Devil's Cub - Georgette Heyer The story of kidnapping the wrong sibling has been making rounds in literary circles since the ancient times. Heyer’s reincarnation of the familiar plot twist is one of the best I've ever read.
Dominic, Marquis of Vidal, is a jaded young aristocrat, rich and spoiled. After one too many mad escapades, his father, the Duke, banishes him out of England. Vidal must obey, but he isn’t going to his exile alone. Determined to have as much fun on the continent as in England, he picks up a companion, a young, vain, empty-headed beauty Sophie, a harlot in the making, to warm his bed in France.
Or so he thought, until just before boarding his yacht for the Channel crossing he discovers that instead of charming and vacuous Sophie he has in his power Sophie’s sister Mary – an intelligent and practical young woman, although not as pretty.
Upon intercepting Vidal’s message to Sophie, Mary decided to go with Vidal herself, to prevent her sister from social ruin. She is sure he would let her go as soon as he discovered he had picked up the wrong sister.
But Mary’s reasoning didn’t take into account Vidal’s rage at being thwarted. Unused to anyone crossing him, he forces Mary to go with him in Sophie’s place. Spiteful and ruthless, he treats Mary at first like mud, but the more time he spends in her company, the more respect he acquires for her. Eventually, he offers her marriage, to save her from disgrace, and of course, she refuses.
A delightful chase ensues. She is trying to escape him because she loves him. He is trying to capture her because he tumbled helplessly in love with her. Unaware of their mutual affection, they entertain readers by their crazy game of ‘catch-me-if-you-can.’
Their journey of love and absurdity takes them from London, to Paris, to Dijon, with Vidal’s family in pursuit, although the latter destination baffles all the well-wishers. When she hears about Dijon, Vidal’s distant aunt exclaims in consternation: “To Dijon? But why? Gracious God, why to Dijon?” Obviously, Dijon wasn’t considered a romantic locale during Regency era.
Still to Dijon they all go for the happy resolution to the story. The writing, as always, is first class, and the plethora of colorful secondary characters Heyer develops so well makes the tale rich and multifaceted. I only have one question. From the beginning, Mary seemed to be in love with Vidal, while he hardly notices her in her sister’s shadow. I don’t really believe it, but my single, tiny disbelief didn’t detract from my pleasure of reading this novel.