The Heyer Project: Part II – A Matrix O’ Heyer Tropes

Bugger, bugger, bugger — I started this over a month ago and emailed it to myself so I wouldn’t lose it. *sigh*


In which I color-code a spreadsheet and compare The Grand Sophy to Curious George.


Holy crap, I cannot believe it’s been over a year since Part I. I haven’t ruminated on my Balogh Binge yet either. I am such a slacker.

But then, sometimes things like this happen:


I am serious about this. I have never met any of you, but I seriously love you guys.

So this is me:


Yes. I used a gif. Get over it. It’s Dug, so you can’t complain.

On to the good stuff! My initial foray into Heyer included (in reading order):

  • The Black Moth
  • FredericaPowder & Patch
  • Pistols for Two
  • April Lady
  • Cotillion
  • The Nonesuch
  • The Masqueraders
  • Black Sheep
  • Frederica
  • Venetia
  • The Grand Sophy
  • The Unknown Ajax
  • The Convenient Marriage

Since then, I’ve done all the rest on audiobook (all dirt-cheap from Audible thanks to Amazon’s nifty “Hey, You Really Need This Ebook On Audio Too, Just Give Us All Your Money And Be Done With It Already” feature). So a shout-out to Sourcebooks for their incredible $1.99 ebook sale way back when.

Round 2, in reading order:

  • Bath Tangle
  • farosdaughterThe Toll-Gate
  • Regency Buck
  • Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle
  • Sprig Muslin
  • Devil’s Cub
  • The Quiet Gentleman
  • Faro’s Daughter
  • Arabella
  • The Foundling
  • False Colours
  • A Civil Contract
  • The Reluctant Widow
  • The Talisman Ring
  • Friday’s Child
  • Cousin Kate

I’m only doing the romances (not the hist-fics or mysteries), so I think I only have a few left to go: These Old Shades, The Corinthian, Charity Girl and Lady of Quality.

That’s a lot of Heyer. And since this is all about ME, I made up my own Matrix O’ Heyer Tropes. There are many, many cross-overs, but this is how I find myself mentally categorizing them.

heyer_matrixView larger image!  |  View and comment(!!!) on the spreadsheet!

As I’m typing the list and re-color-coding the spreadsheet, I keep realizing how brilliant Heyer was in using the same tropes to tell very different stories.

The plot tropes

The Mysterious Stranger

A dysfunctional family gathers in a run-down manor, awaiting the patriarch’s imminent death. A Mysterious Stranger appears, and guess what? He’s the Long-Lost Heir! Or a Passing Stranger With the Right Weapon at the Right Time! The Dispossessed Cousins scheme frantically while the Female Third-Cousin-Twice-Removed Poor Relation languishes in a window seat with her embroidery waiting patiently for her next once-every-four-chapters scene.

The Big Big BIG Misunderstanding

These are the full-on farces – usually a mix of all the plot tropes.

In Disguise

Characters pretending to be who they’re not — includes mistaken identity, hiding in plain sight, etc.

Sibling Shenanigans

Heyer’s heroes and heroines have a LOT of clueless and reckless and sometimes evil relatives. Also includes cousins, parents, aunts/uncles, etc., so more “Feckless Families” but I love the word “shenanigans” so I’m going with it.

Spies & Smugglers

I really love alliteration. This includes blackmailers, con artists, kidnappers and whatnot.

Road Trip

Usually set in out-of-the-way country inns with spies/smugglers hiding in the cellar.

The character tropes

The Smartass Heroine

I love smartass heroines. Have I mentioned this before?

The Background Betty

See the “languishing in a window seat with her embroidery waiting patiently” bit above.

The Dimwit Ingénue

I want to smack each and every one of them upside the head. Often.

The Bachelor Babysitter

In which our Beta/Grumpy Hero becomes inextricably intertwined in the escapades of a Dimwit Ingénue and/or Dandy FratBro.

The Dandy FratBro

Self-explanatory. Sometimes redeemable, but usually just a pain in the arse.

Share your thoughts!

Because I am the open-minded sort, the spreadsheet is open to any and all comments — have at it!


And…my thoughts on The Grand Sophy

grandsophyIn my original Heyer post, I said:

I read it. It was good. It was everything every five-star reviewer raved about. And then some.

That’s all I’ll say for now because I need to do a closer re-read to distill my thoughts.

A year later, I haven’t done a re-read, but my thoughts are distilled.  Memorable characters, imaginative plot, etc., etc. — it’s Quintessential Heyer.  Eleventy thousand five-star fangirls can’t be wrong, right?

Unfortunately, the “and then some” part ruined it for me. I am not a Sophia Stanton-Lacy Fangirl.

I was expecting a Kickass/Smartass Heroine like Deborah from Faro’s Daughter or Mary from Devil’s Cub. But the best word I can think of to describe Sophy (the character) is Bulldozer. She shows up, mows down everyone in her path, and leaves their carcasses by the side of the road. (How many metaphors did I just mix right there?) I kept thinking, “Jaysus, woman, just SIT DOWN, SHUT UP, AND LISTEN TO SOMEONE ELSE FOR A CHANGE.” If ever a “beloved” heroine deserved the epithet “insufferable,” it’s Sophy.

Oh! I just thought of a literary analogy! My sister the third-grade teacher hates the Curious George books (hang in there, I’m going somewhere with this) because George never pays the consequences for his action. In dozens of books, George does whatever the hell he wants, and everyone around him just watches him do it and says “oh, isn’t he cute???” At the end of every story, the Man in the Yellow Hat just bails his illegal exotic pet out of jail and then let him escape again to wreak more havoc in schools, parks, libraries, hospitals, ocean liners and embassies around the world.

Where was I going with this? Ah, yes — Sophy is Curious George because she’s continually rewarded for her selfishness. There’s zero development in her character. She never changes. And let’s just give Charles his Yellow Hat right now, shall we?

And that imaginative plot — it’s exhausting. There’s no downtime. With shenanigans (heh) this intricate, I need some anxiety-free backstory/exposition/set-up scenes to process all the flailing and flinging that passes for character development, and to reach that all-important emotional catharsis required for a satisfying HEA.

And, of course, the infamous anti-Semitic “Evil Jew Moneylender” scene. It makes me throw up in my mouth a little every time I think of it. There’s no arguing the scene itself is historically accurate for the story and the characters’ reactions. There’s no arguing it reflects the abhorrent stereotypes still common even in post-war Britain when it was first published.

But I also think there’s no arguing that the stereotype Heyer presents in this scene are beyond excessive. It’s repulsive. Period. Full stop. It’s the first thing that comes to mind whenever I see a mention of the title. It’s why I’m not re-reading it now or ever.

3 thoughts on “The Heyer Project: Part II – A Matrix O’ Heyer Tropes

  1. Andrea says:

    What a fun project! A quibble on your spreadsheet, The Talisman Ring
    –the main hero and heroine are Tristan ahd Sarah, secondary are Ludovic and Eustacie. And I have re-read The Grand Sophie many times, but always have to skim over the Jewish moneylender. If you ever do get around to reading her mysteries, you will find more evidence of her racist and class conscious opinions. She was a product of her time, but still pretty hard for us to take now. She hated Americans, too! Thought they were rude and brash.

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