I almost gave this 5 stars -- I really wanted to because it was hugely entertaining for such a quick, light read, but I found Orczy's prose just a little too purple and repetitious at times. She gives great descriptions, and Sir Blakeny's clever disguises and escapes from the French Republicans are great fun to read (if very obvious to the reader), but while this is a worthy classic in the spy/adventure novel genre, it falls short of being a literary masterpiece; Baroness Orczy just is not a Dickens or even a Bronte.
That said, many people - especially if looking for something light to read - may well enjoy Orczy more than one of Dickens's dense multi-layered tomes, or a depressing Bronte novel about dysfunctional Byronic anti-heroes.The Scarlet Pimpernel
is all close calls and daring rescues by the dashing Sir Percy Blakeny, who adopts the persona of a dull-witted playboy but is secretly the Scarlet Pimpernel, leader of a band of English gentlemen who spirit French aristocrats condemned to die by the guillotine out of France. He's kind of like an 18th century superhero, Bruce Wayne in a cravat. His French-born wife, Marguerite, has no idea that her seemingly stupid and inane husband is the heroic figure admired throughout England and despised throughout France. Much of the tension in the novel is marital tension between these two -- Marguerite has done some bad things in the past that she regrets, but she can't explain them to Percy, so he of course doesn't trust her. Never fear, the story has a romantic happy ending.
Again, great fun to read, but Orczy was a bit of a hack as a writer and the story sort of careens from one unlikely escape to another, so don't expect much depth. It's still better than most modern spy thrillers.