Georgette Heyer, who essentially established the historical romance genre and is considered the Queen of Regency Romance, would have been 116 on Aug. 16 — and in honor of her birthday, EW can exclusively share the gorgeous new covers of three re-releases of her novels, launching Sept. 4.
The novels in question, Arabella, Frederica, and The Grand Sophy, are some of Heyer’s most well-loved titles, and their re-release by Sourcebooks Casablanca will mark the first in a new Georgette Heyer signature collection designed to introduce her to new readers and to share beautiful new editions with longtime fans.
The three novels make up some of the best of Heyer’s work featuring her traditionally hilarious and charming takes on the social mores and delightful romances of Regency England’s upper crust. Heyer was noted for her extensive research, and these new editions include a glossary of Regency slang borrowed directly from Heyer’s copious notes. The collection will include a reader’s group guide and an afterword by official Heyer biographer Jennifer Kloester as well.
Sharing the three new covers exclusively with EW, Deb Werksman, Editorial Director of Sourcebooks Casablanca, also chatted with us about why Heyer is still so popular, how her work still influences the genre, and how they crafted the covers specifically with fans in mind. See the covers and read more from Werksman below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I understand you spearheaded bringing Georgette Heyer’s work back into print in the U.S. ten years ago – why was that something important to you?
DEB WERKSMAN: About 11 years ago, I started a romance imprint for us at the request of our publisher, Dominique Raccah, and Dominique called me one day and said, “It looks like a bunch of Georgette Heyer’s [books] are out of print.” Georgette Heyer is a classic author; her books have sold 20 million copies worldwide. She’s been pretty much continually in print since she started writing in the 1930s, and the fact that [her work] was going out of print was like, “Well that can’t happen.” So, we went over to London, we met with the estate and we started to sign the books as they expired out of contract. The timing was that we launched our first romance list with two Georgette Heyer [books] and two debut authors from the United States. Heyer is timeless. She is an author that everybody should know.
People refer to Heyer as the Queen of Regency Romance – why do you think that endures still when romance has changed so much over the years?
If you talk to any author who is writing Regency today, they will tell you that they’re inspired by Georgette Heyer. She’s really known for the depth and breadth of her research into the Regency. She has shelves and shelves of leather-bound notebooks with glossary and slang terms and research notes. One of the things we’re doing in this new edition is including about a 10 page Regency slang glossary, which is so much fun. Georgette Heyer really created the world of the Regency in a way that makes it accessible and fun for the modern reader. Everyone who came after is inspired by her and her Regency world.
On a similar note, how has her work informed the genre and some of the lasting tropes?
One of the things that’s amazing about Heyer is she never wrote the same story twice. She’s hilariously funny. And her take on human nature is so scathingly true. She can sketch a character and you just get the whole world of that character. In Regency romances and historical romances, the Regency world is very social, very sparkling — it’s the upper classes. It’s the tall, handsome, rich noble hero and the intrepid Regency heroines. That’s what she really pioneered — if you think about her as the natural successor to Jane Austen, it’s that kind of ideal hero and heroine who is a woman of her time, but she’s also smart and thoughtful. We’re starting with the three fearless heroines, some of Georgette Heyer’s most popular books — Arabella, Frederica, and The Grand Sophy. They’re just irresistible. You want to be them, or you want to be their best friend.
When you first started doing this was there a palpable reaction from readers and has that continued?
Oh yes. When I would go to the RWA conference, I couldn’t walk 10 feet without people saying “Thank you so much for bringing back the Heyers.” The booksellers were thrilled. The librarians were thrilled. The readers were thrilled. This is an author that you want to have on your shelf. I have trouble keeping them because I’m always giving them away, and I think that’s an experience that a lot of readers have. You want to share this author. You want to laugh about her characters and the situations that they get in.
Can you tell me why you decided to re-issue these titles in particular?
One of the things that we want to do with these new editions with the Signature Collection is to really attract the new reader. The statistics show that the romance reader is trending younger, and there’s a whole new generation of readers ready to discover this timeless author. If you ask me, “Oh I want to read a Georgette Heyer, which one should I start with?” I would recommend any one of these three. You’re going to laugh. You’re going to love it. You’re going to not want to put it down. You’re going to want to pick up another one as soon as it ends. There are 34 romances. It’s a large body of work. I started with the ones that are romp-y, they’re really fun, they’re action-packed and the heroines are just fabulous.
With the amount romance has changed in last 10 years, whether that’s being more inclusive, push boundaries of the time period, more steamy, etc. – how do those fit in with that?
The heroines are so smart and so wonderful, and they’re so fresh, even though the books were written a while ago. The heroines are irresistible; her heroes are so manly, and the Regency period itself is such a comforting space to occupy for a little while. Everybody knows the rules, and the ways that the heroines break those rules are really, really fun and engaging and inspiring. And even comforting.
Let’s talk about these beautiful new covers – it doesn’t look like what you typically think of for a romance cover, so what made you want to go a little more abstract here?
First of all, we picked the colors based on real palettes of the Regency period, so we went for that authenticity. Then we put Easter eggs in for the experienced Georgette Heyer reader. When you look at that cover if you’ve read the book before you’ll know exactly what’s going on in those objects and why we chose those objects. If you haven’t read the book before, when you look back at the cover, it’s something you’ll really enjoy re-visiting. We looked at the design space of contemporary fiction because we really are going for something we think the experienced Heyer reader is going to love and love to give, and that new readers are going to find very appealing and accessible.
Can you elaborate on what you said about the color palette and that research process?
In the books themselves, the clothes that people are wearing and the color of the furniture and the colors of the wallpaper, Heyer describes it. She uses colors in the story. So, we looked up those colors. We looked up Pomona green, and we looked up orange blossom. We looked up the colors that Heyer referred to, and we went researching the authentic color palette. We want to be true to the books. There’s so much authentic love and appreciation for Heyer. Let’s face it, if you read Georgette Heyer your life is better.