on October 19, 1999
This is a wonderful, plot- and character-driven book; indeed, it is the Tom Jones of romance fiction. Like Tom Jones, it is densely written and it is intricate. The plot is not merely a structure for explaining how and why the characters fall in love. Instead, the love story is a natural element of the overall plot. The story is subtly developed, like a good mystery; clues are dropped throughout and the big climax scene is stunning. When I read that scene as a teenager, I was so amazed, I re-read it and then re-read the entire book to that point to figure out why I hadn't picked up on what was going to happen. Unpredictability is such a relief. The relationship between the hero and the much-younger heroine is developed slowly. He is urbane and dry, she charming and playful. Despite their age difference, it becomes clear that they are well-suited. She balances him, and makes him human rather than the cold and arrogant man he is at first. Another important element is that the dialogue often resembles the dialogue in a Jane Austen book; the formalities and conventions of rank and address are respected. Finally, the supporting characters are well-drawn and entertaining, and the villian is truly disturbing. Since I read this book many years ago, I do not think I have ever read a better romance novel.
on May 28, 2000
'These Old Shades' is my absolute favourite by Georgette Heyer. Out of so many wonderful stories that she has written this book is in a class of it's own. No romance reader should ignore this book. It has it all - romance, intrigue and humour. It is more enjoyable because it doesn't have any of the heavily erotic love-making scenes that can be popular today. 'These Old Shades' is so well written that it doesn't need to rely on them. It is, purely and simply, a romance story in its truest form.
In several ways Barbara Cartland's 'Love Me For Ever' is very similar to 'These Old Shades' - runaway meets cycnical Duke, is briefly disguised as his page, calls him Monseigner and becomes his ward. 'Love Me For Ever' is one of my favourite Barbara Cartland stories, but 'These Old Shades' has more depth and the characters, Justin, Duke of Avon and Leon/Leonie, and even the supporting characters are much stronger.
Please read 'These Old Shades'if you get a chance. You won't be sorry.
on November 25, 1999
This is one of the landmarks in the Heyer canon: the most extravagant and adventurous of her romances. Set forty years before the Regency novels for which Heyer is most famous, 'These Old Shades' forms a series with 'Devil's Cub' and 'An Infamous Army', which relate the adventures of later generations of the Alastair family. (A Heyer afficionado may also detect a connection with the inferior 'The Black Moth', set yet earlier.)
In 'These Old Shades' the Duke of Avon (the most ruthless and sinister of Heyer's heroes) pursues a passion for vengeance and Titian hair, and ends up catching the most flamboyant and daring of her heroines.
Read 'A Civil Contract' for a lyrical love-story, 'The Convenient Marriage' for clever dialogue: and 'These Old Shades' for adventure.
on September 22, 1996
THESE OLD SHADES includes the best of Ms. Heyer's considerable style. Her flair for witty dialogue, outrageous but believable characters -- and best of all -- real emotion is outstandingly displayed in this fast read of a book. The Duke of Avon, i.e., "Satanas" is a marvelous antagonist. His subtle, "bad boy" charm and engrossing intensity draws the heroine, Leonie, and the reader. The supporting cast of THESE OLD SHADES include figures from classic farce and classic Heyer: the foppish and hilarious brother, the society-conscious sister, the vulgar and wicked villain (Comte de Saint-Vire). All these characters romp, love and exchange funny, gorgeous dialogue with perfect period detail. Most satisfying of all is that at the heart of the story is very real, very passionate characters who will go to any lengths to win each other. For a Georgette Heyer fan, this book is a delicious treat. For those about to discover Georgette Heyer, you couldn't find a better place to start
on November 21, 1995
For a light-hearted read, this is one of the most wittily written Regency romances ever published. Full of believable and captivating characters, These Old Shades will take you body and soul to a time and place long past, if indeed it ever existed.
The Duc of Avon is the male lead; he is an unrepentant reprobate whose basic good nature has not quite entirely withered away. He adpots a street waif in Paris, playing along with the charade that the child is a boy. His motives are not of the best, at first, but as the story unfolds, we are allowed to watch a subtle shift in the thrust of his plans.
The two main characters are supported by a rich cast of characters, from the household servants to the pinnacle of Paris society. The Duc's bubble-headed sister is not as much of a lightweight as she would have you believe, and his younger brother is just a simple, nice fellow.
The biggest appeal of this book, for this reviewer at any rate, is the language-of-the-day, with which Ms. Heyer brings these people and this era to brilliant clarity.
on May 3, 2005
The author who writes the forward for this novel states that "Any boook that opens with a chapter titled 'his grace of avon buys a soul' will suck me in every time" and I feel the exact same way. I can not tell you how much I love this book. My mother read all the Georgette Heyer romances as a girl, and then passed them on to me. "These Old Shades" was her favorite, and it's mine as well. While I'm not a fan of most modern romance novels, Heyer's books manage to feel fresh and engaging. Possibly 'cause they're not all that modern. This particular one was published in 1926, so at the time, it probably was fresh and at least somewhat original. Heyers books are intelligently written (no drivel about heaving bosoms) and just a lot of fun. This particular book is among the best because everyone in it manages to be completely over the top, and somehow believable at the same time. While the romance between the protagonists may be predictable, the ultimate ending is definately not. It's a fun, engaging story, with wonderful charactors and when you finish it, you know everything turned out just the way it was supposed to. Love triumphed, and Evil got what was coming to it. Justin is dangerous, scandelous, haughty, and heartless. He won his fortune at cards from a young man who was later rumored to have shot himself rather than live pennyless. He is also smart, funny, loyal, and will bend over backwards to help the people who love him despite the image he presents to the world. Leonie is stubborn, opinionated, bad tempered, and extremely rash, but in her defence, her worst qualities usually surface only when she is defending one of the many people she loves. Leonie is not a luke warm sort of person, whatever she feels, she feels violently, and it only makes her more endearing. Seriously. I love this book.
on June 10, 2010
Firstly, I should say that I concur with most of the other reviewers: Georgette Heyer is one of my all-time favourite authors, and "These Old Shades" — published when she was only 24 — is her masterpiece, in the original sense of the word.
However, for the picky, I should like to add a warning about the Harlequin edition. Although UK spelling is (very properly) preserved, some clown has decided to "correct" Miss Heyer's beautiful Georgian English, substituting:
p.45 — "You may lose it as you will" for "You may lose it an you will"
p.78 — "A clumsy, thick-set yoke." for "A clumsy, thick-set yokel."
pp.90 & 223 — "It is my intention." for "It is mine intention."
p.113 — "...the forward ways of the younger generation" for "...the froward ways"
p.213 — "I'm silence." for "I'm silenced."
pp.223 & 236 — "Fonteroy" for "Fontenoy", and
p. 262 —"gracefully" for "gracelessly"
But by far the biggest blunder is on p.127 where Miss Heyer wrote: "She saw the sword of the last Duke, that same that he had used in tragic '15, for King James III, and heard a small part of Justin's own adventures, ten years ago, For King Charles III."
The James referred to is of course the Old Pretender, and Charles (as the next sentence makes even clearer) Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, i.e. Bonnie Prince Charlie. But the editor (presumably after consulting a list of British monarchs) has changed these to James II and Charles II, pushing the narrative back 70 years or more!
This is of course nothing like the wholesale disembowelment that has been inflicted on American editions of Harry Potter; but if you're fussy about such things, you might want to get a British edition from Amazon UK.
on September 26, 2011
Written in the 1920's, this is the book that established the conventions used in so many English historical romances: the witty conversations, the restrictions in manners and mores, the dissolute rake and the enchanting ingenue that reforms him.
Only it wasn't just the first, but the best. The Duc of Avon IS the quintessential portrait of a debauched hero worthy of redemption, and Leonie really IS the most enchanting of women. You will be engaged in the story and invested in their happiness from the beginning. The book is both fun and funny, melodramatic in the best sense, intense in just the right doses and beautifully romantic.
NOTE: To an American reader, there is a very British class snobbery evident here - from the author, not the period. I rolled my eyes a couple of times, but it doesn't detract from the story.
I have probably read this book a dozen times in the last 30 years. I am so grateful it is now available on Kindle so I can re-read over the next 30.
I opened this book with great expectiations, having seen it so highly lauded by many of my favorite authors. It took me quite some time to get into it. I really did not like the Duke early in the book, although I found him highly amusing as the book wore on, and I never really became fond of Leonie--she comes across as immature rather than spirited. The enormous age difference was a little off-putting to me; I'm not convinced this couple represents one of those great love stories, despite the compelling proposal scene.
The use of French in the book provided realism, but often left the reader (unless well-versed in French) a bit out of the loop. Very little of the action actually takes place in England; most is in France. By the way, ignore the cover; the book is Georgian in time period. The Duke's revenge & the intrigue behind it is well-played.
Although I eventually enjoyed the book, it'll never be one of my favorites. Sorry, fans.
on July 19, 1999
I re-read this book every 5 years or so and marvel at how I fall under its spell as I did the first reading in 1964. Compare it to today's romance writers and you can see how few people really compete with G. Heyer (Edith Layton being one of the few).
Next read the Devil's Cub, the second best Regency novel ever written and fall in love all over again.