Regency Turns 80 — The Masqueraders

Silhouettes of a man and woman in Regency dress against a background of the number 80

An aging master con man, his cross-dressing offspring and their respective loves make for a wild romp through Georgian London in The Masqueraders. Today, Emma Kaye, romance author, shares why this romance by Georgette Heyer is so special to her and why she finds it such a timeless story. As Emma notes, perhaps a cross-dressing heroine is more believable in a historical romance. Or, is it simply that we take such things so for granted today that no one would think twice about it in a contemporary romance?

Feel free to share your views on this Georgian romance in comments to this post.

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A young man in Georgian dress kisses the hand of a young lady, also in a Georgian-era gown.

The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s a go-to novel for me. When I’m in a bad mood and need a pick me up, this is one of the books I grab. It’s not often that a book can stand the test of time like this. Our tastes change over the years, what was once fun and exciting now seems stupid and boring. Not so with The Masqueraders.

This book introduced me to one of my favorite romance tropes—the heroine disguised as a man. I’m not sure how well this works in contemporary stories, but it definitely works in historicals. I think what I like most about it is that the hero doesn’t fall in love with a pretty face and great set of boo…um, books (Yeah, books. Hero’s just love those bluestocking heroines, don’t they?) No. Take away the physical attraction and the hero sees the heroine first as a person, not just someone he’d like to sleep with until he finds out she’s actually likable as well.

Sir Anthony Fanshawe doesn’t see a pretty girl in a fancy dress, he sees a young man who shows remarkable courage and intelligence. He admires these qualities and takes young Mr. Merriot under his wing, slowly coming to realize there’s something different about him. When he realizes the incredible truth, rather than being upset by this deception or discounting the admirable qualities he saw in the young man as implausible in a young lady, he realizes he’s fallen in love with a remarkable woman. He’s willing to upset his nice, orderly life and enter into all kinds of unknown adventures with this exceptional woman.

Prudence (Peter Merriot) takes everything in stride. She’s no stranger to wearing men’s garb. Her unconventional life has meant it was often safer for her to appear to be a boy. It never bothered her. Until-she meets Sir Anthony. Suddenly her disguise feels less like a lark and more like a nasty deception. Her nerves are ruffled like they never have been before. Everyone underestimates Sir Anthony, but not Prudence. He sees more than anyone knows and she suddenly cares what someone would think of her and her crazy life.

The Masqueraders was my first romance where the woman dresses as a man, but not my last. Several of my favorite books have that same trope—Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey and Ashes in the Wind by Kathleen Woodiwiss, to name just two. When I read a back cover and see that the heroine dresses as a man, for whatever reason, I’m instantly intrigued.

Emma Kaye is the author of two time travel romances set in the Regency—Time for Love and In Her Dreams (a short story in the anthology Timeless Escapes: A collection of Summer Stories.)

You can find her at:



Twitter: @emmakayewrites

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  1. Perfect description of a wonderful book. I’m off to dig up my copy. I need to reread this one. Thank you for such a lovely review.

  2. I love this book. I loved the romance(s) cos there are two. Love Sir Anthony. Just love this book. I recently got the audible version and listened and it translated just beautifully. I haven’t seen the cover pictured here and it’s gorgeous. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it but I just *raves on endlessly*.

  3. One of my favorites, and I’ve read and re-read so many times that I’ve had to reinforce the cover by taping the spine so it would not fall apart. Most of my old G.H. paperbacks are in that condition. Thank heaven for see-thru tape!

    1. Me too, Elaine & Glynis. My mom wouldn’t let me steal her copy, which is how I read it in the first place many, many years ago :). So, I bought my own and read it to pieces. Now I have it as an ebook, too.

  4. Oh dear. Another fave. I might just as well well admit that most of them are brilliant. I had to buy new copies of most cos mine fell to pieces. Thanks for this one.

  5. Gentle Rogue was also one of my favorites about a heroine in disguise. I confess I’ve not read G.H, but this one sounds like a go-to keeper for sure. Will get a copy. Lovely post Emma 😉

  6. Include me as another who counts The Masqueraders as not only one of my favorite Heyers, but among my all-time favorite historical romances. I’m not always a fan of cross-dressing characters; I think it’s hard to carry off believably. But La Heyer handles it beautifully. It should be mentioned that Masqueraders isn’t Regency but Georgian and fairly early Georgian at that, taking place after the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. So the masquerade is to hide from the consequences of (brother and father) partaking in the rebellion.

    1. It’s definitely difficult to carry off, but as you said, she managed it brilliantly. And the stakes are very high for the young Merriots – they have good reason for such a charade. I always wonder if the “old gentleman” contrived that earldom for his son in the end.

  7. Great post, Emma! The Masqueraders, for me, is one of the fun, fantastical Heyer novels (like The Reluctant Widow), with events that are a bit farfetched, but nonetheless entertaining. It’s great escapism!

  8. Emma, I think your take on heroine-dressed-as-male romances is very insightful! It never before occurred to me that it leads to a mandatory “know her as a person first” relationship, but you’re so right!

    And what a fun book. My favorite scene is when Sir Anthony exposes her drinking ruse — it’s an electric moment. And yet they’re both so dignified about it! I do love those Georgians.

    1. I love that scene, Cara. He exposes her, but she knows she’s safe in his house, because he would never take advantage of her. Such a great moment.

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