Georgette Heyer was born on 16th August 1902 at Wimbledon, London. She was the eldest of three children and had two brothers, Boris and Frank. It was to entertain for her brother Boris, who was sick, that she first wrote The Black Moth.
Impressed with his Georgette's creativity, her father suggested that she submit the story for publication. She did so, and it was published by Constable in 1921 when Georgette was only nineteen. It made good, but not brilliant, sales, as did her next few books. She specialised in historical novels, particularly those based in the Regency period and these were always to be the style of book for which she was best known.
In 1925 she married a mining engineer, Ronald Rougier, and the following year her writing career really took off. These Old Shades was a resounding success, and brought her a solid, dependable source of income, something she badly needed, since her father had recently died and Georgette was responsible for supporting her youngest brother, who was still at school.
In 1927 she and her husband moved to Tanganyika, and from there, the couple moved to Macedonia (both for the purpose of Ronald's mining career) where, according to Jane Aiken Hodge's biography "she nearly died of an erratically administered anaesthetic in a dentist's chair"
By 1929 the spectacular success of Georgette's novels allowed Ronald to give up his mining work - something he had never enjoyed - and the couple moved back to London. This success also prompted Heinemann to republish her earlier, less successful novels.
Ronald and Georgette moved to Horsham in Sussex after an unsuccessful business venture in London, and in 1932 their son, Richard, was born. Georgette had recently begun writing in a new genre, detective novels, in addition to her historical books. Her husband, dissatisfied with life and business in Horsham began studying to be a barrister.
In 1939, after Ronald had qualified for the bar, and several more novels had been published, the family moved to a serviced flat in Hove, to allow Ronald to reach London easily. Richard was, at the time, being educated at private school, with expensive fees, and the family still relied heavily on Georgette's income from writing, as a junior barrister didn't (and doesn't) command the huge fees of a senior one.
In 1942 they moved, to chambers in the Albany, in London where they were to live for 24 years, and in 1959 Ronald became a QC.
In 1966, when the lease expired on their rooms at The Albany they moved to a flat in Jermyn Street, London. She continued to write until her death in 1974.
The Regency romances for which Heyer is best known are painstakingly researched, and rich with detail of society, fashion, idiom and the historical events of the period in which they are set.
Many, like the Jane Austen novels which inspired Georgette, deal with the precariousness of a woman's position in society, but they are threaded through with humour, and a lightness of touch which makes them very easy to read, without sacrificing quality of writing or historical accuracy. Do not assume that light equals trashy ... indeed the novel The Infamous Army, which deals with the events surrounding the battle of Waterloo is a set text at Sandhurst Military Academy.
Bibliography (Historical novels unless otherwise noted)
- The Black Moth 1921
- A Proposal to Cicely in 'The Happy Mag.' (Short story) 1922
- Powder and Patch (AKA The Transformation of Philip Jettan ) 1923
- Instead of the Thorn (Contemporary fiction) 1923
- The Great Roxhythe 1923
- Simon the Coldheart 1925
- These Old Shades 1926
- Helen (Contemporary fiction) 1928
- The Masqueraders 1928
- Beauvallet 1929
- Pastel (Contemporary fiction) 1929
- Barren Corn (Contemporary fiction) 1930
- The Conqueror 1931
- Devil's Cub 1932
- Footsteps in the Dark (Crime) 1932
- Why Shoot a Butler? (Crime) 1933
- The Convenient Marriage 1934
- The Unfinished Clue (Crime) 1934
- Death in the Stocks (Crime)
- Regency Buck 1935
- Behold, Here's Poison (Crime) 1936
- The Talisman Ring 1936
- An Infamous Army 1937
- They Found Him Dead (Crime) 1937
- A Blunt Instrument (Crime) 1938
- Royal Escape 1938
- No Wind of Blame (Crime) 1939
- Pursuit (Short story in The Queens Book of the Red Cross) 1939
- The Corinthian 1940
- The Spanish Bride 1940
- Envious Casca (Crime) 1941
- Faro's Daughter 1941
- Penhallow (Crime) 1942
- Friday's Child 1944
- The Reluctant Widow 1946
- Full Moon (Short story) 1948
- The Foundling 1948
- Arabella 1949
- The Grand Sophy 1950
- Duplicate Death (Crime)1951
- The Quiet Gentleman 1951
- Cotillion 1953
- Detection Unlimited (Crime) 1953
- The Toll-Gate 1954
- Bath Tangle 1955
- Sprig Muslin 1956
- April Lady 1957
- Sylvester: or The Wicked Uncle 1957
- Venetia 1958
- The Unknown Ajax 1959
- Pistols for Two (collection of 11 Regency short stories) 1960
- A Civil Contract 1961
- The Nonesuch 1962
- False Colours 1963
- Frederica 1965
- Black Sheep 1966
- Cousin Kate 1968
- Charity Girl 1970
- Lady of Quality 1972
- My Lord John 1975