11/01/2007

Powder and Patch (by Georgette Heyer)

'Powder and Patch' is one of the earliest light historical novels by Georgette Heyer, written in 1923. It features Philip, an upright and perhaps dull country gentleman, who falls in love with a beautiful neighbour. Realising he can't compete with the smart London beaux who flirt with his beloved Cleone, he goes to France to learn how to become a fashionable fop.

Set in the days when the smartest young men wore high heels, tight trousers, brightly coloured jackets, powdered wigs and even make-up, this might seem a little shocking to some modern readers, as might the expected immoral behaviour of the average young gentleman. Gently-reared girls, of course, were supposed to remain pure and untainted, and to be married by about the age of 20.

Some of the speech may be a little difficult to understand at first, for anyone not used to books from this period, but it's an enjoyable light book and worth a little perseverance. Not one of my favourite Heyers - the plot is a little predictable, the characters not all that well-developed, other than Philip himself - but it's a short novel and makes a pleasant diversion for a couple of hours.

It's a tribute to Georgette Heyer's writing that her books have been almost constantly in print for eighty-five years. This one can also frequently be found second-hand, either online or at charity shops or thrift stores.

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