I’m a big Georgette Heyer fan and have been ever since I read her pale green spined hardbacks from the school library in my early teens (anyone else remember those, enhanced by their clear, crackly library covers in my case?), I’ve read loads of her novels while I’ve had this blog (this gives you a search for all the mentions) and I’ve even read a biography of her. But it was only when She Reads Novels reviewed this volume herself that I realised Heyer had also written short stories! That’s such a pretty cover, isn’t it, by the way – I think I’m going to have to buy myself a paper copy of this.

So it turns out this is a re-issue of a volume titled “Pistols for Two” with the addition of some early stories that haven’t really been seen since they were originally published. I have to say that you can’t see a change in the quality between these very early ones and the later ones. Yes, there are repeats of themes, but it is – of course – an absolute delight, as enchanting as one of her large-eyed heroines, if you like this sort of thing (and yes, it can be considered genre, but it’s so well written and so well researched, with such high quality, NOT a guilty pleasure, just a simple pleasure).

The stories are of the same quality and tone as the novels, and each could be the kernel of a longer work – there’s perhaps just a little less detail and fewer set-pieces, as they’re harder to get across in the short story form. We have naughty heroines with mops of ringlets, unwilling elopers, steady soldiers with no fortune, grave governesses with large grey eyes (I love her governesses the best, I think), chaps who think they’re the Pink of the Ton, chaps who actually are, carriage crashes, unfortunate duels, races to Gretna Green, cross, forbidding guardians and cases of mistaken identity – all the elements you’d expect of a good Heyer. There are plenty of twists to give a satisfying read (although if you’re a Heyer fan, you’ll probably guess them: it doesn’t matter, though), and although there’s some pretty rapid falling in love, it’s usually in a context where a visit will be paid to Mama to ask if she will accept a courtship, so it doesn’t seem rushed for convenience’s sake.

There are darker themes, with one quite nasty gambling scene (only nasty in the Heyer scale!) and the story of a scary pub with a slightly alarming moleskin waistcoat, but they’re mainly light, sparkling and just what you’d hope for, not a dud among them. I particularly liked the generational mishaps in “A Husband for Fanny” but all are equally good value and highly readable.

Thank you to the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, for making this available via NetGalley.