THE MASQUERADERS by Georgette Heyer turned out to be the most unexpected delight. I cannot remember now why I put it on my reading list, but as I opened it to read I hoped it would give me a little pleasure as I am very fond of historical novels. Part of the joy in reading this novel is that the characters have such fun, even while the stakes are so high:
“The door opened, and the page let in fat Marthe, a tray in her hands. It was a very colossus of a woman, of startling girth, and with a smile that seemed to spread all over the full moon of her face. Like her mistress, from one to the other she looked, and was of a sudden smitten with laughter that shook all her frame like a jelly. The tray was set down; she clasped her hands and gasped: “Oh, la-la! To see the little monsieur habillé en dame!”
“Robin sailed up to her, and swept a practiced curtsey. “Your memory fails you, Marthe. Behold me – Prudence!”
“She gave his arm a playful slap. “My memory, alors! No, no m’sieur, you are not yet large enough to be mademoiselle.”
“Oh, unkind!” Robin lamented, and kissed her roundly.
“Marthe, there is need of secrecy, you understand?” My lady spoke urgently.”
The need for secrecy is that brother and sister are both Jacobites, and have fled to London after the failure of the 1745 rising to put Bonnie Prince Charlie on the throne. As Robin, the brother, is under attainder and could be hanged for his part in the rebellion, he is now dressed in petticoats and answers to the name of Kate Merriott, while his sister Prudence is dressed as a man and presents herself as Peter Merriott.
The plan is for the pair to lie low in London for a while, awaiting instructions from their father who has disappeared. But no member of this charming, highly intelligent and incorrigible family is good at actually disappearing, and they win hearts and a great deal of attention from the bon ton.
Apart from the spirited pranks and witty dialogue, what gives readers so much pleasure in reading this novel is three fascinating main characters who are so devilishly clever. The reader is going to be glued to the pages of this book as they see how this family saves itself from disaster and is accepted into London society. Highly recommended. Five stars.