False engagements are a convention of the genre called Regency romance that featured the fashionable class of early 19th-century England. A false engagement is the focal point of Cotillion, written by Georgette Heyer (1902–74), one of the foremost writers of the Regency romance. Heyer wrote more than three dozen Regencies, many of which are so good that they're said to transcend the genre and qualify as literature.
Cotillion sparkles with dialogue reminiscent of Jane Austen, a flawed but impossible-to-dislike heroine, and a hero who turns the tables on expectations. The many other characters are all well drawn, and their predicaments amusing.
Kitty Charing, the heroine, finds out that she will inherit her guardian's fortune provided she marries one of his great-nephews. To entice the one she has set her heart on, Jack Westruther, into becoming jealous and proposing, Kitty asks his cousin, Freddy Standen, to pretend to be engaged to her for a while. Kitty persuades Freddy to take her to London to visit his family, arguing that etiquette requires the visit, but the real reason is that Jack is in London. Carrying off the ruse is more complicated than Kitty expected — and isn't producing the hoped-for results. As if her own situation weren't messy enough, Kitty gets involved in trying to help along a couple of other romances.
By the time it becomes clear where Kitty's own romantic life is headed, readers will also have fallen in love with the hero. No mere weak dandy, he has gumption, common sense, and humility, and he deserves to get the girl.
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