Bookclub Discussion Questions: The Reluctant Widow
I've long told my bookclub I was going to make them read a romance novel, so this month, I did. Unfortunately, the one I chose -- The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer -- was a little slight on the romance angle, more of a mystery, really, but here were the questions I prepared.
1. Do you typically read romance novels? Why or why not?
2. What about other examples of what's thought of as 'genre fiction' as opposed to literary fiction -- horror, mystery, fantasy, sf, etc. Do you read any of them?
3. Georgette Heyer basically invented the Regency romance genre, attempting to emulate the novels of Jane Austen, with 150 years between them. If you've read Austen, does the Reluctant Widow genuinely compare? Were you aware of when the book was written? Would you have guessed if you didn't know?
4. Kathleen Woodiwiss is said to have invented 'modern romance' in 1972, with The Flame and The Flower, the first book to have followed the characters into the bedroom. Heyer's predates the bodice-ripper innovation, so there's no physical affection between the characters in her books (other than one kiss, typically). Do you have a preference for style?
5. One common criticism of romance novels is that the romance itself seems to arise out of nothing -- characters with little in common and no real reason to fall in love other than that they did. Did the romance itself feel believable in this novel?
6. What about the mystery element?
7. Genre tropes:
* mystery or farce elements in the plot
* references to the Ton (le bon ton)
* a secondary romance between another couple in addition to the more serious story involving the main protagonists
* mistaken identity, deliberate or otherwise
* false engagements
* marriages of convenience
* depictions of activities common during the social season such as balls, routs, carriage riding, theatre events, fittings, suppers, assemblies, etc.
* references to, or descriptions of, leisure activities engaged in by fashionable young men of the period, including riding, driving, boxing, gambling, fencing, shooting, etc.
8. A common subject of debate around Regencies is the level of details into things like carriages, pelisses, dances and the like. Did you find the world seems fully inhabitable or would you have liked more or less details about the setting?