I was in junior high school, reading Deceptions by Judith Michael along with everyone else – that was the last time I had this much fun reading about changeling twins. Of course, Deceptions was drowning in bathos, while False Colours is a lighthearted comedy of errors.
Kit and Evelyn Francot are twins, the sons of London’s famed beauty, Lady Denville. Evelyn has come into the title Earl of Denville, being the elder. (One wonders how they can tell?) But, as so often happens in Heyer, he doesn’t have free access to the money, nor can he bail his flakey mother out of some serious debt. Kit has been serving in the diplomatic corps, and arrives home unexpectedly just in time to be drafted into service as a stand-in for his brother, to keep Evelyn's engagement to the heiress Cressy Stavely from going south. Evelyn has gone missing, and with the tie between them, Kit senses he’s all right, but in some sort of trouble. To no one’s surprise, Kit, the more level-headed brother, finds the smart and sensible Cressy attractive. And just when she was going to cry off the engagement, she finds a different sort of Evelyn attractive, as well.
No, it’s not the best Heyer I’ve ever read. Surely that would be Venetia or Cotillion. Or An Infamous Army. Or These Old Shades. But it’s a fun, relaxing read, with the usual great characters. Kit and Evelyn adore their dippy mother, in a relationship that’s touching. Their father was an inflexible man, and the wrong husband for the helpless Amabel, unable to love her for what she is. I read one review grousing about her character as a spendthrift, self-indulgent idiot, but if you know history, you recognize Lady Denville. A Regency standard. Heyer even gives you a bit of shorthand, openly comparing her to the incomparable Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. She’s past forty and still has groupies, “cicisbeo” in Regency-speak. It’s a hoot. Some of the funniest scenes are between Kit and various dazzled followers. The most loyal and (long-lasting) is Sir Bonamy Ripple, larger than life in more ways than one. His adoration leads to some funny plot turns you don’t see coming.
I only had one odd complaint, that being some choppiness. At one particular point, Kit’s inner narrative, regarding his love for Cressy, lurches forward in a way that just shouts “missing scene.” Leaves you scratching your head. I’ve seen this a couple times in her books, I think because she was turning them out so fast, trying for two a year, and her editor got sloppy. I was expecting a lot of trademark period slang in Friday’s Child, with so many fashionable London blades, but really got more in this book. False Colours is heavy on dialog, and much of it is with the servants, especially the valet, Fimber. So if you find yourself bum squabbled in the devil of a hank, you might want to reach for Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, but it’s not necessary. The fun of Heyer’s language is that it flows, and you’ll always pick up the meaning from the context. Enjoy!