These Old Shades (Alastair Trilogy Series #1)

These Old Shades (Alastair Trilogy Series #1)

4.2 89
by Georgette Heyer

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Set in the Georgian period, about 20 years before the Regency, These Old Shades is considered to be the book that launched Heyer's career. It features two of Heyer's most memorable characters: Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon, and Leonie, whom he rescues from a life of ignomy and comes to love and marry.

The Duke is known for his coldness of


Set in the Georgian period, about 20 years before the Regency, These Old Shades is considered to be the book that launched Heyer's career. It features two of Heyer's most memorable characters: Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon, and Leonie, whom he rescues from a life of ignomy and comes to love and marry.

The Duke 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 buys "Leon" and makes the child 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.


"Our Georgette Heyer display of the Sourcebooks reprints has been a huge success, not only to those early fans like myself, but to many new readers who appreciate her style and wit."

Nancy Olson, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC

"Reading Georgette Heyer is the next best thing to reading Jane Austen."

Publishers Weekly

"Wonderful characters, elegant, witty writing, perfect period detail, and rapturously romantic. Georgette Heyer achieves what the rest of us only aspire to."

Katie Fforde

"Absolute monarch of the Regency romance."

Kirkus Reviews

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Justin Alastair, Duke of Avon, is called "Satanas" by enemy and friend alike. In the aristocratic circles of both London and Paris he has a reputation as a dangerous and debauched rake. He has the occasional odd whim, however, and when a semistarved, ragged child literally falls into his arms on a dark Paris street, Justin purchases the miserable scrap from his abusive guardian and makes the child his page. Cleaned up and properly dressed, Leon proves to be surprisingly comely, with delicate features and flaming red hair. His delicate manners coexist with a personality that combines innocence and arrogance with a fiery temper and a willful stubbornness. Strangest of all, he bears a strong resemblance to the Comte de Saint-Vire, an old enemy of Justin's. Before long Leon is unmasked as the girl Leonie, but the mystery of her heritage deepens. The strength of the characters rather than the plot fuels this novel. Justin cuts a dark and brooding hero figure; his motives are definitely dubious at the beginning of the story and remain questionable. Even the secondary characters are strongly drawn, distinct, and important to plot development. Narrator Cornelius Garrett does an excellent job, offering a rendition of Justin that is suitably languid. Highly recommended.-Barbara Rhodes, Northeast Texas Lib. Syst., Garland Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"There will never be another Regency writer this perfect." - Book Pleasures

"For a truly exceptional read, Regency or otherwise, that makes you giddy with glee you need to pick up These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer. " - Love Romance Passion

"Heyer made me laugh, cry, and sigh with warmth. " - The Book Faery Reviews

"These Old Shades is not only a pleasure to read as a romance, but also for the heartwarming manner in which its young heroine attracts friends, and the way they all rally to her cause." -

"It's nice to find a book that you want to frantically flip through to find out what is going to happen next, yet want to read slowly so you can savor every word at the same time." - Virginie Barbeau

"Mistaken identity, intrigue, and romance are only a few of the plot lines that make These Old Shades a fascinating read. " - Laura's Reviews

"If the story that unfolds is outrageous and unbelievable, the characters develop beautifully, the dialog bubbles delightfully, and we love the rollicking ride." - Jane Austen's World

"The dialogue sparkles." - Starting Fresh

"I was captivated by the story line from the beginning, delighted in the plot twists, enchanted by the budding romance, and teased by the chapter headings into reading far into the night. " - Rundpinne

Product Details

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Alastair Trilogy Series , #1
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Read an Excerpt

These Old Shades

By Georgette Heyer

Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.

Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. All right reserved. ISBN: 0-373-83559-0

Chapter One

His Grace of Avon Buys a Soul

A gentleman was strolling down a side street in Paris, on his way back from the house of one Madame de Verchoureux. He walked very mincingly, for the red heels of his shoes were very high. A long purple cloak, rose-lined, hung from his shoulders and was allowed to fall carelessly back from his dress, revealing a full-skirted coat of purple satin, heavily laced with gold; a waistcoat of flowered silk; faultless small clothes; and a lavish sprinkling of jewels on his cravat and breast. A three-cornered hat, point-edged, was set upon his powdered wig, and in his hand he carried a long beribboned cane. It was little enough protection against foot-pads, and although a light dress sword hung at the gentle-man's side its hilt was lost in the folds of his cloak, not quickly to be found. At this late hour, and in this deserted street, it was the height of foolhardiness to walk unattended and flaunting jewels, but the gentleman seemed unaware of his recklessness. He proceeded languidly on his way, glancing neither to left nor to right, apparently heedless of possible danger.

But as he walked down the street, idly twirling his cane, a body hurled itself upon him, shot like a cannon-ball from a dark alley that yawned to the right of the magnificentgentleman. The figure clutched at that elegant cloak, cried out in a startled voice, and tried to regain his balance.

His Grace of Avon swirled about, gripping his assailant's wrists and bearing them downwards with a merciless strength belied by his foppish appearance. His victim gave a whimper of pain and sank quivering to his knees.

"M'sieur! Ah, let me go! I did not mean - I did not know - I would not - Ah, m'sieur, let me go!"

His Grace bent over the boy, standing a little to one side so that the light of an adjacent street lamp fell on that white agonized countenance. Great violet-blue eyes gazed wildly up at him, terror in their depths.

"Surely you are a little young for this game?" drawled the Duke. "Or did you think to take me unawares?"

The boy flushed, and his eyes grew dark with indignation.

"I did not seek to rob you! Indeed, indeed I did not! I - I was running away! I - oh, m'sieur, let me go!"

"In good time, my child. From what were you running, may I ask? From another victim?"

"No! Oh, please let me go! You - you do not understand! He will have started in pursuit! Ah, please, please, milor'!"

The Duke's curious, heavy-lidded eyes never wavered from the boy's face. They had widened suddenly, and become intent.

"And who, child, is 'he'?"

"My - my brother. Oh, please -"

Round the corner of the alley came a man, full-tilt. At sight of Avon he checked. The boy shuddered, and now clung to Avon's arm.

"Ah!" exploded the newcomer. "Now, by God, if the whelp has sought to rob you, milor', he shall pay for it! You scoundrel! Ungrateful brat! You shall be sorry, I promise you! Milor', a thousand apologies! The lad is my young brother. I was beating him for his laziness when he slipped from me -"

The Duke raised a scented handkerchief to his thin nostrils.

"Keep your distance, fellow," he said haughtily. "Doubtless beating is good for the young."

The boy shrank closer to him. He made no attempt to escape, but his hands twitched convulsively. Once again the Duke's strange eyes ran over him, resting for a moment on the copper-red curls that were cut short and ruffled into wild disorder.

"As I remarked, beating is good for the young. Your brother, you said?" He glanced now at the swarthy, coarse-featured young man.

"Yes, noble sir, my brother. I have cared for him since our parents died, and he repays me with ingratitude. He is a curse, noble sir, a curse!"

The Duke seemed to reflect.

"How old is he, fellow?"

"He is nineteen, milor'."

The Duke surveyed the boy.

"Nineteen. Is he not a little small for his age?"

"Why, milor', if - if he is it is no fault of mine! I - I have fed him well. I pray you, do not heed what he says! He is a viper, a wild-cat, a veritable curse!"

"I will relieve you of the curse," said his Grace calmly.

The man stared, uncomprehending.

"Milor' -?"

"I suppose he is for sale?"

A cold hand stole into the Duke's, and clutched it.

"Sale, milor'? You -"

"I believe I will buy him to be my page. What is his worth? A louis? Or are curses worthless? An interesting problem."

The man's eyes gleamed suddenly with avaricious cunning.

"He is a good boy, noble sir. He can work. Indeed, he is worth much to me. And I have an affection for him. I -"

"I will give a guinea for your curse."

"Ah, but no, milor'! He is worth more! Much, much more!"

"Then keep him," said Avon, and moved on.

The boy ran to him, clinging to his arm.

"Milor', take me! Oh, please take me! I will work well for you! I swear it! Oh, I beg of you, take me!"

His Grace paused.

"I wonder if I am a fool?" he said in English. He drew the diamond pin from his cravat, and held it so that it winked and sparkled in the light of the lamp. "Well, fellow? Will this suffice?"

The man gazed at the jewel as though he could hardly believe his eyes. He rubbed them, and drew nearer, staring.

"For this," Avon said, "I purchase your brother, body and soul. Well?"

"Give it me!" whispered the man, and stretched out his hand. "The boy is yours, milor'."

Avon tossed the pin to him.

"I believe I requested you to keep your distance," he said. "You offend my nostrils. Child, follow me." On he went, down the street, with the boy at a respectful distance behind him.

They came at last to the Rue St. Honoré, and to Avon's house. He passed in with never a glance behind him to see whether his new possession followed or not, and walked across the courtyard to the great nail-studded door. Bowing lackeys admitted him, looking in surprise at the shabby figure who came in his wake.

The Duke let fall his cloak, and handed his hat to one of the footmen.

"Mr. Davenant?" he said.

"In the library, your Grace."

Avon sauntered across the hall to the library door. It was opened for him, and he went in, nodding to the boy to follow.

Hugh Davenant sat by the fire, reading a book of poems. He glanced up as his host came in, and smiled.

"Well, Justin?" Then he saw the shrinking child by the door. "Faith, what have we here?"

"You may well ask," said the Duke. He came to the fire, and stretched one elegantly shod foot to the blaze. "A whim. That dirty and starved scrap of humanity is mine." He spoke in English, but it was evident that the boy understood, for he flushed, and hung his curly head.

"Yours?" Davenant looked from him to the boy. "What mean you, Alastair? Surely - you cannot mean - your son?"

"Oh, no!" His Grace smiled in some amusement. "Not this time, my dear Hugh. I bought this little rat for the sum of one diamond."

"But - but why, in heaven's name?"

"I have no idea," said His Grace placidly. "Come here, rat."


Excerpted from These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer
Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

The late Georgette Heyer was a very private woman. Her historical novels have charmed and delighted millions of readers for decades, though she rarely reached out to the public to discuss her works or private life. It is known that she was born in Wimbledon in August 1902, and her first novel, The Black Moth, was published in 1921.

Heyer published 56 books over the next 53 years, until her death from lung cancer in 1974. Heyer's large volume of works included Regency romances, mysteries and historical fiction. Known also as the Queen of Regency romance, Heyer was legendary for her research, historical accuracy and her extraordinary plots and characterizations. Her last book, My Lord John, was published posthumously in 1975. She was married to George Ronald Rougier, a mining engineer, and they had one son together, Richard.
The late Georgette Heyer was a very private woman. Her novels have charmed and delighted millions of readers for decades, though she rarely reached out to the public to discuss her works or personal life. She was born in Wimbledon in August 1902. She wrote her first novel, The Black Moth, at the age of seventeen to amuse her convalescent brother; it was published in 1921 and became an instant success.

Heyer published 56 books over the next 53 years, until her death from lung cancer in 1974. Her work included Regency romances, mysteries and historical fiction. Known as the Queen of Regency romance, Heyer was legendary for her research, historical accuracy and her extraordinary plots and characterizations. Her last book, My Lord John, was published posthumously in 1975. She was married to George Ronald Rougier, a barrister, and they had one son, Richard.

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These Old Shades (Alastair Trilogy Series #1) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 89 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am so glad that this book has been republished. I am a huge Georgette Heyer fan and These Old Shades was one of her books which I did not have. This book was sooooo good. It made me laugh out loud numerous times and by the end of the book I actually had tears in my eyes. For a book to do that is indeed a book worth reading! For those who have never read Georgette Heyer's books, you are in for a real treat. She is the writer that all other regency romance writers are judged by and she still, many years after her death, is the best regency romance writer of all time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I say yes it is. I defy anyone not to fall for this heroine and for the hero, who first uses her for revenge and falls in love along the way. Set in the time of Louis XIV, this is set in Paris and England. An easy read, a good intro to Georgette Heyer, but it sets the bar way high for other historical romances. Five * not nearly enough! Sequel: Devil's Cub is also quite wonderful (Heroine shoots hero!) Third book "An Infamous Army" is about Waterloo and great granddaughter of Alastair who resembles great-granny.
Balina More than 1 year ago
This was a fantastic read. i couldn't put it down.
Haylie_Hannah More than 1 year ago
This was an extremely beautiful romantic story. It showed a love that slowly and unconsciously grew as Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon, tried to solve the "puzzle" that Leon/Leonie represented. For all the good it did him to keep her at arm's length, her unconditional love for him torn the walls that he surrounded himself. In the end, instead of using her as the key to his own vengeance, he learned to love and treasure her as the key to his heart. Overall, it was a very touching story. My favourite G.H. book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once you read Georgette Heyer, no other historical romance writer will do. Her books are witty, fun, romantic, and historically accurate in their depiction of modes and manners. These Old Shades adds mystery and clever plot twists to the mix, making for a delightful read that will leave you wanting more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i have been reading her books since i was 16. they are so detailed its like you're there. her knack for detail is superb. i love all of her romance novels -this being my favorite- and also its sequel devils cub.
Schmooby-Doo More than 1 year ago
This book and its sequel (Devil's Cub) are books I read at least once a year. For decades now, Leonie has been a friend I love to meet again and again. I own it in hardback and a few beater paperbacks and now on Nook! This is one of G. Heyer's early works and it is just so good. Great dialogue, settings, fashion. The basic plot is a haughty, omniscient duke rescues a pageboy from the streets of 18th century Paris. But is the boy all he seems to be? It is very stylized, which is why it's so correct for the time frame. Heyer's gift is making the times she writes about so real you really wonder if she had a secret time machine. She is unbeatable! Highly recommended!!! I'd give it TEN stars if I could! I'd also recommend THE GRAND SOPHY too!
beckymmoe More than 1 year ago
If this had been my first book by Heyer, I doubt I would have read any more of hers, which is a shame because she's one of my favorite authors. This one, though, was difficult for me to get through. First of all, I had a hard time with the hero, Justin Alstair, the Duke of Avon. His motives at times seemed highly questionable. He claims he knew from the first that his new page was a girl, yet he let her continue with the charade much longer than seemed necessary; in fact, he went out of his way to flaunt his new page all over Paris society, taking her into places that few men brought their pages, places that were not at all suitable for a nineteen-year-old girl. I know it was all part of his plot to ruin his old rival, the Comte de Saint-Vire, but it showed a tremendous lack of respect for Leon/Leonie as a fellow human being rather than a disposable pawn. The fact that he called her his child over and over in the story was also a bit disturbing, given where readers know the story is going to end up. Leon/Leonine's slavish devotion to him, too, seems to be a bit much. Their relationship just had a few too many "ick" factors for me to be completely comfortable. If you can get past the hero and heroine's questionable motives and actions, though, many parts of the story are enjoyable and trademark Heyer. The secondary characters are, as always, wonderfully drawn. The antagonist is delightfully evil, and the plot itself is good. The last third or so of the book did have my complete interest as much of the first half did not. All in all, I'm not sorry I read this one, but I am very glad that it wasn't my introduction to this author.
samNY More than 1 year ago
This is a review for all Heyer's stories - they are fun and entertaining and not sappy romances as some supposedly "regency romances" are. She pokes gentle fun at the mores and traditions of the time; there is humor in every book as well as a fun romance. Thanks for reprinting her! She is a classic that should be in every book lover's library.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It is very much an historical romance novel. Heyer's description of the clothing of the characters was very well done and gave one an idea of how people dressed in the time period. The adventure itself and the mystery surounding the main characters was very well written and done. Not quite Agatha Christie but very close to her style of adventure. The only downside to this period novel was what year it takes place. You had to piece together the clues in the description of the costumes to ascertain the year. If one knows the style of dress for each century you were able to figure it out very quickly, if not, you were out of luck and had to hope to get some other type of clue. I also recommend that you start with this book in the series and not purchase the 2nd or 3rd first. It will only confuse you with her referals to the past books. Once I read this book I went back to the 2nd novel and was better able to enjoy it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
plot was good but this was sooooo tedious to read. and you dont really like any of the characters. i really was not pleased with how easy it was to guess every move and the ending was so routine.
songbirdsue More than 1 year ago
I found this very interresting and intertaining. I did not feel the romance at all though. It was more mystery for me as well as some charater development. This time period is always fascinating. The story is cute.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this has been my favorite book since I read it at age 14 my copy is falling apart from so many readings. I also reccommend the Sequel DEVIL'S CUB about the Justin and Leona's son
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice preregency and much jewels and behind it the french revolution brewing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
only gave this book 4 stars because the age difference always disturbed me, however she is a great writer.devil s cub is by far the best sequel.also ,a must are her historical novels.
m_bell More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent tale of mystery and intrigue. It is also a fine example of the proper use of punctuation, grammar and composition that should be required reading for anyone wishing to publish a book. I bought the book to study the mechanics of the writing, and was pleasantly surprised to find a gripping story that kept me reading late into the night. "The Black Moth" is next for me.
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One of my favorite Heyer books. Alaistair is close to being unredeemable--he wins a fortune from some man who then kills himself. He plays to the end and leaves him nothing so you know what he's capable of. Leonie is only a tool to get at Saint Vire but it's something about her that doesn't add up and only someone who been around and doesn't take things at face value would eventually figure out. It takes a couple of readings to get the gist of the slang and manners and how honor carries all in that society before you appreciate the exquisite writing of Georgette Heyer. This is not a one time quick read but an adventure that you would want to take many times in your life.
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Fricka More than 1 year ago
These Old Shades is one of my favorite Georgette Heyer romance novels. The book is the first of three in the chronicle of the Alastair family, and introduces the readers to Justin Alastair, also known as His Grace of Avon. The plot line has already been more than adequately dealt with in previous reviews, so I'll focus on what makes this book such fun to read time and time again. Heyer provides such character insight, and her dialogue is absolutely charming. For example, this exchange between the Duke and his page Leon, from Chapter Five: " ' I think I have a very bad temper,' he remarked naively. 'M.le Cure would have made me do penance for it. He talked to me about it--oh, often!' 'You do not appear to have profited unduly from his discourse,' replied Avon dryly. 'No, Monseigneur. But it is difficult, you understand. My temper is too quick for me. In a minute it is up, and I cannot stop it. But I am nearly often sorry afterwards.' " Thus with a few short sentences, Heyer presents the character attribute of Leon the page(later Leonie, the Duke's ward) and the Duke's response to her confession. Heyer also gives the reader insight into the world of the aristocracy in France and England during the Georgian period. Although the timing of this book and its successor, Devil's Cub, are in the Georgian period, Heyer's writing made her the Standard Bearer of the Regency Novel. Any regency fan who hasn't read Heyer should do so, as they are wonderful reading. Highly recommended.