Mr Walpole's face wore an approving smile, though he regretted that his god-daughter should be marrying a Tory. [p. 32]
The heroine of this novel, Horatia (named after her godfather Mr Walpole, and known as Horry) is a delight, too. She is the youngest of three sisters. The eldest, Elizabeth, is in love with another but resigns herself to marrying Rule to save the family's fortunes: Horry has the bright idea of offering herself in Elizabeth's place. And does so ('the Indelicacy, the Impropriety, the – the Forwardness ...!' (p. 27) with the promise that she will not interfere with her husband's, er, affairs. (Especially his long-standing association with Lady Caroline Massey.) Rule, amused and charmed by Horry's Forwardness, accepts her offer.
Lady Caroline is initially unimpressed, and vents her feelings to her old friend Lethbridge, a dyed-in-the-wool rake who has previously attempted to elope with Rule's sister. Lethbridge befriends Horry, and even stages a hold-up so that he can 'rescue' her: Horry, who is doing her best to sail through her loveless marriage serenely, welcomes his attentions. Matters escalate: there are masked balls, disguises, duels, abductions, and some thoroughly farcical 'assistance' from Horry's brother Pelham (who proves to be quite ruthless when sober) and his friend Mr Pommeroy.
Deliciously frothy, witty and featuring some very well-researched scenes of the London aristocracy at play in the 1770s.