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Sunday, August 29, 2010

cover of Heyer's 'The Masqueraders'

Prudence and Robin Tremaine are a brother and sister fleeing to London, and because Robin was involved in the Jacobite rebellion on the wrong side, they disguise themselves-- the tall Prudence pretends to be a young man, and the slight, elegant, talented actor Robin pretends to be the sister. On their way to London, they run into flighty young Letitia, who is eloping with a man because she thought it would be quite an adventure, but he turns out to be rather a brute and after her money. Robin and Prudence manage to rescue her shortly before Letitia's family friend, Anthony Fanshawe comes to help her-- a man so large that Robin teasingly calls him "the mountain" to his sister (a man large enough for so tall a girl). Anthony takes the young lad (Prudence) under his wing when they go to London, introducing him around and sponsoring him at the gentleman's club; meanwhile, Robin and Letitia become rather intimate friends (Robin has fallen in love with the silly girl, so on a few occasions-- like a masked ball-- he manages to be her mysterious, romantic hero). Eventually, Prudence and Robin's father comes to town-- he's an adventurer and master of disguise, and perhaps a bit of a con man, so even they aren't sure whether or not they can believe him when he claims to be the long lost son and heir to a nearby estate.

The main plot idea is not that different from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, but I found it stretching my credulity at times-- it's a bit hard to believe that a young man, however pretty, slightly-built, and convincing an actor, could pass for a female in high society for a great length of time. The struggles of Prudence as she attempts to pass for a young man are quite interesting, however; she attends the men's clubs with Anthony Fanshawe, and fortunately her father has taught her how to play cards and a few tricks with a sword-- but when she is gravely insulted by a man who has it out for her, she has to challenge him to a duel and even pretend to be excited about it - however much she may secretly quaver. The huge Anthony Fanshawe may seem to others to be slow and steady, a quiet man, but he is actually very clever, and discovers Prudence's secret before she realizes it - although of course they are both falling in love with each other. He takes care of her, first as a naive young lad new to the big city, and then as he realizes her predicament he takes care that she doesn't end up fighting the duel, and works to get Prudence to reveal herself to him and trust him.

Another fun, entertaining romp of a Heyer book - perhaps my least favorite of the ones I have read, due to my incredulity that everyone but Anthony Fanshawe was so dimwitted they couldn't see through the siblings' masquerade - but still an enjoyable read.

Title:The Masqueraders
Author:Georgette Heyer
Date published:1928
Number of pages:325
Notes:loan from Catey


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