Reviewed by M.J.Logue.
I do like a bit of Georgette Heyer - clean, neat, tidy, sweet romance in which decency triumphs over deceit, every time.
And "Cynthia" is very much like one of those old-fashioned romances.
A sparky heroine who disguises herself as a boy to save her heedless young sister's reputation. An Apollo of a hero with a bit of a past, but one that can be excused. A beautiful, silly, romantic young girl, a handsome stable boy who's not all he seems, a romantic flight. A family whose future is uncertain, held together by our heroine.
All the Heyer set pieces are there, and the author's skill is that she makes them seem new. This is not a modern Regency romance: it's very much of a style that Georgette Heyer would have recognised, where the most nudity our heroines encounter is Ted the stable-boy in his night-shirt, and even that's rather shocking. If sensuality is your thing, look elsewhere, for there's precious little physical encounters in "Cynthia" - and, I think, all the better for it, because the relationship between Cynthia and Julian is first and foremost one of friendship, camaraderie and mutual respect.
The relationship between flighty, romantic Amabel and her "stable boy" - or is he....? - is presented as based on mutual attraction, though, and at first I found that relationship much less convincing. I persevered, however, and I'm glad I did, because it becomes clear that there is a good reason for the author's portrayal of Ted initially as something of a lumpen clod. The suspicious fact of his poetry-reading on his days off, should have been a clue...
The language and style of the novel gives it very much the feel of a period-piece, somewhere between Jane Austen and Patrick O'Brian in its attempt to recreate the flavour of a bygone age - not just in speech, but in the author's narrative, which remains true to the language of the period. It does take a little bit of getting used to, and it does have something of a quaint rng, to begin with, but it bears perseverance.