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HaBO: He Teaches Her How to Tie a Cravat

This HaBO is from Tobu, who is looking for this historical romance novel:

I’m looking for a Regency romance that I read as a teenager, a few chapters at a time (after the kids were asleep!) while babysitting regularly for a particular family. The mom had an impressive collection of romance novels!

The heroine was dark-haired (curls, I think) and disguising herself as a young man (can’t remember why), and was knocked down in the street by the hero’s carriage and brought back to his home to recover, at which point he discovered her secret but kept it. She was brought on as part of his household (?) while still masquerading as a boy, for some plot-crucial reason I can’t recall. There was a very sexually-charged moment where he was standing behind her and teaching her to tie a cravat in the mirror. At some point she got all dressed up to the nines in a fancy (blue? I think?) dress and stunned him with her Glorious Feminine Beauty after him having gotten used to her “boy” persona, as you do.

There were themes of lower-class vs. upper-class life and being lifted from poverty, and the gross criminal underbelly of Regency London. Given when I read it, it couldn’t have been published later than 2003.

Ring any bells?


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  1. TamB. says:

    This might be These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer.
    The blurb is:
    The Duke of Avon is known for his coldness of manner, his remarkable omniscience, and his debauched lifestyle. Late one evening, he is accosted by a young person dressed in ragged boy’s clothing running away from a brutal rustic guardian. The duke makes “Leon” his page. “Leon” is in fact Leonie, and she serves the duke with deep devotion. When he uncovers the true story of her birth, he wreaks an unforgettable revenge on her sinister father in a chilling scene of public humiliation.

  2. kkw says:

    I don’t think it’s These Old Shades, although I suspect whoever wrote this book was thinking of it too. But the red hair was such a plot point, it’s more the underbelly of Paris than London, and there’s no cravat tying tension. There’s a different Heyer, The Corinthian I think, that *does* have a scene where hero teaches heroine disguised as boy to tie a cravat but it doesn’t line up otherwise.
    I think I have read this one also but it’s all so jumbled up in my head. I feel like it might be Lisa Kleypas or Elizabeth Hoyt? Idk.

  3. squee_me says:

    My Lady Notorious by Jo Beverly might fit this? He figures out the ruse early on but doesn’t reveal to her that he knows. I’m not sure if there’s a cravat-tying scene though it would fit with what I remember of the book. And I think there is a scene later in the book with an aha! moment when she wears a dress. I don’t believe it’s set in London though; it starts in the countryside and later they’re in a city but not London. Definitely has the seedy underbelly vibe when they are in town.

  4. Katy L says:

    I can’t remember the title, but I think there was a Johanna Lindsey from the 80’s or 90’s with this sort of plot. I’ll see if I can jog my less than reliable memory and com back with more detail. Hope this helps.

  5. squee_me says:

    The more I think on it, I’m not sure my Jo Beverley suggestion fits. The heroine is not incorporated into hero‘s household staff. So that part seems a bit different. Also, in the Beverley book, he is aristocrat but she thinks he’s a highwayman.

    This AAR list might help:

  6. omphale says:

    I’m getting a Catherine Coulter vibe here?

  7. MaryK says:

    Heroine disguised as a boy was a popular trope at one time and lots of writers used it. I never cared for it because I couldn’t buy into the beautiful heroine successfully looking like a boy.

    I wonder if this was a Signet Regency. They were shorter, category romance with similar covers like the Harlequin lines before Regency as a setting took over mainstream historical romance.

  8. chacha1 says:

    I thought ‘Jane Feather’ but I can’t remember which title it might have been.

  9. One of the Ms. M's says:

    @chacha1 I want to say The Emerald Swan, but too many things don’t match. It’s way earlier (heroine’s mother is killed in St Bartholomew Day Massacre), I’m not sure if she dresses as a boy, and the hero deliberately brings her in because she looks like a spoiled heiress in his family. Also it’s in France.

  10. Lara says:

    Is it “The Finer Things” by Brenda Joyce? Although I cannot remember if the heroine dressed as a boy, or if it was more a My Fair Lady situation in that book.

  11. Lostshadows says:

    @Katy L I don’t think it’s a Johanna Lindsey.

    The only one I remember with a significant “heroine is disguised as a boy” plot takes place mostly on a ship. (Gentle Rogue)

  12. J E says:

    Love’s Charade by Jane Feather? It’s cringey – I think the heroine is under 18 – but a good example of this trope and the time period.

  13. Meg says:

    arghhh! I know I’ve read this. I also know I’ve not read most of the titles suggested. Could it be a Gayle Callan? I’ve scanned the titles and nothing jumps out. Maybe Meredith Duran? I keep a book log, but it’s only within the past few years since I’ve realized my memory is non-existent that I’ve taken to writing a short summary of the the plots. Hoping someone can pin this down!

  14. Jacelyn says:

    I remember Johanna Lindsey having a couple books where the heroine was disguised as a boy. I want to say Gentle Rogue, but that’s on a ship.

  15. Susan says:

    This sounds like Sins of a Wicked Duke by Sophie Jordan. The heroine “Fallon”is escaping the son of a woman she’s working for. As she’s running away she is offered a ride by Duke Dominic. He’s quite the sleaze (for good reasons of course). I think she’s still disguised as a boy and she’s offered a position as footman. She’s talk and has reddish brown beautiful hair. Her gorgeous hair attracts men and unwanted attention. Somewhere in there she’s outed as a female.

  16. Stacie says:

    There was a Johanna Lindsey with a female thief who dresses as a male to escape being sent to work at a brothel. She cuts her hair and gets a job as a valet. Later she marries the hero. She sets a trend in short hair on females. It’s one of the Mallory’s. I will look through them.

  17. Charlene says:

    Captain Jack’s Woman by Stephanie Laurens is a possibility. However cannot remember the details in the book as it has been ages since I read it but the heroine does dress like a lad in it.

  18. Nina A says:

    This might also be Mad Jack by Catherine Coulter.

  19. Rose says:

    Is it Poldark? He meets his wife in much this way.

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