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These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer
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These Old Shades (1926)

by Georgette Heyer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Alastair-Audley (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
I think I'm too much a product of my time. Having a hero who was 40yrs and a heroine who was 19, combined with the hero constantly calling her infant and for 80% of the story portraying her as very young, innocent, and wide-eyed, I couldn't and didn't want to buy into their romance.

If you liked Val from Hoyt's Maiden Lane series, you're going to love our hero Justin, definitely an inspiration for him. I was a big fan of Justin and his wit, he's constantly miles and moves ahead of everyone else. Leonie was kept so young, guileless, and precocious without much emotional maturity growth, I have to be that person and say I wasn't a big fan of the heroine.

The father figure falling for the young girl who hero worships him but written very well with tangled weave drama. ( )
  WhiskeyintheJar | Feb 14, 2019 |
This is one of my favorite Georgette Heyer books, and I was long overdue for a reread. Justin, Duke of Avon, and Leon/Leonie are two of the most enjoyable characters I have ever read. The duke is a notorious rake, arrogant, condescending, and seemingly obsessed with his appearance. His conversations are laced with insults and sarcasm. But he is also good to his friends and family, though he hides it well behind snarky comments at the same time. In the opening scene, he impetuously saves a young urchin from the clutches of the boy's older brother and decides to make him a page. It's clear that Justin has a plan, but keeps it a closely guarded secret.

Leon is young, innocent, but not naïve. He has seen a lot in his nineteen years and knows that he has gotten very lucky. His adoration of the duke is immediate and all-encompassing, and it seems that he will do anything that Justin asks of him. There is also a streak of rebelliousness, as shown by his tendency to question Justin's dictates when they don't suit him. He also has a volatile temper, which makes its appearance when anyone has the temerity to bad-mouth the duke.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first part of the book, as Leon settled into his role as a page. We get a hint that Justin is using him as some sort of revenge against his long-time enemy St. Vire, and small pieces of the plot are slowly revealed. It was fascinating to see Justin's cool and calculating actions as he put his plans in place. It was fun to see the changes in Leon - as he gets more comfortable, he seems to enjoy tweaking Justin's cool exterior. I liked seeing Justin's surprise, and then amusement at Leon's temerity. There were plenty of amusing moments involving Leon's opinions on what he sees. I especially enjoyed the trip to Versailles. But not everything is as it seems, and Leon is keeping a rather big secret - or so he thinks. I loved the confrontation between Justin and his friend Hugh, as the truth about Leon comes out between the two. I liked Hugh's protectiveness, even though it wasn't really needed.

The second part of the book, after Justin reveals to her that he's known all along that Leon is really Leonie, was even more fun to read. Leonie's disgust at Justin's plans to turn her back into a girl was hilarious, as was her attempt to bargain her cooperation for lessons in swordplay. I thoroughly enjoyed his sister Fanny's amazement at Justin's plans. She was, as Leonie said, rather "silly" but she had a kind and generous heart, and I loved the way she took to Leonie. I ached a little for Leonie as Justin left her in the country with her chaperone. She was a little bit lost and lonely without her " Monseigneur," at least until Justin's younger brother Rupert showed up. The two of them were quite the pair with their teasing and arguing. Leonie liked nothing better than getting a rise out of him, and she was very good at it.

Justin's actions have begun to bear fruit, and the unexpected appearance of St. Vire in England portends trouble. Even though I've read the book before, I was still on the edge of my seat when he kidnapped Leonie and made off with her. Rupert was hilarious in his role of white knight. I was a bit disappointed in Justin's first reaction to their disappearance, but he made up for it quite well when he discovered the truth. The complexity of Justin's machinations continued once they arrive back in Paris. Leonie clearly enjoys all the hoopla, and I loved her reactions to the various people she met. It's pretty obvious that she compares them all to her " Monseigneur " and most of them do not fare well in the comparison. As always, I was captivated by the sheer audacity of Justin's plans. I ached for Leonie when she heard the rumors and confronted St. Vire. Her love for Justin was quite clear and drove her to take the actions she did. I could feel Justin's pain and anger, and the bone-deep need to bring St. Vire to justice. The confrontation was masterfully done, and I loved how Justin had everyone spellbound as he carried it out. I also loved how all of their friends had important parts to play.

The scene between Leonie and Justin when he went after her was heart-wrenching and romantic. Throughout the book, Justin gradually changed from the cold, selfish man he used to be, to one who could show the love he felt. But though he admitted his feelings, he insists that he is too old and too steeped in scandal for her. I loved that Leonie still refused to hear a word against him - even from himself. These words said it best:

"Léonie, you will do well to consider. You are not the first woman in my life."
She smiled through her tears. "Monseigneur, I would so much rather be the last woman than the first,” she said.”

and

”His Grace looked deep into her eyes, and then went down on one knee, and raised her hand to his lips.
‘Little one,’ he said, very low, ‘since you will stoop to wed me, I pledge you my word that you shall not in the future have cause to regret it."

The secondary characters are great. There is Hugh Davenant, who plays the part of Justin's conscience. Justin's slightly flighty, but loving sister Fanny and her slightly stick-in-the-muddish husband, who come through when they are needed in France. Cousin Harriet, who played the part of instructor and chaperone, but in the end couldn't handle Leonie's unconventional personality. Justin's brother Rupert who is something of a comic foil, but also shows Justin's emotional growth thanks to Leonie. Lord and Lady Merivale, who have every reason to hate Justin, but again, are reconciled with him thanks to Leonie. Paris itself was another character, with the vividness of its world, from the streets to its glittering ballrooms to the colorful people who populated it.

There are a lot of people who find the age difference between Justin and Leonie (20 years) rather creepy, along with his seemingly patronizing attitude toward her. The age difference wasn't all that unusual for the time period, plus I felt that though Leonie was young in years, her soul was older thanks to the life she had lived. I also got the feeling that Justin's frequent use of "infant" and "my child" was his attempt to keep an emotional distance from her. It didn't work. I enjoyed seeing the reactions of each of their friends as they realized that Justin was in love with her. ( )
  scoutmomskf | Oct 24, 2018 |
Let's get the difficult bit out the way first. There is something a tad distasteful in the relationship at the heart of this book. The two protagonists are 19 and 40, which may not be totally unheard of, but still leaves a mildly unpleasant taste in the mouth. He has a disreputable past and is notorious, she is masquerading as a boy and is bought for a gold coin. See, I said it didn't sit very well. He starts out by using her to his own ends, she is so grateful that she worships him (for no very good reason, that I could see). It all feel a bit uncomfortable.
Avon at least has the grace to evolve through the story, with his growing feelings for Leonie coming as much as a surprise to him as they are to his family and friends. He manages to carry the change off with some grace and humility, which is refreshing and unexpected. He manages to achieve his aim of revenge as well as carrying off a well born bride, which was not part of the original plan. His heroine, however was a tad annoying. The french interjections and occasionally poor english are a bit too put on to feel real. What she gets wrong in english is often less complex than what he gets right. She wants to dress as a boy, even after having to learn to be a girl, which I can kind of understand, but then relies on people to come and rescue her. It's all very well wanting to be self reliant, but you do have to then be self reliant. I also found the hero worship just far too much to take.
If you can put that to one side, and remove modern morality from a tale set in the past, when this would have seemed a lot less unusual, then it's not too bad. ( )
  Helenliz | Jun 2, 2018 |
This book is literally exactly the opposite of what the cover implies. Except that it is a regency romance. Léon(ie) isn't some demurely innocent maid (though she does learn to love pretty dresses, as all women naturally do I guess?) and I can only assume the guy draping herself over her in the woods must be Rupert, who isn't actually the hero; contrariwise I can scarcely imagine Avon lounging on a log like that.

Anyway, though, fun intrigues. I guessed the secret fairly early on, but not how it'd play out. A slightly slow but pleasant read. ( )
  zeborah | Apr 20, 2018 |
Heyer was a favorite author of my mom's. I decided to read one of the regency romances, because I'm missing mama, and felt like this would make her smile.
  bookczuk | Feb 14, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Georgette Heyerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Garrett, CorneliusNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laurens, StephanieForewordsecondary 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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Book description
Under the reign of Louis XV, corruption and intrigue have been allowed to blossom in France, and Lord Justin Alastair, the notorious Duke of Avon, known for his coldness of manner, his remarkable omniscience, and his debauched lifestyle. Society believes the worst of Justin, who is clearly proud of his sobriquet, 'Satanas'. In a dark Parisian back alley, he is accosted by Leon, a young person dressed in ragged boy's clothing running away from a brutal rustic guardian. The Duke buys Leon, a redheaded urchin with strangely familiar looks, who is in fact Leonie, and she serves him with deep devotion. The Duke suspected the truth about his page--she was really none other than the wicked Comte de Saint Vire's legitimate daughter, deprived of her heritage by the comte's dastardly desire for a male heir.

Among the splendours of Versailles and the dignified mansions of Georgian England, Justin begins to unfold his sinister plans, and Leonie shoulds play a fine part in Duke's long-over-due schemes to avenge himslef on the Comte de St Vire. The duke's plan was simple: parade delicately handsome Leonie in front of his enemy and transforming her into the toast of the town, before his innocent ward reclaim her birthright, destroying her true father in the process. But the duke hadn't expected Leonie's breathtaking transformation or the tender emotions she awoke--and he'd already set his dangerous scheme in motion....

While, titian-haired Leonie, ward of the dashing Duke of Avon, has all Paris at her feet. Yet her true origins remained shrouded in mystery. And neither the glittering soirees nor the young aristocrats who so ardently courted her could still the question that plagued her young heart. Just one man held the secret, the one she feared most in the world--the iron-willed Comte de Saint-Vire, deadly enemy of the Duke. He would give her the answer--for a price. But could she betray the man she secretly, helplessly loved? And could this proud young beauty hear to face the truth when it came?
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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)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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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