” The hoax, at no time acceptable to him, had begun to assume the colour of an unforgivable piece of chicanery. ” [10:157]
Romance comedy with depth is my impression of this novel. It must have been telepathy that Christopher Kit Fancot can sense his twin brother is in trouble. On leave from diplomatic service and returning home, Kit finds his brother Evelyn has disappeared, and his spendthrift mother, Lady Denville, who always ends up spending more when she practices economy, in mounting debts. Now the Fancot family’s fortunes depend on Evelyn’s imminent marriage to Cressy Stavely, and her formidable grandmother’s approval of the match. If Evelyn fails to meet the Dowager Lady Stavely as planned, the betrothal will be off and Evelyn’s uncle would never wind up the trust.
I don’t know how it is, but when you came here last night I—I had almost decided to tell you it would not do. Thinking about it, not seeing you again after that interrupted talk—which was attended by a good deal of awkwardness, was it not? [5:85]
To spare Evelyn, who is flirtatious but charming, the humiliation, Lady Fancot persuades Kit to impersonate his brother at the stipulated dinner with the Stavelys. What was meant to be a one-night masquerade becomes a tangled sequence of comical events that engages Kit’s heart far more deeply than he’d ever anticipated with his brother’s fiancée. The sheer opposite direction to which events nudge as the ironical result are what make this book so fun to read. How Kit has to keep up the pretense, which, once having entered into, and couldn’t abandon show how Heyer is a writer of wit and style. The row between Dowager Lady and Stavely and Kit’s mother adds splashes of humor and mitigates the tension that Kit might betray himself in an unguarded moment.
She is the most odious old witch in the world, and she always overpowers me, ever since I was a child, and positively dreaded her! Oh, she is too abominable! Would you believe it?—the instant she clapped eyes on me, she said that she saw I had taken to dyeing my hair! [8:113]
But there is a twist even unbidden to Kit, whose own affections might be very thoroughly engaged. It seems incredible to him that Cressy, apparently impervious to Evelyn’s charm, has fallen in love with him. How would the masquerade conclude, and more piquantly, if it will conclude in a happy manner? For it would take more than mere liking to overcome the revulsion she must surely feel if he told her how outrageously she had been deceived.
341 pp. [Read/
Skim/ Toss] [Buy/ Borrow]