Phillip Jettan is the unpolished son of a baronet. He has resisted his father’s attempts to mend his country ways. All that changes when Phillip’s childhood companion, Cleone Chateris, returns from her own efforts at gaining refinement. The newly polished belle of the countryside is somewhat frustrated with his country manners and appearance. Phillip, in love with her, proposes. He is rejected. After embarrassing himself in a duel with one of her courtly admirers, Phillip decides to grant the wish of his father and his love. He departs for Paris, determined to acquire the social graces and airs of the genteel. Once he’s transformed, he returns to England to learn which Phillip she really wants.
Author: Georgette Heyer
ISBN: 0-373-83602-3 (Harlequin)
Who: Cleone Chateris and Phillip Jettan
When: Early 1750’s — Sir Maurice was married in 1729. Phillip is in his 20’s
This book is somewhat fanciful. Phillip acquires all his accomplishment within six months, including learning to speak fluent French. However, the basic theme of loving someone for themself, warts and all, is captured perfectly. Phillip and Cleone are much more develop characters, and they behave like real people. Phillip is hurt by Cleone, so he decides to teach her a lesson and become a “painted puppy”, the extreme opposite of what he is. Phillip’s transformation causes Cleone to feel he no longer cares for her, so she acts like she no longer cares for him. This sets off chain of events which leads Cleone to being betrothed to two men at once, neither of which is Phillip! To be fair, Cleone and Sir Maurice, Phillip’s father, were not completely wrong in wishing that Phillip acquire some refinement. Phillip is a nobleman’s son and he is a landowner. He has social obligations as well as land management responsibilities. He stubbornly resisted his father’s attempts at teaching him the social graces of a gentleman; graces he would need in the company of his equals.
The supporting cast was a mixed bag. I was not overly impressed with all the French characters. Lady Malmerstroke, Cleone’s outrageous aunt, makes up for this.
“An ode to my wig,” she told him, “written in French.”
“An ode to your what?”
— Lady Malmerstroke, Thomas Jettan, regarding Phillip’s handiwork.
“Clo has disgraced me,” she said comfortably. “Is it not exciting?”
— Lady Malmerstroke to Sir Maurice Jettan, regarding Cleone being betrothed to two men at once.