Sunday, March 18, 2012
The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer (3.5 stars, traditional)
Full Description: Amazon
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thoughts After Reading:
I ended up having an interesting conversation on Twitter a few days ago, with Leslie Bernstein (@lkbernstein). Our topic of discussion was, naturally, historical romance ;). During our talk, Leslie encouraged me to give Georgette Heyer a second chance. I'm quite familiar with Heyer's reputation as an amazing author and essentially the writer who invented the regency romance genre. However, the feeling I got from the first book I read by Heyer - The Convenient Marriage - was not overwhelmingly positive. I remember it as being a fairly interesting read, but also one where the language was difficult to muddle through and one where I wasn't very engaged with the storyline. And I hate to disappoint Leslie, but my reaction to The Masqueraders is pretty similar to my first impression of Heyer. The overall plot was interesting and even amusing at times, but there were also several things that stood in the way of my enjoyment of the novel.
There were actually two concurrent romances in The Masqueraders: one for the sister and one for the brother. As the description promises, the book has our siblings masquerading as the opposite gender for the majority of the novel. The book opens with them arriving in England after fleeing France because of the revolution. As a result of the brother's involvement in France, the siblings are both disguised to protect him. They are well skilled at doing this type of thing, since they grew up traveling with a father who is a master at the art of disguise and manipulation. While they bide their time in England, waiting for their father, the disguises allow them to befriend the romantic interests in a way that wouldn't typically be possible in the regency era. The sister's romantic interest is given a vague physical description as a large man, whose protective and fully competent personality is often hidden behind a lackadaisical manner. The brother's romantic interest, meanwhile, is a beautiful, young, and slightly silly debutante who seems to have a good nature. The plot develops with the siblings enacting their masquerade in London, the father coming to London, various minor conflicts, and a surprisingly good and conclusive ending. Most of the storyline moved at a decent pace, which I enjoyed, although there were times when it slowed down uncomfortably. More significant, though, was the fact that the story seemed to focus much more on the storyline than the characters. Which is fine, if that's what you're looking for, but its certainly not what I would expect from a romance. I really wasn't able to get to know any of the main characters clearly, and I felt like there were only a handful of glimpses into the relationships between the characters. The writing style was definitely older (after all, the book was written in 1928) but it didn't bother me much as the story progressed.
Overall, I didn't love The Masqueraders but I didn't hate it either. I found to be a moderately engaging book that was, by its very nature, an extremely traditional regency novel. As such I hesitate to classify it as a romance, because the romantic elements seemed relatively minor compared to the overall story. I do realize the value of Heyer's works goes beyond their entertainment value and I'm glad I became a bit more familiar with Heyer's writing. For the immediate future, however, I think I'll stick with historical romance novels that were written within the last couple of decades.