The Foundling (by Georgette Heyer)

I hadn't read 'The Foundling' since 1999, and I like to re-read all Georgette Heyer's historical novels periodically, so this one was my choice for this past weekend.

It features the Duke of Sale, otherwise known as Gilly. He's a likeable, unassuming man of twenty-four, who has every comfort possible in life - and yet feels rather fed-up. He can't help wondering what it would be like to be an ordinary person, who could do whatever he liked at any moment rather than being surrounded by well-meaning relatives and servants who plague him with advice, entreaties and good wishes. Almost the last straw comes when he is persuaded that it's arranged for him to marry an old friend, Harriet, rather than falling in love.

So when his cousin Matt mentions a serious personal dilemma, Gilly seizes the opportunity to travel incognito, without letting anybody know, to see if he can solve the problem. He does not expect to come across a teenager running away from home, and a beautiful (but empty-headed) girl of 17 who will run off with anyone who promises her a purple silk dress. But he quickly learns to exercise ingenuity and use his considerable diplomatic ability to extricate himself from several tricky, and sometimes dangerous, situations.

Oh, I suppose it's a bit of a silly story - some of the subplots are unlikely, and some of the characters are rather caricatured. But in a way that adds to the enjoyment. Heyer is a mistress of irony, and her plots are so well structured that everything seems quite believable at the time of reading. I knew how it would end, of course, but had managed to forget most of the details since I last read it, and found it almost impossible to put down once I had started.

Highly recommended. Re-published frequently, so still in print - but easily available second-hand too.

(You can also read another, slightly longer review of 'The Foundling' written eleven years after this one, when I re-read it again)

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