P.G. Wodehouse loved imposters in his stately homes the way Patricia Wentworth loved people suffering from amnesia in her mysteries. In PGW's stories, Person A is prevented or refuses, for a good reason, to make a visit to a stately home. Person B volunteers for his own reasons to go in his place (it's usually a him). Though there are usually at least two people in on the secret, Person B generally carries off the masquerade - until Person A shows up, under false pretenses and pretending to be someone else entirely (let's call him Person C).
In Spring Fever, published in 1948, Person A is Stanwood Cobbold. His father has sent him over to England to get him away from Eileen Stoker, a Hollywood star with whom he has fallen in love. Discovering that Miss Stoker has just arrived in London, for a two-picture contract, Cobbold Senior orders Stanwood off on a visit to Beevor Castle. The Castle is the Kentish home of the fifth Earl of Shortlands, the head of Cobbold family. The American Mr. Cobbold has discovered that his family is a colonial branch of this noble family, and he has developed (from afar) a great reverence for and devotion to the Earl. Lord Shortlands has no idea who this American person is, and certainly didn't invite his son for a visit. But then his masterful daughter Adela, whose husband's money keeps the Castle running, learns that Stanwood is the heir to a fortune. She immediately plans to marry him to her youngest sister Theresa.
Stanwood, however, has no intention of leaving London while Eileen Stoker is there. So his friend Mike Cardinal, a Hollywood agent, volunteers to go in his place. His motive: he is in love with Theresa (Terry), who is steadfastly refusing to marry him. When Lord Shortlands comes up to London, with Terry, to collect Stanwood, he hits it off with Mike and agrees to the impersonation. The Earl has troubles of his own. He needs £200, to win the hand of his cook Mrs. Punter, who wants to retire from service and open a pub in London. Lord Shortlands has a rival in his handsome butler Melvin Spink. His only consolation is that Spink regularly loses all his money on the ponies.
At first all goes well, except that Terry continues to refuse Mike's proposals and won't tell him why. But then Stanwood appears, pretending to be a Mr. Rossiter, an expert in rare stamps (about which he really knows nothing). An expert is needed because a rare Spanish stamp turned up in an old album, which both Lord Shortlands and his butler claim belongs to them. The stamp may be worth as much as £1500, which is more than enough to win Mrs. Punter's hand.
This book was such fun, with a capital "F". Lord Shortlands is one of those persecuted fathers, but he and Terry have a close and loving alliance. She is just a good egg, and I was curious to find out why she kept turning Mike Cardinal down when she's clearly not immune to his charm and beauty. Maybe it's the influence of his Hollywood career, but their flirtatious conversations flow like the best screwball comedy. At one point, he woos her by reading selections from "Percy's Promise, by Marcia Huddlestone (Popgood and Grooly, 1869)" - which is how it's referred to in the text every time, and that made me giggle.
And then there's Augustus Robb, Stanwood Cobbold's personal attendant. He is a massive man, an ex-burglar who has found religion, quotes constantly from the Scriptures, calls Stanwood "cocky" - and wears horn-rimmed glasses. I thought immediately of Magersfontein Lugg, Albert Campion's man, though it's Campion who wears the glasses. Did PGW ever read Margery Allingham's books, I wonder? And that reminded me of Peter Wimsey telling Bunter in Strong Poison, "Well, then, don't talk like Jeeves. It irritates me."