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In this historical romance, our protagonist Philip Jettan is a bit of a bumpkin, disdaining fashionable society, living in the country and enjoying the company of local friends and the beautiful Cleone. Their rural idyll is rudely shaken up by the arrival of Mr Bancroft, a foppish rake. Philip is revolted and scornful, but Cleone seems strangely intrigued and encourages Bancroft's attentions.
Inevitably the two men must clash.
Worsted, Philip desperately declares himself to Cleone, only to be rejected. She has a taste for the finer things and no wish to be tied to someone who is content to live the rustic life. She loves him, but not enough to accept his current offer. His father too, is no support, unsurprised that Cleone would turn him down as he is and advising him to gain polish and finesse.
In high dudgeon, Philip takes himself off to his uncle to transform himself. But will the altered fashionable Philip be what Cleone and his father really want? And what will happen when Philip meets Bancroft again?
This is another of Georgette Heyer's beautifully light confections, engagingly written with likeable, charming characters. The high society Regency world the characters inhabit is wonderfully created. The book is often very funny and fun to read. I really like the way that Heyer is able to build situations so that they become more and more humorous, yet without losing care for the characters or descending to the too farcical. Her endings are always elegantly satisfying.
The only reservation I have is the recurrent motif, of Philip's manly chin denoting dominance, which young women apparently crave. I'm not usually perturbed by such things in Heyer's works, but this and the French 'monkey' of a valet jarred with me. It's easy to put these faults on one side, however, and enjoy the book for what it is.
I wouldn't say this is one of Heyer's best novels, but it is good fun and worth a read. It isn't one I'd recommend as a first Heyer to someone, but definitely one for the Heyer shelf of fans. Stephen Fry said she's one of his guilty pleasures as well, so I need no further justification!