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Georgette Heyer

REVIEW: False Colours by Georgette Heyer

REVIEW: False Colours by Georgette Heyer

sail under false colours (British & Australian) also sail under false colors (American & Australian)
to pretend to be something that you are not in order to deceive people

When we did a series of reviews on some of Georgette Heyer’s novels, many people listed “False Colours” as a favorite. Since I’d never read it, I decided to give it a whirl and see what I thought. Thought it has its charm, is amusing and is filled with well drawn characters, there are a few things about it that will keep it from the top ranks of my most loved Heyer novels.

As the younger son, Christopher (Kit) Fancot entered the diplomatic service while his elder brother Evelyn was due to inherit the Earldom at their father’s death. The two have always been close and when Kit senses something amiss at home, he rushes back home from abroad. Upon his arrival at the family townhouse in London, his loving but flighty mother, Lady Denville, informs him just how bad things are. She is deeply in debt – again – and, due to the will left by their father, Evelyn will not be able to control the estate funds and pay her vowels until he marries a woman of whom their fraternal uncle approves. He’s been courting a young woman, Miss Cressida Stavely, who the family thinks will fit the bill though there is no violent passion on either side. Only before the match can be announced, Evelyn must past muster with Cressy’s gorgon of a grandmother – the Dowager Lady Stavely.

The problem, as Lady Denville explains it to Kit, is that she lost heavily at cards and pledged a piece of jewelry – one of the many she’s had secretly replicated in paste in order to be able to sell the original to pay down her other debts – to a incorrigible gossip who would take great pleasure in exposing that fact should he figure it out. Thus Evelyn had set off to try and redeem the piece before the man could attempt to sell it. That was days ago and nothing has been heard from Evelyn since. Lady Denville wouldn’t worry except that the Stavelys are expecting Evelyn at a dinner party the next night and if he’s a no show, it’s for sure that the Dowager Lady Stavely will take it as an insult and withhold her approval of the match.

It’s then that a brilliant idea occurs to her. Kit will impersonate his brother for one night and hopefully Evelyn will appear soon and all will be well. As identical twins, the two brothers have often been mistaken for each other. Against his better judgement, Kit agrees and the evening goes well. Knowing he’d better not stay in town and risk being exposed in the ruse, he flees to their country estate but instead of getting better, the situation only gets worse. Lady Stavely announces she and Cressy will visit him plus the one parsimonious sibling Lady Denville possesses sees a chance at a free country house visit for the summer and arrives with his fussing wife and professional invalid son in tow. Not about to abandon Kit in his hour of need, Lady Denville also gives up the pleasures of town along with her long time loyal beau, Sir Bonamy.

With this cast and crew plus several ancient family retainers watching his every move, can Kit keep the masquerade going until Evelyn, where ever he may be, finally arrives? And what will happen as two people who shouldn’t fall in love find themselves doing just that?

Unlike most books I’ve read from this era, False Colours is told mainly from hero’s POV but this is needed because Kit has to be in the dark about where Evelyn is and as to what Cressy’s feelings are as well as what she knows about what’s going on. I wished for at least some small hint that Evelyn was alright as I began to worry about him too as the story progressed with no clue as to his whereabouts. The plot moves forward in increments. Entire days are described in – take your pick – exquisite or excruciating detail. The opening two chapters of the book should give you a feel for the style/speed of the story and if you don’t like it, move on to another book. There are plenty more Heyers left to choose from.

Amabel, Lady Denville, is a charming widgeon, as Dowager Lady Stavely says. Vivacious yet flighty, mannered yet able to think on her feet when curveballs are thrown their way while attempting to maintain Kit’s disguise – it does not do to underestimate her. I laughed at how she almost consoles Kit for being the sensible, level headed man he is. But she’s also a tigress in defense of either of her sons as well as a staunch friend to Cressy. Cressy is an unknown entity for much of the book. Read carefully and it’s noticeable when she begins to catch on that something isn’t right and also when she declares her love for Kit. Though she doesn’t declare it to Kit.

Poor Kit is the one upon whom the burden of maintaining the charade mainly rests. He’s got to remember to act like Evelyn in public and attempt to mimic his twin’s mannerisms with a snuffbox while keeping straight how Evelyn is supposed to feel about everyone at the house party. On top of that, he’s also worried sick about his twin and sick at heart that he’s falling for the one woman he feels he can’t have or else the whole house of cards will come crashing down on the Fancot family. The “I love yous,” when they finally arrive, are done with quiet fervor rather than loud fireworks but are just as satisfying, I find.

I had great fun reading about the relationship between the Quality and servants. Kit gets away with very little around Evelyn’s valet or the groom who taught the boys to ride or their nurse who still enjoys fussing over both of them. Old time retainers like the valet, groom, town butler, and old nurse have much more leeway in what they can get away with vs the newcomers like the Ravenhurst butler and housekeeper. But everyone closes ranks against outsiders such as when Kit easily depresses the pretensions of Mrs Alperton whom even the country butler pegged at her much lower social status and was ready to fob off as well.

What didn’t I like? The cant, cant, cant – I would guess almost every phrase Heyer either learned or made up is here. Kit speaks cant, Amabel speaks cant, the valet and groom speak cant, the guests spout it. It’s almost like a chocolate cake with chocolate chips and topped by ultra rich chocolate frosting – too damn much. Give me a glass of milk and get back to plain speaking. A little cant goes a long way.

The romance is very slow. Very, very slow. It’s not until almost the halfway mark that things begin to move faster than glacial. If you want details at a stately pace, this is the book for you but if you’re used to today’s faster clip, mentally prepare yourself to sit and savor.

This is not a Heyer book I would recommend to someone unfamiliar with traditional Regencies or with Heyer books. There are better places to start with her oeuvre. It would also help if you’ve got some grounding in the Regency era. As I said, it’s not the first Heyer book I’d suggest but if you want something different as well as liking a country vs London or Season setting, then False Colours should be on your Heyer list. B-

~Jayne

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Thursday Midday Links: Simon & Schuster Staff Stars in YouTube Video for a Guidette Makeover

Thursday Midday Links: Simon & Schuster Staff Stars in YouTube Video...

Kobo is entering the self publishing/publishing realm. To agents and others, this will come as no surprise. Kobo has been meeting with agents, hiring content editors, and with its major competitors thriving in the self publishing space, this is an inevitable move. Kobo currently has a deal with Smashwords to supply self published content. It is unknown what will happen to that relationship. I believe that BN also accepts Smashword content and its own PubIt! branded materials.

The incentive to use the retailers self publishing platform over a distributor like Smashwords would likely be increased visibility at the retailer site. I wonder if the future of retail based self publishing will tie scaled royalties to exclusivity.

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Simon & Schuster released a video on behalf of Snooki to promote her latest book. The video is fairly embarrassing with Snooki wandering the halls of Simon & Schuster and labeling the author portraits as grenade or geek. Grenade is apparently a girl that is unattractive. Snooki then refers to the publishing staff as “farty old grandmas” until she “guidos” them up by having them stick out their “tits and asses”, tease up their hair, and put on lots of makeup while drinking heavily [the drinking heavily part was in the Director's Cut resurrected by Ed Champion which appears to have been removed by S&S]. Louise Burke, the publisher; Liz Perle, the editor in chief; and Lauren McKenna, executive editor, all appear in the video. They appear to be having a good time and you have to applaud the lengths at which they are going to support their author. It’s too bad, however, they that they are doing it in a way that emphasizes looking like Snooki and drinking heavily over being a well read, intelligent woman.  Sarah Wendell has a poll up and shared her own thoughts on the subject.

Maybe they’ll dress up as foul mouthed, video game playing, bling wearing, sword wielding Valkryies to celebrate Kresley Cole’s upcoming release, Lothaire. After all, Cole is a #1 NYT Bestselling author and Snooki only made the extended list. Hermain Cain is No. 7 on the non fiction list. Maybe we’ll see his publishing team sitting around smoking in a video or perhaps punching people in the face with bouquets of yellow flowers.

Think of the possibilities! What would you want Louise Burke, Liz Perle and Lauren McKenna to star in next?

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The NextWeb quotes an excerpt from the Isaacson Steve Jobs biography about how Apple changed the ebook pricing market (and at the same time adds fuel to the class action lawsuits):

[Jobs] told the publishers that Apple would “go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30%, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway.”

This made the publishers happy, but it didn’t solve the problem of Amazon undercutting the iBooks store on price.

To solve this, Jobs negotiated an agreement from the publishers to allow Apple to sell the books at a lower price if any other vendor began selling them in ebook form cheaper than Apple was.

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Publishersmarketplace has a piece on Amazon and how the agency pricing model is affecting Amazon’s balance sheet. (Reg requ’d) PM believes that over 90% of Amazon’s reported net income of $63 million is from the agency ebook commissions at $56 million.

What that also means, which analysts who find our piece are bound to discover, is that agency model ebooks are masking even greater declines in Amazon’s profitability than are readily apparent.

The larger gross margin on the agency books, however, is helping BN tremendously.

When the company reported their first quarter results in August, for BN.com they showed sales of $198 million and gross margin of $41.5 million. A year ago, sales were $148 million and gross margin was just $5 million. A meaningful part of the big boost in margin was Random House’s move to agency, along with the general increase in agency ebook sales. By our rough estimate, agency publishers did about $50 million in net ebook sales during BN’s reported quarter, which would be worth $21.5 million in recordable gross margin.

Which just goes to further support my belief that Agency has helped BN compete.

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Speaking of BN, their stores are becoming increasingly devoted to non book items like toys, games, and electronics. They’ve reorganized their internal footprint and teen books are gaining prominence. They even have a Teen Paranormal Romance section at the front of many stores. Their website offerings are becoming more diverse as well.  BN.com now offers five new categories of goods: Home and Gift, Consumer Electronics, Arts and Crafts, Toys and Games and Baby.

Last week, Barnes & Noble started selling items like rugs and cooking utensils on its website. ”If shoppers are buying cookbooks from bn.com, it’s natural to offer them cooking supplies at the same time; if shoppers are buying new baby books, it’s natural to offer them baby supplies as well,” said John Foley, B&N’s president of eCommerce.

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Whether it was Simon & Schuster’s bad programming or Apple iBookstore’s mistake, the initial iBookstore release of Steve Jobs’ biography was riddled with formatting errors.  Apple quickly responded and urged its customers to delete the original book and download a new copy.

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Sarah Wendell pointed out this article about female soldiers being integrated into the special operative groups to help with cultural outreach.

In 2009, under pressure from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and Gen. David Petraeus, then the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, the Army began to develop Cultural Support Teams.

Last November, the first group of women went through a grueling five-day assessment that tested their physical and military skills, their problem-solving and writing abilities and their psychological and mental fitness. Those that passed moved on to a six-week training program.

And just because the women are part of the cultural support program, they are not immune to risk as the article starts with the news of the death of one of those women in a bombing.  She was attached to a Ranger’s squad.

“Any day that they’re walking into a village and engaging with the population they are at the same risk as those Special Forces, SEALs, or special operators they’re detailed to. So I would say it is not for the weak-kneed,” said Michael Lumpkin, principal deputy assistant defense secretary for special operations. “These women are on the front lines in very austere locations.”

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Erica Tsang tweeted this article about using Georgette Heyer books as a guide to touring London.

From the steps, look left towards The Athenaeum Club. It was built over the western corner of the Regent’s demolished Carlton House and Wellington, who was a member, had a mounting block, which is still there, placed on the opposite pavement.

Walk left into Pall Mall, and first right into St James’s Square, where Deborah Grantham’s aunt had her gaming parlour in Faro’s Daughter. Numbers 20 and 33 are by Robert Adam. At 16, on the site of what is now the East India Club, the Regent was dining with Mrs Boehm on June 21 1815 when Major Percy, four French eagle standards protruding from the window of his post-chaise-and-four, clattered into the square to confirm the victory at Waterloo.