Heyer, Georgette. False Colours.

NY: Dutton, 1964.

Georgette Heyer’s later Regency romances generally hewed to a well-loved and provably successful formula, but that’s not really a criticism because the details of each plot varied so greatly, the reader never knew what would happen next — except that everything would work out in the end.

This time, the focus is on the twenty-four-year-old Fancot twins: Evelyn, the very slightly older one, who has been Earl of Denville since the recent death of their father, and his brother, Christopher — known to all as “Kit” — presently serving as a very junior diplomat with the Allies at the Congress of Vienna and seemingly set on a notable career in politics. As twins reportedly do, Kit has had a strong premonition that something has happened to his brother and has hurried home to consult with his mother, the endearingly profligate and scatterbrained Lady Denville, still an accredited beauty at forty-three. The late Lord Denville was, we soon discover, a PITA, and his will stipulated that his eldest son’s inheritance would be held in trust by his uncle until he was thirty, unless the latter chose to end it earlier. Evelyn, greatly annoyed by this delay, has ignored his estates by way of sulky revenge and has become a borderline libertine — which does nothing to advance his case with Uncle Henry. But Lady Denville has gone very, very deeply in debt over the years. Moreover, because she had kept the extent of her spending a secret from her late husband, her own legacy didn’t begin to cover it — and her creditors are getting restless. Her sons are devoted to her and Evelyn, knowing the only way to pay off all her bills is to get hold of his inheritance, decides the only thing to do is to get married, which would convince Uncle Henry that he has settled down. He approaches Cressida Stavely (Lady Denville’s goddaughter) and proposes a marriage of convenience — which suits Cressy, because her father’s new (and very young) wife is terribly jealous of her stepdaughter and wants her out of the house anyway. But then Evelyn disappears. Lady Denville is frantic because the young earl was supposed to go and meet the Stavely family the very day after Kit’s providential arrival and if he doesn’t show up, the insult to all concerned would scotch everyone’s plans. What to do? Well, . . . what if Kit were to impersonate his brother at the Stavely gathering? They’ve played that prank many times before, with great success. Kit doesn’t like it — it isn’t just an adolescent lark this time — but he finally gives in and dresses up in his brother’s clothes, and off he goes. And then — you knew this was coming — he falls for Cressy himself.

That’s the lengthy set-up and Heyer rings all the comic changes one could imagine on the situation. As always, her supporting cast is multi-dimensional, from the corpulent and extremely wealthy baronet who has been Lady Denville’s good friend and greatest admirer for several decades to Cressy’s grandmother, the Dowager Lady Stavely, a Tartar who can reduce any young whippersnapper to jelly with a few acid comments. This drawing-room comedy is not what one could call serious literature, any more than an Agatha Christie mystery, but it’s a very well written and vastly entertaining romp.

Published in: on 7 May 2012 at 6:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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