Georgette Heyer: The Historical Romance and the Consumption of the Erotic, 1918-1939

Publication year

This chapter looks at the historical romances of Georgette Heyer written in the 1920s and 1930s; my intention is to consider readings which are 'against the grain', to consider other possible pleasures offered by consumption in relation to sexuality and sensuality. (82)


if foppishness conceals an essential masculinity, some characteristics are also indicated as being learnt - the character Leon/Leonie, having spent most of her life dressed or masquerading as a boy, has to be taught how to behave as a lady; Kate/Robin is instructed by his sister; Prudence/Peter is initiated into the 'male arts' by her father and brother.
I would argue, therefore, that there is a fluidity in relation to gender and sexual identity in these narratives. Clothing can be used to disguise and conceal biological characteristics, allowing for both the parodying of, and performance of, other gender identities. (88)


What the examples of masking indicate is a space where dominant moral codes might not be strictly adhered to, places which are vulgar and not genteel. The texts also extend this to explore areas of female and male sexuality. In These Old Shades, Leon/Leonie when masquerading as the Duke of Avon's page (and before the Duke states his knowledge of her sex) is taken to places I can only describe as brothels. (89-90)