The set up: It's hard being Gilly. Everyday well meaning servants and family members dress him, feed him, advise him, watch over him and insure that no harm comes to the "little" duke. And while the Most Noble Adolphus Sillespie Vernon Ware, Duke of Sale and Marquis of Ormesby; Earl of Sale; Baron Ware of Thame; Baron Ware of Stoven; and Bare Ware of Rufford is thankful that his uncle saved him from certain death after the death of his own parents and raised him as his own son, just once, he'd like to do something he'd like to do. Being the Duke of this and that feels more like a prison than a pleasure and when he is forced into an engagement with the kind and honorable Lady Harriet, he feels more trapped than ever.
The Opportunity: However, life for his lesser known cousins is not so privileged and when Gilly learns of a plot to blackmail his youngest cousin, Matt, he sees this as his one and only opportunity to travel out into the world, without his safety net of wealth and connection, in order to set things right. He is determined to be a hero. What he finds is that riding coaches is more glamourous in theory, as are most hotels and highwaymen. Beautiful young women aren't always desirable and life takes more thinking on your feet than he'd ever imagined. After a series of laugh out loud moments, Gilly learns that life as a Duke does have its advantages and that little Harriet who he felt rather ambivalent about might be the greatest gift of his life. Most importantly, Gilly finally has the chance to be a man and rises to the ocassion masterfully.
I give this book 5 stars. I LOVED it. I read it in one night and there were moments where I truly did laugh out loud. The dialogue was not so slow and archaic as in other Heyer novels and the plot twists, genuinely applaudable. I enjoyed every minute . The well drawn characters and the sense of adventure felt so much like David Copperfield (my favorite book of all time) without the tragedy. Finally, I love books in which the hero and heroine find themselves recognizing the other not at first, but at last, when they get a chance to appreciate just who they have in the other. Heyer does that here in spades. Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous!