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The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer

Originally published in 1928

Rating: Liked it (4/5)

It's one of my delights that so many of Heyer's heroes bear a striking resemblance to a certain Englishman with a botanical nickname. I don't know if this was purposeful on Heyer's part and, indeed, each hero is a separate character, well-drawn, but when lined up together a pattern emerges. 

Included in that line-up, we find Sir Anthony Fanshawe, nicknamed 'the mountain' and in possession of a sleepy pair of eyes and a well-hidden brain. (I did find him preferable to the 'old gentleman' whose conceit quickly got on my nerves and tempted me to skim his self-involved speeches.) Sir Anthony is held back from the reader, however, by Heyer's odd use of point-of-view, which involves awkward asides from the characters in an otherwise objective narration.

Even the other characters suffered from this kind of narration. I would have loved it, had the asides revealed a character in the narrator, as we find in a lot of eighteenth century fiction (and wonderfully so in the novels of Jane Austen). Instead, the asides only distracted from the objectivity of the narrator, without compensation with a bit of tongue-in-cheek commentary on the characters.

And, of course, there's the girl-in-breeches. Although, to give Heyer credit for being politically correct, she also has a boy-in-a-dress. The reason for the brother and sister swapping genders is slightly contrived, but the plot is changed for it, so I was willing to accept it. (I'm not strictly against girl-in-breeches plots, but they do get kind of old...how many times did Shakespeare use it?) This book is, if I'm correct, still rather early in Heyer's writing career. Later books show a bit more subtlety.

The book does contain one of my favourite aspects of Heyer, that the romance in this 'historical romance' is incidental to the plot, affecting it, but not driving it. Too much focus on the love story often leads to no other plot options but the 'Great Misunderstanding'. By keeping the romance in the background, Heyer keeps from constraining her characters into improbably modes of thinking.

The Masqueraders will likely not take it's place among my favourite Heyers, but there are a couple moments (the wine down Prudence's arm, for instance) that are worthy of a re-read.




( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 4th, 2007 06:29 pm (UTC)
Oh dear. I actually quite liked Lord Barham. He very much amused me - his grand attitude is humorous, probably driven to conceit because of the way he had been mistreated all his life and I like him because he has to pull some very difficult strings in order to settle his and his family's affairs admirably; he doesn't just sit comfortably all day long and act the conceited twit.

The Masqueraders did make it to my shelf of favourite Heyers, although I probably shouldn't be saying 'shelf of favourite Heyers', since all of them are my favourites, even the ones I haven't read yet. That's prejudice . . . I know.
Feb. 5th, 2007 04:34 am (UTC)
I don't think I've come across a Heyer that I dislike, I will admit.

I just couldn't warm up to Barham. Personal taste, I guess.

Feb. 5th, 2007 05:40 am (UTC)
Two sides to a person and all that, eh?

P.S. And was there no 'Quotation that Charmed' to be found in 'The Masqueraders', Cate?
Feb. 5th, 2007 02:55 pm (UTC)
And was there no 'Quotation that Charmed' to be found in 'The Masqueraders', Cate?

No, I guess not. There was no passage that really caught my breath. We can hold out for next time, I guess.

Feb. 5th, 2007 01:12 am (UTC)
This is actually one of my favourite Heyers, even though I quite agree with you about the stylistic defects (not to mention that when you read it the first time, the first 20 pages or so are completely confusing and give you the initial impression that she has lost track of who is talking in her dialogue). I love Sir Anthony. I adore Prudence and Robin. And while I want to slap Barham, I also find him hilarious. Of course, I always have loved the girl-dressed-as-boy plots in Shakespeare and elsewhere, probably because the girls often get to do much cooler things when dressed as boys than they get to do when confined to skirts (did I ever mention that Maid Marian was my favourite character for years as a child?).

And really, how often do you get the boy-in-a-dress in a romance novel? Especially one who does it with such flair?


Catherine - who probably loves The Talisman Ring and especially The Unknown Ajax more, but feels it's hard to go past the Masqueraders for pure swashbuckling romance.
Feb. 5th, 2007 04:36 am (UTC)
not to mention that when you read it the first time, the first 20 pages or so are completely confusing and give you the initial impression that she has lost track of who is talking in her dialogue

So that wasn't just me?

I thought the opening felt like a sequel to something else. I felt out of the loop for quite a while. If it had been another author, I might have stopped, I think.


Feb. 5th, 2007 05:27 am (UTC)
My husband had the same problem, so it definitely isn't just you.

Catherine - who has been quite successful at getting her husband to read romance novels!
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )