Thursday, 23 September 2010

Book review: Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

"I am happy to be able to tell as many of you as I can that I have not the smallest wish to marry any of you!"

The  great-nephews of cantankerous Mr Penicuik know better than to ignore his summons, especially when it concerns the bestowal of his fortune. The wily old gentleman has hatched a typically freakish plan for his step-daughter's future and his own amusement: his fortune will be Kitty's dowry. But while the beaux are scrambling for her hand, Kitty counters with her own inventive, if daring scheme: a sham engagement should keep wedlock at bay...
My review and thoughts
Kitty is a pretty but unsophisticated young girl adopted by the disagreeable and ageing Mr Penuik, who upon deciding that his fortune will be Kitty's dowry invites all his nephews to Arnside house. To inherit the fortune, she must choose one of them to marry or she faces being peniless in the world  after her guardian is gone. However the darkly handsome and rakish Jack Westruther who Kitty has 'fancied herself in love with for years' fails to turn up because he hates being forced into anything although he is his Great Uncle's favourite and the one he really wanted to see married to Kitty. The distressed Kitty who doesn't want her guardian's 'odious fortune' is forced to bear the proposals of the reluctant Lord Dolpington forced by his domineering mother into doing so and the sensible and dry Hugh who is to become a church parson.
When Kitty meets another of her cousins, Freddy Standen she persuades him to pretend to be engaged to her after recounting her situation so that she can travel to London to meet his family and make Jack jealous of him.
Arriving in London unsophisticated and innocent, completely unaware of the way of London society, Freddy finds that she is going to take a lot of 'looking after.' Fascinated by the sights, fashions and new people, Freddy is obliged to accompany her on sight seeing trips and many other visits. Finding her place, Kitty is soon involved in a the romantic involvements of several of her acquaintances too, which poor Freddy is dragged into too.
Although when doubts about her engagement to Freddy creep through after her month in London is up and the possibility of revealing the truth is discussed, Kitty begins to wonder: is Freddy the man for her after all?
There are a whole cast of typical Heyer characters in Cotillion: the old and eccentric uncle, the fussy spinster governess, handsome young rake, a pretty and young heiress, a fashionable and intelligent Pink of The Ton, a gorgeously beautiful but on the verge of penniless young girl and an exceedingly foolishly silly Earl. Their different personalities all wove together to create a vibrant and amusing set of characters that are very memorable.

When we first meet Kitty, a nineteen year old who has had a simple and sheltered upbringing she is very innocent and unaware of the ways of the world but a cunning and witty side to her is revealed in her plans. She has a good natured attitude which attracts many people to her side and induces her to help her friends in their romantic troubles.
Freddy is a very honourable and intelligent young man blessed with a considerable fortune and a very easy going and humble manner. As more of his qualities were slowly revealed throughout the book, particularly his loyalty and fondness of Kitty, I began to see that the two were perfectly matched. He is very different from the Heyer heroes I have encountered so far who have mostly been arrogant rakes and I found that he was very likeable.
The conversations and scenes with Kitty and Freddy together were lovely and amusing to read, one of my favourites is when Freddy is dragged all over London to look at all the sights in Kitty's guide book Picture of London such as the Elgin Marbles and The Tower of London.

Here's an extract from that part:

'( referring to the Elgin marbles) 'Dash it, they've got no heads!" he protested
"No, but you see Freddy, they are so very old! They have been damaged!"
"Damaged! I should rather think so! They haven't got any arms either! Well, if this don't beat the Dutch! And just like at this, Kit!" '

The secondary characters add to the sparkle and fun he plot, we meet: Kitty's dubious French cousin Camille; her stunningly beautiful but impoverished friend Olivia; her poor cousin Lord Dolphington being bullied by his manipulative mother and Freddy's slightly vain sister Meg whose fashion sense is to be questioned.


Heyer's writing is fine and witty, there are many laughable lines and the Regency language used may have had been reaching for a dictionary occasionally but it gave the book great character. I particularly liked Freddy's constant 'Oh dash it Kit!' and other words like 'clodpole' and the description of 'Corinthian' or Pink of The Ton.' Her descriptions and realistic dialogue really bring Regency London to life, addressing not only the glamorous side of society but also the darker side too.

Verdict: Cotillion is a delightful dance of fun, mischief and love that lives up to the dance it is named after. in a rich plot that will keep the pages turning. With lovable characters and a brilliant London setting, it could be a perfect starter for a first time reader of Heyer's novels. Perfect to curl up with!

1 comment:

  1. An enjoyable read Cotillion by Georgette Heyer. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and original, this book is going in by "to read" list.


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