on January 28, 2000
This book has been described as one of the greatest Regency romances of all time. It subtly and with cracking good humour subverts all the expectations of the genre with a great deal more subtlety, humour and cunning than most deliberate parodies. Heyer builds up her usual cast of powerful and memorable characters - no two-dimensional characters for her!
She gives us a vain and slightly selfish, yet also totally generous and completely charming heroine, who you cannot dislike; a delightful, stammering and ineffectual dandy who turns out to have gumption beneath his affectations, his lovely, silly sister with no fashion sense, but a great deal of kindness, a wicked rake who yet fascinates and interests us - a cast literally of dozens of characters, all of whom are distinctively portrayed.
There are no less than four romantic plots in this book, interthreaded and interwoven out of each other with exquisite grace - (hence the title - "Cotillion" - basically a gay little dance). In less skilled hands this book would have become heavy-handed and ponderous, exquisitely tactless. In Heyer's hands the book is light and flowing, fluently written, complicated and yet not at all hard to follow. It is a book for the fan of Heyer, and is best read after you have cultivated a familarity with Heyer's traditional Regencies - for example, Regency Buck. She subtly and wickedly subverts traditions she herself established.
You'll laugh, you'll cry, your emotions will all be twanged one by one. It is a very fine book. A very fine book indeed. I won't tell you who the hero is, because it would ruin the book for you - but you won't be disappointed. Cotillion is a happy book, written by Heyer at the very height of her powers. It is not just a Regency Romance. It is a novel about history - Heyer's Regency novels have, collectively, been described as the most important set of books about the Regency middle and upper class lifestyle ever to be written. It is a novel about real people. It is also a novel about the Regency Romance. And it is also a seriously comic novel. Read it. Preferably after you have read several others of her Regency Romances (I recommend Regency Buck, Sylvester, Faro's Daughter, and The Corinthian as the best examples of Heyer's traditional Regency - that she subtly teased in this book), so you have the right expectations.
on November 2, 2003
This is quite possibly my favorite Heyer, which is saying something, because the competition is fierce. The author plays with the usual ingredients of her books, and reverses them (the man who appears to be the hero is actually the villian.) Everybody is slightly absurd, including the heroine. In books by numberless imitators of Ms. Heyer, the heroine is always perfect. Not here. Kitty Charing is bright and good-natured. She is also very innocent, very impulsive, a crusader, a match-maker, and the despair of her putative fiancee, Freddy Standen. Freddy himself is one of Ms. Heyer's happiest creations. The plot is tightly wound, and fits together with satisfying clicks. Great scenes: Dophinton's proposal to Kitty; Freddy's ditto; Kitty meets Freddy's family; Freddy and Kitty go sight-seeing in London; Freddy discusses the Elgin Marbles with his father; Freddy discovers why Kitty is seeing Dolphinton; Kitty and Olivia encounter Olivia elderly admirer; the masquerade; the elopement; and Jack's comeuppance at the hands of Freddy.
If you have never read this book, prepare for a treat.
on April 5, 2005
I never really appreciated this book until I heard Phyllida Nash read it. Oh my heavens! I was laughing out loud. The voices for all of the characters are perfect--esp. Dolph, I think.
It's expensive to buy, but your library network might have a copy. Once I started listening to it, I walked around with my walkman and earphones while doing dishes, laundry, walking the dog . . . I kept looking for things to do because I so wanted to keep listening.
I love all of her books on audio, but this is one of the very best.
on January 9, 2006
The first time I read Cotillion I found myself a little disappointed. Perhaps because Freddie isn't really the sort of hero I go for (The Marquis of Vidal, Marquis of Alverstoke or Earl of Worth from Heyer's novels spring to mind here), perhaps because Kitty wasn't the usual intelligent, witty heroine, perhaps because there were lots of different stories which diluted the overall effect.
I read it again, two months later and completely changed my mind. Freddie IS a great hero because of his sweetness of nature, self-awareness and the way that he rises to the occasion when it becomes necessary and saves the day in so many ways, but humbly. And as for the hero character, Jack Westruther, who you might expect to be that - he isn't; we hear of his rake lifestyle and it's offputting. However, Freddie's father makes a fascinating side-character with his sly wit and amusing turn of phrase; Lord Legerwood definitely adds a spice to the book and he's now my hero of it, alongside his son.
The period detail of Heyer's books is of course fantastic and this one is no different. What stands out for me in Cotillion is that Heyer is able to portray many different people, some of whom are simple or at least not particularly intelligent, with real veracity. Kitty's young and bighearted and is utterly convincing; Freddie isn't particularly intelligent but has a lot of common sense and worldly knowledge and he is convincing; Freddie's sister whose husband is away and is flexing her flirting muscles is convincing - all the characters we come across in Cotillion are different from each other (and from other Heyer characters) but work. No mean feat!
I recommend this book very much, and it definitely improves with subsequent reading.
on September 3, 2011
Don't be fooled by the pretty Sourcebooks covers--someone did an awful job transferring this to Kindle. It's full of formatting problems, making the conversations extremely difficult to read, which is a shame, since the story itself was very charming and hilarious. The quality on the Kindle version is equivalent to the free public domain book. I wouldn't complain if it were a free book, but for $8 this was absolutely unacceptable.
on December 25, 2004
Like a couple of other readers here I have to say that appreciating this particular Heyer is best done after you have had a taste of the other books..but it is well worth it.
If you started reading Georgette Heyer at 13 or 14 like I did, your early favourites might be the more swashbucking tales like These Old Shades (which still remains in my top 10 favourite Heyers).
I picked up Cotillion first from a second hand pile of books while on holiday in Bath, and it has never left my book shelf ever since. The subtlety of the telling, the comedy and the characterisations let you know that you are in in the realms of art.
Anyway, will some publisher please get a reprint out very very soon, and this well-loved copy of mine is threatening to fall into a fine powder from my periodic re-readings over the years. For some reason, Cotillion seems to be a neglected masterpiece, but honestly, any fan must get a copy of this one and see for yourself.
The good news--Georgette Heyer is the standard by which all writers of Regency Romance are judged. The bad news--after reading any of Ms. Heyer's books, one becomes a true stickler for detail when it comes to other writers in this genre.
Like most of her novels, 'Cotillion' is a witty and elegant romp through the world of the beau monde--its foibles and its fashions.
Kitty Charing in her own right is as assertive as any modern heroine as she learns to navigate the convoluted social waters of London. Unlike those around her, she sees the good in everyone, which of course lead to some comic mishaps. Her pretend 'fiance' Freddy is wonderful as the not-quite-as-brain-dead-as-everyone-thinks-him man about town.
Like all of Ms. Heyer's novels, it does help to be rather familiar with regency cant, and there are actually fan sites out there with glossaries of regency slang used in her books.
on January 6, 2003
Georgette Heyer fans, don't scold!
Compared to pretty much anything else, "Cotillion" would be five stars. But compared to Heyer--aha! It isn't as good as "Venetia" or "Frederica" or ....Well, pick your own favorites.
If you haven't read anything by Georgette Heyer, it's all right to start with "Cotillion." It's a lovable, humorous book. It might even turn out to be your favorite.
The story begins with pretty Kitty (a penniless orphan) and her crotchety, wealthy grandfather. This old man is determined to control the story--which immediately slips away from him. He has summoned his great-nephews--Kitty's cousins--to his estate to inform them that the man who marries Kitty will be his heir. You'd think he would know better, wouldn't you? After all, what he really wants isn't just any marriage; he wants his rakehell nephew Jack to marry Kitty. Like any self-respecting rake, Jack is determined not to be driven into marriage, not even a marriage that he's willing to enter. Eventually. The one thing the two men agree on is that Kitty doesn't need a season. Grandpapa doesn't want to spend the money; Jack thinks that Kitty will come to no harm vegetating in the country until he's finished sowing his wild oats.
Mortified, Kitty impulsively (she's seventeen, and half French) runs away from home. True, she loves Jack; he's handsome and dashing--but he doesn't want to marry her.
And at the inn where she waits for the stage she finds her cousin Freddie. Not a great deal in his cockloft, as he would quickly agree. Not a patch on Jack. He's willowy, rabbity, fearful. He's at the inn because he wants what he knows he won't get at Grandpapa's table: a good meal. This time it's Kitty's turn to plot. Will dear, good Freddie pretend to be engaged to her, and take her to London?
Yes, he would, once he gets it through his head that he isn't expected to announce the engagement or actually get married. The scene in which he "proposes" is a delight. Jack, of course, realizes that the betrothal is another way to push him toward matrimony, and won't play. Freddie takes Kitty home to mother--in London. Together mother and son set about giving Kitty a season.
As usual, Heyer sets up this situation quickly, deftly, and in this case with a good deal of humor at the expense of all four main characters. But the heart of the story is in the development of Kitty and Freddie, once they are in London. Kitty begins to grow up, and she begins to see Freddie in his element. With all his flaws, Freddie is nevertheless extremely good "ton." His taste is perfect, and he knows all the nuances of the complicated game that comprises a London season.
I suppose you have questions. Does Kitty find new suitors? Does Jack come to heel? Does her season meet Kitty's expectations? How does Heyer fill up the rest of the novel?
Well, don't ask me! Read the book for yourself. And then, when you are thinking that the idiot reviewer should have given it five stars, read more Heyer.
on November 26, 2001
"Cotillion" is on eof Heyer's finest achievements - for it is quite a complete triumph of her writing here. Those looking for something strong in the plot may look elsewhere. The plot as such is weak and the work would have fallen flat had it been authored by anyone but Miss Heyer. Heyer turns this seemingly plotless tale into one filled with wit and laughs.
Kitty is a country-bred heiress who is prepared to go to any extremes to have a time in London. She is put into a most uncomfortable spot by her guardian who insists on her marrying one of her cousins in which case only his wealth would be bequeathed to her. Else, it goes off in charity. It is in trying to make a escape from the place that she runs into one of her cousins, Freddy Standen, a self-confessed nitwit, and a dandy. But dont let that put you down - for Heyer develops Freddy into one of her best heroes. I personally love Freddy simply because he resembles the sidekicks of her other novels whome I adore (like Pel and Sir Pom in "Convenient Marriage"). Kitty is sufficient without being as captivating as Frederica or Horatia Winwood. But the tale is led on at a brisk pace filled with all fun and laughs.
So have a go at it if you are down in the dumps and need something to perk you up. Freddy, Kitty, Dolph, Meg and all the other host of splendid characters will make you smile in not too long a time.
on May 16, 2006
Firstly, I should say that I concur with most of the other reviewers: Georgette Heyer is one of my all-time favourite authors, and "Cotillion" is one of her best books.
However, for the picky, I should like to add a warning about the Harper editions. Not only is Miss Heyer's language UK English, it's a very specific Regency variety.
US readers may not mind the Americanisation of the spelling ("color" for "colour", etc.); but there are numerous misprints, some of which apparently stem from the proof-reader's incomprehension of the dialect: in this book, for instance, "much-tired" for "much-tried" (p.74), "down" for "downy", and even "Kitty" for "Freddy" (p.323).
This is of course nothing like the wholesale disembowelment that has been inflicted on American editions of Harry Potter; but if you're fussy about such things, you might want to get British editions from Amazon UK.