Whitney at First Impressions Reviews has been sponsoring the Georgette Heyer Blog Tour for those interested in Heyer's Regency Romances. I love both Heyer's Romances and Golden Age Mysteries and just happened to have Powder & Patch sitting on my TBR stack waiting for a reason for me to move it to the top. Powder & Patch was originally titled The Transformation of Philip Jettan as by Stella Martin (a pseydonym) when first published in 1923. And quite a transformation it is, too. Philip Jettan, son of Maurice Jettan who was once a standing member of the beau monde, has been buried in the country most of his life. He knows nothing of fashion, cares nothing for the cut of a coat or the color of a stocking. He (gasp!) goes around in public with his own brown hair tied back with a simple ribbon--no ostentatious wigs for him, no thank you.
But...Philip is deeply in love with the beautiful Miss Cleone Charteris and Mistress Cleone cares much for fashion. She wants a man who can turn a pretty phrase, pay a lady a charming compliment, and who dresses as something more than country bumpkin. To make Philip come up to scratch, she flirts with Mr. Henry Bancroft--who has just returned from London and who is the epitome of fashion. When Philip tries to woo her with the honest love of a plain man, she spurns him and says she could not possibly marry him as he is now. Maurice also despairs of his son's retiring, countrified ways and between the two of them, they drive Philip away from home into the tutelage of his still fashion-conscious Uncle Tom. Tom whisks the young man off to Paris to begin a "marvelous cunning" work of transformation and leaves him the hands of his good friend le Marquis de Chateau-Banvau.
In less than six months time Philip (or Philippe as he is known in France) has become the darling of French society. He is the most sought-after gentleman for parties and balls. He host card games and writes poetry for the ladies. He has become fastidious in his attire. He even fights a duel or two just to show his mettle...and to practice for a suitable revenge upon the foppish Bancroft who bested him back in England. When he finally returns to England, he is ready to take London society by storm and finally win the hand of his lady-love. But...will Cleone like the man she has forced him to become? Philip begins to wonder...and to despair of ever making her his wife.
"Oh, I have been rebuffed! Do I conceal it so admirably?"
"No, you do not," said her ladyship. "You must have played your cards monstrously badly. Trust a man."
Cleone's aunt knows full well that the girl loves him. But she despairs of the two ever coming to a satisfactory agreement when they insist on misunderstanding one another and, apparently, deliberately muddying the waters. 'Tis very true that the course of true love did never run smooth.
This early Heyer historical novel is very light-hearted and a very quick read. Even in this early effort, Heyer manages to transport the reader to the time and place of the romantic adventures--from the courts of Louis XV to the ballrooms of London, we are transported to a world of extravagant manner, sword-play, and coquetry where the men wear hose and heels and painted faces and the ladies wear fine gowns and flirt from behind their fans. It is all good romantic historical fun and not to be taken seriously.
I must admit that I did get a bit tired of Cleone's manner--after all Philip went off and did what she said she wanted and then she had the effrontery to tell him she still didn't like it? It would have been her just desserts if he'd turned on his pretty, high heels and left her flat. But it wouldn't be a romance novel if the boy didn't get the girl...would it? ★★★ and a half.