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These Old Shades (Historical Romances) Paperback – October 1, 2009
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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. 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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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Top customer reviews
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.
As for the characters, I did not mind Avon and Leonie's age difference, although I found the author hit us over the head with her constant portrayal of Leonie as this irresistible coquette; I am one of those who found her somewhat irritating and immature. I also would have felt more empathy for her supposedly dark and abusive past if we had seen a bit more of it to start with. I liked some of the supporting characters, like Rupert, Avon's brother, and Fanny, Avon's modish sister. And like others, I disliked Heyer's implications that one's birth status somehow predicts one's appearance and behavior.
Overall, the book was well plotted, with lively period details and forgivable sentimentality. I kept seeing a movie in my head as I read it. I may well read more of Heyer's books, and didn't know until I read reviews that this is one of Heyer's first books. As for the title's meaning, there is an explanation on the Wikipedia site.
These Old Shades is one of the best. Leonie is a delicious blend of childlike innocence and honesty. With more than a touch of sophistication. His Grace of Avon is a dandy and a rogue who delights in who and what he is. This is a delightful read.
Set in Paris in the late 1700s, the Duke of Avon stumbles across a young red-headed French boy, buys him from his abusive brother, and makes him his page. There's clearly a mystery and, since I'd read it many years ago, I can't tell when a new reader would start to figure it out, but the book is both fun and touching. The cast of characters is welldrawn - even fairly minor characters are developed so you get a sense of what motivates each.
Heyer's books have little to no sex in them; you're lucky if the hero and heroine display affection but the dialogue has such an underlying humor that you don't miss the lack of sex scenes. But the books are so well written that even 50-70 years after their writing, the books are enjoyable and fun to read.
A bit far fetched of a tale, perhaps, but I'll bet you won't notice once you're nose deep in its pages. Georgette Heyer manages as always to give a fresh spin on our favorite cliches, and wield them originally while still remaining true to the most basic of their ingredients, the morsels we find so guiltily delicious.
Now don't mistake that for any sort of erotic meaning: Heyer novels are all strictly rated G. Disney kisses only, folks. While this can be disappointing for some, the characters and the very real-feeling dynamics that blossom between them add a richness and a vibrance that just can't be matched-- by almost any other author I know of.