Guest Review by Alexa Adams of First Impressions
When their Great-uncle Matthew, the miserly Mr. Penicuik, summons his five unmarried nephews to Arnside House, only four oblige him. Unfortunately, one of these attendees, already being married, was not even invited, a fact that delights the somewhat slow Lord Dolphinton, who torments the unwelcome Lord Biddenden by recounting the many times their host has mentioned the fact: “‘Said it when we sat down to luncheon,’ he continued, ticking the occasion off on one bony finger. ‘Said it at dinner. Said if you didn’t care for your mutton you needn’t have come because he didn’t invite you.’” But as Lord Biddenden’s most eligible brother, Claude Rattray, is away on campaign, and his other brother, the Reverend Hugh Rattray, can be depended on to make “a ramshackle business” of it, he feels his supervisory presence is unquestioningly required at Arnside. Yet there was only one great-nephew whose company Mr. Pencuik really desired – his favorite, the rakish Jack Westruther – and he has failed to put in an appearance.
As Uncle Matthew’s explicit purpose in collecting his nephews about him was to announce his outrageous intention of allowing his ward, Miss Kitty Charing, to choose amongst them a husband, Jack’s absence is of great chagrin to both himself and Kitty, who has “fancied herself in love with him for years”. After declining Lord Dolphinton’s proposal, which his domineering mother has forced him to make, as well as Hugh’s, who presents his suit with all the sensibility of Jane Austen’s Mr. Collins, Kitty reacts as every proper Heyer heroine must in such an unsavory predicament; declaring that she does not want her guardian’s “odious fortune”, that she would “rather wear the willow” all her days, she promptly runs away.
In the world of Georgette Heyer, a damsel in distress will always fall under the care of an obliging gentleman, in this case, Mr. Penicuik’s remaining nephew, the Honorable Freddy Standen. Though this “veritable Tulip, or Bond Street Beau, none but a regular Dash”, has never impressed his family with anything other than his impeccable taste, Kitty confides in him over an ill-conceived bowl of punch (not at all the thing) at a nearby hostelry. Convincing him to agree to a sham engagement, she travels to London in his company in order to both “cut a dash” and confronts Jack. Thus commences Cotillion, one of my very favorite Heyer novels, and the fallout from this ill-conceived ruse leads this colorful cast through a series of outrageous predicaments. Freddy surprises everyone by rising to the occasion as each scrape unfolds with the exquisite aplomb of Heyer’s best heroes, the cut conveyed by his well-aimed quizzing glass as deadly as any sword. Four happy couples emerge at the conclusion, each having been expertly led through an intricate set of steps that gracefully lands them precisely where they belong. This is Heyer at her best, the force of her comic genius tantalizing the reader’s senses like the daring glimpses of petticoat revealed during the dance that gives the novel its name.
Cotillion, by Georgette Heyer
Trade paperback (362) pages
A lover of Jane Austen since her childhood, Alexa Adams is the author of First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice and writes about Austen (and sometimes Heyer) at her blog of the same name. Currently, she is working on the sequel to First Impressions as well as a series of short stories, published serially on her blog under the title Janeicillin, in which she extends the ends of Austen’s novels by imagining events as they might have occurred between the proposals and the weddings. She lives in the Delaware Valley with her husband and two cats. You can follow Alexa on Twitter as ElegantExtracts.
Celebrating Georgette Heyer – Day 11 Giveaway
Enter a chance to win one copy of Cotillion, by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2007) by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about the plot or characters, or if you have read it, which is your favorite character or scene by midnight Pacific time, Monday, September 6th, 2010. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, September 7th, 2010. Shipment to the continental US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!
Day 12 Aug 20 – Review: The Toll-Gate
Day 12 Aug 20 – Review: Bath Tangle
Day 13 Aug 22 – Review: Sprig Muslin
Day 13 Aug 22 – Review: April Lady