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First edition cover
|Dewey Decimal||823/.912 22|
|LC Class||PR6015.E795 C68 2007|
Cotillion is a Regency romance novel by Georgette Heyer that was released in 1953. It is one of the most light-hearted of Heyer's romances, avoiding the mystery, intrigue, and sensational events present in many of her novels. The story is set in 1816.
Heroine Kitty Charing has been brought up in rural isolation by her rich and eccentric guardian, Matthew Penicuik (pronounced PENNY-cook), whom she calls Uncle Matthew. Uncle Matthew makes the whimsical decision to name Kitty as his heiress, but only if she marries one of his extensive collection of great-nephews, the offspring of his assorted and much-loathed sisters' grandchildren.
Uncle Matthew expects that Kitty will marry Jack Westruther, his favourite great-nephew, and Kitty would be only too happy to comply: she has adored Jack for years. But Jack, while he intends someday to wed Kitty (believing that Uncle Matthew's money must be willed either to her or to him), prefers to lead a rakish lifestyle as long as possible. Confident that Kitty will not accept any of his cousins, Jack declines to attend the family party at which Uncle Matthew intends for his great-nephews to propose to Kitty.
Kitty, greatly upset by the absence of Jack and by the possibility of becoming destitute should she not accept one of the great-nephews, is further dismayed by the proposals she receives. First, there is doltish Lord Dolphinton ("Dolph"), an impoverished Irish peer under his mother's thumb. Dolph is clearly proposing because his mother wants Uncle Matthew's money. Then there is Reverend Hugh Rattray, who assures Kitty that he is very fond of her, and that she will make a very suitable wife when her youthful levity has been tempered, for he pities the fact she is a destitute orphan, to her scorn.
When another great-nephew arrives, Kitty hails him with relief. Freddy Standen is rich, good-natured, unaware of Uncle Matthew's intentions, and has no intention of marrying. Nevertheless, Kitty begs him to propose to her and invite her to London to reintroduce her to his parents, whom she has not seen for some time. She assures Freddy that once she has visited London for a month, she will break off the engagement and live quietly thereafter. When she threatens to cry, Freddy is too mortified to do anything but agree. She does not tell Freddy that she really hopes to make Jack jealous and force him to propose to her. Freddy suspects she has something up her sleeve but does not know what.
Uncle Matthew, unconvinced by the announced engagement, guesses exactly what Kitty is up to; since it falls in with his own wishes, he allows Kitty to go to London. At the same time, he assures her that he will not tolerate being left for more than a month with "that Fish"—Miss Fishguard, Kitty's governess, who will stand in as housekeeper during Kitty's absence.
The complications that ensue are reflected in the title: a cotillion was originally a dance for four couples.