Georgette Heyer,
Royal Escape
(Sourcebooks, 2008)

Charles II's Royal Escape provides Georgette Heyer's readers with both an accurate account of the true monarch's adventure and a coming-of-age story through one of England's most unusual royals. Heyer begins with Charles's defeat, doling out the life story of this king forced to hide as a commoner in small doses along the way. In order to survive, he not only has to outwit his many enemies, travel far without comfort and trust his mission to poor men and strangers, but also must prove to himself that his life is still valuable and worthy of hope.

This day-by-day saga showcases Heyer's talent for transporting her readers back through time and giving them a grand tour of the various lifestyles then lived. Moreover, she portrays the young Charles II with both great tenderness and much playfulness, which makes it easy for readers to stay by his side along his physical and mental journeys. Those who helped this hunted exile also shine with a sympathetic light in Heyer's portrayal, particularly his female guardian Jane Lane.

However, for all the novel's overlapping and carefully sifted historical contexts through Charles's bitter past, his changing perceptions and his interaction with other social castes and views, the story remains simple. A vital and dangerous masquerade stops short of suspense for those who know Charles II's true history. The hero's growth of character anchors the story to this appealing monarch, but never seems to really take hold or lead it anywhere other than that pleasant tale of a successful escape.

In short, an enjoyable read, embedded in history Heyer displays but doesn't explain for those who may not know it, which offers no more and no less than what the cover promises: "Royal Escape: In which a daredevil king with a price on his head fools his enemies and terrifies his friends."

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review by
Whitney Mallenby

21 November 2009

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