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False Colours

False Colours

4.0 34
by Georgette Heyer

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"Reading Georgette Heyer is the next best thing to reading Jane Austen."-Publishers Weekly

A missing twin
Something is very wrong, and the Honourable Christopher "Kit" Fancot can sense it. Kit returns to London on leave from the diplomatic service to find that his twin brother Evelyn has disappeared and his extravagant mother's debts have mounted


"Reading Georgette Heyer is the next best thing to reading Jane Austen."-Publishers Weekly

A missing twin
Something is very wrong, and the Honourable Christopher "Kit" Fancot can sense it. Kit returns to London on leave from the diplomatic service to find that his twin brother Evelyn has disappeared and his extravagant mother's debts have mounted alarmingly.

A quick-minded heiress
The Fancot family's fortunes are riding on Evelyn's marriage to the self-possessed Cressy Stavely, and her formidable grandmother's approval of the match. If Evelyn fails to meet the Dowager Lady Stavely in a few days as planned, the betrothal could be off.

A fortune in the balance
When the incorrigible Lady Fancot persuades her son to impersonate his twin (just for one night, she promises) the masquerade sets off a tangled sequence of events that engage Kit's heart far more deeply than he'd ever anticipated with his brother's fiancée-who might know much more about what's going on than she cares to reveal...

"A writer of great wit and style... I've read her books to ragged shreds." -Kate Fenton, Daily Telegraph

Georgette Heyer (1902-1974) wrote over fifty novels, including Regency romances, mysteries, and historical fiction. She was known as the Queen of Regency romance, and was legendary for her research, historical accuracy, and her extraordinary plots and characterizations.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Filled with some very unexpected surprises and quirky characters, I kept a smile on my face several minutes after I finished the novel. False Colours is not only a book written about the romance between Kit and Cressy, but also about relationships, duty and the power of love that sends a strong, warm message throughout the book." - Queue My Review

"Heyer's eye for detail, character development, and talent for moving a story along is masterful... For sheer fun and entertainment, I highly recommend this novel and give it my highest rating of three regency fans." - Jane Austen Today

Queue My Review
Filled with some very unexpected surprises and quirky characters, I kept a smile on my face several minutes after I finished the novel. False Colours is not only a book written about the romance between Kit and Cressy, but also about relationships, duty and the power of love that sends a strong, warm message throughout the book.
— Shellie
Jane Austen Today
Heyer's eye for detail, character development, and talent for moving a story along is masterful... For sheer fun and entertainment, I highly recommend this novel and give it my highest rating of three regency fans.
— Vic Sandborn

Product Details

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5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt


It was past two o'clock when the job-chaise turned into Hill Street; and, as the watchman wending his way round Berkeley Square monotonously announced, a fine night. A full moon rode in the cloudless sky, dimming the street-lamps: even, as the solitary traveller had noticed, in Pall Mall, where gas-lighting had replaced the oil-burners. Linkmen, carriages, and light streaming from an open door on the east side of Berkeley Square indicated that not all the members of the ton had left London; but at the end of June the Season was drawing to a close; and it did not surprise the traveller to find Hill Street deserted. It would not have surprised him if the knocker had been removed from the door of a certain house on the north side of the street, but when the chaise drew up a swift scrutiny reassured him: the Earl of Denville's town residence had not yet been abandoned for the summer months. The traveller, a young man, wearing a tasselled and corded Polish greatcoat, and a shallow-crowned beaver, sprang down from the chaise, dragged a bulging portmanteau from the floor of this vehicle, set it down on the flagway, and pulled out his purse. The postboys paid, he picked up the portmanteau, trod up the steps to the front-door, and gave the iron bell-pull a tug.

By the time the last echo of the clapper died away the chaise had disappeared, but no one had responded to the bell's summons. The traveller gave it a second, and more vigorous, tug. He heard it clanging somewhere in the nether regions, but was forced to conclude, after waiting for several minutes, that it had failed to rouse any of my lord's servants.

He considered the matter. It was possible, though unlikely, that the household had removed from London without taking the knocker from the door, or shuttering the windows. To verify that the windows had not been shuttered he retreated to the flagway, and scanned the house, perceiving that not only were all the windows unshuttered but that one of them, on the entrance-floor, had been left open a few inches at the top. This gave, as he knew, on to the dining-room; and to reach it presented a lithe and determined young man with no insuperable difficulty. Divesting himself of his greatcoat, and trusting that no watchman would come down the street in time to observe his clandestine entry, he proceeded to demonstrate to the uninterested moon that Colonel Dan Mackinnon, of the Coldstream Guards, was not without a rival in the art of perilous climbing.

No such thought entered the Hon. Christopher Fancot's head: he was not acquainted with Colonel Mackinnon; and he did not think the feat of reaching the desired window-sill either dangerous or difficult. Once there it was easy to thrust up the lower sash, and to swing himself into the room. A couple of minutes later he emerged into the hall, where, upon a marble-topped side-table, he found a lamp burning low, with an unlit candle in a silver holder standing beside it. Observing these objects with an intelligent eye, Mr Fancot concluded that their noble owner had told his servants not to wait up for him. The subsequent discovery that the front-door was unbolted confirmed him in this belief. As he opened the door, to retrieve his belongings from the porch, he reflected, with an inward chuckle, that when his lordship did come home at last he would find his bed occupied by a most unlooked-for visitor, and would in all probability think that he was a great deal boskier than he had supposed.

On this thought, which appeared, from the mischievous smile which played about the corners of his mouth, to afford Mr Fancot amusement, he kindled the candle at the lamp's low flame, and made his way towards the staircase.

He went softly up, the candlestick held in one hand, his portmanteau in the other, and his greatcoat flung over his shoulder. No creaking stair betrayed him, but as he rounded the bend in the second flight a door opened on the floor above, and a voice said anxiously: ‘Evelyn?'

He looked up, seeing, in the light of a bedroom-candle held aloft in a fragile hand, a feminine form enveloped in a cloud of lace, which was caught together by ribbons of the palest green satin. From under a nightcap of charming design several ringlets the colour of ripe corn had been allowed to escape. The gentleman on the stairs said appreciatively: ‘What a fetching cap, love!'

The vision thus addressed heaved a sigh of relief, but said, with a gurgle of laughter: ‘You absurd boy! Oh, Evelyn, I'm so thankful you've come, but what in the world has detained you? I've been sick with apprehension!'

There was a quizzical gleam in the gentleman's eyes, but he said in accents of deep reproach: ‘Come, come, Mama — !'

‘It may be very well for you to say Come, come, Mama,' she retorted, ‘but when you faithfully promised to return not a day later than —' She broke off, staring down at him in sudden doubt.

Abandoning the portmanteau, the gentleman shrugged the greatcoat from his shoulder, pulled off his hat, and mounted the remaining stairs two at a time, saying still more reproachfully: ‘No, really, Mama! How can you be so unnatural a parent?'

‘Kit!' uttered his unnatural parent, in a smothered shriek. ‘Oh, my darling, my dearest son!'

Mr Fancot, receiving his widowed mama on his bosom, caught her in a comprehensive hug, but said, on a note of laughter: ‘Oh, what a rapper! I'm not your dearest son!'

Standing on tiptoe to kiss his lean cheek, and dropping wax from her tilted candle down the sleeve of his coat, Lady Denville replied with dignity that she had never felt the smallest preference for either of her twin sons.

‘Of course not! How should you, when you can't tell us apart?' said Mr Fancot, prudently removing the candlestick from her grasp.

‘I can tell you apart!' she declared. ‘If I had expected to see you I should have recognized you instantly! The thing was, I thought you were in Vienna.'

‘No, I'm here,' said Mr Fancot, smiling lovingly down at her. ‘Stewart gave me leave of absence: are you pleased?'

‘Oh, no, not a bit!' she said, tucking her hand in his arm, and drawing him into her bedchamber. ‘Let me look at you, wicked one! Oh, I can't see you properly! Light all the candles, dearest, and then we may be comfortable. The money that is spent on candles in this house! I shouldn't have thought it possible if Dinting hadn't shown me the chandler's bill which, I must say, I wish she had not, for what, I ask you, Kit, is the use of knowing the cost of candles? One must have them, after all, and even your father never desired me to purchase tallow ones.'

‘I suppose one might burn fewer,' remarked Kit, applying a taper to some half-dozen which stood in two chandeliers on the dressing-table.

‘No, no, nothing more dismal than an ill-lit room! Light the ones on the mantelpiece, dearest! Yes, that is much better! Now come and tell me all about yourself!'

She had drifted over to an elegant day-bed, and patted it invitingly, but Kit did not immediately obey the summons. He stood looking about him at the scene he had illumined, exclaiming: ‘Why, how is this, Mama? You were used to live in a rose-garden, and now one would think oneself at the bottom of the sea!'

As this was the impression she had hoped to create when, at stupendous cost, she had had the room redecorated in varying shades of green, she was pleased, and said approvingly: ‘Exactly so! I can't think how I endured those commonplace roses for so long — particularly when poor Mr Brummell told me years ago that I was one of the few females whom green becomes better than any other colour.'

‘It does,' he agreed. His eyes alighted on the bed, and crinkled at the corners as he saw that the billowing curtains were of gauze. ‘Very dashing! Improper, too.'

An enchanting ripple of laughter broke from her. ‘Fudge! Do you think the room pretty?'

He came to sit beside her, raising her hands to his lips, and planting a kiss in its palm. ‘Yes, like yourself: pretty and absurd!'

‘And like you!' she retorted.

He dropped her hand, not unnaturally revolted. ‘Good God — ! No, Mama!'

‘Well, absurd, at all events,' she amended, thinking, however, that it would have been impossible to have found two more handsome men than her twin sons.

The Polite World, to which they belonged, would have said, more temperately, that the Fancot twins were a good-looking pair, but by no means as handsome as had been their father. Neither had inherited the classical regularity of his features: they favoured their mother; and although she was an accredited Beauty dispassionate persons were agreed that her loveliness lay not so much in any perfection of countenance as in her vivacious charm. This, asserted her more elderly admirers, was comparable to the charm of the Fifth Duke of Devonshire's first wife. There were other points of resemblance between her and the Duchess: she adored her children, and she was recklessly extravagant.

As for Kit Fancot, at four-and-twenty he was a well-built young man, slightly above the average height, with good shoulders, and an excellent leg for the prevailing fashion of skin-tight pantaloons. He was darker than his mother, his glossy locks showing more chestnut than gold; and there was a firmness about his mouth which hers lacked. But his eyes were very like hers: lively, their colour between blue and gray, and laughter rarely far from them. He had her endearing smile as well; and this, with his easy unaffected manners, made him a general favourite. He was as like his brother as fourpence to a groat, only those most intimately acquainted with them being able to tell them apart. What difference there was did not lie perceptibly in feature or in stature, unless they were stood side by side, when it could be seen that Kit was a shade taller than Evelyn, and that Evelyn's hair showed a trifle more burnished gold than Kit's. Only the very discerning could detect the real difference between them, for it was subtle, and one of expression: Kit's eyes were the kinder, Evelyn's the more brilliant; each was more ready to laugh than to frown, but Kit could look grave for no reason that Evelyn could discover; and Evelyn could plummet from gaiety to despair in a manner foreign to one of Kit's more even temper. As children they had squabbled amicably, and turned as one to annihilate any intruder into their factions; during boyhood it had been Evelyn who inaugurated their more outrageous exploits, and Kit who extricated them from the consequences. When they grew to manhood circumstances separated them for long stretches of time, but neither physical separation nor mental divergence weakened the link between them. They were not in the least unhappy when apart, for each had his own interests, but when they met after many months it was as though they had been parted for no more than a week.

Since they had come down from Oxford they had seen little of one another. It was the custom of their house for a younger son to embrace a political career, and Kit entered the diplomatic service, under the patronage of his uncle, Henry Fancot, who had just been rewarded for his labours in the ambassadorial field with a barony. He was sent first to Constantinople; but as his appointment as a junior secretary coincided with a period of calm in Turkey's history he soon began to wish that he had persuaded his father to buy him a pair of colours; and even to wonder, with the optimism of one who had not yet attained his majority, whether it might not be possible to convince his lordship that he had mistaken his vocation. Stirring events were taking place in Europe; and it seemed intolerable to a spirited youth already dedicated to the service of his country to be thrust into a backwater. Fortunately, since the late Earl was quite the most unyielding of parents, he was transferred to St Petersburg before the monotony of his first appointment had goaded him into revolt. If he had owed his start in diplomatic life to his uncle, it was his father who was responsible for his second step: Lord Denville might be inflexible, but he was sincerely attached to Kit, and not altogether unsympathetic. His health was uncertain, and for several years he had taken little part in politics, but he had some good friends in the administration. Kit was sent, at the end of 1813, to join General Lord Cathcart's staff, and thereafter had neither the time nor the inclination to complain of boredom. Cathcart was not only ambassador to the Tsar, but also the British Military Commissioner attached to his armies, and in his train Kit saw much of the successful campaign of 1814. For his part, Cathcart accepted Kit unenthusiastically, and would have paid no more heed to him than to any of his other secretaries if his son had not struck up an instant friendship with him. George Cathcart, a very youthful lieutenant in the 6th Dragoon Guards, was acting as his father's military aide-de-camp. Much of his time was spent in carrying dispatches to the several English officers attached to the Russian armies, but whenever he returned to what he insisted on calling headquarters he naturally sought out his only contemporary on the ambassadorial staff. Inevitably, Kit came under his lordship's eye, and soon found favour. Cathcart thought him a likeable boy, with a good understanding, and easy manners: exactly the sort of well-bred lad who was invaluable to an overworked and elderly diplomat obliged to entertain on the grand scale. He had tact and address, and, for all his engaging lightheartedness, an instinctive discretion. When his lordship journeyed to Vienna to attend the Congress there, he took Kit with him. And there Kit had remained. Lord Castlereagh, noticing him with aloof kindness for his uncle's sake, introduced him to the newly-appointed ambassador, who happened to be his own half-brother, and Lord Stewart took a fancy to him. What Kit thought of Stewart, whom the irreverent at the Congress dubbed Lord Pumpernickel, he kept to himself; and if he was sorry to leave Cathcart he was glad not to be sent back to St Petersburg when the war was over. By then he had not only recovered from envy of George Cathcart's rare good fortune in having been appointed to Wellington's staff in time to have been present at Waterloo, but had become so much interested in the tangled policies of the Peace that St Petersburg would have seemed to him almost as remote from the hub of international affairs as Constantinople.

He had met Evelyn abroad twice in the past two years, but he had only once visited England, to attend his father's funeral.

Lord Denville had died, quite suddenly, in the early spring of 1816; and since that date, some fifteen months previously, Lady Denville had not set eyes on her younger son. She thought at first that he had not altered at all, and said so. Then she corrected herself, and said: ‘No, that's silly! You look older — of course you do! I am remembering how you were used to look, or trying to. The thing is, you see, that Evelyn is older too, so I've grown accustomed. You are still exactly like him, you know. Dearest, I wish you will tell me how it comes about that you're here so suddenly! Have you brought home a dispatch? Do you carry dispatches, like officers?'

‘No, I'm afraid not,' he answered gravely. ‘King's Messengers are employed on that business. I'm here to attend to — to urgent private affairs.'

‘Good gracious, Kit, I never knew you had any!' she exclaimed. ‘Oh, you're trying to hoax me! Now, why?'

‘But I have got urgent private affairs!' he protested. ‘You must know I have, Mama! I've become a man of substance, in fact: what you might call a well-breeched swell!'

‘I shouldn't call you anything so vulgar! Besides, it isn't true.'

‘How can you say so, when my godfather was so obliging as to leave his fortune to me?' he said reproachfully.

‘Is that what you mean? But it isn't a fortune, Kit! I wish it were — and I must own I thought it would be, for Mr Bembridge was always said to be very well to pass, only it turns out to be no such thing, and he was possessed merely of what Adlestrop, detestable creature, calls a competence. Poor man! I daresay it was not his fault, so you mustn't blame him!'

‘I don't! A pretty easy competence, Mama!'

‘A competence,' stated her ladyship, with conviction, ‘cannot be described as easy! You are talking like Adlestrop, and I wish you will not!'

Kit was aware that the family's man of business had never been a favourite with his mother, but these embittered references to him seemed to call for explanation. ‘What's Adlestrop done to offend you, Mama?' he asked.

‘Adlestrop is a — Oh, let's not talk about him! Such a screw, and so malignant! I can't think why I mentioned him, except that he told me, when Mr Bembridge died, that there was no occasion for you to come home, because there are no estates in question, or anything you might be obliged to attend to yourself — nothing but those detestable Funds, whatever they may be — and pray don't tell me, Kit, for you might as well talk gibberish! I perfectly understand that they are holy, and must on no account be touched; and, for my part, I would never invest my money in anything so stupid!'

‘Of course you wouldn't!' agreed Kit. ‘It would never stay in your purse long enough to be invested in anything!'

She considered this for a moment, and then sighed, and said: ‘No; that's true! It is the most lowering reflection. I have frequently tried to cultivate habits of economy, but I don't seem to have the knack of it. None of the Cliffes have! And the dreadful thing is, Kit, that such habits only lead to waste!'

He gave a shout of laughter, but, although her eyes twinkled sympathetically, she said earnestly: ‘Yes, but they do! I purchased a cheap gown once, because Papa cut up stiff over one of Céleste's bills, but it was so horrid that I was obliged to give it to Rimpton, without once wearing it! And when I gave orders for an economical dinner Papa got up from the table, and went straight off to the Clarendon, which is quite the most expensive hotel in London! Yes, you may laugh, but you have no experience of such matters. I assure you, the instant you begin to practise economy you will find yourself spending far more than ever you did before you embarked on such a ruinous course!'

‘No, shall I? Perhaps I had better sell out of the Funds immediately, and start wasting the ready!'

‘Nonsense! I know very well you haven't come home to do that! So what has brought you home, dearest? I'm persuaded it wasn't to look after these prodigious affairs of yours, so don't try to bamboozle me!'

‘Well — not entirely,' he admitted. He hesitated, colouring a little, and then said, meeting her look of inquiry: ‘To own the truth, I took a notion into my head — stupid, I daresay, but I couldn't be rid of it — that Evelyn is in some sort of trouble — or just botheration, perhaps — and might need me. So I made my prodigious affairs serve as a reason for wanting leave of absence. Now tell me I'm an airdreamer! I wish you may!'

She said instead, in a marvelling tone: ‘Do you still get these feelings, both of you? As though one's own troubles were not enough to bear!'

‘I see: I am not an airdreamer. What's amiss, Mama?'

‘Oh, nothing, Kit! That is to say — well, nothing you can cure, and nothing at all if Evelyn returns tomorrow!'

‘Returns? Where is he?'

‘I don't know!' disclosed her ladyship. ‘No one knows!'

He looked startled, and, at the same time, incredulous. Then he remembered that when she had first seen him, and had mistaken him for Evelyn, she had sounded disproportionately relieved. She was not an anxious parent; even when he and Evelyn were children their truancies had never ruffled her serenity; and when they grew up, and failed to return to the parental home at night, she had always been more likely to suppose that she had forgotten they had told her not to look for them for a day or two than to wonder what accident could have befallen them. He said in a rallying tone: ‘Gone off upon the sly, has he? Why should that cast you into high fidgets, Mama? You know what Evelyn is!'

‘Yes, I daresay I shouldn't even have noticed that he wasn't here, at any other moment! But he assured me, when he left London, that he would return within a sennight, and he has been away now for ten days!'

‘So — ?'

‘You don't understand, Kit! Everything hangs upon his return! He is to dine in Mount Street tomorrow, to be presented to old Lady Stavely, and she has come up from Berkshire particularly to make his acquaintance. Only think how dreadful if he were to fail! We shall be at fiddlestick's end, for she is odiously starched-up, you know, and I collect, from something Stavely said to me, that already she doesn't like it above half.'

‘Doesn't like what above half?' interrupted Kit, quite bewildered. ‘Who is she, and why the deuce does she want to make Evelyn's acquaintance?'

‘Oh, dear, hasn't Evelyn told you? No, I daresay there has been no time for a letter to reach you. The thing is that he has offered for Miss Stavely; and although Stavely was very well pleased, and Cressy herself not in the least unwilling, all depends upon old Lady Stavely. You must know that Stavely stands in the most absurd awe of her, and would turn short about if she only frowned upon the match! He is afraid for his life that she may leave her fortune to his brother, if he offends her. I must say, Kit, it almost makes me thankful I have no fortune! How could I bear it if my beloved sons were thrown into quakes by the very thought of me?'

He smiled a little at that. ‘I don't think we should be. But this engagement — how comes it about that Evelyn never so much as hinted at it? I can't recall that he mentioned Miss Stavely in any of his letters. You didn't either, Mama. It must have been very sudden, surely? I'll swear Evelyn wasn't thinking of marriage when last I heard from him, and that's no more than a month ago. Is Miss Stavely very beautiful? Did he fall in love with her at first sight?'

‘No, no! I mean, he has been acquainted with her for — oh, a long time! Three years at least.'

‘And has only now popped the question? That's not like him! I never knew him to tumble into love but what he did so after no more than one look. You don't mean to tell me he has been trying for three years to fix his interest with the girl? It won't fadge, my dear: I know him too well!'

‘No, of course not. You don't understand, Kit! This is not one of his — his flirtations!' She saw laughter spring into his eyes, tried to keep a solemn look in her own, and failed lamentably. They danced with wicked mirth, but she said with a very fair assumption of severity: ‘Or anything of that nature! He has outgrown such — such follies!'

‘Has he indeed?' said Mr Fancot politely.

‘Yes — well, at all events he means to reform his way of life! And now that he is the head of the family there is the succession to be considered, you know.'

‘So there is!' said Mr Fancot, much struck. ‘What a gudgeon I am! Why, if any fatal accident were to befall him I should succeed to his room! He would naturally exert himself to the utmost to cut me out. I wonder why that should never before have occurred to me?'

‘Oh, Kit, must you be so odious? You know very well —'

‘Just so, Mama!' he said, as she faltered, and stopped. ‘How would it be if you told me the truth?'

Meet the Author

The late Georgette Heyer was a very private woman. Her historical novels have charmed and delighted millions of readers for decades, though she rarely reached out to the public to discuss her works or private life. It is known that she was born in Wimbledon in August 1902, and her first novel, The Black Moth, was published in 1921.

Heyer published 56 books over the next 53 years, until her death from lung cancer in 1974. Heyer's large volume of works included Regency romances, mysteries and historical fiction. Known also as the Queen of Regency romance, Heyer was legendary for her research, historical accuracy and her extraordinary plots and characterizations. Her last book, My Lord John, was published posthumously in 1975. She was married to George Ronald Rougier, a mining engineer, and they had one son together, Richard.

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False Colours 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's all to save face, of course, and to help save Mama from becoming impoverished. The humor is not slapstick, but comes from character and situation. One of this author's best
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Georgette Heyer is one of the best writers of the 20th century. This one is lots of fun. She embroils the hero in a mess and extricates him and his twin with finesse and style.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
False Colors is one of Georgette Heyer's best. Characters who are fun to know. Straightening everyone's various problems that become very entangled as the story moves along. Being a twin brings an extra set of problems along with financial difficulties and lovers and elderly crochets. All lighthearted and delightful.
necrodog More than 1 year ago
Ms Heyer's strengths are her understanding of the time period and her ability to create believable and likeable characters. her work is dated by the sensibilities and prejudices of her time as well as that of the books' setting, but the stories are entertaining and well-written.
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