Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

August 16 is Georgette Heyer's birthday, so August is the perfect time to review one of her most popular books, The Grand Sophy.

When Sir Horace Stanton-Lacy shows up at his sister's house, she doesn't realize the impending changes about to take place in the Ombersley household. Sir Horace, on his way to Brazil on a diplomatic mission, is sending his twenty-year-old daughter, Sophy, to stay with his sister. The family expects a "little Sophy" who has been living with her widowed father. The self-confident tall woman who arrives with her parrot, greyhound, monkey, and horse, isn't what anyone expected.

And, if the Honourable Charles Rivenhall, Sophy's cousin, thought he was going to control Sophy, and quietly introduce her to society, he needed to think again. For Sophy, known as "The Grand Sophy" to the gentleman soldiers who had been stationed in Europe when she was there, is determined to straighten out the sad lives of her cousins, including Charles, engaged to a woman that Sophy sees as a deadly bore. The lives of the Ombersley family will never be the same, once Sophy takes over.

Georgette Heyer was known as the "Queen of the Regency romances", and deservedly so. The details of life and clothing in Victorian England is well-researched, and described, without being boring. The characters are unique, and the conversations are enjoyable and witty. And, Sophy is one of the best characters Heyer created. She's self-confident, humorous, and a born matchmaker. Heyer masterfully created quite a contrast to Sophy in the form of Charles' fiancée, Miss Wraxton, a stuffy, over-critical, staid woman. Sophy is just so much fun. Charles may find her exasperating, but he also has to find her admirable.

Sourcebooks Casablanca has reissued many of Georgette Heyer's books this year. It's been a pleasure to read some of the ones I missed reading the first time around. But, if you only have time to read one of Georgette Heyer's romances, make it The Grand Sophy.

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer. Sourcebooks Casablanca. Reissued 2009. ISBN 9781402218941 (paperback), 372p.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

This isn't my usual cup of tea, but Sophy sounds like a gem. Thanks for the review...I'd never have picked this one up, otherwise.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Lesa said...


I read 5 Georgette Heyer books in the last few months. The Grand Sophy is the best of all of them, and it's considered 1 of her best. If you only read 1, I'd recommend this one.

Msmstry said...

I've been reading the wonderful Georgette Heyer for more than 30 years. Every three or four years, I go through the entire "romance" series again. I don't think of them as romance, though. For me, they're much like Jane Austen's revelations about manners.

Heyer also has a short list of excellent 1940s(?) mysteries.

Corey Wilde said...

I don't think of Heyer's books as romantic either. Many carry a hint of romance, but most are really comedies of manners. And some, like An Infamous Army, are historical gems.

Ingrid King said...

I haven't read Georgette Heyer in forever - I really enjoyed her books when I was much much younger (back in the dark ages :-). Thank you for reminding me of this author!

Lesa said...

Msmstry & Corey,

I think you're both right, since the romance is usually such a slight part of these books. I enjoy the conversations, the wit, and the humor, along with the portrayal of life.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Ingrid,

Like you, I had read some "way back when", but I don't remember reading The Grand Sophy. It's definitely one of my favorites.

Margot said...

Thank you for this recommendation. I've heard so many good things about the Heyer books but didn't know where to start. I'm off to find Sophy.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Margot. This is a good one to start with! I hope you enjoy it!

Aubrey said...

I ADORE Georgette Heyer's romances!

I'm torn between These Old Shades and The Convenient Marriage as to my favorite. They are both wonderful. The latter takes the long-time convention of a sweet, pretty oldest sister, a not so pretty middle sister, and a plain youngest sister and turns it on its ear. There's the ne'er-do-well brother, the poor but deserving suitor of the oldest sister, and the frail helpless widowed mother. The whole thing is a hoot.

It makes me wonder how anyone that creative and witty could write a downer like A Civil Contract, which I found depressing and not at all typical of Heyer.

Lesa said...

Isn't it interesting, Aubrey, how we all have our favorites? I loved The Corinthian and The Grand Sophy, and I really didn't enjoy The Convenient Marriage. I just couldn't like the spoiled bride.

I think Heyer has something for everyone who likes wit, humor and Regencies.