A Fine Romance: Meriol Trevor and Georgette Heyer

A Fine Romance: Meriol Trevor and Georgette Heyer

When I was in college my best friend Stephanie introduced me to Georgette Heyer. I wasn’t at all interested in romance novels, but I was on holiday and like many intelligent readers I’ve since met, I let myself get swept away. I found Heyer’s historical romances sparkling and witty, sometimes a bit formulaic, but never lurid, tawdry or sex-charged. (A.S. Byatt has a lovely essay about Heyer’s popularity among academic women, which I can’t find, but it referenced here: 

An Honorable Escape:Georgette Heyer Remakes Jane Austen.) I was soon scouring libraries and used bookstores for hard-to-find Heyer titles. (While we’re at it, here’s a lovely little portrait of the Ferociously Reticent Heyer, also by A.S. Byatt.)

Which is all a very roundabout way to come at how very delighted I was when I stumbled across romance novels written by Meriol Trevor. It was the same sort of revelation I’d had with Heyer. Only, perhaps, even better.

I first met Meriol Trevor in her delightful children’s novels: Sun Slower Sun Faster and the Letzenstein Chronicles. Sun Slower Sun Faster is one of my favorite children’s books of all time, a beautiful historical novel, riffing on the time travel genre, but with a definite Catholic twist. Highly recommended to those who like British history. The Letzenstein Chronicles are a fast-paced action adventure series that take place in both Britain and in the fictional kingdom of Letzenstein, which is a thinly-veiled counterpart to the countries of Luxembourg and Lichtenstein.

I’ll likely come back to those in another blog post, but now I want to talk about her two series of romance novels: the Warstowe Saga and the Luxembourg series, which are both, blessedly, available on Kindle (at least the last two books of the Luxembourg series are not, but all of the Warstowe books are, I believe. 

When I picked up The Wanton Fires, the first of Trevor’s romances I encountered, I had the same feeling I’d had when I discovered Heyer. And also a sense almost of deja vu? And a growing thrill. I had found a new, Catholic, Heyer!

Like Heyer’s, Trevor’s romances are the kind you won’t worry about your daughters getting a hold of. There’s no sex, all the romances end in marriage. There is some discussion of mesalliances and out-of-wedlock children, etc. But you can also see the problems with those sorts of situations playing out in the lives of the characters so entangled— and those of the children involved as well.

Trevor tends to fairly large casts of characters with lots of children running around. Both series are composed of loosely linked romance novels where each subsequent book is a romance featuring characters who are minor or tangential in the previous novel. Sometimes literally minor, like a child in the background in the first book is now old enough in the third book to have romance on the mind. Oh and in the meantime you can see how that first marriage is settling in and now your romantic hero and heroine now have a passel of kids running about. I really enjoy that feature, of seeing children as being a big part of marriage and family life. It’s not quite so present in Heyer. Also, some, though not all, of Meriol Trevor’s characters are Catholics and faith sometimes plays a minor role in the stories.

This blog post was getting long, so I’m serializing it. This is the first in what I hope to be a series of posts on Meriol Trevor’s fiction.

PART 2: The Warstowe Saga, Trevor’s Regency Romance

(I did blog about them previously, in my book notes, here; but I think these short reviews need polishing up and deserve a new post all of their own.)

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  • […] Previously I compared the Warstowe Saga to Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances. Now, Meriol Trevor doesn’t come across as the meticulous researcher that Heyer is. She’s much less concerned with details of slang, clothing, carriages, snuff boxes and so forth– so if that’s the sort of thing you like about Heyer, then there’s not so much of that historical color. Rather, Trevor’s passion is character, and she situates her romantic leads in big families and complex webs of relationships. Often in her novels there are children who play a significant role in the story who then, in subsequent books, grow up to be romantic heroes and heroines themselves. In the Letzenstein Chronicles, her juvenile series, the children are the protagonists while adult romances are a background subplot. In her romance novels, the dynamic flips and the adult romances are the primary plot, while the children’s adventures are the subplots. In addition to character, Trevor is very interested in the story’s setting; and place– whether it’s Cornwall, France, Luxembourg, or Italy– plays an important role in the books. It is clear that Trevor is drawing from life, writing about places she loves. […]