This is only the second Georgette Heyer book I’ve read and it was very different to my first, The Talisman Ring, in setting, language and plot. The Masqueraders is set just after the Jacobite Rising of 1745 and follows the adventures of Prudence and her brother Robin. Along with their father (referred to by his children as ‘the old gentleman’) Robin had been involved in the failed Jacobite rebellion and is now in danger of being hanged. To prevent him being captured, the brother and sister have created new roles for themselves – Robin has disguised himself as the beautiful ‘Miss Merriot’ and Prudence has become the handsome young ‘Peter’. All very Shakespearean! Not surprisingly, this leads to a number of misunderstandings and narrow escapes.
Things get even more interesting when Prudence, still posing as Peter Merriot, begins to fall in love with Sir Anthony Fanshawe – and then ‘the old gentleman’ arrives on the scene, claiming to be the lost heir to the Barham fortune.
I found the story confusing and difficult to follow at first. I spent several chapters trying to work out exactly why Prudence and Robin had found it necessary to masquerade as people of the opposite sex and what they were hoping to achieve. It also took me a while to get used to the Georgian-style dialogue, with all the egads, alacks and other slang terms of the period.
Robin made a face at his sister. “The creature must needs play the mother to me, madam.”
“Madam, behold my little mentor!” Prudence retorted. “Give you my word I have my scoldings from him, and not the old gentleman. ‘Tis a waspish tongue, egad.”
After a few chapters, however, various parts of the story started to fall into place and then I had no problem understanding what was happening. I ended up enjoying this book more than The Talisman Ring, which surprised me as a lot of people have said that The Talisman Ring is their favourite Heyer, so I wasn’t expecting this one to be as good. There were many things that made this book such a success for me. I thought the Georgian setting, with its powdered wigs, card games, sword fights and duels, was perfectly portrayed. The plot was full of twists and turns that kept my interest right to the end. And I loved the characters. The calm and cool-headed Prudence was the perfect balance for the more impetuous Robin – and both were fun and likeable. Watching Prudence’s relationship with Sir Anthony develop was one of my highlights of the book. Robin’s romance with Letty Grayson, who knew him only as a masked man known as the Black Domino, was equally well written.
Most of all, I loved the ‘old gentleman’. He was conceited, arrogant and a scheming rogue – but he was also hilarious and capable of coming up with such ingenious schemes that maybe his arrogance was justified.
“Have you limitations, my lord?” asked Sir Anthony.
My lord looked at him seriously. “I do not know,” he said, with a revealing simplicity. “I have never yet discovered them.”
Having enjoyed both of the Georgette Heyer books I’ve read so far, I think I’m starting to become a fan and will definitely look out for more of her books!
Genre: Historical Fiction/Pages: 320/Publisher: Arrow/Year: 2005 (originally published 1928)/Source: Library book