The Foundling: time to revisit Georgette Heyer

Reviewed by Gabrielle Pantera

Rating: Four Stars

foundlingHOLLYWOOD, CA: For more then a quarter century, Georgette Heyer’s historical novels have delighted millions of readers.

The author published 56 books over 53 years and now Illinois-based publisher  Sourcebooks is re-releasing The Foundling and many other Heyer classics.

In The Foundling, Gilly, the Duke of Sale, is a young man of 24 who’s been protected since birth by well-meaning family members. His overprotective uncle, his guardian, will relinquish all to Gilly on his twenty-fifth birthday. A staff of devoted family retainers won’t let Gilly do anything for himself. They coddle him as though he’s a child. Gilly decides to go on an adventure, to discover if he’s “a man, or only a Duke.” Gilly sets out, incognito, to get back some embarrassing letters his younger cousin wrote.

In this light-hearted adventure, Gilly realizes his strengths and abilities. Gilly is a thinking hero, not the typical swashbuckling hero. The story is subtle, yet Gilly has moments of action.

Georgette Heyer, born August 16th, 1902, was a private woman. There are few quotes from her. One of the few is about another of her novels, Friday’s Child. “I think myself I ought to be shot for writing such nonsense,” said Heyer. “But, it’s unquestionably good escapist literature. I think I should rather like it if I were sitting in an air-raid shelter or recovering from flu.”

Named after her father, George Heyer, Georgette Heyer was the eldest. Her brothers George Boris, known as Boris, and Frank were four and nine years younger than she. At age 17, Heyer wrote a serial to amuse her brother Boris, who suffered from a form of hemophilia. That book, The Black Moth, is about the adventures of a young man who took responsibility for his brother’s card-cheating. Her father asked her to prepare the serial for publication, and it was released in 1921.

Heyer’s Regencies were inspired by Jane Austen. Thanks to Heyer we have the historical romance genre and its subgenre, Regency romance. That her writing is great escapist entertainment has made it endure. Heyer’s writing covers more then Regency novels, although that’s what she’s best know for.

Heyer, a smoker, died of lung cancer in 1974. Her last book, My Lord John, was published posthumously in 1975.

The Foundling examines the bonds between men, how they can be family and friends.

There’s not much romance in the novel, but there’s affection between Gilly and his shy fiancé, Harriet. Gilly is a believable and likable hero. Anyone who appreciates romance and mystery will enjoy The Foundling. It’s perfect for curling up with and reading over Thanksgiving.

The Foundling by  Georgette Heyer. Trade Paperback, 448 pages, Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca, September 2009, Language: English, ISBN: 9781402219481 $13.99