Bad-tempered, miserly old Uncle Matthew has long been determined that his favourite nephew Jack will marry his ward Kitty and inherit his fortune. The wild Jack, however, is in no hurry to settle down and is confident to the point of arrogance that both money and Kitty are his for the asking. He is content to pursue his own rakish amusements while Kitty lives a sheltered existence in the country, bored and put-upon.
To force the issue, Uncle Matthew summons all his nephews to his home and tells them whoever wins Kitty's hand will also become his heir.
This humiliating bargain doesn't please Kitty at all, especially when the object of her affection, Jack, doesn't even bother to turn up. She has no compunction in rejecting the offers she is made by some of the nephews, and as soon as the opportunity arises, flees this unbearable situation. Running into Freddie Standen, another of the nephews, is not to plan. However, Freddie had no clue what was behind his Uncle's summons and his horrified reaction reassures her. She turns Freddie's belated arrival to her advantage and cajoles him into assisting her in a scheme to get away and have some fun in London. One of her unsaid hopes is to teach Jack a lesson while she's at it.
But things don't go quite the way she expects, and her own future seems to get harder and harder to resolve. It doesn't stop her from meddling in other people's love-lives, 'though - in fact she is soon busier with sorting out their troubles than facing her own. Will she be able to unravel her affairs?
This is one of my favourites of Heyer's historical romances.
As ever, the Regency period is created with a wealth of detail and assurance by Heyer. The characters are brought to life vividly and with great charm. It's genuinely funny in a gentle and endearing way: the bewildered Freddie forced to find hitherto unsuspected depths and resource to help Kitty, while she spreads her wings and makes the shift from dowdy seclusion to high society.
In this novel, there is the element of doubt over which suitor will eventually succeed: do nice guys always finish last when competing with the bad boy in need of taming? Heyer manages to keep you not quite sure of which way Kitty will jump, fearing she will make a mistake right until the last. It's nicely done.
I really recommend Heyer's historical romances as comfort reads and just pure enjoyment. 'Cotillion' is one of my particular favourites as I am very fond of the characters.
You can find the novel online from Amazon for Kindle at £4.94 or new in paperback for £5.91. You can also find it secondhand there and elsewhere.