Bertie Wooster comes home from vacation in Cannes to find that his valet, Jeeves, is giving romantic advice to Bertie's old school chum, Gussie Fink-Nottle. Gussie has fallen in love with Madeline Bassett, an old acquaintance of Bertie's, but is far too shy to share his feelings with her. When Jeeves' idea to have Gussie make an impression on Madeline by dressing up as Satan for a costume party goes wrong, due to Gussie's own bumbling, Bertie decides that Jeeves has lost his knack for problem solving and decides to take Gussie under his own wing.
Meanwhile, Bertie's Aunt Dahlia is demanding Bertie come to her mansion, Totleigh Court, in order to present the end-of-term prizes at Market Snodsbury Grammar School. Fortunately for Bertie, Madeline Bassett is staying with Aunt Dahlia and her husband Tom, which gives Bertie an excuse to send Gussie instead.
Eventually, however, Bertie is forced to come to Totleigh Towers anyway. His cousin Angela (daughter of Dahlia and her husband Tom) has broken up with her fiancé, Tuppy Glossop, another one of Bertie's old school chums. And Bertie also must figure out how to coax Tom into paying for Aunt Dahlia's insolvent women's magazine, Milady's Boudoir. Bertie, who is miffed at Jeeves for disparaging Bertie's mess jacket, insists on taking all these tasks on himself rather than asking his hypercompetent valet. Disaster ensues.
This is the only Jeeves and Wooster novel that is available in the public domain.
- Accidental Proposal: Bertie has a supernatural skill at blundering into these. In this novel he tries to argue Gussie's case to Madeline, only to accidentally make her think he's proclaiming his own love.
- Alcohol-Induced Stupidity: Gussie's epic rant to the students at the grammar school while tanked up to his eyeballs is a classic example of this.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Bertie mentions a girl who criticized his "manners, morals, intellect, general physique, and method of eating asparagus".
- Break the Cutie: The central plot driver of Right Ho, Jeeves. Bertie is completely fed up with his friends and relatives trampling over him in their rush to get his valet's advice. He forbids Jeeves from interfering again and takes everyone's problems on himself. After his ideas fall flat in on Diabolus ex Machina after another, and all his supposed loved ones treat him like shit (including his "good" Aunt telling him to kill himself and wishing she'd let him die when he was a baby), he finally asks Jeeves for help. Jeeves sends Bertie on an eighteen-mile bicycle ride (not before smirkingly recounting an anecdote about a horrible bicycle accident). After finding out his journey has been for nothing, a sore and weary Bertie returns home to find everyone celebrating how Jeeves has solved all their troubles. It turns out that Bertie was a cat's-paw in Jeeves' scheme to focus everyone's anger away from each other, AND THEN Jeeves reveals that he's also "accidentally" ruined Bertie's beloved new mess jacket - which he'd made Jeeves promise wouldn't be a casualty of his schemes. Bertie, being the good-natured soul he is, just lets it go. Because wanting to be treated like a human being by your family and friends is being too arrogant, apparently.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Gussie's main problem. At one point he nearly bares his soul to Madeline only to find himself talking about his main hobby, newts.
- Chekhov's Gun: "We stayed at Cannes about two months, and except for the fact that Aunt Dahlia lost her shirt at baccarat and Angela nearly got inhaled by a shark while aquaplaning, a pleasant time was had by all." The shark is the indirect cause of Angela's severed engagement later in the novel.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Bertie relates Jeeves the descent and fall of Augustus Fink-Nottle, from Newts as a harmless hobby to a dark obsession:Bertie: ... Well, Gussie has always been a slave to them. He used to keep them at school.
Jeeves: I believe young gentlemen frequently do, sir.
Bertie: He kept them in his study in a kind of glass-tank arrangement, and pretty niffy the whole thing was, I recall. I suppose one ought to have been able to see what the end would be even then, but you know what boys are. Careless, heedless, busy about our own affairs, we scarcely gave this kink in Gussie's character a thought. We may have exchanged an occasional remark about it taking all sorts to make a world, but nothing more. You can guess the sequel. The trouble spread,
Jeeves: Indeed, sir?
Bertie: Absolutely, Jeeves. The craving grew upon him. The newts got him. Arrived at man's estate, he retired to the depths of the country and gave his life up to these dumb chums. I suppose he used to tell himself that he could take them or leave them alone, and then foundtoo latethat he couldn't.
Jeeves: It is often the way, sir.
- Gibberish of Love: Befalls Gussie Fink-Nottle when he attempts to propose to Madeline Bassett.Jeeves: Mr. Fink-Nottle was overcome by a sudden nervousness, sir... He began to deliver a dissertation on the newt, its care in sickness and in health...
- Gratuitous French: The hyper-intelligent Jeeves is prone to this.Jeeves: You feel that Miss Angela's strictures should not be taken too much au pied de la lettre, sir?
Jeeves: In English, we should say "literally".
- Hangover Sensitivity: Bertie is nursing a hangover when Aunt Dahlia comes barging in to demand that he visit her estate.
- Intoxication Ensues: Gussie Fink-Nottle (a teetotaler and all-around spineless goof) gets roped into giving a speech for the award ceremonies at a local grammar school. To "stiffen his fibers", he drinks a great deal of whisky, and then a jug-full of orange juice which both Bertie and Jeeves have independently spiked with alcohol.
- Kissing Cousins: Bertie tries to use this as a defense when he finds out Tuppy thinks he's in love with Angela, saying "isn't there something in the book of rules about a man may not marry his cousin? Or am I thinking of grandmothers?"note
- Liquid Courage: Goes wrong when Gussie follows Bertie's advice and downs a whole lot of whisky, then drinks all the orange juice that unbeknownst to him Bertie spiked with gin. He is thus drunk as a lord when it's time to give a speech at the school.
- Love at First Sight: Tuppy confesses that this happened when he met Angela."I fell in love with her in a couple of minutes. I worshipped her immediately we met, the popeyed little excrescence."
- Love Informant: Bertie tries to do this with Madeline for Gussie, but botches it horribly.
- Makeup Is Evil: When Tuppy and Angela quarrel, he says he disapproves of this habit of modern girls, putting on make-up.
- Mask of Confidence: Jeeves invokes this trope advising Gussie Fink-Nottle, who Cannot Spit It Out to Madeline Basset, to get a Captain Pirate costume to a costume ball Madeline has invited Gussie. We will never know if it would have worked, because Gussie prefers a Mephistopheles costume to the pirate costume, and he gives the taxi the wrong address and his costume has not pockets where to save money and he expends the night at jail.
- Meet Cute: Gussie says he met Madeline for the first time when she was out walking her dog, and she happened to run into him. The dog had a thorn in its foot, which Gussie extracted.
- Midnight Snack: Tuppy Glossop the gourmand has been fighting with his vegetarian fiancée Angela. Bertie advises him to pretend not to be hungry at dinner, so Angela will think he is pining over her—and then nip down to the kitchen while everyone's asleep and have some steak-and-kidney pie. Unfortunately, though, what with one thing and another the entire household ends up coming down to the kitchen at midnight. Angela uses the midnight snack as even further evidence of Tuppy's gluttony, and he doesn't even get time to eat it.
- Mistaken Declaration of Love: Bertie manages to give Madeline Bassett the impression that he loves her. This turns out to be a Chekhov's Boomerang throughout the series, as Madeline has a habit of going back to Bertie whenever her relationships go wrong, much to Bertie's horror.
- Narrative Profanity Filter: Bertie never swears. So when Dahlia hears that Anatole is angry again after she worked so hard to calm her down, she lets loose with "a rich hunting-field expletive."
- Offscreen Teleportation: A Running Gag throughout the series has Bertie being thrown off by Jeeves appearing or disappearing in a room without being seen to enter or leave. In this novel, he "just seems to float from Spot A to Spot B like some form of gas."
- Rescue Romance: Jeeves suggests this as a plan, if Bertie sets off the fire alarm then the disentangled couples will rush to each others' aid and reentangle, dis-entangling Bertie and saving Aunt Dahlia's magazine. His actual plan is somewhat more complex however, involving making an ass of Bertie as a key step.
- Separated by a Common Language: Bertie observes that Aunt Dahlia's French chef Anatole had been in service with an American family for several years before coming to work for her. Bertie pronounces Anatole's English as "fluent, but a bit mixed." In the next paragraph, Anatole mixes up American slang ("Hot dog!", "hit the hay", "mad as a wet hen") with British ("jolly well", "blighters").