Genres and Evaluations

Writers are aware of how their work–not just their own work but work rather like theirs–is perceived, evaluated, and judged in the world.  Writers–as shown by the current WGA strike–are not nearly as highly valued as they used to be, when fewer people could write but many wanted something to read.  But this post isn’t about that–the overall devaluation writers across most fields have  suffered in recent years.  This is about how what people DO read is judged by those who claim the expertise to comment on it.  As in most things, for many years white male writers were given a boost by reviewers and critics because they were the group that were “of course” doing the writing.  But even then, even in the early days of published writing, there were distinctions.  Serious people (scholars, academics, clerics) took some writing more seriously than others.  Tragedy was ranked with in its own category from top to bottom (failed tragedies)  but when compared with comedy…well, tragedy was *serious*.  Comedy was just for laughs.  No matter how good a writer of comedies, they would rank below tragedies.  Romance in the *old* system (not love stories alone but covering the range now considered popular fiction)…travel stories, adventure stories, politically related stories…lay somewhere between the tragedies and the comedies, with a broad range of assumptions about the specific types.

There were also assumptions about the readers: which were good readers, which were inferior readers wanting only entertainment, and which should not be reading at all (women: reading meant they weren’t working.  O horrors!  Girls lounging around reading stories instead of sewing, knitting, cooking, cleaning, weaving, embroidering, scrubbing things…)   Boys wanted to read entertainment (inferior) and adult men of sufficient quality wanted to read (paging rapidly past what they did read) SERIOUS writing about SERIOUS things like political theory, history, and serious things like accounting and mechanics.  (Yes, this may be a simplification.)

But publishing kept happening, and books became numerous enough, cheap enough, and soon writing wasn’t just one occupation but many.  Within fiction, it developed quickly into various genres, and then (with the advent of review publications that claimed to divide the worthy from the unworthy)  into genre snobbery.  Snobbery runs both up and down, by the way.  Some readers like one thing, others like another, and competing readerships (fandoms?) developed naturally.  But the review publications and university professors continued to play gatekeeper to official approval: books were either in the canon or out, on the basis of what these gatekeepers decreed.  Religious arbiters approved only books that accorded with their notions of what people *needed* to read. Improving fiction.  Fiction that was designed to, and effective at, making its readers better (whatever better meant to that arbiter.)  Academic arbiters approved books that were difficult, on the grounds that nobody had have the easy ones explained…which meant they were useless for the curriculum.  C. S. Lewis, for instance, mocked this approach to deciding what books were “good” (needed explication or even “would never be read just for enjoyment.”)  Over time, between the early-mid 19th c. and the early-mid 20th, when ballooned and so did reading as an approved recreation for more and more people,  the emerging genres were judged firmly by the established arbiters: churches and professors.

Serious fiction was approved.  Serious fiction was, initially, all written by white men (women were too flighty to write it), and read by men, and appealed to men of sufficient education.   Occasionally a Black man might write serious fiction but if so it must not have any real connection to Black culture, because that wasn’t culture.   Women, if they wrote fiction, were assumed to be writing for women readers, and writing about “women’s issues” (family, home, babies, love stories: _Little Women_, or _Pride and Prejudice_, not for instance about politics, war, sex, travel, or “touchy-feely stuff.”  Women DID write about male topics and sometimes got published and even read by men, but it was tough going.   A woman writing about “women’s issues” knew her work would be devalued, no matter how good the actual writing was.   It wasn’t “serious”. Family issues weren’t serious.  Children weren’t serious.  The work women did was not serious work, though of course they must be made to do it.

Romance in the modern sense, love stories, stories about courtship and love in particular, were considered fit only for women to read, and suited to women writers.  Since women–readers and writers–were not as important as men, any genre women read regularly–no matter how well-written–was not going to get favorable mention in the big reviews.   Men could indeed write about courtship and marriage–from a man’s perspective–and be considered serious as well as amazingly sympathetic (even when they weren’t.)   But the men who wrote romance-genre books for women to read used female pseudonyms.

Now sticking an art form into a less-respected ghetto has the unfortunate effect of lessening its overall quality for some time, especially if it’s popular within its restricted reading group.  “Westerns” and “romances” both declined in “average” quality from the first westerns and courtship stories by women that were published.   Because neither was well-respected, and there was a definable market, and there was no hope of a Pulitzer for either, publishers had no incentive to be over-choosy.   As a voracious and fast reader, I read some of both and quickly moved onto something more interesting because then–in the early to mid-50s–so many in each were just anemic versions of each other.  Westerns held me a little longer because horses, but still they were all pretty much alike and the children’s book horse stories had more horse detail.  By the time better writers got into both again, I was “past that” and have only in the past decade or so found that *some* romance books are really fun reads, with interesting characters doing interesting things in the context of a courtship.  Apologies to the writers I missed out on, that I would have enjoyed.  (Also I hated pink, for reasons, and all those pink covers…ick.)  Multi[e genres: modern romances, science fiction, most of fantasy, westerns, thrillers, police procedural mysteries,  anything that becomes “too popular,” will be excluded from consideration for “serious” literary study and awards consideration, while fiction that explores whatever is currently in vogue in academia will get a pass if it’s well-written enough.   There is always enough bad writing in anything called a genre to justify complaint. There is always, however, better writing, better characterization, more complex consideration of relevant issues, etc. than the bottom end.  Readers of the genre past their first year of reading in it can tell the difference but will often read at least partway down into the depths because they’re interested in the topics, the type of story.

Which brings up the other complication of genre writing.   If you like adventure stories, you want to read more adventure stories.  If you like political intrigue stories, you want more of that.  If you like stories of certain periods of history, or certain places or cultures in the world, or stories about particular occupations…you want more, and you will read more, and you will also avoid stories about those things that don’t interest you.  For many readers, the *content* of the story is more important than the style.  As a child I read every book in the town library about dogs and horses before I moved on to airplanes and spaceships (and kept reading about horses…)   I learned early that the quality of writing in horse stories goes from Kipling’s “The Maltese Cat” at the top to one of the later “Black Stallion? franchise ghost writers at the bottom (I forget the title, but it was the one about the Black Stallion’s filly-something and it was awful.  The original Black Stallion book wasn’t superbly great prose, but it also did not suck…it was lively, colorful, interesting, exciting in places, competent and consistent.  Later…no.)   Higher up than Walter Farley as horse writers were Marguerite Henry and Dorothy Lyons…and a few others.  But nothing, initially, would get me to read E.B. White’s _Stewart Little_ or the one about the spider and the pig.   I discovered E.B. White as a writer with his book on Arthur, because I was already hooked on that mythology.  Subject matters intensely to many readers.   I liked Nevil Shute a lot but not his most famous book, On the Beach…my favorite was Trustee From the Toolroom.   I was hooked on Steinbeck all one summer (my mother had a row of his paperbacks) but left him forever with The Winter of Our Discontent.   I liked spy stories, mysteries, thrillers (Helen MacInnes, then a bestseller of many good ones), stories of people doing things more than musing about life.  I’m not blind or deaf to style, but it’s not what I notice first very, VERY good or pretty bad.   This means that I tolerate some pedestrian writing because it’s about something that interests me,  and toss other fiction for pedestrian writing because I do not ever want to see another story about young men angsting about how much sex they’re not getting (or getting.)

So judging by the reader I know best (myself) who has read widely from ancient classics to books out in the last few years, who used to be able to zip through 2-3 paperbacks a day (Dick Francis, for instance…then suddenly you *know* that author’s style and sense of structure so well that you pick up the next book and know on which page a horse will die, someone important to the main character will be threatened or injured, and …so on.)   I’m not a one trick reader…and I know how I react to topics, styles, attitudes…etc.   Judging by that, other people are also affected by all these aspects of a book: its cover, the writer’s first page, the writer’s sense of structure and how much “stuff” goes into each part of the book, the writer’s choice of and handling of different characters, the writer’s assumptions about people, the writer’s complete style right down to the punctuation….and every other thing I’ve mentioned.   At root, all judgments on books are opinions.   A non-native speaker can write a fascinating book for some native speakers, or can write a book that other native speakers drop after the first paragraph.  A book hooks you, glues you to the page, drags you along will-he, nill-he, until either you finish it with a great sense of having had a wonderful time…or not.   All whole-genre judgments reflect a lack of experience in that genre, because no genre is homogeneous.   It’s not worth arguing with the academics, though, because they won’t listen until they fall in love with a writer hidden in that room and come out all enthusiastic and eager to tell their colleagues.  Let them find their special places in your favorite genre on their own.


25 thoughts on “Genres and Evaluations

    1. That’s a great addition to the discussion, and I agree with most that’s in there. If I could remember the third line of a four-line verse it would be apropos but I can’t and I’m not even sure I spelled that right. It’s almost midnight AGAIN. (Midnight comes around earlier…)

  1. Very interesting. I like your catholic interests – I also have a wide variety of books I like to read from technical books on railroading to best selling late Victorian authors I get from Project Gutenberg. And unfortunately, I have had a number of first in a series of books where I even did not finish the first book. And while it is easy to say that writing skills have gone downhill it is possible to find some gems – like certain fantasy and world building authors I am too modest to mention.

    In the end, I like to enjoy a book I have spent my hard earned dollars on – and that is the ultimate criteria – will people buy my Great American Novel.

    Stay cool.

    1. Have you read John McPhee? Nonfiction, broad range of interests, all brilliantly written with the kind of precision and economy you used to see more often…He wrote a lot for The New Yorker and some of those series turned into books. Annals of the Ancient World is a collection of his writing on geology, starting in Manhattan and working west. He wrote about brand inspectors, about suppliers for a produce market in NYC (Giving Good Weight), about the FBI’s investigations of certain murders by way of proving that the dirt in the wheel well of this particular car (driven across country from Colorado to the East Coast) along with some other evidence defines its entire route and the men in it. It’s all technical stuff but he makes it come alive and stay interesting.

  2. I used to get irritated by the judgements of my reading choices from “on high”, and even more irritated when some literary fiction type wandered in to one of my favoured genres, wrote a not very good (or even bad) book in genre terms only to be proclaimed as the new great writer of that genre. These days I am grateful to have books I can read or reread on my bad days, the judgements that irritated me so have become completely irrelevant to me. That is not to say I do not notice good writing, and I would argue strongly that the authors that end up in my reread pile write well with interesting variations on the conventions of genre; hence keeping an eye on your out put.

    1. In college, because I was writing poetry and fiction (still badly, I hasten to add) I was invited to join a little literary society. It was…do you remember beige? Beige walls, beige carpets, pale uncomfortable chairs? A thing in the 60s. I was given a pair of beige heels for graduation by one of my mother’s friends, and a beige sheath dress, and a nice beige bag. I looked horrible in beige. It sucked all the color out of my face. Anyway. There were four guys and me. They were all very, very Serious (at least one of them, and I think maybe two, became Rhodes Scholars. Brilliant boys but oh, so Serious.) They did not read popular fiction. No science fiction, no mysteries, nothing like that, and they were way, way over my undistinguished head. I quit going. I kept writing bad SF and reading what I wanted to read. It was a bad time for literary fiction right then–the most admired student writer wrote story after story about depressed male college students who spent a lot of time in dirty bathrooms which were described down to the hairs in the bathtub rings and the grunge in the toilet. Or that’s how I remember his work, but after all we’re talking almost 60 years ago now. But yeah, I’ve had lots of people with literary ambitions, some of them very good writers, but often things I did not want to read, let alone write. To be told that my writing could never be important unless I did *this* and wrote about *that*…that I had to admire things that bored me, or …well, you know the kind of thing. It gets old. At the same time, I knew perfectly well that some books in my favorite genres were not good–some of them total utter trash (in my view)…where the person hadn’t done the most minimal attempt to see if that moon of a gas giant–that you could walk halfway around in a day or so–without a pressure suit–and that was full of caves–could possibly have the gravity to *hold* a breathable atmosphere. And peopled with exactly the same kinds of characters with the same mannerisms as in the kids’ book series. And like you…the judgments that used to bother me don’t now.

  3. Yes- Trustee From the Toolroom was a good read. Haven’t thought of it in years.
    In college I’d get weird reactions to my shelf of comfort reads -Three Men in a Boat, mythology, Lord of the Rings of course, Wind in the Willows (Horrors a Childrens book!) and some SF anthologies. Some middle English translations and then all the Biology text books and Medieval Art history books. People got really confused.

    1. Your comfort reads sound like a very normal range of things to me. Someone I knew in college introduced me to Ransome’s children’s books, the Swallows & Amazons series. I really liked them and started hunting them down in used-book stores. Then, when I was stationed in Virginia, in a completely new ecosystem, I decided to learn it, and discovered the Peterson Field Guide series. There was a bookstore in walking distance of my apartment…and in Oakton, Va, a friend and I discovered Appalachian Outfitters. I started hiking along short stretches of the Appalachian Trail every time I had a chance, and started with a bird book and a tree book. Soon added more. And more.

  4. Did anyone else ever read “Trail of Conflict” by Emilie Loring? Your mention of genre snobbery is what made me think about this. Originally published in the late 1920’s – 1950’s Loring’s books were reprinted by Bantam as mass market paperbacks in the 1960’s. Cover looks like a fluffy romance, but it is SO much more. When you talk about books worthy of study, I’ve often thought that all the stuff Emilie crammed into that book should be unpacked as a study of the issues of the late 19th and early 20th century that still resonates now.
    Synopsis: Wealthy but low class Welsh immigrant miner arranges marriage of his daughter to descendant of high society Early American settlers whose family has fallen on hard times. The son agrees to save his father’s estate, girl agrees to please her father. The man’s elderly uncle finds out, is furious, he’s absolutely sure they are headed for a disastrous divorce and knows he’s dying so he leaves nephew his ranch on the condition that newlyweds live for a year on ranch ‘out west’. Terms of the will include the bride cannot use any of her father’s money. Of course, there is an ex girlfriend that wants the man back now that he may have money… It has horses, cowboys, trains and an engineer racing against time to disable an airplane. Loring hints at the growth of gangster activity in the 1920’s through the threat of cattle thieves that are really train robbers.
    There is a WWI veteran with PTSD, though Emilie didn’t know that term when she wrote the book; also a labor dispute, discussion of spousal abuse (not the main characters), issues of illegal immigration, and finally murder. Everything comes out right for the main couple in the end but SO many things that make it more than a fluffy story to pass the time for a few hours.
    I love reading Emilie Loring, the stories are short enough to read in an evening, and since they were contemporary to the time, reading all her books by copyright date is a brief history of the early to mid 20th Century. She grew up around Boston, spent summers in Maine and several of her early books are set there. She died in the early 1950’s but left notes that her sons and a ghost writer published in her name up till 1971. A biography was published of Loring earlier this spring and rumor has it her books will be available as e-books sometime. I’m honestly a bit surprised because the early ones are very much of their time, pre-WWII Asian and Black characters are included. It will be interesting to see if they are edited since I have an entire set of the 1960’s era paperbacks. Happy reading. Looking forward to More Deeds!

    1. No, I didn’t. In high school and college (1960s for me) I was buying spy thrillers (James Bond), aerospace/space nonfiction, a little SF, and some Greek stuff…augmented in college by finding a superb used book store from which I bought a lot of Kipling, some serious archaeology, history, and other stuff as well, and a big bookstore in downtown Houston where I discovered Tolkein, Lewis, other fantasy, and a wide range of mysteries. I wouldn’t have been at all attracted to something that looked romance-ish in that period. My home reading had included my mother’s historical novels (Hervey Allen, Samuel Shellabarger), a few of her aunt’s deeply sentimental (The Rosary), political novels (Drury among others), mysteries by the dozens, humor (Ring Lardner and a guy whose name I can’t think of right now), Pearl Buck, Daphne du Maurier and religious novels I think were her aunt’s but not sure (The Robe, The Road to Bithynia0, and poetry. Also read a lot of military stuff from the public library and then went on a Greek literarure (the old stuff) tear that took me through the classics in English translation and then three years of Classical Greek. I’m not good at learning languages but I did fight my way through some Sophocles, rather more of Plato, some Aristotle, herodotus, and Homer in the originals. I still have a row of Greek works in Greek.

      I’ll see what I an find of Loring.

    2. After I wrote about Loring I did a search. “Trail of Conflict” is free on Kindle from Amazon. It’s her first published novel but she had been writing for newspapers and magazines for years. Loring was from a family of writers, one of her uncles did quite well as a playwright and moved to being a screen writer in the early days of film. My mom, age 90, says when she was in high school the school library didn’t let you wonder the stacks to find a book. There was a list of titles and authors to choose from. Being from a family that was not well read (grandfather only went through third grade and her mother’s dad made her drop out to work in the fields when she was 13) Mom didn’t know much about genre or authors. She said she figured out that anything by Emilie Loring would be worth reading. Loring had a great ability to describe settings, usually a bit of mystery, and everything turns out right. For Mom, the need for things to turn out right was important in her reading. Her mother was the youngest of five children and mom’s aunts did NOT make good choices of life companions so there was a lot of alcohol and drama going on in the family. Loring has a strong moral tone and philosophy that life could be good and worth living. Important words for the depression, WWII and Korea era when Mom was a child and teen. I think part of the reason she bought them when they were reprinted in the 60’s and early 70’s was because they reminded her of good times and she also knew it was ‘clean’ reading. I was a voracious reader and read everything I could get my hands on. Mom was working on her doctorate in the early 70’s; she would let me wonder the library while she was doing research. After an experience in the fiction section of the library of Arizona State when I found something that was totally inappropriate for my age she must have decided to not give me free reign in the library anymore.

  5. I rather think “Trustee from the Toolroom” is many people’s favourite – certainly on the Facebook Nevil Shute group. I never know what my favourite is – it depends on which one I’ve read most recently; there are only a few of his that will never make it to my top 5!

    Arthur Ransome, too, has a very active adult following, as do a surprising number of so-called “children’s” authors – wasn’t it C S Lewis who realised that adults enjoy so-called “children’s” stories even more than children do! But then, he knew how to write stories that all ages could enjoy….

    1. Speaking of C.S. his planet trilogy, a fairy tale in his own words, is one that many, when I bring it up have not heard of, much less read. It is one of my own go to series.

      1. I read it back in the ’70s, several times. I wanted to find it better than I did find it…there were things I just could not be satisfied with. I’m glad it’s working for you as a go-to series. I haven’t gone back to it for years, though I still have it on the shelves. The Lewis I really can’t stand is “Till We Have Faces” which is bitterly, almost violently, misogynistic. Written before he fell in actual love.

  6. Ransome’s books were comfort reads for me when I was growing up. Waiting for a parent to pick me up after school was often a trip to the public library in Bristol, get my homework done and then pop downstairs for a comfort read in the children’s section – even when I was mid-teens. In fact I could probably pick up one of those books now and enjoy a re-read. Maybe helps that I love walking in the countryside and my main sport is sailing.

    1. I enjoy re=reading them, and my husband has just started. I couldn’t find my copies of the first ones so gave him Coot Club and Pigeon Post first. While in an English bookstore, found a book of Ransome’s about his own life–being in Russia during the Revolution, etc. Fascinating. IIRC, he got Trotsky’s secretary out of Russia in a small boat in the Baltic when things were coming unstuck even more than usual and Trotsky was out of favor. Ransme married her later. His books got me interested in boats, which I hadn’t been before, and I took sailing lessons on a lake in Texas. We built a kayak from a kit in the living room of our rent house, then bought the folding version of a two-seater and its sailing additional kit. Had fun with it a few years until Lifestuff intervened. I learned to enjoy being on the water, but it was never as big a draw as being on a horse, for me.

  7. When I was in junior high, more or less 55 years ago, I read a lot of horse and dog books. As I moved from kid to adult books, my mom (who was mainly a mystery reader) introduced me to Dick Francis, Helen MacInnes, and Mary Stewart. I became a SFF reader when I ran across Andre Norton in the library, and a teacher loaned me The Hobbit. I found the teen-aimed romances dull and so didn’t read them – became a fan of Georgette Heyer in high school but still didn’t care for contemporary romances. When I was working on my PhD in the mid-80s I had gotten tired of most (not all) SF for what I recognize now as “male gaze” (e.g. an assumption that all young men had a constant interest in sex and evaluating women primarily on the basis of attractiveness.) I picked up a few romances that were set in locales that interested me, for relaxation reading, and discovered that they had a range of quality, and that the high end was excellent. Eventually I came back to SFF, as the wheel had turned and more things I liked were being published.

    My favorite Nevil Shute has always been A Town Like Alice, although I also like Pied Piper. Looking at the plot summary online, I don’t think I ever read Trustee From the Toolroom. Will have to go look it up.

    1. After learning that Sandhurst had Heyer’s “An Infamous Army” on a suggested reading list for their officer cadets, I once read Georgette Heyer’s “Civil Contract” while using Google to learn about people and events to figure out references I didn’t know. Heyer’s description of the treatment Jenny was undergoing from Richard Croft was exactly what happened to Princess Charlotte, the daughter of George IV. It’s sad Heyer never got the recognition in her life that she deserved as a meticulous researcher and creator of language. Apparently much of the slang in her books was her own creation after she realized she was being plagiarized.

      1. I think I need to find some Heyer and try again, particularly the ones you mention. She was recommended to me by someone years ago, and I tried a borrowed copy but just could not get into it. It’s weird how a book can be perfect for one person and just not do anything for another. Though I also find that sometimes I grow into books some years later than first contact. Too many people like and admire Heyer for me to feel there’s anything wrong with her–I’ve always felt kind of guilty that the one I tried just didn’t work (and I had a stack of other things I could read.)

    2. Some similar backgrounnd in reading. Teen-age romances, or the “books for girls” in the Scholastic books selections, bored me to tears. Tolkein “broke out” while I was in college; I was by then reading tons of SF and fantasy, and located The Hobbit in a downtown Houston bookstore…didn’t have a clue but fell right into it (even though, for a Texas reader ‘In a hole in the ground…” beginning immediately makes you think of rattlesnakes and scorpions, not anything furry footed and interesting. Didn’t take me long to catch on. From there I fell headlong into LOTR.) My first degree was in history, and I was reading a lot of ancient texts in translation (Greek & Roman mostly, but also some related stuff) and having found my first “magical” used book store in Houston, that’s where any extra dollars went. Archaeology, history, cultural anthropology, because I thought I’d end up with a doctorate in history. Then I read Dune and started diving into ecology as well, and considering (since Rice didn’t have much biology in that direction) where I might go later to learn more.

  8. So I am reading Unforgettable, Unforgotten by Anna Douglas – sister to the author of The 39 Steps. It is autobiographical in nature. In it, she mentions authors she herself reads – and in some cases she even knows the authors personally. So I have started to get them – I do not alway like them but it is nice to see other’s tastes.

  9. I find that some romances are fun but a lot of the modern ones are trope central and all about the No doesn’t really mean No which bothers me. I am finding that some of the newer YA has some good characterizations and POV that need to be heard/seen (I just finished The Silence Between Us which is about a deaf teen who just moved and is now going to a hearing HS and focuses on her and her relationships with people around her). A lot of what I read is not ‘high art’ but I enjoy it and that is what is most important. Some of the Black Stallion books are just sooo stupid but I still enjoyed them because of horses (though the blatant contradictions between books still annoys me). I find that I am semi-actively looking for Lyons books that I don’t have along with Glenn Balch and I think I have all the Henry and Doty books. Comfort reading is important.

  10. Heyer’s work varies greatly. Her early works are obviously trying to find her stride. She was very influenced by her father, brothers, and husband, I struggle a bit with her mysteries, (her husband was an attorney and outlined the plots). One of her books, can’t remember which, she wrote to a friend that she wasn’t happy with it because her brother and husband had their fingers in it. Some of the later ones she churned out just to try to make money because of her ongoing struggles with taxes and it shows! Just really silly romances.
    Considering your interests, I suggest Spanish Bride which is a biography of Harry Smith and follows the Napoleonic Wars; Infamous Army, and possibly Civil Contract. I like that one because she describes the issues of the engagements of Charlotte of Wales, the celebrations following abdication of Napoleon and his exile to Elba through Waterloo. The main POV is a soldier whose father died and he had to return home from the wars to try to save the family estates and marries the daughter of a wealthy businessman. So, he’s struggling with his desire to be back in the battles while he’s stuck in London and Cambridgeshire. His wife is a mousy, practical woman that he learns to care for, but it’s not easy for either of them. I didn’t like it as a kid because it is not your typical romance. There is an entire section that describes prenatal treatment by Richard Croft. It’s pretty realistic about what caused the death of Princess Charlotte. That is the one that I read using a search engine to dive deeper into all the actual historic people and events.

    Most of her books don’t have characters showing up from one book to the next, but four of them do. Her very first book is ‘The Black Moth’. She said she wrote it to amuse her brother when he was ill. She took some of those characters, changed the name, revised them and used them in “These Old Shades” The sister from Black Moth is still a featherhead in These Old Shades but she’s not quite as unlikeable. “Devil’s Cub” is about the son of the couple in These Old Shades and the sister and her children are in that one. Infamous Army starts right before Waterloo and the female lead in that one is the granddaughter of the couple of Devil’s Cub. Her timeline doesn’t fit, and that one is very serious.
    Two of her books are harder to find, one is about William the Conqueror and since I knew very little about Normandy it was an educational read, it starts when William was young, and discusses a lot of the battles in Normandy with the French and the drama between William and Harold before the Battle of Hastings. It’s from the POV of a soldier who joins William’s court when they are both young men.
    The other is set about the time of Agincourt and is called “Simon the Coldheart” it’s another she wrote when she was young and left instructions that it shouldn’t be republished but her son let it be reprinted after she died. A rather silly romance at the end, but a pretty good description of the Battle of Shrewsbury in the middle of the book. I’ve read reviews that say Heyer doesn’t do medieval language well at all.
    What I most appreciate about Heyer are her secondary characters, a smuggler in The Talisman Ring, the highway man and the maid in Toll Gate, the younger brother Felix in Frederica. So many. I’ll stop now.
    Oh, I was looking for info on Kings of the North on the Paksworld Blog and found an announcement for a podcast you did years ago about the time Deeds of Honor came out. After a bit of searching, I found it on youtube. The host said he lost sleep reading Deed and you said that was a great compliment. I want you to know that I’ve lost sleep many times reading your books and really hope to lose more in the future! I’m re-reading Echoes of Betrayal tonight.

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