Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Review: Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
Pages: 316 (Putnam Hardback)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Regency Romance
My Rating: 4.8/5
My Source: Library
The short of it: A very light and humorous regency romance by Georgette Heyer, with very well-drawn characters and an interesting plot. I recommend this book for the avid romance reader as well as those who are not too fond of the romance genre, but enjoy a well-written narrative filled with humor and delightful characters.
The long of it: This is a book by the master of regency romances, Georgette Heyer. The year in 1815 or thereabouts and the setting is London and its vicinities during the British regency. Kitty Charing, a lively, smart, charming young woman is potentially a young heiress. However, her rich and miserly old guardian Mr. Penicuik has one condition under which she can inherit - she has to marry one of his several grand nephews. This condition brings on a couple of offers from nephews she has no interest in; but the one grand nephew, Jack Westruther, on whom she has had a crush for a long time does not propose. To incite his jealousy, Kitty pretends to be engaged to Freddy Standen, another of the many grand nephews, and goes to London to stay with his family. The rest of the story is a hilarious narration of the events that unfold out of this decision, with several romantic plots taking place at the same time. A cotillion is a nineteenth century dance involving several couples and partner exchanges, and is indeed an apt title for this story.
This was my first Georgette Heyer novel. I am a big fan of Jane Austen, and Georgette Heyer had been recommended to me by several friends as her romances are also set in the British Regency period. However, I found Heyer's narrative technique and characters to have more in common with those of P. G. Wodehouse than of Jane Austen. The multiple romantic plots with mix-ups are very Wodehousian. The earls, viscounts, and baronets who punctuate this book bring to mind the members of the upper crust in Wodehouse's books. Even names seem familiar - Hannah Plymstock brought to mind Wodehouse's Tipton Plimsoll, while Lord Dolphinton bears some resemblance to Lord Emsworth. Freddy Standen reminded me of Bertie Wooster, though a more intelligent version who did not require a Jeeves in waiting.
Every character in this book is developed very well - but particular mention must be made of Kitty Charing and Freddy Standen. Kitty had my sympathy from page one - an intelligent, strong willed young woman, good at heart, wanting to help lovers in distress, and not really thinking very much about her own future. Freddy Standen is not your typical romantic hero - he is not tall or handsome and quite the dandy. He spends more time adjusting his neckcloth and scolding his sister for her bad taste in dress than sweeping you off your feet. Indeed, he is not at all impressed with young gallants like Walter Scott's young Lochinvar who carried away the woman he loved from under the very nose of her intended bridegroom. "Sounds to me like a dashed loose-screw" is all Freddy has to say of young Lochinvar! Freddy, is in spite of his quirks, the most decent, honest, and simple man in the book, and I found myself wishing that he, and not one of the others, will win Kitty's hand at the end.
I tend to be skeptical of the romance genre as a whole, though I love a light romance a la P. G. Wodehouse and fun characters, and this book suited my taste to a T. I enjoyed this book very much, heartily recommend it, and definitely plan to read more of Heyer.
This book counts toward two challenges - The Awesome Author Challenge hosted by At Home With Books, and the Typically British Reading Challenge hosted by bookchickcity.
This book is also part of the Book Review Party Wednesday for May 12 hosted by Cym Lowell.