"A story in the grand tradition of romance, where love...reclaims one thought to be beyond all hope of redemption."STEPHANIE LAURENS, New York Times bestselling author
A thrilling, chilling tale of long-awaited revenge...
What People Are Saying About These Old Shades:
"For a truly exceptional read, Regency or otherwise, that makes you giddy with glee you need to pick up These Old Shades."Love Romance Passion
"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
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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 footpads, and although a light dress sword hung at the gentleman'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 magnificent gentleman. 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 Iwould 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! II was running away! Ioh, 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! Youyou 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'?"
"Mymy 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 ref lect.
"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', ifif he is, it is no fault of mine! II have fed him well. I pray you, do not heed what he says! He is a viper, a wildcat, a veritable curse!"
"I will relieve you of the curse," said his Grace calmly.
The man stared, uncomprehending.
"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 f lushed, and hung his curly head.
"Yours?" Davenant looked from him to the boy. "What mean you, Alastair? Surelyyou cannot meanyour 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."
"Butbut why, in heaven's name?"
"I have no idea," said his Grace placidly. "Come here, rat."
The boy came to him timidly, and allowed Justin to turn his face to the light.
"Quite a pretty child," the Duke remarked. "I shall make him my page. So entertaining to possess a page, body and soul."
Davenant rose, and took one of the boy's hands in his. "I suppose you will explain, some time or another," he said. "For the present, why not feed the poor child?"
"You are always so efficient." The Duke sighed. He turned to the table, on which a cold supper was laid, awaiting him. "Wonderful. You might almost have known that I should bring home a guest.You may eat, little rat."
The boy looked up at him shyly. "Please, milor', I can wait. II would not eat your supper. I would rather wait, ifif you please."
"I do not please, my child. Go and eat." He sat down as he spoke, twirling his quizzing-glass. After a moment's hesitation the boy went to the table and waited for Hugh to carve him a leg of chicken. Having supplied his wants, Hugh came back to the fire.
"Are you mad, Justin?" he asked, faintly smiling.
"I believe not."
"Then why have you done this? What do you, of all men, want with a child of his age?"
"I thought it might be an amusement. As you doubtless know, I am suffering from ennui. Louise wearies me. This" he waved one white hand towards the famished boy "is a heaven-sent diversion."
"You surely do not intend to adopt the child?"
"You are going to make him as your son?" persisted Hugh incredulously.
The Duke's eyebrows rose, rather superciliously.
"My dear Hugh! A child from the gutter? He shall be my page."
"And what interests will that afford you?" Justin smiled, and his glance travelled to the boy.
"I wonder?" he said softly.
"You have some special reason?"
"As you so sapiently remark, my dear Hugh, I have some special reason."
Davenant shrugged his shoulders, and allowed the subject to drop. He sat watching the child at the table, who presently finished his repast, and came to the Duke's side.
"If you please, sir, I have finished."
Avon put up his eyeglass.
"Have you?" he said.
The boy knelt suddenly, and to Davenant's surprise, kissed the Duke's hand.
"Yes, sir. Thank you."
Avon disengaged himself, but the boy knelt still, looking up into the handsome face with humble eyes. The Duke took a pinch of snuff.
"My esteemed child, there sits the man you had best thank." He waved his hand towards Davenant. "I should never have thought of feeding you."
"II thank you for saving me from Jean, milor'," the boy answered.
"You are reserved for a worse fate," said the Duke sardonically. "You now belong to mebody and soul."
"Yes, sir. If you please," murmured the boy, and sent him a swift glance of admiration from beneath his long lashes.
The thin lips curled a little.
"The prospect is no doubt pleasing?"
"Yes, sir. II would like to serve you."
"But then, you do not know me very well," said Justin, with a slight chuckle. "I am an inhuman taskmaster, eh, Hugh?"
"You are not the man to care for a child of his age,"said Hugh quietly.
"True, very true. Shall I give him to you?"
A trembling hand touched his great cuff.
Justin looked across at his friend.
"I do not think I shall, Hugh. It is so entertaining, and soer novel, to be a gilded saint in the eyes oferunf ledged innocence. I shall keep the boy for just so long as he continues to amuse me. What is your name, my child?"
"How delightfully brief!" Always a faint undercurrent of sarcasm ran beneath the surface of the Duke's smooth voice. "Léon. No more, no less. The question isHugh will of course have the answer readywhat next to do with Léon?"
"Put him to bed," said Davenant.
"Naturallyand do you thinka bath?"
"By all means."
"Ah, yes!" The Duke sighed, and struck a handbell at his side.
A lackey came in answer to the summons, bowing deeply.
"Your Grace desires?"
"Send me Walker," said Justin.
The lackey effaced himself, and presently a neat individual came in, grey-haired and prim.
"Walker! I have something to say to you.Yes, I remember. Walker, do you observe this child?"
Walker glanced at the kneeling boy.
"Ay, your Grace."
"He does. Marvellous," murmured the Duke. "His name, Walker, is Léon. Strive to bear it in mind."
"Certainly, your Grace."
"He requires several things, but first a bath."
"Ay, your Grace."
"Secondly, a bed."
"Yes, your Grace."
"Thirdly, a nightgown."
"Yes, your Grace."
"Fourthly, and lastly, a suit of clothes. Black."
"Black, your Grace."
"Severe and funereal black, as shall befit my page.You will procure them. No doubt you will prove yourself equal to this occasion. Take the child away, and show him the bath, the bed, and the nightgown. And then leave him alone."
"Very good, your Grace."
"And you, Léon, rise. Go with the estimable Walker. I shall see you tomorrow."
Léon came to his feet, and bowed.
"Yes, Monseigneur. Thank you."
"Pray, do not thank me again," yawned the Duke. "It fatigues me." He watched Léon go out, and turned to survey Davenant.
Hugh looked full into his eyes.
"What does this mean, Alastair?"
The Duke crossed his legs, and swung one foot.
"I wonder?" he said pleasantly. "I thought that you would be able to tell me.You are always so omniscient, my dear."
"Some scheme you have in mind, I know," Hugh said positively. "I have known you long enough to be sure of that. What do you want with that child?"
"You are sometimes most importunate," complained Justin. "Never more so than when you become virtuously severe. Pray spare me a homily."
"I have no intention of lecturing you. All I would say is that it is impossible for you to take that child as your page."
"Dear me!" said Justin, and gazed pensively into the fire.
"For one thing, he is of gentle birth. One can tell that from his speech, and his delicate hands and face. For anotherhis innocence shines out of his eyes."
"How very distressing!"
"It would be very distressing if that innocence left himbecause of you," Hugh said, a hint of grimness in his rather dreamy voice.
"Always so polite," murmured the Duke.
"If you wish to be kind to him"
"My dear Hugh! I thought you said you knew me?"
Davenant smiled at that.
"Well, Justin, as a favour to me, will you give me Léon, and seek a page elsewhere?"
"I am always sorry to disappoint you, Hugh. I desire to act up to your expectations on all possible occasions. So I shall keep Léon. Innocence shall walk behind Evilyou see, I forestall youclad in sober black."
"Why do you want him? At least tell me that?"
"He has Titian hair," said Justin blandly. "Titian hair has ever been one ofmyrulingpassions." The hazel eyes glinted for a moment, and were swiftly veiled. "I am sure you will sympathize with me."
Hugh rose and walked to the table. He poured himself out a glass of burgundy, and sipped it for a time in silence.
"Where have you been this evening?" he asked at length.
"I really forget. I believe I went first to De Touronne's house.Yes, I remember now. I won. Strange."
"Why strange?" inquired Hugh.
Justin f licked a grain of snuff from his great cuff.
"Because, Hugh, in the days, not so long since, when it wasah common knowledge that the noble family of Alastair was on the verge of ruinyes, Hugh, even when I was mad enough to contemplate marriage with the presenterLady MerivaleI could only lose."
"I've seen you win thousands in a night, Justin."
"And lose them the following night. Then, if you remember, I went away with you tonow, where did we go? Rome! Of course!"
The thin lips sneered a little.
"Yes. I was theahrejected, and heart-broken suitor. I should have blown my brains out to be quite correct. But I was past the age of drama. Instead I proceededin due courseto Vienna. And I won. The reward, my dear Hugh, of vice."
Hugh tilted his glass, watching the candle-light play on the dark wine.
"I heard," he said slowly, "that the man from whom you won that fortunea young man, Justin"
"with a blameless character."
"Yes. That young manso I hearddid blow his brains out."
"You were misinformed, my dear. He was shot in a duel. The reward of virtue. The moral is sufficiently pointed, I think?"
"And you came to Paris with a fortune."
"Quite a considerable one. I bought this house."
"Yes. I wonder how you reconcile it with your soul?"
"I haven't one, Hugh. I thought you knew that."
"When Jennifer Beauchamp married Anthony Merivale, you had something approaching a soul."
"Had I?" Justin regarded him with some amusement.
Hugh met his look.
"And I wonder too what Jennifer Beauchamp is to you now?"
Justin held up one beautiful white hand.
"Jennifer Merivale, Hugh. She is the memory of a failure, and of a spell of madness."
"And yet you have never been quite the same since."
Justin rose, and now the sneer was marked.
"I told you half an hour ago, my dear, that it was my endeavour to act up to your expectations. Three years agoin fact, when I heard from my sister, Fanny, of Jennifer's marriageyou said with your customary simplicity that, although she would not accept my suit, she had made me. Voilà tout."
"No." Hugh looked thoughtfully across at him. "I was wrong, but"
"My dear Hugh! Pray do not destroy my faith in you!"
"I was wrong, but not so much wrong. I should have said that Jennifer prepared the way for another woman to make you."
Justin closed his eyes.
"When you become profound, Hugh, you cause me to regret the day that saw me admit you into the select ranks of my friends."
"You have so many, have you not?" said Hugh, flushing.
"Parfaitement." Justin walked to the door. "Where there is money there are also friends."
Davenant set down his glass.
"Is that meant for an insult?" he said quietly.
Justin paused, his hand on the doorknob.
"Strange to say it was not. But by all means, call me out."
Hugh laughed suddenly.
"Oh, go to bed, Justin! You are quite impossible!"
"So you have often told me. Good night, my dear." He went out, but before he had shut the door bethought himself of something, and looked back, smiling. "A propos, Hugh, I have got a soul. It has just had a bath, and is now asleep."
"God help it!" Hugh said gravely.
"I am not sure of my cue. Do I say amen, or retire cursing?" His eyes mocked but the smile in them was not unpleasant. He did not wait for an answer, but shut the door, and went slowly up to bed.
Table of Contents
1 His Grace of Avon Buys a Soul 1
2 Introducing the Comte de Saint-Vire 13
3 Which Tells of a Debt Unpaid 27
4 His Grace of Avon Becomes Further Acquainted with his Page 33
5 His Grace of Avon Visits Versailles 49
6 His Grace of Avon Refuses to Sell his Page 65
7 Satan and Priest at One 79
8 Hugh Davenant is Amazed 93
9 Léon and Léonie 103
10 Lady Fanny's Virtue is Outraged 113
11 Mr Marling's Heart is Won 129
12 His Grace of Avon's Ward 135
13 The Education of Léonie 143
14 The Appearance on the Scene of Lord Rupert Alastair 151
15 Lord Rupert Makes the Acquaintance of Léonie 163
16 The Coming of the Comte de Saint-Vire 173
17 Of a Capture, a Chase, and Confusion 179
18 The Indignation of Mr Manvers 189
19 Lord Rupert Wins the Second Trick 201
20 His Grace of Avon Takes Command of the Game 217
21 The Discomfiture of the Comte de Saint-Vire 227
22 The Arrival of Another Player in the Game 241
23 Mr Marling Allows Himself to be Persuaded 251
24 Hugh Davenant is Agreeably Surprised 263
25 Léie Curtsies to the Polite World 275
26 The Presentation of Léonie
27 The Hand of Madame de Verchoureux 307
28 The Comte de Saint-Vire Discovers an Ace in his Hand 321
29 The Disappearance of Léonie 329
30 His Grace of Avon Trumps the Comte's Ace 341
31 His Grace of Avon Wins All 359
32 His Grace of Avon Astonishes Everyone for the Last Time 369
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.
This was a fantastic read. i couldn't put it down.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
This is a book I relish page by page. My second reading was a particular joy, because I had finally figured out the large cast, and could sit back and enjoy the delicate machinations and dry wit. Heyer rejoices in her period details, and so do I. Oh, for the days when dangerous men wore red high heels, diamanté buckles, powdered wigs, flowered pink satin, and flourished their fans. It was the last European era where men dressed as flamboyantly as women; the last time macho men wore rouge and diamonds. I only wonder how many hands they had. Heyer's characters are forever carrying scented handkerchiefs, snuff-boxes, bouquets, walking sticks, quizzing-glasses and fans; then, they pick up glasses of wine. Where do they keep it all? She was punctilious about getting slang and turns of phrase just right, and she gives a convincing portrayal of the morals and feelings of the time.On the other hand, Heyer's insistence on the importance of bloodlines in determining a person's character is weird and jarring; I would expect it of her characters, but not of a 20th century author. It's something she portrays as objective fact, not as a common perception of the time. Somehow, this doesn't seriously affect my enjoyment of the book, though I wouldn't argue with anyone who found it insurmountable.Never mind exactly where the plot's going. Heyer knows precisely who her characters are; she's confident with their reactions and voices from the first page, and she loves to put them into a situation and let them go. It feels like she's been writing them for years."These Old Shades" is a marvellous variation on the reformed-roué tale. Leon/ie is a piquant character, not another 'fiery red-headed' heroine, and the Duke is, in my opinion, a unique and delicately drawn rake - a mature man who is surprised by his own development, but navigates it with grace and dignity. (Unlike another reformed rake, Brontë's Rochester, Avon never allows himself the luxury of self-deception). The romance is subtle, restrained, and deeply felt. By the climactic scene, I was involved with the characters, and was touched by their role reversal.
So this one is fine. It mostly takes place in Paris. I don't really have much to say about it. Off to the next one. One good thing about Heyer ... there are plenty to choose from.
Over the past few years, I have begun a collection of Georgette Heyer's works. If you enjoy a good, clean Regency romance, she is your go-to source. You will not find the passion here as in Julia Quinn's works, but instead a more subtle courtship. I love her historical descriptions and well-drawn characters. This particular book, THESE OLD SHADES, is classic Heyer. It was an enjoyable read, and it held my interest until the very end. The reason for the 4-star rating? There is quite an age difference between the the hero and heroine (20+ years), and at times it seemed unbelievable to me that the worldly Duke of Avon could fall in love with the child he calls "infant." It seemed a bit awkward at times, but fortunately, by the end all was resolved in another satisfying conclusion. Very enjoyable Regency romance as always!
I admit it, I have a bit of a kink when it comes to girls masquerading as guys and managing to pull it off. Especially during times when, historically, it was believed that women were incapable of even a fraction of what men were capable of. To shed the dress and don some breeches and go about the country side takes moxie and young Leon, er, Leonie has that in spades. Her story is wildly entertaining to read about and yet Georgette Heyer manages to kick it up another notch by adding in court intrigue, a debauched rake, and an ancient score that needs to be settled. Little Leonie finds herself in the middle of a whirlwind of scandal and only with the help of her savior, the Duke, does she have a chance to survive.I have loved all of Georgette Heyer's gender benders, The Corinthian, The Masqueraders and now I can add These Old Shades to the line up. Her historical novels are so filled with period detail you feel like you really are in the century she is portraying. While it may be a stretch to believe that such characters as the Duke and Leonie can manage to pull off their very scandalous story then just remember it is France from before the time of Napoleon. The dissatisfied lower classes had to become dissatisfied somehow and some of the upper crust's hi-jinks definitely contributed to that.Speaking of class differences that was one of the only problems I had with this story. The classism displayed by the characters, while accurate for the time, in some ways I think went a bit too far. The Duke loves Leonie and at the same time expresses disgust and distaste for the people in the class she was raised in. There was some character development as well that made the characters themselves reflect the very traits that distinguish them as being a commoner or a noble even in situations where it would be far fetched to believe it. In the nature versus nurture argument These Old Shades falls firmly on the side of nature and I can't say any more or will risk spoiling it.Georgette Heyer makes you fall in love with her characters even if they really don't deserve it. Whether it is a debauched rake who is addressed as Satan (and rightfully so) on a number of occasions, or a headstrong girl who thinks little of everyone save for her savior the Duke Heyer will make them lovable and you will care what happens to them even if you don't agree with them, their ideals, or their lifestyle choices. The romance turned out to be very sweet and left me wondering what will happen to them down the road. Thankfully I don't have to wonder long because this is the first in a trilogy. Next is Devil's Cub followed by An Infamous Army each taking place generations later. I look forward to it!
It's my favorite book of Heyer's. I love the characters--they are nuanced and unusual. In a way, as a modern woman, I feel that I shouldn't like this book as much as I do: Avon's manipulative and controlling, and Leonie is far too adoring of him. But on the other hand, these aren't supposed to be modern characters, and Heyer does a very good job of engaging our emotions very quickly. Justin and Leonie are both lonely and loners, and despite their age difference (which wouldn't have made much difference in the Georgian period), they are quite similar in their determination and sense of honor. I admire Leonie's fire and Justin's sense of justice.
Light, diverting, and fun. Better in the first and last thirds than in the middle, where the heroine's childlike innocence became a bit wearing. And the end, where the villain is finally dispensed with, is absolutely delicious.
Georgette Heyer outdid herself with this one. This is going in my top five for sure! The whole girl disguising herself as a boy thing always had me intrigued, Heyer added humor and BAM! A hilarious romp.The Duke of Avon is strolling home one night and happens upon a ragamuffin fleeing from their nasty guardian. The Duke buys Leon and makes him his page and soon figures out that Leon is actually Leonie and that a mystery surrounds her.As usual, I enjoyed the side characters more so than the main. Rupert had me cracking up every time he spoke and I just loved Fanny's silliness. Of course, I just loved Leonie, as well. She was a very outspoken heroine, not at all the norm.When a Heyer novel makes me grin like a silly person without realizing it, than it is definitely a keeper! These Old Shades is a true Heyer classic! On to Devil's Cub!
My first Heyer, and I think I'm a fan. This was crazy melodramatic plot, with entertaining, likeable (and dislikeable) characters, all of the twists of Wilkie Collins with much more tongue in cheek.
Enid Blyton meets PG Wodehouse; all very frothy and silly, but a smattering of historical slang does not a satisfying story make. Leon/Leonie is a typical Heyer-oine, delighting the hero and all secondary characters with the force of her desire to act like a boy (this theory that a heroine must mask or deny her gender to be regarded as 'equal' to the men is popular with Heyer); a tedious caricature who speaks in stunted sentences peppered with French, to show that she is foreign ("Ah, bah! Monsieur, he is a pig-person - voila!") The Duke of Avon - given the preposterous and anachronistic first name of Justin, which I chose to mentally replace with his family name, Alastair - was a promising hero, a dark and brooding Sir Percy Blakeney with a Reputation, until Heyer chose to iron out his personality and make him a safe and aging suitor - tamed by this supposedly 'original' young woman in his care. And Avon's relationship with Leon/Leonie was disturbing throughout - an aging roue buying a young lad as his 'page', the cringing dependency of a whiny and obsequious 'ward' who sits at her master's feet, and then the suggestion that this is the basis for a successful marriage? Not to mention the irony that 'high-born' Leonie is considered a very forward young woman who will bow to no man's will - put her in a frock and the 'hoydenish' behaviour is replaced by a submissive, simpering, tearful milksop! The contradiction in terms of a Heyer hoyden is not unique to this story, however.The plot volleys between the France of King Louis XV and Georgian England, but the only real difference is the increase of bad accents and a change of titles. Nobility of birth is all, personality is nil; men are men, despite addressing each other as 'beloved' and carrying fans, but being a woman merely gets in the way of a good Adventure. The dialogue, usually the best feature of Heyer's writing, is drawn-out and repetitive in this novel - if the 'banter' and exposition were trimmed, this book could be a hundred pages shorter - and certain words and phrases are over-used ('twinkling' eyes, 'desolated' men, that unattractive 'gurgle' of the more mature women, and a smattering of schoolgirl French). A weak novel, unfortunately bought in tandem with its sequel, 'Devil's Cub' - but a recovery might be in order before crawling on hands and knees to meet Leonie again!
This is my ultimate comfort read, and, heresy that this may be to some, is far more satisfying, and better for you, than a box of chocolates. I haven't yet read a Georgette Heyer novel that hasn't had fully realised characters, interesting plots, fully realised characters and sparkling, witty dialogue. This one is a classic, with reason, and is just sheer bliss from start to finish. I don't want to give the plot away, but Heyer transcends and transforms the conventions of romantic fiction and produces a scintillating and exciting novel. Try one. If you don't believe me fans such as A.S. Byatt, Margaret Drabble and Stephen Fry (yes really!) can't be wrong.
This is a very cute book. While I don't generally hold with books that have the whole "girl disguised as a boy" motif (I think girls look ~more feminine dressed as boys, not less), I was able to suspend disbelief and enjoy this book anyway - partially because she didn't have Justin fooled for more than a couple of minutes anyway. While I also have friends who would argue that familial similarities are not close enough to see someone out of the blue and identify them, I had no trouble accepting this - in Leonie's case, her eyes and hair were unique enough that they could possibly be identifiable. This book was a joy to read. While Leonie's hero worship of Justin gets a bit old at times, I admire her spunk Justin is a fantastic character - rakish, thoroughly lacking in morals (so it seems), and eventually redeemed by Leonie's innocence and adoration...a truly enjoyable read.