From Zero to Published: Mary Jo’s Tale

Cat_243_dover_11 My story is mostly shorter than those of my colleagues, unless, of course, one counts the years of being an obsessed reader, which began about somewhere in first grade, about thirty seconds after I mastered the elements of reading.

I loved to read: With a flashlight under the blankets, which my mother said would ruin my eyes.  (She was right.)  Any spare minute during the day.  The school library would only let grade school kids take out two books a day.  I did just that, every day, and generally finished them both by 5:00, after which I could watch cowboy shows with my sibs.  I was particularly fond of a very lengthy series of youth biographies of famous Americans.  I learned a lot of history that way. 

But my preferences ran from Trixie Belden to animal stories to series of boys’ sports books.  I’ve never had much interest in sports per se, but I liked the stories.  And I read lots and lots of science fiction—there wasn’t as much fantasy in those days.  My family were all readers (though none as much as me.)  We all read different things—sometimes my father gave me American set historicals to Booksbwstack read.  Yes, I always liked history. 

I even, sometimes, thought it would be very cool to be a writer, but it never seemed possible.  I grew up in the farm country of Western New York State, about equidistant from Buffalo and Rochester.  The biggest local employer was Attica Prison, about ten miles away.  My consolidated school district gave me a pretty good education, but this was not an area that nurtured the idea that a kid could grow up and be a writer.  Snow removal?  We were darned good at that, but writing?  No. 

It didn’t help that I’m a touch dysgraphic, with horrid handwriting (it has been suggested that I should become a doctor) and an inability to type very accurately.  (I had taken typing in high school since my parents firmly believed it was a skill all college-bound students should have, but accuracy was not my long suit.)

Readoldlady_1 Oddly enough, one of my maternal great aunts, or maybe great-great aunts, allegedly supported herself as a popular fiction writer, but such was the social stigma of ‘writing trash’ that she used a pseudonym which she never revealed. I wish I’d known the old girl—clearly, we had a lot in common. <g>

Since writing wasn’t even on my radar, I daydreamed when bored and did the usual things, like go to college.  I had vague aspirations toward engineering, but didn’t like the math enough to proceed in that direction.  Wandered into an English major (emphasis on 18th Century British literature.) 

In my junior year, I dated an industrial design student who seemed to be having more fun than I, so I switched into the art school as a freshman, took courses like crazy, and became an industrial design student.  Found that I could cut a year from the 5 year ID program by completing my English degree, so took more courses like crazy.  Graduated after 6 years with two bachelors’ degrees, 7 years worth of courses, and none of them were writing.  <g> 

Somewhere around junior year, I discovered Georgette Heyer, and fell in love with her books.  (My first was a stripped cover version of Sylvester: or, The Wicked Uncle, sold for a nickel at a downtown bargain store.  And no, I didn’t realize that selling stripped books was illegal.) 

Design served me well as a career and I worked in California and Oxford, England (as the art editor of a left wing magazine) before washing up in Maryland.  After getting fired for being insufficiently corporate (undoubtedly true: it was not a nice place and I was glad to be gone), I became a freelance designer.  I was never going to get rich, but I made enough to support myself, and I was my own boss.  Life was good.

Then–<roll of drumss>–I bought a computer.  Mostly I wanted to be able to send out invoices without typos and occasionally do copywriting for clients.  Plus, I figured I needed to either get a computer or admit that I was too old and dim to move into the modern age.

So I bought a Leading Edge.  My SO spent a couple of hours teaching me how to use the word processing program.  After a limited but intense display of profanity, I got the hang of it.  And really, viscerally, realized that when you fix something with word processing, it stays fixed. 

“Gee, we’ve always wanted to write a book.  Let’s write a book!” Note the plural, the sign of a lot of characters occupying my mind.  I’d discovered the Walker hardcover Regencies in the library the summer before and read every one I could find, so I had Regency romances on my mind.  (I was not generally a romance reader then, though I’d always loved Mary Stewart and similar authors.)

I thought about a plot for a week or two, and decided to do a subversive version of the classic Regency where the tall, dark, rich, bored hero, inevitably known as “the greatest catch on the Marriage Mart,” would become engaged to the shy young innocent.  Properly speaking, they should fall in love as her innocence sweeps away his jaded boredom.  Except that in my version, the Shy Innocent slips away and finds a man she likes better, while the bored baron rediscovers his first love, who broke his heart back when he had one.  And First Love is Shy Innocent’s aunt.  So everyone ends up happy, but paired off in ways they hadn’t expected.

Dangerous_to_know_1 Thus was born The Diabolical Baron. (Which is being reissued in January, actually, along with my one Western novella, “Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know,” in a trade edition called Dangerous to Know.)  I started it on March 21, 1986.  First full day of spring, which was good symbolism, and besides, it was a Saturday so I could take the time.

I bobbled along with the story, thinking it wasn’t half bad, but with no real expectations.  Still, I wanted to hear what an industry pro thought of it.  I went to the library to research publisher guidelines (my library didn’t have much.)  My accountant was friends with category writer Eileen Naumann (who writes as Lindsay McKenna), who very generously agreed to talk to me.  She told me to join RWA, subscribe to RT, and most generous of all, offered to look at the first chapter.

Whipcrackmanuscript She sent it back with gold stars and Snoopy stickers all over it, saying it was obvious I had what it took to get published, and if I had more questions, I could call her.  So I did. She offered me the name of her old agent, who was fast, or her new agent, who was slow. I said, “Give me the name of the fast one!”  (Not being a complete fool, I found out why they were no longer together.  It was nothing that reflected ill on the agent.)

So I sent the 88 pages I had to this California agent, along with an apologetic cover letter and an SASE.  (I didn’t know much, but I knew an SASE was essential!)  She called a week later wanting to know how long the book would be, when it would be done, and could I write more stories like this?  I hadn’t a clue about the first two questions, but I was pretty sure about the third.  Yes, I could do more stories.

So Ruth returned the 88 pages, marked up with suggestions.  I took most of them, and returned the 119 pages I had written to this point.  A week later Ruth phoned and said, “Hilary Ross at Signet would like to talk to you tomorrow morning between 10:00 and noon.  Will you be in?”

Well, DUH!!!!  Yeah, I could fit that in my schedule.  So Hilary called the next morning and we chatted.  Much, much later, I found that if she wasn’t sure whether or not to buy, she liked to talk to the writer and see if they sounded like the genuine article.  (Since the book was only a third written, this was essential.)

I passed the test, because she ended the call by saying, “I guess I’ll call Ruth and see if I can buy the book.”  Later that afternoon, Ruth called to say I’d been offered a three book contract for Signet Regencies.

It was just over three months after I started writing The Diabolical Baron

I have still not recovered from the shock of this!  I really had no expectations, just a feeling that this was fun and something I wanted to see if I could do.  Once I sold, I went out and bought a compact edition of the OED, used, to celebrate.  Plus a dashing French navy surplus cape from Banana Republic.  And I hurled myself into learning about writing and publishing like a lemming over a cliff.

Diabolical_baronoriginal_1 It’s still hard to account for selling so quickly, though I will point out that the market was very different then.  The romance business was booming and if you could tell a good story, you had a chance of selling.  I didn’t really know much—anything!—about writing, but I knew basic grammar, had good storytelling instincts, and a good voice for writing book set in Britain. (Those years in Oxford paid off!)

I can’t dismiss the Divine Intervention Theory.  I have met a few other authors who sold as quickly as I did, but no question, I was exceptionally lucky.  Ruth was my agent for 19 years, till she retired last year.  Hilary Ross was my primary editor for ten years, and we continued working together on backlist projects for six or seven years more. 

I was also lucky to make the jump from traditional Regency to Regency historical at a salubrious time.  (Very shortly after I realized that I could never write trads fast enough to support myself. <g>)  I’ve worked mostly with very good editors who gave me creative elbow room (we won’t go into the exceptions), and the kind of books I wanted to write were in tune with what audiences were looking for. 

So that’s the story of how I got published.  And believe me, I NEVER take it for granted!

Angel_rogueSo—what was your first Heyer?

Mary Jo

69 thoughts on “From Zero to Published: Mary Jo’s Tale”

  1. I love reading all the writerly autobiographies the wenches have been doing.
    My first Heyer? The year was 1968. I had just suffered the most devastating loss of my life and was looking for something to lose myself in so that I did not have to feel or think about my own world for periods of time. I bought These Old Shades at a tiny local book store; it filled my requirements beautifully. I was totally engrossed in Avon and Leonie’s story. Over the next few months I bought every Heyer I could find. They helped keep me sane during a very dark time. Small wonder that Heyer still holds a place in my affections, and her books fill a full keeper shelf.

    Reply
  2. I love reading all the writerly autobiographies the wenches have been doing.
    My first Heyer? The year was 1968. I had just suffered the most devastating loss of my life and was looking for something to lose myself in so that I did not have to feel or think about my own world for periods of time. I bought These Old Shades at a tiny local book store; it filled my requirements beautifully. I was totally engrossed in Avon and Leonie’s story. Over the next few months I bought every Heyer I could find. They helped keep me sane during a very dark time. Small wonder that Heyer still holds a place in my affections, and her books fill a full keeper shelf.

    Reply
  3. I love reading all the writerly autobiographies the wenches have been doing.
    My first Heyer? The year was 1968. I had just suffered the most devastating loss of my life and was looking for something to lose myself in so that I did not have to feel or think about my own world for periods of time. I bought These Old Shades at a tiny local book store; it filled my requirements beautifully. I was totally engrossed in Avon and Leonie’s story. Over the next few months I bought every Heyer I could find. They helped keep me sane during a very dark time. Small wonder that Heyer still holds a place in my affections, and her books fill a full keeper shelf.

    Reply
  4. Arabella.
    Found it on my godmother’s bookshelf during Fall Break my sophomore year of college. Spent the week alternately working on a term paper for my “History of England to 1688” class and working my way though the rest of the shelf . . .

    Reply
  5. Arabella.
    Found it on my godmother’s bookshelf during Fall Break my sophomore year of college. Spent the week alternately working on a term paper for my “History of England to 1688” class and working my way though the rest of the shelf . . .

    Reply
  6. Arabella.
    Found it on my godmother’s bookshelf during Fall Break my sophomore year of college. Spent the week alternately working on a term paper for my “History of England to 1688” class and working my way though the rest of the shelf . . .

    Reply
  7. [The littlest wenchling hangs her head.] I’ve never read Georgette Heyer or Jane Austin.
    But, I did read Kiss of Fate. And similar to Janga’s experience with THESE OLD SHADES, KOF fed my soul during a very dark time in my life.
    Mary Jo, thank you for sharing your story. I didn’t know you liked Trixie. As a tween, I was consumed by her world. Do you remember Jim? Do you remember when he held her hand on the plane ride home from Arizona? That was my first romantic experience with a book. I re-read that chapter over and over again. In the last 15 years, I’ve spend more time and money than I should collecting hard cover Trixie books. Which one was your favorite?

    Reply
  8. [The littlest wenchling hangs her head.] I’ve never read Georgette Heyer or Jane Austin.
    But, I did read Kiss of Fate. And similar to Janga’s experience with THESE OLD SHADES, KOF fed my soul during a very dark time in my life.
    Mary Jo, thank you for sharing your story. I didn’t know you liked Trixie. As a tween, I was consumed by her world. Do you remember Jim? Do you remember when he held her hand on the plane ride home from Arizona? That was my first romantic experience with a book. I re-read that chapter over and over again. In the last 15 years, I’ve spend more time and money than I should collecting hard cover Trixie books. Which one was your favorite?

    Reply
  9. [The littlest wenchling hangs her head.] I’ve never read Georgette Heyer or Jane Austin.
    But, I did read Kiss of Fate. And similar to Janga’s experience with THESE OLD SHADES, KOF fed my soul during a very dark time in my life.
    Mary Jo, thank you for sharing your story. I didn’t know you liked Trixie. As a tween, I was consumed by her world. Do you remember Jim? Do you remember when he held her hand on the plane ride home from Arizona? That was my first romantic experience with a book. I re-read that chapter over and over again. In the last 15 years, I’ve spend more time and money than I should collecting hard cover Trixie books. Which one was your favorite?

    Reply
  10. I must have read about 7 or 8 Heyers but THESE OLD SHADES is the only one that I remember with any clarity. I think it’s because of the revenge factor. I always remember revenge stories better which is probably why I remember Mary Jo’s SILK AND SHADOWS so well. (Although I just re-read VEIL OF SILK last week and was surprised how well i remembered certain passages.)

    Reply
  11. I must have read about 7 or 8 Heyers but THESE OLD SHADES is the only one that I remember with any clarity. I think it’s because of the revenge factor. I always remember revenge stories better which is probably why I remember Mary Jo’s SILK AND SHADOWS so well. (Although I just re-read VEIL OF SILK last week and was surprised how well i remembered certain passages.)

    Reply
  12. I must have read about 7 or 8 Heyers but THESE OLD SHADES is the only one that I remember with any clarity. I think it’s because of the revenge factor. I always remember revenge stories better which is probably why I remember Mary Jo’s SILK AND SHADOWS so well. (Although I just re-read VEIL OF SILK last week and was surprised how well i remembered certain passages.)

    Reply
  13. Oh, Vicki . . . I’m sure we all have our favorites. Mine is VENETIA.
    If you like connected books (and I do) start with THESE OLD SHADES, then DEVIL’S CUB (about the child of the hero and heroine in TOS), then REGENCY BUCK (wait for it), then AN INFAMOUS ARMY (where the granddaughter of the hero and heroine from DC marries the brother of the hero from RB).
    God I love Heyer.

    Reply
  14. Oh, Vicki . . . I’m sure we all have our favorites. Mine is VENETIA.
    If you like connected books (and I do) start with THESE OLD SHADES, then DEVIL’S CUB (about the child of the hero and heroine in TOS), then REGENCY BUCK (wait for it), then AN INFAMOUS ARMY (where the granddaughter of the hero and heroine from DC marries the brother of the hero from RB).
    God I love Heyer.

    Reply
  15. Oh, Vicki . . . I’m sure we all have our favorites. Mine is VENETIA.
    If you like connected books (and I do) start with THESE OLD SHADES, then DEVIL’S CUB (about the child of the hero and heroine in TOS), then REGENCY BUCK (wait for it), then AN INFAMOUS ARMY (where the granddaughter of the hero and heroine from DC marries the brother of the hero from RB).
    God I love Heyer.

    Reply
  16. My first Heyer was Frederica and I still love it-but I’m also crazy about The Reluctant Widow, the Unknown Ajax, and The Talisman Ring- oh, heck, any Heyer is great. If you haven’t read her, grab one at your local library and plunge right in. She is the inspiration for all the Regency novels that came after her- wonderful characters and great humor. My sisters and I sometimes still use Heyer phrases or names to describe people- an Endymion is a handsome blockhead, for instance.

    Reply
  17. My first Heyer was Frederica and I still love it-but I’m also crazy about The Reluctant Widow, the Unknown Ajax, and The Talisman Ring- oh, heck, any Heyer is great. If you haven’t read her, grab one at your local library and plunge right in. She is the inspiration for all the Regency novels that came after her- wonderful characters and great humor. My sisters and I sometimes still use Heyer phrases or names to describe people- an Endymion is a handsome blockhead, for instance.

    Reply
  18. My first Heyer was Frederica and I still love it-but I’m also crazy about The Reluctant Widow, the Unknown Ajax, and The Talisman Ring- oh, heck, any Heyer is great. If you haven’t read her, grab one at your local library and plunge right in. She is the inspiration for all the Regency novels that came after her- wonderful characters and great humor. My sisters and I sometimes still use Heyer phrases or names to describe people- an Endymion is a handsome blockhead, for instance.

    Reply
  19. My first Heyer was False Colours, the one about twins; I read it in 9th grade in 1964-1965. My all time favorite is The Unknown Ajax.
    Mary Jo, did the biographies you read in school have blue covers and black silhouette pictures? I loved those books. I used to read by my baby sister’s night light.
    I loved The Diabolical Baron, and the way you wrote later books featuring secondary characters from previous books.
    Thank you.
    Kay

    Reply
  20. My first Heyer was False Colours, the one about twins; I read it in 9th grade in 1964-1965. My all time favorite is The Unknown Ajax.
    Mary Jo, did the biographies you read in school have blue covers and black silhouette pictures? I loved those books. I used to read by my baby sister’s night light.
    I loved The Diabolical Baron, and the way you wrote later books featuring secondary characters from previous books.
    Thank you.
    Kay

    Reply
  21. My first Heyer was False Colours, the one about twins; I read it in 9th grade in 1964-1965. My all time favorite is The Unknown Ajax.
    Mary Jo, did the biographies you read in school have blue covers and black silhouette pictures? I loved those books. I used to read by my baby sister’s night light.
    I loved The Diabolical Baron, and the way you wrote later books featuring secondary characters from previous books.
    Thank you.
    Kay

    Reply
  22. You sold me! I just ordered DEVIL’S CLUB from the library. They didn’t have THESE OLD SHADES.
    My poor, toppling TBR pile. Guess it will just have to wait.
    –the littlest wenchling, needing to finish Pat Rice’s SMALL TOWN GIRL really quick.

    Reply
  23. You sold me! I just ordered DEVIL’S CLUB from the library. They didn’t have THESE OLD SHADES.
    My poor, toppling TBR pile. Guess it will just have to wait.
    –the littlest wenchling, needing to finish Pat Rice’s SMALL TOWN GIRL really quick.

    Reply
  24. You sold me! I just ordered DEVIL’S CLUB from the library. They didn’t have THESE OLD SHADES.
    My poor, toppling TBR pile. Guess it will just have to wait.
    –the littlest wenchling, needing to finish Pat Rice’s SMALL TOWN GIRL really quick.

    Reply
  25. You sold me! I just ordered DEVIL’S CLUB from the library. They didn’t have THESE OLD SHADES.
    My poor, toppling TBR pile. Guess it will just have to wait.
    –the littlest wenchling, needing to finish Pat Rice’s SMALL TOWN GIRL really quick.

    Reply
  26. You sold me! I just ordered DEVIL’S CLUB from the library. They didn’t have THESE OLD SHADES.
    My poor, toppling TBR pile. Guess it will just have to wait.
    –the littlest wenchling, needing to finish Pat Rice’s SMALL TOWN GIRL really quick.

    Reply
  27. You sold me! I just ordered DEVIL’S CLUB from the library. They didn’t have THESE OLD SHADES.
    My poor, toppling TBR pile. Guess it will just have to wait.
    –the littlest wenchling, needing to finish Pat Rice’s SMALL TOWN GIRL really quick.

    Reply
  28. I don’t remember my first Heyer. My hometown library had a dozen or so, and I read them all. Back then my favorites were THESE OLD SHADES and BEAUVALLET, while now I prefer THE GRAND SOPHY, FREDERICA, and THE SPANISH BRIDE.
    Mary Jo, my library had those youth biographies, too. For some reason the one about Tecumseh really stands out in my mind.

    Reply
  29. I don’t remember my first Heyer. My hometown library had a dozen or so, and I read them all. Back then my favorites were THESE OLD SHADES and BEAUVALLET, while now I prefer THE GRAND SOPHY, FREDERICA, and THE SPANISH BRIDE.
    Mary Jo, my library had those youth biographies, too. For some reason the one about Tecumseh really stands out in my mind.

    Reply
  30. I don’t remember my first Heyer. My hometown library had a dozen or so, and I read them all. Back then my favorites were THESE OLD SHADES and BEAUVALLET, while now I prefer THE GRAND SOPHY, FREDERICA, and THE SPANISH BRIDE.
    Mary Jo, my library had those youth biographies, too. For some reason the one about Tecumseh really stands out in my mind.

    Reply
  31. I’m fairly sure my first Heyer was THE CONVENIENT MARRIAGE–if it wasn’t, then it was either FREDERICA or DEVIL’S CUB. I just went through a reading funk that I eased by reading all my favorite parts of FREDERICA and DC. “The English have such phlegm.” And Alverstoke putting someone else first, for the first time in his life, when he hides his growing feelings for Frederica so she won’t become the subject of (probably malicious) gossip.
    [Happy sigh.]
    Of course, now I want to go read THE DIABOLICAL BARON again…
    And WES (What Everyone Said) about books getting us through the dark times. I don’t consider “escapist reading” a pejorative term, since there are times when you have to choose between escape and madness…

    Reply
  32. I’m fairly sure my first Heyer was THE CONVENIENT MARRIAGE–if it wasn’t, then it was either FREDERICA or DEVIL’S CUB. I just went through a reading funk that I eased by reading all my favorite parts of FREDERICA and DC. “The English have such phlegm.” And Alverstoke putting someone else first, for the first time in his life, when he hides his growing feelings for Frederica so she won’t become the subject of (probably malicious) gossip.
    [Happy sigh.]
    Of course, now I want to go read THE DIABOLICAL BARON again…
    And WES (What Everyone Said) about books getting us through the dark times. I don’t consider “escapist reading” a pejorative term, since there are times when you have to choose between escape and madness…

    Reply
  33. I’m fairly sure my first Heyer was THE CONVENIENT MARRIAGE–if it wasn’t, then it was either FREDERICA or DEVIL’S CUB. I just went through a reading funk that I eased by reading all my favorite parts of FREDERICA and DC. “The English have such phlegm.” And Alverstoke putting someone else first, for the first time in his life, when he hides his growing feelings for Frederica so she won’t become the subject of (probably malicious) gossip.
    [Happy sigh.]
    Of course, now I want to go read THE DIABOLICAL BARON again…
    And WES (What Everyone Said) about books getting us through the dark times. I don’t consider “escapist reading” a pejorative term, since there are times when you have to choose between escape and madness…

    Reply
  34. Jo here.
    My first Heyer was Powder and Patch, given me by my older sister who thought I might like it.
    I did.
    I was about 11, I think, and might not have taken to one of the more sophisticated ones then. I can’t remember the sequence of reading after that, but I soon had read all the in print ones and I bought the new ones as they came out in paperback.
    Still have them. I wonder when they become antiques?
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  35. Jo here.
    My first Heyer was Powder and Patch, given me by my older sister who thought I might like it.
    I did.
    I was about 11, I think, and might not have taken to one of the more sophisticated ones then. I can’t remember the sequence of reading after that, but I soon had read all the in print ones and I bought the new ones as they came out in paperback.
    Still have them. I wonder when they become antiques?
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  36. Jo here.
    My first Heyer was Powder and Patch, given me by my older sister who thought I might like it.
    I did.
    I was about 11, I think, and might not have taken to one of the more sophisticated ones then. I can’t remember the sequence of reading after that, but I soon had read all the in print ones and I bought the new ones as they came out in paperback.
    Still have them. I wonder when they become antiques?
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  37. From Mary Jo:
    Like all writers, Heyer is not for everyone, but Regency people do tend to love her. Heyer’s word-dense style is growing somewhat dated–these days, a quicker, cleaner prose style is much more common. But she’s so witty and insightful and does marvelous characters! A lot of the storylines that have become cliches were her original ideas. Many of her books are very amusing, but some are definitely serious. Some have very convincing romances, others concentrate more on the hero and the plot than on the romance.
    I have my favorites, like we all do: Venetia. False Colours. (I ADORE twin books!) The Unknown Ajax. Bath Tangle. Sylvester. The Grand Sophy. Several that never really worked as well for me are The Reluctant Widow, Cousin Kate, Lady of Quality.
    Her more historical novel, An Infamous Army, did such a good job of describing the battle of Waterloo that it was taught in military history at Sandhurst. (!!!) The Spanish Bride is a fictionalized biography of Sir Harry Smith and his famous marriage to a Spanish girl rescued from the siege of Badajoz.
    I know that These Old Shades is widely popular, but I always found a whiff of pedophilia in the relationship between Avon and whathername. I like Devil’s Cub, the spin-off, much better–there were only four years between them. And Mary was indeed unsinkable! The plain girl gets the guy rather than the spoiled beauty. Works for me. 🙂
    Kay–the young American biographies came in both blue and orange, IIRC. And yes, silhouettes. No doubt we were reading the same open-ended series. Ah, Molly Pitcher….
    Nina, I don’t remember the Trixie Beldens well enough to comment. I probably couldn’t get them all–plus, there were surely fewer of them written when I was a ‘tween. 🙂 The one I remember most involved some show quality cocker spaniels who were dognapped and two inferior cockers were substituted. Not very romantic–but at the end, the show dogs were restored to their owners, and Trixie and her friends got the pet quality puppies. 🙂
    Margaret, your grandmother definitely deserves gold stars for giving you Arabella! Do you think she knew that she was planting a bulb that would flower into a novelist? 🙂

    Reply
  38. From Mary Jo:
    Like all writers, Heyer is not for everyone, but Regency people do tend to love her. Heyer’s word-dense style is growing somewhat dated–these days, a quicker, cleaner prose style is much more common. But she’s so witty and insightful and does marvelous characters! A lot of the storylines that have become cliches were her original ideas. Many of her books are very amusing, but some are definitely serious. Some have very convincing romances, others concentrate more on the hero and the plot than on the romance.
    I have my favorites, like we all do: Venetia. False Colours. (I ADORE twin books!) The Unknown Ajax. Bath Tangle. Sylvester. The Grand Sophy. Several that never really worked as well for me are The Reluctant Widow, Cousin Kate, Lady of Quality.
    Her more historical novel, An Infamous Army, did such a good job of describing the battle of Waterloo that it was taught in military history at Sandhurst. (!!!) The Spanish Bride is a fictionalized biography of Sir Harry Smith and his famous marriage to a Spanish girl rescued from the siege of Badajoz.
    I know that These Old Shades is widely popular, but I always found a whiff of pedophilia in the relationship between Avon and whathername. I like Devil’s Cub, the spin-off, much better–there were only four years between them. And Mary was indeed unsinkable! The plain girl gets the guy rather than the spoiled beauty. Works for me. 🙂
    Kay–the young American biographies came in both blue and orange, IIRC. And yes, silhouettes. No doubt we were reading the same open-ended series. Ah, Molly Pitcher….
    Nina, I don’t remember the Trixie Beldens well enough to comment. I probably couldn’t get them all–plus, there were surely fewer of them written when I was a ‘tween. 🙂 The one I remember most involved some show quality cocker spaniels who were dognapped and two inferior cockers were substituted. Not very romantic–but at the end, the show dogs were restored to their owners, and Trixie and her friends got the pet quality puppies. 🙂
    Margaret, your grandmother definitely deserves gold stars for giving you Arabella! Do you think she knew that she was planting a bulb that would flower into a novelist? 🙂

    Reply
  39. From Mary Jo:
    Like all writers, Heyer is not for everyone, but Regency people do tend to love her. Heyer’s word-dense style is growing somewhat dated–these days, a quicker, cleaner prose style is much more common. But she’s so witty and insightful and does marvelous characters! A lot of the storylines that have become cliches were her original ideas. Many of her books are very amusing, but some are definitely serious. Some have very convincing romances, others concentrate more on the hero and the plot than on the romance.
    I have my favorites, like we all do: Venetia. False Colours. (I ADORE twin books!) The Unknown Ajax. Bath Tangle. Sylvester. The Grand Sophy. Several that never really worked as well for me are The Reluctant Widow, Cousin Kate, Lady of Quality.
    Her more historical novel, An Infamous Army, did such a good job of describing the battle of Waterloo that it was taught in military history at Sandhurst. (!!!) The Spanish Bride is a fictionalized biography of Sir Harry Smith and his famous marriage to a Spanish girl rescued from the siege of Badajoz.
    I know that These Old Shades is widely popular, but I always found a whiff of pedophilia in the relationship between Avon and whathername. I like Devil’s Cub, the spin-off, much better–there were only four years between them. And Mary was indeed unsinkable! The plain girl gets the guy rather than the spoiled beauty. Works for me. 🙂
    Kay–the young American biographies came in both blue and orange, IIRC. And yes, silhouettes. No doubt we were reading the same open-ended series. Ah, Molly Pitcher….
    Nina, I don’t remember the Trixie Beldens well enough to comment. I probably couldn’t get them all–plus, there were surely fewer of them written when I was a ‘tween. 🙂 The one I remember most involved some show quality cocker spaniels who were dognapped and two inferior cockers were substituted. Not very romantic–but at the end, the show dogs were restored to their owners, and Trixie and her friends got the pet quality puppies. 🙂
    Margaret, your grandmother definitely deserves gold stars for giving you Arabella! Do you think she knew that she was planting a bulb that would flower into a novelist? 🙂

    Reply
  40. My first Heyer was _A Civil Contract_, which was not a fortunate choice, but luckily I perservered and moved on to _Friday’s Child_, which hit the jackpot.

    Reply
  41. My first Heyer was _A Civil Contract_, which was not a fortunate choice, but luckily I perservered and moved on to _Friday’s Child_, which hit the jackpot.

    Reply
  42. My first Heyer was _A Civil Contract_, which was not a fortunate choice, but luckily I perservered and moved on to _Friday’s Child_, which hit the jackpot.

    Reply
  43. Wow Mary Jo, I’m so glad things turned out the way they did, because we can all enjoy great stories plucked from your imagination.
    I do think you were exceptionally lucky in achieving publication so quickly and I’m really happy for you.
    I can’t say I’d ever heard of Georgette Heyer until visiting this blog and having her named mentionned so reverently by yourself and Jo Beverly.
    I believe next time I visit the library I’ll look her up!

    Reply
  44. Wow Mary Jo, I’m so glad things turned out the way they did, because we can all enjoy great stories plucked from your imagination.
    I do think you were exceptionally lucky in achieving publication so quickly and I’m really happy for you.
    I can’t say I’d ever heard of Georgette Heyer until visiting this blog and having her named mentionned so reverently by yourself and Jo Beverly.
    I believe next time I visit the library I’ll look her up!

    Reply
  45. Wow Mary Jo, I’m so glad things turned out the way they did, because we can all enjoy great stories plucked from your imagination.
    I do think you were exceptionally lucky in achieving publication so quickly and I’m really happy for you.
    I can’t say I’d ever heard of Georgette Heyer until visiting this blog and having her named mentionned so reverently by yourself and Jo Beverly.
    I believe next time I visit the library I’ll look her up!

    Reply
  46. I know this comment is coming way too late for anyone to see (I was away for the weekend) but I just have to put in a word for my first Heyer which was “The Masqueraders.” I just love the double masquerade, the fabulous cast of supporting players, and Sir Anthony (the deeply honorable and traditional man who discovers within himself depths of derring do, all for the love of Prudence!) The scene where Sir Anthony “unmasks” Peter as Prudence is my favorite in all of romance–maybe my favorite scene in fiction.

    Reply
  47. I know this comment is coming way too late for anyone to see (I was away for the weekend) but I just have to put in a word for my first Heyer which was “The Masqueraders.” I just love the double masquerade, the fabulous cast of supporting players, and Sir Anthony (the deeply honorable and traditional man who discovers within himself depths of derring do, all for the love of Prudence!) The scene where Sir Anthony “unmasks” Peter as Prudence is my favorite in all of romance–maybe my favorite scene in fiction.

    Reply
  48. I know this comment is coming way too late for anyone to see (I was away for the weekend) but I just have to put in a word for my first Heyer which was “The Masqueraders.” I just love the double masquerade, the fabulous cast of supporting players, and Sir Anthony (the deeply honorable and traditional man who discovers within himself depths of derring do, all for the love of Prudence!) The scene where Sir Anthony “unmasks” Peter as Prudence is my favorite in all of romance–maybe my favorite scene in fiction.

    Reply

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