fight, and in general to enjoy the Regency story world, told 1930s’ style.

I love Heyer’s voice, and I think Regency Buck is a well-crafted story, but what do you think? I know others may have different opinions or insights, and I’d love to hear them.

Alina K. Field is the author of two Regency romances, Bella’s Band, and the 2014 Book Buyer’s Best Contest winner in the novella category, Rosalyn’s Ring.

Find her at:
Website: http://alinakfield.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alinakfield
Twitter: @AlinaKField

  25 Responses to “Regency Turns 80 — Regency Buck

  1. I have read all of Heyer’s books multiple times. I love the additions. So much so that when I listened to an abridged version of Sylvester recently I was quite disappointed that they cut the scene where the “villain” had his tassels cut off by the boy and had to cut his button off his coat to try and calm the child. Regency Buck is one I haven’t read for a while but it is on my list as I do a read through of the Alastair saga.

    • Fiona, you made me laugh. I very recently listened to the same unabridged Sylvester while exercising and I was so disappointed that scene was not in there! Also, the misunderstanding during the whole trip about Edmund’s button!

  2. I just started reading Heyer’s “An Infamous Army,” which stars the Worths and Peregrine. It’s been awhile since I read Regency Buck, but I will definitely be going back to it. LOVING Heyer’s voice! She’s awesome!!!

  3. Maybe editors of today should take the time to read Heyer. Personally, I love the extended descriptions of the “Regency story world” because it gives me a much greater sense of being there. Too many modern historical authors gloss over the settings, (probably at the direction of their editors) which I think short-changes the story. I can imagine the world well enough, since I have read hundreds, if not thousands, of Regencies, and have studied the history of the period in-depth. But I think that filling in with my own ideas gives me more control in the story than the author may have intended. Setting really matters, and I wish more authors were given the time/pages to fill out their settings.

    Though Regency Buck was not my first Regency, it was the first Regency in which I met Beau Brummell. I will be forever grateful to Georgette Heyer for introducing me to that fascinating Regency character in the pages of her first Regency.


  4. Susana, I have just started reading “An Infamous Army” also, It seems to me it has a more serious tone than “Regency Buck”, as it should, I suppose, given the subject matter. I love seeing all the characters from the first book again and being immersed in the Waterloo experience.

    And Kat, I think part of the problem with shortened settings is the drive to write shorter. I know in my novella, I was trying to economize to stay within the 20k word limit. Ah, to have Heyer’s knowledge and skill with inserting description without killing the pacing!

  5. What a fun post! I’m looking forward to this 80th anniversary celebration. 🙂 The first Regency I remember reading, way back when, was Heyer’s “Venetia”. I was smitten and had to read everything else I could get my hands on. A few months ago I decided to re-read it, and expected I might not enjoy it as much, but I loved it even more. There was an abundance of exclamation marks, which I don’t remember from the first time. LOL But the witty banter, and easygoing relationship between the hero and heroine, along with the wonderful Regency details — what a delight. I’m going to be re-reading more of my favorites soon. 🙂

  6. MY last message got away before time. It wasn’t corrected or in anyway ready for posting.
    An Infamous Army is great for the battle of Waterloo and its 200th anniversary. The people aren’t as enchanting as some.
    I like Heyer’s descriptions and settings. I miss it in modern books. Regency Buck isn’t a favorite book of mine but it has all the elements later regency books had. Heyer did set the standard. It took some time for authors to realize they could set stories in the country.

  7. There are so many Heyer novels I have yet to read that I’ve decided to read them in order as they are featured in this year-long celebration. Thanks for a wonderful introduction to whet my appetite!

    • You’re welcome, Renee. I’d read a couple of her Georgians but this was my first of her Regencies. I’m looking forward to diving into the rest of her books, in my spare time, LOL.

    • Ooh, what a fun reading project, Renee! And I expect you’ll see the progress in Heyer’s characters, style, attitudes and the like all the better for reading them in order, close together. I look forward to hearing your insights later in the year!

  8. […] A few weeks ago I wrote about the story world of author Georgette Heyer, and an upcoming post I was working on. My article about Regency Buck, the first Regency romance, published in 1935, went live yesterday on the Beau Monde Blog. […]

  9. My first Heyer was “The Grand Sophy”–delightful! I’ve read all her Regency romances so far, but I had no idea “Regency Buck” was actually the very first in the genre. I remember the story being fascinating and compelling, and so much of that came from the very detailed descriptions of settings. Without those, the world falls apart for the reader. The settings areas much characters as any of the people, which is so important in a novel describing an era long past.

  10. I’ve only read “Cotillion” and “The Grand Sophy” so far, but I’m already completely in awe of Heyer’s sense of humor. I was just trying to figure out which of hers I’d read next. Thanks for the rec!

  11. Georgette Heyer is my lady! I wrote my masters dissertation on her!! Her books are amongst my most loved and most re-read books. I am so excited about the Regency turns 80 celebration!!

  12. As everyone before me has stated, Georgette Heyer was my introduction to the Regency novel and after I read the first one (I don’t even remember which one it was) I was hooked. Every one of her books had to be hunted down. And I still have them all, most held together by rubber bands now and still read holding them in my hands. I love her sense of humor. It carries every story, an underlying quip here and there to suddenly make you laugh out loud or have an “AAAhhh” moment when you actually get it. Recently I counted one of her sentences and it was like 30+ words. And I laughed because so editor would let that slip by today. I can’t wait to hear all of the stories described by other authors. If they are anything like this one, I will be continually bobbing my head in agreement then hearing the ending with a sigh and a trip to the bookcase to grab the book. Great job, Alina!

  13. Oh, not only is it a pleasure to revisit the books, but to do it in the company of others is such a treat. Alina, thanks so much for this wonderful start to the year. I too intend to read along. I usually go through her books in order of the year in which they are set, this will be a new way to approach them. 2015 is the year of the Regency for me.

  14. Thank you for a delightful article about Regency Buck and the fitting start to its 80th anniversary. After years of reading Georgette Heyer I continue to be in awe of her remarkable abilities as a storyteller. It is a testament to her writing that, forty years after her death, she is still read and celebrated all over the world. This year in England her achievement will be formally recognised by English Heritage in the form of a Blue Plaque to be placed on the house in Wimbledon in which she was born. I loved your account of Regency Buck and it was certainly a book which gave her much pleasure in both the research and the writing. She was very proud of it and, although she never crammed quite as much Regency detail into any of her later books, luckily for us it marked the beginning of her enduring love affair with the period. Thanks so much, Alina, for the great post.

  15. Thanks for kicking off this year’s celebration. Alina. I think it’s quite hard to read Regency Buck now if one is a fan of Regency romance. It was the first and so many elements Heyer introduces have been endlessly copied by later writers until they have become virtual clichés. All those Brummell stories, for example. I would argue that RB is not only the first Regency romance but the epitome of the genre.

  16. I first read Georgette Heyer in my teens and she has forever after been my favourite author. I have reread all her books many, many times over the years and it’s the only set of paperback books that I own, all the rest of my book collection being digital. Over the years I have collected all her books in paperback, reread them and sold them back to my secondhand book dealer, only to buy them all back a few years later and do it all over again. The last time was a couple of years ago and my book dealer was most upset when I told him I wasn’t bringing them back this time! He said, “But they are my most popular books.”

    I have no idea which one I read first, but Regency Buck is one of my favourites. Georgette Heyer is just so unique, so knowledgeable, so witty and has the best secondary characters of any books I’ve read since. I adore her. I think I will reread them as you note them this year.

  17. RB used to be one of my faves but sadly it hasn’t stood the test of time for me. As an older reader, I have issues with the power imbalance that’s never addressed and these days I find Worth rather an ‘alphahole’ in the modern parlance. My impressions are also shaded by An Infamous Army in which their relationship is even more uneven and unequal and Heyer took Peregrine’s HEA away which always left a sour taste in my mouth. Entirely realistic for a man who married too young, mind you, but still not my cuppa. I look forward to future entries in this series. Heyer’s Arabella was my first romance novel at somewhere between 10-12. Glory days! 🙂 These days, my rereads are mostly Venetia, The Convenient Marriage, April Lady, Black Sheep, Sprig Muslin and occasionally These Old Shades.

  18. I’m coming late to the party here, but my curricle broke an axle on the way, so perhaps I might be forgiven!

    I adore Georgette Heyer, just flat-out. And the thing I like best about “Regency Buck” is that it so clearly set out the territory for everyone to follow. Alina, I think you point it out beautifully: so many of the later common elements of the genre were introduced here. It’s like reading an expanded Gronow, crossed with Pierce Egan!

    It’s definitely not my favorite Heyer — I’ve never liked the “forced kiss” trope in any novel, and I prefer Heyer’s more-friendly-less fighting romantic couples. But Judith is a marvelous creation. And the detail! Ah, Heyer’s rich world, her meticulous research, and her witty, witty dialogue — no wonder she’s The One.

  19. […] novel, and The Beau Monde is commemorating the anniversary with a series of articles. Pieces for Regency Buck (written by Alina K. Field) and An Infamous Army (by Shannon Donnelly) are already posted, with […]

  20. […] years ago, the first Regency romance was published by author Georgette Heyer, who made frequent use of cant, most often in the speech of […]

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