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These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

These Old Shades (original 1926; edition 2009)

by Georgette Heyer

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1,830603,816 (4.12)288
Title:These Old Shades
Authors:Georgette Heyer
Info:Sourcebooks Casablanca (2009), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:TBR pile (books to read or re-read), Wishlist (books to purchase or swap)
Tags:Adult, historical fiction, Regency, romance

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These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer (1926)

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Justin Alastair, Duke of Avon has the worst reputation in all of high society in London and Paris. When he has a chance encounter with a young street urchin, he buys the young man, Leon, from his abusive elder brother and sets him to work as his page. However, as Alastair soon discovers, Leon is actually Leonie and she holds far more charm than he could ever have expected. She also holds the secret that Alastair can use to finally avenge himself on his long-term enemy but the outfall of his plot has more consequences than he expects.

An enjoyable historical romance, as one always expects from Heyer, but not my favourite. The time period isn't one I purposely seek out in my historical fiction. Leonie comes across as far too naive and innocent (and at times downright stupid) for someone with her background, which left me unimpressed with her. The narrative is highly readable and I don't reject dipping into it but I wouldn't recommend this as a first Heyer to start with. ( )
  MickyFine | Jul 31, 2016 |
Justin Alistair is handsome, fashionable, and merciless. As the Duke of Avon in the mid-Eighteenth century, he has far more power and money than he really knows what to do with. An urchin's red hair catches his attention, and he buys the boy from his loutish older brother.

And thus begins the adventure of Leon, also known as Leonie, and her life with the duke. She has a sort of slavish devotion to him that is utterly inexplicable (and quite disturbs his friends), and he intends to use her to destroy his enemy, Saint-Vire. First she acts as his page, and when that masquerade wears thin, he commences a sort of My Fair Lady makeover and presents her to Society.

In most ways, [b:These Old Shades|311182|These Old Shades|Georgette Heyer|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1173644611s/311182.jpg|2682162] falls into the usual Heyer tropes: the hero is saturnine, sarcastic, the best at everything, and has a hilariously unlikely nickname ("Satanas"); the heroine is the most sensible and cheerful girl ever, is the only one who thinks the hero has a heart-of-gold, acts younger than her years (Leonie acts so young, in fact, that she often seems closer to ten than her purported age of nineteen) and is absolutely beautiful; everyone is fascinated by the two love interests.

The relationship between Justin and Leonie will always be a bit creepy: he's more than twice her age, he *bought* her, and he has very different moral standards for men than for women. Leonie herself is actually pretty charming, although I don't buy her characterization for a moment--there's no way someone can work on a farm and then a tavern for ~20 years and be so innocent and flaky. And I just don't understand why she's so devoted to him, nor do I understand when she turned from thinking of him as a protector to a lover. She makes comments about how men her age are too silly and foolish--but she's at least as silly as they are. But here is the saving grace of this book: there are other characters beyond Justin and Leonie. Not just the usual collection of silly women and amusing children, who serve to make the love interests look better, but married couples whose relationships to each other are delicately traced, a young rake who doesn't understand why his older brother has turned his biting wit against him, and the kindly Davenant, who is a gentle scholarly presence in the background. Their tangled interactions with each other kept me amused by the book long after I tired of the foregone love between Leonie and Justin. I hate the mid-eighteenth century, but there is one thing to be said for it--by setting her story there, Heyer is unable to lard her dialog with Regency slang. What a relief! As always with Heyer, there's a huge dose of classism in here--in fact, it's necessary to believe that peasants are cloddish and yearn for the earth, and nobles are delicate and intelligent, in order for the plot to make sense.

(I really disliked the plot of this book. Justin reaches a scandalous conclusion based on very threadbare evidence, then spends the entire book acting as though he is absolutely positive that it's true. It's only sheer luck that he's correct, and the easier and more probable solution to why Leonie resembles Saint-Vire is wrong. It just all felt frustratingly unlikely.) ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
This is not usually a book I would choose to read, I generally steer clear of romances. But that is what is so great about a book club. It introduces you to genres out of your usual reading zone.

I found the beginning of the book rather slow and tedious and there is not much in the way of a plot at all. However, Heyer won me over when I read the chapter "The Indignation of Mr Manvers" and found myself laughing out loud. From that moment on "These Old Shades" was a joy to read with dazzling dialouge and way OTT characters. I am glad I spent the time on this novel. ( )
  tashlyn88 | Feb 5, 2016 |
One of Heyer's earliest books, this features the arrogant Duke of Avon and the page he adopts on a whim. Lots of excitement, though it takes a while to get going and there are rather too many minor characters for my tastes.

But, overall, enjoyable. ( )
  SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
One word for this book: "Awww. . ." ( )
  TheEditrix | Jan 13, 2016 |
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Georgette Heyerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Garrett, CorneliusNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A gentleman was strolling down a side street in Paris, on his way back from the house of one Madame de Verchoureux.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0373835590, Mass Market Paperback)

A gentleman was strolling down a side street in Paris, on his way back from the house of one Madame de Verchoureux. He walked 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.
The gentleman in question is Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon, known by friends and enemies alike as Satanas--the devil. On this particular evening, the dangerous rake crosses paths with Léon, a red-headed youth of low birth who is fleeing a certain beating at his brutal brother's hands. On a whim, Avon buys the boy and makes him his page. It soon becomes clear, however, that Léon is not what he seems, and that Avon has an ulterior motive for bringing him into his household. Set in pre-Revolutionary France, These Old Shades follows a twisting course as young Léon (or is it Léonie?) is swept up in a dangerous mystery: how to account for the page's amazing resemblance to the sinister Compte de Saint Vire, for example; and why will this man go to any lengths to get the youth in his power?

Georgette Heyer's historical romances tend to fall into two different camps: later novels such as Cotillion, False Colours, and Sylvester feature larger-than-life comic characters and romantic pairings more akin to Beatrice and Benedick than Hero and Claudio. Earlier works such as These Old Shades, however, tend to be darker, tinged with mystery and overshadowed by very real menace. What both types share is Heyer's fine storytelling and encyclopedic knowledge of Regency mores and manners--her books are the next best thing to a time machine. These Old Shades's greatest asset, however, is the charming Léonie: beautiful, brave, and loyal to a fault, with a fondness for swordplay and pistols and a delightfully incomplete grasp of the English language. Heyer herself was so fond of this character that she featured her in two more novels, Devil's Cub and An Infamous Army. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:57 -0400)

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Set in the Georgian period, about 20 years before the Regency, "These Old Shades" features two of Heyer's most memorable characters: Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon, and Leonie, whom he rescues from a life of ignominy and comes to love and marry.

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