Author: Georgette Heyer
Published: 1932, Dutton; 1967, Bantam; 2003, HQN reissue
Category: Historical Romance
I believe that this is one of the only Heyers that is related to another---the hero in this book is the son of the H/H in These Old Shades, which I read a few years ago and was not one of my favorites. So I was not particularly eager to read this one, but I'm glad I did because I liked it so much more.
Dominic, the Marquis of Vidal, is young, arrogant, and hot-tempered, known for racing his carriages, dallying with (experienced) women, and killing men in duels. One evening, while drinking heavily, he shoots a man over a disagreement about a card game. He is disgraced and his father sends him off to France while the scandal blows over. He is currently enjoying a flirtation with a young beauty, Sophy Challoner, and decides he might as well have company on his trip. Sophy, however, has a very respectable and responsible sister named Mary. Mary doesn't want Sophy to be ruined, so she takes her place (without Vidal realizing it). They end up with Paris, Vidal realizes that Mary is respectable and he can't possibly ruin her reputation, and he decides that he sort of likes her anyway---maybe he should marry her...
I think this is one of the best Heyers I've read. It's got everything I've come to count on in her books---it's witty and funny, sweet and romantic, full of slightly mad-cap plot twists that are so amusing. Mary is smart and independent. She's in love with Vidal but is looking for a way out of her predicament besides marrying him because she's so proud. I LOVED Vidal even though he's so unlike the heroes I usually adore. He is domineering and agressive, and Mary really has to be clever to deal with him. While he is intelligent and powerful and arrogant, he makes a few really rather stupid decisions. Maybe it is this fallibility that makes him a likable character.
There's a huge cast of secondary characters who are so well drawn and interesting. The foppish French cousin (his speech is so wonderfully French); Mary's twit of a sister and grasping mother; and of course Vidal's vivacious, headstrong mother, Leonie, and his mysterious, omniscient father. They were wonderful and I enjoyed reading about them, but at the same time, we got fairly little one-on-one time with Mary and Vidal. There are really only a couple scenes where they are getting to know each other, which was disappointing to me. But the HEA scene almost made up for it because it was so great. :)
My mom bought me a really great, old mass market edition of this online. It's got a fabulous, classic cover (I would scan it to share, but the thing's not hooked up right now). It was published in the 1960s, which is about when mass market books first began being printed. So there's a note on the copyright page that says:
This low-priced Bantam Book has been completely reset in a type face designed for easy reading, and was printed from new plates. It contains the complete text of the original hard-cover edition. NOT ONE WORD HAS BEEN OMITTED.This seems so quaint now. :)