The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer: B-

masqueradersFrom the back cover:
Temporarily abandoned by their scapegrace father, Prudence and Robin Lacey are forced to masquerade as the opposite sex to avoid capture by their political enemies.

Prue makes a devilishly handsome young man and her brother Robin is equally beguiling as her “sister.”

This, however, makes for some dangerous entanglements when Prue, as Mr. Merriot, falls in love with Sir Anthony, and her brother, posing as Miss Merriot, finds his heart struck by the lovely heiress, Letty Grayson…

Long have I nurtured a desire to read the works of Georgette Heyer, and what better place to start than the one with all the cross-dressing!

The Masqueraders is best described as a romantic farce. Siblings Prudence and Robin Lacey are the children of an exceedingly clever father who repeatedly gets them both involved in his schemes. Most recently, this involved being part of the Jacobite rebellion, causing them to go into hiding garbed as members of the opposite sex. Their father sends them to stay with a family friend where they are introduced into society as Peter and Kate Merriot.

Prudence, in the guise of Peter, begins to develop affection for the large and observant Sir Anthony Fanshawe while Robin, as Kate, comes to feel for a young heiress called Letty Grayson. To top it off, their father soon arrives, claiming to be Tremaine of Barham, heir to a Viscounty. Because he is an infuriatingly circumspect fellow, he won’t give them a straight answer as to whether he really is this person or if it’s just another of his masquerades, and both children have their doubts. Insert into this narrative blooming romance, a surly rival for Letty’s affections, a masked ball, a second claimant, a duel avoided, a duel provoked, a rescue, a death, an arrest, a subsequent rescue, and a pleasant though predictable ending and one gets an idea of the nature of this lighthearted tale.

While I did enjoy reading The Masqueraders, it never succeeded in surprising me any. Too, I found the siblings’ father to be quite tiresome—especially his tendency to proclaim himself a great man—and never did see what Robin liked so much about Letty other than her looks; her head is full of thoughts of romance and little else. More to my liking was the pairing of Prudence and Sir Anthony. Stolid and wry, he’s a likable fellow and also admires Prudence for the best of reasons, citing that he has never once seen her betray fear or lose her head.

All in all, this is a frothy confection that amuses without offering much substance. Still, I definitely liked it will enough to persevere in my goal of reading all of Heyer’s works. I know her fans are many, so if anyone has any particular recommendations of what I ought to read next, I’d be happy to receive them.

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  1. Perhaps this was explained, but how does it help disguise them to have a brother and sister dressed up as… a brother and sister? I would think if you’re looking for a male and a female it doesn’t much matter that they’ve essentially swapped identities!! Two girls or two boys would make far more sense.

    • That’s actually not explained. The fact that they get introduced into society also puzzled me greatly, but it was apparently all an egomaniacal plot of their father’s who wanted them in a position to witness his triumph as he claimed the Viscounty.

  2. mmmkay.

  3. Given that the son is diminutive and the daughter quite tall, it might be argued that anyone on the lookout for such a pair would be easily thrown off by a gender switch. By the same token, entry into high society would probably afford more protection from the authorities than hiding in barns and cheap inns.

    On the other hand, it IS rather silly. But the early Heyer books are especially gimmicky, and the device has offered rich possibilities since the time of Shakespeare.


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