An early Georgette Heyer romance, this opens with a brief introduction to three different landowners in a provincial neighborhood, illuminating their characters in the ways that they will reflect on the next generation. That next generation is represented by honest, simply-attired Philip Jettan, beauty Cleone Chateris with whom he is in love, and the town-polished but eminently disagreeable Henry Bancroft. While Cleone is in love with Philip, she wishes he had a bit more care about his appearance and manners. Philip's father concurs. Philip doesn't understand why it matters when he is the upstanding soul that he is. And he is particularly unhappy that he thinks the two people he loves most want him to ape Henry Bancroft, a dandy of low morals and other unadmirable traits. But rebuffed by Cleone, he leaves town, traveling to Paris under the tutelage of his uncle to transform into society's pride. When he hears that Cleone has traveled to London and is actively enjoying herself, he heads back to England to show her he has changed into what she wanted. But Cleone finds she misses the old Philip and so the two act at cross-purposes, in danger of permanently driving each other away with their contrariness.
Heyer is considered the queen of the Regency romance and yet this early attempt on her part is a Georgian-set romance rather than a Regency. And it is almost not a romance in the traditional sense, being instead a comedy of manners. Henry Bancroft is a complete popinjay, as is Philip when he is acting as he thinks his father and Cleone want him to act. The superficiality of society and the disregard for the character of the people in high society are certainly condemned here but it is a little awkward in its presentation. Cleone and Philip's father are supposed to remain sympathetic characters but they continually discount Philip's moral fibre and want him to be more polished, which makes it harder for the reader to stay in sympathy with them. Philip himself might still be as hardworking and upstanding as he was before he became society's darling, but the game he plays to see if Cleone will love him for himself and not the fairly empty-headed facade he's so carefully cultivated is a bit immature for such a formerly forthright and staid character. There are definitely glimmers of the Heyer to come in this novel but I don't think this is one of her best.