The other day, I was talking with a friend. We both enjoy Regency romances. We’ve read scores of them over the decades. And we were joking about some of the horrid covers that some otherwise good books sport.
She pointed out something that I hadn’t thought of. The books usually feature the heroine on the cover, and while the cover artists wouldn’t dream of putting a Regency heroine in a miniskirt or blue jeans, the woman inside the clothes matches the period the book was published rather than the Regency period. So you’ll see a young lady from an era where only ‘lightskirts’ wore makeup, and she’s got bright pink lips and blue eyelids.
I went back and looked at my Regency collection, some bought new and some gleaned from the finest used book stores from coast to coast. And I came across what must be the all-time worst cover of a Georgette Heyer.
Now, when it comes to Regencies, Heyer is the gold standard. She invented the genre. She set the standard that a Regency is not just a romance set in a particular time period, but is a book with a certain tone, light-hearted and with a good seasoning of humor. The best of the rest are praised as ‘almost as good as Heyer’.
And among the Heyers, one of the best is Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle. To refresh your memory (because of course you’ve read it!), the heroine, Phoebe, is a shy young lady with mousy brown hair, whose London Season was an uninteresting flop.
My copy of Sylvester appears to be the first US paperback edition. Yes, from the 1950s. And without further ado, here is the Worst Heyer Cover Ever:
Mousy little Phoebe, a glamorous blonde in 50s era eyeliner? I wouldn’t call the clothes exactly Regency either – three-quarters sleeves? That’s 50s, not Regency.
And that… that… HAT! It’s not Regency, it’s not 50s – was there ever a time in human history when that Hat-like Thing was fashionable?
The whole thing reminds me of a movie poster from an alternate universe. Say – Breakfast At Tiffany’s – starring Doris Day.