After participating in the Jacobite Rising of 1745, Robin and Prudence, brother and sister, become engaged in a swashbuckling, romantic adventure. Our hero and heroine must cross-dress and switch genders if they are to escape prosecution – a humorous move that allows Heyer to explore the manners and language affectations of the period as the two romp through the elite saloons and clubs of London. But what the two don’t foresee is that they might fall in love along the way: Prudence with the elegant and dashing Sir Anthony Fanshawe, and Robin with the charming Letitia Grayson. Can the two unmask themselves without losing their lives?
Rating: Narration: B+, Content: B+
The Masqueraders is one of Georgette Heyer’s early works, originally published in 1928 and now available in audio format for the first time. It’s a thoroughly engaging Georgian romp, set shortly after the unsuccessful Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. It rattles along at a good pace and is full of fun, sparkling dialogue and Ms Heyer’s trademark wit and carefully studied social observation.
At the beginning of the story we meet the two principal protagonists – a brother and sister called Kate and Peter Merriot who, within minutes, are coming to the aid of a damsel in distress and disposing of her unwanted suitor. At the end of that scene, we also meet Sir Anthony Fanshawe, who is destined to be the heroine’s love-interest, a very large man with a seemingly indolent manner, who is actually one of Ms Heyer’s typically nonchalant but very shrewd heroes; a man who sees a lot more than he lets on, whom the siblings affectionately nickname “The Mountain”.
So far, so straightforward, until the third chapter when we learn that Kate is not, in fact, Kate, but Robin, and Peter is not, in fact, Peter, but Prudence, and the pair (who really ARE brother and sister) are travelling in disguise because of Robin’s participation on the wrong side in the failed rebellion.
Thus the narrator is presented with rather a difficult task. Not only does she have to find suitable voices for and be able to differentiate between a fairly large cast of characters, but she has to find a way to portray Robin/Kate and Prudence/Peter as both themselves and their respective alter-egos while enabling the listener to keep track of who is who and who’s wearing the trousers! It’s a quirk of the story which is probably that bit harder to convey successfully in audio, but on the whole Ms Sillers manages well. She pitches ‘Kate’ higher than either Robin or Prue, and gives ‘her’ a rather exaggerated feminine drawl; and keeps Prue’s ‘Peter’ voice fairly close to Prue’s in pitch, just adding a lighter edge which works well to help the listener keep track. Even though I knew what to expect in the story, I had to rewind a few times at the beginning of that chapter in order to keep things straight in my head, but once I’d done that, it was easy to work out who was speaking and in which persona.
The pair are adventurers who have lived most of their lives pretending to be other people, alongside their father, to whom they refer as “The Old Gentleman”. Following Robin’s escape from the authorities, they have donned these disguises in order to keep him safely hidden while they await their father’s arrival in town, but had not expected to have to wait as long as they do.
You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.