Thursday, November 02, 2023

Controversial "updated" editions of romance (and also details of some new publications)

K. J. Charles (on BlueSky, which I don't think I can link to) posted a link to a New York Times article about

new editions of Heyer with the antisemitism removed. I'm not honestly sure how I feel about that. She *was* antisemitic and racist, and if it is going to be done, there should absolutely be an afterword saying it was done.

I feel the same. The author of the New York Times article, the appropriately named Alexandra Alter, states that:

When Heyer’s American publisher, Sourcebooks, decided to release new editions of her romances this year, they had to strike a precarious balance. Leaving the original scene could repel some readers. But changing it risked provoking a backlash from fans and scholars who see posthumous revisions as a form of literary reputation laundering, or censorship.

After a lengthy back and forth with the Heyer estate, Sourcebooks made small but significant changes to “The Grand Sophy.” In the new version, the moneylender’s name has been changed to Grimpstone. References to his Jewish identity and appearance have been deleted, along with other negative generalizations about Jews.

Acknowledgment of the changes appears on the copyright page, which says “this edition has been edited from the original with permission of the Georgette Heyer Estate.”

Originally, Sourcebooks had brought in Mary Bly/Eloisa James to write introductions to all the new editions but "After the estate declined to include Bly’s explanation of the changes in an afterword, she quit the project."

The acknowledgment which will be included is, presumably, in small print and rather easy to miss, which is what makes this solution problematic to me from an academic perspective (which as our subtitle states, is what Teach Me Tonight's all about). While the publication of a text which includes such changes may in itself be of interest to future scholars of Heyer for what it implies about Heyer's ongoing status in the genre and the attitude of the Heyer estate, and may also be of wider interest because of what it might tell us about the economic calculations made by this publisher, and their assessments of the preferences/attitudes of twenty-first century readers, none of these questions will arise in the minds of scholars who use this edition of the text while unaware that it has been changed. And, obviously, a scholar's close reading of the text, and their assessment of Heyer and her oeuvre, will undoubtedly be flawed if they base their analysis on this text without being aware of its altered status.

In a comment attached to the New York Times article a reader called "emmel" observed that:

There was a major incident this past summer when romance readers discovered that Lisa Kleypas updated about 50% of her beloved Secrets of a Summer Night to meet "today's" standards versus those of 2004, when the book was published. Readers were horrified that major elements had been changed (which many perceived to be detrimental to understanding the hero's actions) with no notification in the 2021 edition. (This was discovered in a group read when the readers couldn't understand one another's reactions until they deduced the editions had fundamental differences.) So notifications and explanations are vital; you can't just say it's been "updated."

I found some discussion about that at and another, Reddit discussion mentioning another Kleypas novel which has been significantly altered: . I'm not sure if there was even a note made on the copyright pages of the texts themselves that changes had been made. Maybe someone more knowledgeable can let me know? Do you know of any other romances which have been reprinted in an updated, significantly altered, version that don't make it clear what's been done?

By the way, if any regular readers of Teach Me Tonight would like an invite code to BlueSky, I have a couple available. Let me know via the contact form on my website: !


On to new, scholarly, publications:


Garciano, Shylyn G., Cuevas, Gloria Con-ui, Geraldizo-Pabriga, Maria Gemma Macabodbod, Saira Jay J. Yu, Jaciah Mae B. Pinote, Ma. Jezan A. (2023). "Romance-Themed Novels: Influenced on Relationship Satisfaction." International Journal of Literature Studies 3.3:35-48. 

Garton, Stephen (2023). "Return Fantasies: Martial Masculinity, Misogyny and Homosocial Bonding in the Aftermath of Second World War." Gender & History ONLINE FIRST. Open access (and it complements an earlier article which is behind a paywall).

Olkusz, Ksenia (2021). "Stripping The Vampire. Erotic Imaginations and Sexual Fantasies In Paranormal Romances (A Study Of Selected Examples)." Manifestations of Male Image in the World's Cultures. Ed. Renata Iwicka, Kraków: Jagiellonian University Press. 137-156. [Details can be found here. Although it was published in 2021, the electronic version from Cambridge University Press only became available in October 2023. An open access version written in Polish was published in 2015 and details about that can be found here.]

van Hattum, Fatima Y. (2023). "Orientalist Public Pedagogy: Visual Representation of Muslims in Pop Culture and Desert Romance Novels." Thesis from the University of New Mexico. It's embargoed until 2025. 


  1. Regarding altered editions:

    Elizabeth Lowell used to reissue her oldest category titles as full length novels under a different title as soon as she got her rights back, without any notice--other than the small print on the copyright notice. Many old fans were deceived into buying essentially the same book twice, with a lot of tedious nothing added on to pad the word count; newer readers didn't much care for the 'new' old books, because the padding diluted what had made the original category-length books work so well.

  2. For some bizarre reason, Blogger/Google aren't cooperating, so although I'm logged in and can post, Blogger's decided it can't recognise my identity when it comes to leaving a comment so I had to add my name manually. Really odd! Anyway, back on topic...

    I can understand changing the cover, because I assume that the image/design belong to the artist and/or publisher, but changing the title goes beyond that. Maybe she meant well and thought that she was offering something new because she'd added extra material (which, presumably, she felt improved the work) but it doesn't seem right to me to adapt/change an original work and not make that clear.

    1. It felt very much like betrayal; I didn't know about the Kleypas, and now I'm wondering what version I read, and whether I've done a disservice to people recommending it if they happen to find the older version in the wild.

      For Elizabeth Lowell, it lost her a lot of good will among long time readers with limited disposable income (back then, it was all print, and single titles were considerably more expensive than categories), and those books didn't seem to do well with newer readers--the writing voice didn't match her own in single title length (the padding was awkward) and some of the elements just don't play well in longer books. Among my small online circle of that time, several people eventually stopped reading anything new by her, in fact.

  3. Yes, there's the financial cost of having paid for something you don't want, and also the emotional let-down of thinking that you've got a new book by one of your favourite authors and really looking forward to it and then you don't get the anticipated experience. I can definitely see how readers would lose trust and not feel like buying more of her books.

    I have an example of Mills & Boon updating a book. In the 1944 edition of Mary Burchell's Dearly Beloved there's "It's just like a film. Did you see that one where Ginger Rogers married her boss? He was awfully stern [...] but he loved her like anything in the end." (124) [the ellipses are because I'm reading off a very blurred photocopy of the page in question.

    In the 1968 edition it's changed to: "It's just like a film. Did you see that one where Julie Andrews married her boss? He was awfully stern too, but he loved her like anything in the end" (124)

    The title page doesn't mention that any changes have been made.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I just thought of another instance:

      Kasey Michaels announced to her newsletter subscribers, that she was re-releasing "clean" versions of her backlist, so that her readers "could share those books you've loved" with their mothers/daughters.

      (I just checked the copyright pages of some of the digital editions, and it has both the original year of publication and the year of the digital version, but there's no notice about changes or deletions.)

    3. Thanks! Well, if just the two of us are managing to come up with this many examples, there must be more, which makes me think this is something that scholars really do need to be aware of. I'll go and mention this elsewhere and see if more examples pop up!

    4. I understand the impetus--more income, a new audience, 'fixing' iffy stuff (like instances of dubious consent in Kleypas' case), freshening dated cultural references (Mary Burchell), and so on--but it's dishonest not to put a foreword to that effect in the new version.

      We all already read 'different' books in the sense that we bring our own baggage to the reading experience, but this practice will make it very iffy to recommend books, since we can't know that the book we bought and the book the next reader buys have the same content (and not just digital editions either, though I'm sure those are easiest/cheapest for publishers and authors to alter)

    5. Yes, I agree there are valid reasons in favour of changes and I was thinking that it's not necessarily intended to be disrespectful to either text or reader. After all, there are children's versions of the Bible, and translation always introduces changes of some sort, so shortening or changing may be done to make a text more accessible. As you say, though, the key is whether the changes are explicitly acknowledged or not.

      And your point about how all of this affects recommending is a really good one, and I wouldn't have thought of it because I don't tend to offer recommendations.

  4. So, I've gathered a few more examples by asking around.

    Jonathan Allan mentioned that Francine Rivers's Redeeming Love was reworked by her. I couldn't check if there's anything in the later version(s) about this, but it's definitely mentioned on her website.

    Jodi McAlister mentioned that Jackie Collins reworked The Bitch and linked to this article in which Collins discusses it. I also found that Collins says on her website, in a description of the book, that "This book has been completely re-written, updated and revised for 2012." Again, I've not checked inside any editions.

    GrowlyCub remembered an author who'd updated a text to include mobile phones, but unfortunately that made the plot implausible. Growly also said that Carla Kelly had issued revised ebook versions of some (all?) of her regencies. I couldn't find much about that, but perhaps I wasn't looking properly? Maybe others will remember more details and know if Kelly discussed this. I do have a feeling that she mentioned something about her work changing direction due to religious beliefs, but maybe that was a completely different author and I got confused.

    And not romance, but Adele Buck recalled that she'd "had a hardback copy of Little Women as a kid. It was abridged so it ended before Beth died." And there wasn't even any mention anywhere in/on the book that it was abridged!

    1. Sorry, I must have forgotten to close a set of italics and I don't think I can get back in to the comment to edit it. Hope they're not too distracting.