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These Old Shades (Historical Romances) Paperback – October 1, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 370 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Alastair-Audley Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From 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 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Historical Romances (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark; Reprint edition (October 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402219474
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402219474
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (370 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #407,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on October 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
'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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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