by Georgette Heyer
The Honorable Christopher Fancot takes leave from his diplomatic post to return to London because he has a feeling something is wrong with his twin Evelyn, Lord Denville. Their mother reveals Evelyn hasn't been home in over a week and she is very worried. Evelyn is due to visit his potential bride's family soon and if he isn't home in time then Kit will have to take his place. Kit and his twin used to change places frequently as children for a lark but this is different. Kit agrees believing the masquerade to last only one night. He is surprised to find his brother's intended an intelligent and interesting young lady and her dragon of a grandmother not so formidable as he had feared. He almost regrets that Evelyn must marry this girl out of convenience. When Evelyn still doesn't return home, Kit and Lady Denville head to their country home to search for clues. When Cresy's grandmother invites herself and her granddaughter to visit, Kit has no choice but to continue the masquerade. Can he convince everyone he's his brother? Does he really want to? Is there someone he would rather reveal his true self to?
This is a story of deception Georgette Heyer style. I normally hate that kind of thing because I believe in honesty and plain speaking. However, I found this book largely enjoyable, if not predictable. The second half was funnier than the first and contains a lot more of Heyer's trademark period cant. I found it a little excessive and annoying in this novel. It didn't quite flow as seamlessly as it does in some of her other books. I liked the romance a lot and was impressed that there was (read between the lines) passionate kissing in the middle without explicitly stating so. I didn't remember that from my first reading.
I'm not super crazy about the characters in this novel. Kit seems like a better man than Evelyn. Evelyn is rackety and though not exactly rakish, he's careless and forgetful which causes him to appear like a rake. Kit is more thoughtful and intelligent than his older brother but I wasn't enamored with him either. He's too indulgent of his mother and even his brother's bad behavior. I thought he was a bit too close to his mother. Their relationship was more like friends or close siblings than mother and son. He improved a lot, in my opinion, once he met Cressy and got to know her better. Amabel, Lady Denville, is the most annoying, immature mother of a main character in all of Heyer's novels. She's so flighty and unintelligent that she drove me crazy. I wanted to be sympathetic because she wasn't brought up to understand money and debt and that sort of thing. She was married at a young age to a man who didn't love her but plenty of other characters in the Regency world as defined by Heyer make do and learn. Amabel is very similar to Nell in April Lady.
Cressy is the one character I really liked. She's sharp, intelligent and not a typical gently bred young lady. Her experiences living alone with her father make her more aware of the gentleman's world and how women fit into it. She isn't phased by anything and has a great sense of humor. As always, Heyer's secondary characters really shine.
Bonamy is a great character. He's a portly middle-aged follower of the Prince Regent and should therefore not be all that likable. In the hands of Heyer, even a character other characters dislike can be a delight. His constant raptures over food were a bit much but he's a kind and loving friend and his dialogue is funny, especially at the end. My second favorite secondary character is Clara's mother. She's clearly not quite the thing and an extortionist but too too funny. I can easily conjure up a mental picture of her. My third favorite secondary character is Cressy's grandmama. If this ever makes it to TV or film any time soon, she will be played by Maggie Smith. She's the Regency version of Lady Violet Crawley - a tough old lady who seems scary but has a good heart inside and wants what's best for her family.
I enjoyed this book more than I remembered.