Romance, Wit, and Drama: The Heyer Novel Best Suited to the Small Screen

Ackermann's Print: The Royal Circus, 1809.

Ackermann’s Print: The Royal Circus, 1809.

Georgette Heyer’s novels have been adapted to the screen only twice before and each time was a disaster.  As a result, fans often worry over all the things that could go wrong if an adaptation were ever attempted again.  I want you to instead imagine for a moment what a Heyer adaptation would look like if everything went right.  Imagine a miniseries.  Not just any miniseries, mind you.  I’m talking about a beautifully written, impeccably cast, gorgeously filmed, historical costume epic.  Now keep that image in your mind as I present to you the contenders for the Heyer Novel Best Suited to the Small Screen.

Ackermann's Morning Dress, 1822.

Ackermann’s Morning Dress, 1822.

Our first contender is Venetia.  Set in the Regency era, Venetia has Jasper Damerel as a brooding, Byronic hero and Venetia Lanyon as a beautiful and intelligent heroine.  It features a strong supporting cast, including Aubrey, Mrs. Scorrier, Lady Steeple, and Nurse.  And there is plenty of room for a bit of creative license.  What about a flashback scene showing glimpses of Damerel’s disreputable past?  Or a scene revealing the mysterious backstory of Venetia’s mother, Lady Steeple?  There is no limit to what a talented filmmaker could do with this wonderful novel.

Our second contender is Cotillion.  Also set in the Regency, it has multiple love stories of every variety, including those of Freddy and Kitty, Camille and Olivia, and Lord Dolphinton and Miss Plymstock.  It has a supporting cast of incredibly entertaining characters like Miss Fishguard, Mr. Penicuik, and Freddy’s cousins, father, and sister.  It even has a few villains in the characters of Jack Westruther and Lord Dolphinton’s mother.  With such a combination of romance, comedy, and drama, Cotillion is sure to be a ratings success.

Our third contender is These Old Shades.  A Georgian novel set half in England and half in France, it is primarily a story of vengeance.  It features Heyer favorites the Duke of Avon and Léonie, as well as a little cross-dressing, a kidnapping, a suicide, evil plots, and one of the worst villains in the Heyer canon – The Comte de Saint-Vire.  There is plenty of action and drama.  There is also a very touching romance.  And did I mention the lavish costumes?  Corsets and panniers, ruffled frock coats, clocked stockings, and high-heeled shoes.  Who wouldn’t want to watch?

Ackermann's Print: Walking Dress, 1820.

Ackermann’s Walking Dress, 1820.

Our fourth contender is Friday’s Child.  Another Regency, it is arguably the most ensemble piece in Heyer’s repertoire.  There are the romantic leads, Hero and Sherry.  There are Sherry’s friends, Gil, Ferdy, and George.  There is Isabella the incomparable and the priggish Duke of Severn.  There is Hero’s noble suitor, Mr. Tarleton, and the estimable Lady Saltash and her pug.  And for villains, we have vile reprobate Sir Monatgue Revesby and Sherry’s horribly spiteful mother.  With one of the sweetest love stories and some of the most quotable lines of any Heyer novel, Friday’s Child would make a perfect television miniseries.

Our fifth and final contender is An Infamous Army.  More than just a retelling of the Battle of Waterloo, it is the story of the complex love affair between Lady Barbara Childe and Colonel Charles Audley, the unequal match between Lucy Devenish and Lord George Alastair, and the troubled marriage of Peregrine Taverner and his wife, Harriet.  In addition to the personal intrigues and dramas, there is the famous battle itself and the subsequent scenes of tragedy and loss.  A skilled filmmaker could turn this novel into a truly epic miniseries, one that even non-romance fans would be tuning in to watch.

Ackermann's Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, 1809.

Ackermann’s Print: The Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, 1809.

Cast your vote for the Georgette Heyer Novel Best Suited to the Small Screen!  There are no limits on how many times you can vote and, as always, if you have a preference for another of Georgette Heyer’s novels (Frederica, for example, or The Masqueraders), I encourage you to write in your choice below.

The Poll is Now Closed.

The Results:

1st Place: These Old Shades with 20%.

2nd Place: Venetia with 18%.

3rd Place: Cotillion with 16%.

4th Place: An Infamous Army with 10%.

5th Place: Friday’s Child with 9%.

Honorable Mentions: Devil’s Cub with 8 votes by write-in; The Talisman Ring and The Grand Sophy with 7 votes each by write-in; and Sylvester and The Reluctant Widow with 4 votes each by writing in.

The following Heyer novels garnered at least 1 vote each by write-in: The Toll-Gate, Arabella, Frederica, The Unknown Ajax, Regency Buck, False Colours, The Masqueraders, The Foundling, Sprig Muslin, and Faro’s Daughter.

Thank you for voting!

The next Georgette Heyer Poll is Wednesday July 1st.

Mimi Matthews is the author of The Pug Who Bit Napoleon: Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries (to be released by Pen and Sword Books in November 2017).  She researches and writes on all aspects of nineteenth century history—from animals, art, and etiquette to fashion, beauty, feminism, and law. 

© 2015-2017 Mimi Matthews

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8 thoughts on “Romance, Wit, and Drama: The Heyer Novel Best Suited to the Small Screen

  1. Jenny Haddon says:

    Truly excellent piece and very thought provoking. Of course, the short answer is all of them.

    In the end, though, I plumped for Friday’s Child because it really is a story about growing up, which I find compelling. The daft young men are pure bliss –Jane Austen meets Bertie Wooster, as I’ve said elsewhere – but there is the darker theme of Women Beware Women – the cats, the chilly snobs and the serious bitch who tries to trap our heroine into catastrophic behaviour before she is effectively saved by a warm-hearted trollop. And the love story is so touching – the integrity of true affection in Hero which frivolous Sherry eventually comes to recognise. And room for some backstory illustration of Hero’s miserable condition as down-trodden poor relation, as well as Sherry’s arid family life, with his grasping uncle and self-absorbed hypochondriac mother. And a fabulous opening line. ‘I’m going to marry the first woman I see.’

    Yup, it would be a cracker.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mimi Matthews says:

      I so glad you enjoyed my post, Jenny! I agree with you about Friday’s Child. It has so much material to fill up a miniseries and the two leads really change from beginning to end. Plus it was Heyer’s own favorite novel, I believe, so it seems fitting that it should be made into a movie. Hopefully BBC or whoever else makes quality miniseries will get on the ball. If not, I think one of us is going to have to write the adaptation and shop it around ourselves! Thanks for commenting 🙂

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  2. Sarah Waldock says:

    They’re all good choices, and I plumped for Venetia simply because it is a favourite of mine, and added ‘The Toll Gate’ because it’s a rattling good adventure story, and I could picture drawing it as a graphic novel or animating it, and would love to see filmed the scenes in the caves with eerie Hitchcockesque music. It has action, and action is eminently suited to film… and what’s more it could spark a TV series called ‘Chirk and Stogumber investigate’ where Jerry and the Robin Redbreast work together [since Jerry is going to be a respectable married man] with cameo appearances of Jack and Nell as local magistrate and his lady. Or maybe it should, like Morse, Lewis and Taggart simply be ‘Chirk’ or ‘Stogumber’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mimi Matthews says:

      Great choices, Sarah! And the Chirk and Stogumber investigates idea is brilliant. It could definitely be a series with new crimes to solve every week 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

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  3. Florina says:

    Besides picking all of the above I would also love to see The Convenient Marriage which is another of my favourite. There are two particular scenes that are my favourite: first is the duel between Rule and Lethbridge – that scene is so well written – and 2nd when Rule is taking Lethbridge’s place and the cards play with Horatia without her knowing – the whole scene is simply hot! (I have to add here in regard to other comments about GH books not having explicit scenes – there is no need for them! GH was so brilliant at letting the reader “see through the lines”, that there is nothing more to add. A scene like the one when Rule palys cards with Horatia is more charged than any sex scene. I personally read GH and others like her because the lack of explicit scenes, but that is besides the point :)) Back to you beautiful post, there is also Sylvester, and The Corinthian, and The Grand Sophy… but I’ll have to stop here.. there is soooo much to work with. I trully hope someone will see the potential in all these great pieces and bring them to life!! thank again for your polls. I look forward to them every week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mimi Matthews says:

      I’m so glad you enjoy the polls, Florina! Sadly, I have to reduce them down to once a month as I’m beginning edits on one of my novels. The scenes you mentioned in The Convenient Marriage would be great on the screen – and they are two of my personal favorite scenes as well. There are so many Heyer novels that I wish could be adapted! We can only hope 🙂 Thanks again for commenting!

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    • Mimi Matthews says:

      Book edits addle the brain! But yes, I think you could do any number of movies in reverse. The 1980’s John Hughes movies might work. After all, most are poor girl/poor guy type tales and what is more Regency than discrepancies in wealth preventing a match? Thx as always for commenting, Angelyn!

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