Monday, January 4, 2010

The Masqueraders

What a wonderful way to begin a new year of reading - lost in the pages of yet another excellent novel by Georgette Heyer.The Masqueraders might just be my new favorite; it certainly equaled The Grand Sophy and Arabella. Luckily I had New Year's Day off; I could barely put down this Georgian-era, wildly romantic adventure story.

Prudence and her brother, Robin, have lived their lives at the center of their opportunistic father's wild plots and intrigues. Their involvement in the recent Jacobite rebellion has left Robin with a traitor's sentence hanging over his head, so they decide to hide in plain sight - mingling in London society, Robin disguised as a fetching, vivacious young woman, and Prudence as a dashing young man.

The siblings play their roles to perfection but inwardly begin to chafe at the masquerade, especially when both lose their hearts - Robin to the enchanting Letitia Grayson, and Prudence to Sir Anthony Fanshawe, a distinguished mountain of a man. Then their flamboyant father arrives in London to launch his most daring scheme yet - to claim the title and riches of a viscount. Will he succeed in making himself and his children respectable? Can Robin and Prue ever abandon their disguises and declare themselves to their true loves? Is this a Georgette Heyer novel?

The plot was deliciously convoluted, humorous and suspenseful, but once again, Heyer's wonderfully drawn characters charmed me the most. I adored Prue, who played the part of a courageous young man with such wit and resourcefulness, but retained a womanly desire for a lover to cherish her, and even to take care of her. I also loved how her brother Robin threw himself so unreservedly into a woman's role, even while inwardly itching to cast aside his petticoats in favor of a sword or pistol.

The siblings' adventurer father was an absolute scream: a man of unshakable confidence and breathtaking audacity who puffed himself up like a peacock and proclaimed his genius to anyone who would listen. (And, darn it, the way he brought his intrigues to a successful conclusion made at least some of that bragging justified!) My favorite character, though, was the seemingly indolent Sir Anthony, an endlessly fascinating man with a sharper eye and quicker wit than anyone suspected and with the capacity, beneath his respectable surface, to throw himself headlong into danger for love's sake. He and Prue were well matched, indeed, and I will admit, their romance set my heart all aflutter. Sigh.

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