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Set in the Georgian period, about 20 years before the Regency, These Old Shades is considered to be the book that launched Heyer's career. It features two of Heyer's most memorable characters: Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon, and Leonie, whom he rescues from a life of ignomy and comes to love and marry.

The Duke is known for his coldness of manner, his remarkable omniscience, and his debauched lifestyle. Late one evening, he is accosted by a young person dressed in ragged boy's clothing running away from a brutal rustic guardian. The Duke buys "Leon" and makes the child his page. "Leon" is in fact Leonie, and she serves the Duke with deep devotion. When he uncovers the true story of her birth, he wreaks an unforgettable revenge on her sinister father in a chilling scene of public humiliation.

PRAISE FOR GEORGETTE HEYER:

"Our Georgette Heyer display of the Sourcebooks reprints has been a huge success, not only to those early fans like myself, but to many new readers who appreciate her style and wit."
Nancy Olson, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC

"Reading Georgette Heyer is the next best thing to reading Jane Austen."
Publishers Weekly

"Wonderful characters, elegant, witty writing, perfect period detail, and rapturously romantic. Georgette Heyer achieves what the rest of us only aspire to."
Katie Fforde

"Absolute monarch of the Regency romance."
Kirkus Reviews

Topics: England, Love Story, France, Paris, Mistaken Identity, Disguises, Revenge, Romantic, Adventurous, Witty, Series, Comedy of Manners, 20th Century, British Author, and Female Author

Published: Sourcebooks on
ISBN: 9781402228049
List price: $13.99
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My first GH novel and still 50 years later, one of my favoritesmore
Charaters are known by many names and along with the use of time period language this can make it hard to follow at times. The story and relationship of naive fiesty girl to older jaded man who changes as a result develops slowly over time in a pleasant yet old fashioned manner without sexual tension more
One of Georgette Heyer's most popular novels, These Old Shades is a Georgian romantic-adventure-novel, and the first in a series of three titles devoted to the affairs of the Alastair family. It follows the story of Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon, dubbed "Satanas" as a result of his many scandalous and unworthy deeds. When Avon "rescues" the red-headed "Leon/Leonie" from the streets of Paris, it is with the intention of using him/her in a game of revenge against his old enemy, the Comte de Saint-Vire. But even the devil can fall in love, and soon the Duke has another goal in sight...Reading These Old Shades is a bit like chewing on crushed glass - quite painful, and attended by the knowledge that it cannot be good for me. If I were not so intent on reading Heyer's entire ouevre as part of a project, I might have spared myself the discomfort. Set it down to my neat soul, or a completist nature. However that may be, my long-standing distaste at this work is mostly unchanged, with a few grudging caveats.I am aware that many readers perceive in this novel a story of redemption, and I am constrained to acknowledge, after this re-reading, that Avon does indeed allow love to soften him somewhat (one of the aforementioned caveats). But though I came to believe in the sincerity of his regard for Leonie, I found him such a hideously vile "hero" otherwise - cold, manipulative and hypocritical - that I remained indifferent, much as I would if informed that some horrible mass-murderer had a secret fondness for puppies. Puppies are lovely (I have a soft spot for them myself), but let's keep our gaze focused on all those mutilated bodies, if you please...Avon demonstrates an inhumanity that I find hard to forgive, particularly in a romantic hero. His behavior towards women is exploitative and contemptuous, and I found myself thinking of him as a likely rapist. I realize that this might seem far-fetched to some, as it is never mentioned in the text (this is Heyer, after all), but I think it safe to assume that an eighteenth-century aristocrat who wouldn't hesitate to abduct a "lady," and who has such a reputation for debauchery, has probably used coercion with women of lower economic classes. His stricter standards, as regards his own sister, and eventually Leonie, thus struck me as arising from a hypocritical double-standard, rather than any honorable impulse.Avon displays a virulent kind of class hatred that, while perhaps not surprising in a character of his time and background, was still grating to witness. In this schema, class is not a question of upbringing, but of blood. It is innate - nature rather than nurture. Thus the peasant boy who is foisted upon society as the Comte's son is discontented and dull-witted, and longs only for a farm, while the aristocratic girl raised by peasants is all delicate sensitivity - a diamond in the rough. The scene, early in the novel, in which they are compared, had almost the flavor of racism to it, as if he were an "animal" and she a "person." While perhaps not as contemptible as Avon, the "heroine" of the piece is more irritating than charming, displaying exactly the kind of "my man can do no wrong" attitude that I find so obnoxious. Anyone placed, as Leonie was, in a position to observe the worst of human behavior, could not be unaware of the suffering that must accompany it, and her indifference to Avon's past cruelties seems incredible. Perhaps we are meant to believe that she is so grateful at being rescued from a life of misery, that she has abandoned all independent thought, as concerns the matter? How charming...I have been taken to task by my fellow readers before, both for imposing my modern views on characters meant to be historical creations, and for reading too much social meaning into works that are meant, at most, to entertain the reader. I suppose my response would be that there is quite a bit of ugliness in These Old Shades, and however "appropriate" the attitudes and behaviors depicted may have been for characters of that time and place, they do NOT entertain me. If that is what Georgette Heyer meant to do, than regrettably, she has failed...more
This one was definitely not my favorite Heyer. In fact, if it had been my first, I doubt I would have read any more of hers, which is a shame because she's one of my favorite authors. This one, though, was difficult for me to get through.

First of all, I had a hard time with the hero, Justin Alstair, the Duke of Avon. His motives at times seemed highly questionable. He claims he knew from the first that his new page was a girl, yet he let her continue with the charade much longer than seemed necessary; in fact, he went out of his way to flaunt his new page all over Paris society, taking her into places that few men brought their pages, places that were not at all suitable for a nineteen-year-old girl. I know it was all part of his plot to ruin his old rival, the Comte de Saint-Vire, but it showed a tremendous lack of respect for Leon/Leonie as a fellow human being rather than a disposable pawn. The fact that he called her his child over and over in the story was also a bit disturbing, given where readers know the story is going to end up. Leon/Leonine's slavish devotion to him, too, seems to be a bit much. Their relationship just had a few too many "ick" factors for me to be completely comfortable.

If you can get past the hero and heroine's questionable motives and actions, though, many parts of the story are enjoyable and trademark Heyer. The secondary characters are, as always, wonderfully drawn. The antagonist is delightfully evil, and the plot itself is good. The last third or so of the book did have my complete interest as much of the first half did not. All in all, I'm not sorry I read this one, but I am very glad that it wasn't my introduction to this author.more
One of Heyer's best, together with its sequel Devil's Cub. Set in mid-18th century unlike her more usual Regency, the heroine Leoine is absolutely delightful. One odd fact: the implied back-story between some of the leading characters matches the plot of The Black Moth, though the names of the characters are differentmore
It was a good book with lot's of twist and turns. The ending was as expected. However, having figured that out about 25% into the book it was still a great read and kept my attention. The characters were all interesting and most played a huge part in making the story enjoyable.more
I really like the way Heyer doesn't fuss about trying to make the plot twists a surprise.more
The title, I learn after a little 'wiki research' is after the characters who are shades of those in Heyer's first book 'The Black Moth'. (I still haven't had occasion to come across this one in the library.) Since plot of this book was no sequel, Heyer just changed the old characters to new name though they retain their mannerism and felicity.

Book was delightfully written - only two complaints being the age difference between the lead pair was mammoth, 20 years! And I feared that if the book continued 30-40 more pages, I would be irked of same 'delightful, innocent and at the same time 'infantile' tone of the heroine of the novel. However, Heyer did rein it tightly to keep the humor alive all through the book.

This one works for humor than for the passion.more
These Old Shades is the first book in the Alastair series; the other two are Devil's Cub and An Infamous Army. I read Devil's Cub first and then Infamous Army. As it just so happens, Devil's Cub is basically my all-time favorite Heyer book and Infamous Army is excellent in a different way than her usual. So These Old Shades had a lot to live up to. Ultimately, I enjoyed it, especially on a second read-through, but it didn't quite meet my expectations. Set before the French Revolution, it follows Justin Alastair, Duke of Avon, through his wild life in Anjou. When his life collides with a young page named Leon, he begins a new course which will ultimately change everything.

I enjoyed seeing a new view of Avon and of Leon *cough*, and especially of Rupert! Nonetheless, Devil's Cub remains my favorite (mostly because of Mary).more
I came very late to Georgette Heyer, having read my first of her books only a couple of years ago because it was on the Guardian's 1000 Novels You Must Read list. I'm working my way through, and found that one of the most recommended books, An Infamous Army, was listed as third in "the Alastair trilogy." This is the first of those, and the first of her books I've read that is not set during the Regency period for which Heyer is best known. I believe the time period is about 1760, well before the French Revolution and Napoleon, so Justin Alastair, Duke of Avon, can readily travel between Paris and England. Justin is a typical Heyer hero -- arrogant, rich, handsome and apparently quite selfish. When a young boy cannons into him on the street, fleeing from a brutish relative, Justin has no qualms about buying the boy with a piece of jewelry. He already suspects that all is not as it seems, and that his new page may be the means of settling an old score. Surprises are in store for one and all, and not least for Justin himself. A very enjoyable read, and as well-researched as the Regency books as far as I could tell.more
This book was strangely perverse, but I kind of enjoyed it anyway. Despite the AMAZINGLY IRRITATING main character.more
Tis story was foreshadowed in Georgette Heyer's first book The Black Moth because the main characters bears many similarities in both books. But in this case Justin Alaistair the Duke of Avon is more fully fleshed out. He is never as bad as he is painted.

The story begins when he rescues a waif from the streets of Paris with striking hair and makes him his page. There is a mystery subtly interwoven in between action and adventures that makes this book very enjoyable.more
I got about half-way through this book before my digital library loan expired. I didn't mind very much, because this book is bizarre. I disliked all the main characters, and the beginning third of the book was very strange. It would have been fun to see how the Duke enacted his revenge on Leonie's real family, but I have better books to read right now. :P

I still want to read some Georgette Heyer romances, so hopefully I can eventually acquire an Alameda County library card (they have a large selection of Heyer Kindle books).more
I had read Heyer before, but not her more popular ones. I decided that it might be nice to read a few of these classic Regency romances as a break from my literary classics reading this year. These Old Shades was a good start, although it takes place before the Regency period. I would recommend it on its own, but especially as the prequel to The Devil's Cub.more
(12 Dec 2011 – leaving gift from Heather)One that I didn’t remember all that well, but then the plots of the Heyer Regency Romances are fairly similar in many respects. Delicious as ever, with cross-dressing and people recognised by their hair galore – you know how it’s going to come out, but it’s great fun getting there. And even though she is ruffled and called “Infant” a great deal by a man twice her age, we have a lovely feisty heroine who is plucked from obscurity and poverty at the whim of an English Duke and set on a path to fame and fortune, as well as great supporting characters who are just as lively and beautifully drawn. Beautifully drawn, too, are the period details of dress and personalities, including the French King himself: reading this, you’re in for a well-researched extravaganza of quality escapism.On rereading: I know jolly well that I read all of Heyer in lovely hardbacks with mint green covers from my school and village library in my early to mid teens (did everybody have a wild urge to read SETS of books then? I worked my way through all the Heyers, all the Agatha Christies, all the James Bond books, all the Tanith Lees …) and so even if I didn’t remember the details of the plot, it was a comfortable book to sink back into.more
always a favorite - but I was amazed at how much more it came to life in audio. The voices were good (except maybe Leonie), but I LOVED Avon!more
Classic Georgette Heyer, set slightly earlier than her beloved Regency period, but non the less delicious. A rather ridiculous plot is carried off by strong and likeable characters, in particular Leon/Leonie. The descriptions of Versailles are sumptuous. Read it as a romp! (I re-read it this time as I was feeling unwell, and it did help me feel much better!).more
So this one is fine. It mostly takes place in Paris. I don't really have much to say about it. Off to the next one. One good thing about Heyer ... there are plenty to choose from.more
It's my favorite book of Heyer's. I love the characters--they are nuanced and unusual. In a way, as a modern woman, I feel that I shouldn't like this book as much as I do: Avon's manipulative and controlling, and Leonie is far too adoring of him. But on the other hand, these aren't supposed to be modern characters, and Heyer does a very good job of engaging our emotions very quickly. Justin and Leonie are both lonely and loners, and despite their age difference (which wouldn't have made much difference in the Georgian period), they are quite similar in their determination and sense of honor. I admire Leonie's fire and Justin's sense of justice.more
I admit it, I have a bit of a kink when it comes to girls masquerading as guys and managing to pull it off. Especially during times when, historically, it was believed that women were incapable of even a fraction of what men were capable of. To shed the dress and don some breeches and go about the country side takes moxie and young Leon, er, Leonie has that in spades. Her story is wildly entertaining to read about and yet Georgette Heyer manages to kick it up another notch by adding in court intrigue, a debauched rake, and an ancient score that needs to be settled. Little Leonie finds herself in the middle of a whirlwind of scandal and only with the help of her savior, the Duke, does she have a chance to survive.I have loved all of Georgette Heyer's gender benders, The Corinthian, The Masqueraders and now I can add These Old Shades to the line up. Her historical novels are so filled with period detail you feel like you really are in the century she is portraying. While it may be a stretch to believe that such characters as the Duke and Leonie can manage to pull off their very scandalous story then just remember it is France from before the time of Napoleon. The dissatisfied lower classes had to become dissatisfied somehow and some of the upper crust's hi-jinks definitely contributed to that.Speaking of class differences that was one of the only problems I had with this story. The classism displayed by the characters, while accurate for the time, in some ways I think went a bit too far. The Duke loves Leonie and at the same time expresses disgust and distaste for the people in the class she was raised in. There was some character development as well that made the characters themselves reflect the very traits that distinguish them as being a commoner or a noble even in situations where it would be far fetched to believe it. In the nature versus nurture argument These Old Shades falls firmly on the side of nature and I can't say any more or will risk spoiling it.Georgette Heyer makes you fall in love with her characters even if they really don't deserve it. Whether it is a debauched rake who is addressed as Satan (and rightfully so) on a number of occasions, or a headstrong girl who thinks little of everyone save for her savior the Duke Heyer will make them lovable and you will care what happens to them even if you don't agree with them, their ideals, or their lifestyle choices. The romance turned out to be very sweet and left me wondering what will happen to them down the road. Thankfully I don't have to wonder long because this is the first in a trilogy. Next is Devil's Cub followed by An Infamous Army each taking place generations later. I look forward to it!more
Over the past few years, I have begun a collection of Georgette Heyer's works. If you enjoy a good, clean Regency romance, she is your go-to source. You will not find the passion here as in Julia Quinn's works, but instead a more subtle courtship. I love her historical descriptions and well-drawn characters. This particular book, THESE OLD SHADES, is classic Heyer. It was an enjoyable read, and it held my interest until the very end. The reason for the 4-star rating? There is quite an age difference between the the hero and heroine (20+ years), and at times it seemed unbelievable to me that the worldly Duke of Avon could fall in love with the child he calls "infant." It seemed a bit awkward at times, but fortunately, by the end all was resolved in another satisfying conclusion. Very enjoyable Regency romance as always!more
Light, diverting, and fun. Better in the first and last thirds than in the middle, where the heroine's childlike innocence became a bit wearing. And the end, where the villain is finally dispensed with, is absolutely delicious.more
This is a book I relish page by page. My second reading was a particular joy, because I had finally figured out the large cast, and could sit back and enjoy the delicate machinations and dry wit. Heyer rejoices in her period details, and so do I. Oh, for the days when dangerous men wore red high heels, diamanté buckles, powdered wigs, flowered pink satin, and flourished their fans. It was the last European era where men dressed as flamboyantly as women; the last time macho men wore rouge and diamonds. I only wonder how many hands they had. Heyer's characters are forever carrying scented handkerchiefs, snuff-boxes, bouquets, walking sticks, quizzing-glasses and fans; then, they pick up glasses of wine. Where do they keep it all? She was punctilious about getting slang and turns of phrase just right, and she gives a convincing portrayal of the morals and feelings of the time.On the other hand, Heyer's insistence on the importance of bloodlines in determining a person's character is weird and jarring; I would expect it of her characters, but not of a 20th century author. It's something she portrays as objective fact, not as a common perception of the time. Somehow, this doesn't seriously affect my enjoyment of the book, though I wouldn't argue with anyone who found it insurmountable.Never mind exactly where the plot's going. Heyer knows precisely who her characters are; she's confident with their reactions and voices from the first page, and she loves to put them into a situation and let them go. It feels like she's been writing them for years."These Old Shades" is a marvellous variation on the reformed-roué tale. Leon/ie is a piquant character, not another 'fiery red-headed' heroine, and the Duke is, in my opinion, a unique and delicately drawn rake - a mature man who is surprised by his own development, but navigates it with grace and dignity. (Unlike another reformed rake, Brontë's Rochester, Avon never allows himself the luxury of self-deception). The romance is subtle, restrained, and deeply felt. By the climactic scene, I was involved with the characters, and was touched by their role reversal.more
Georgette Heyer outdid herself with this one. This is going in my top five for sure! The whole girl disguising herself as a boy thing always had me intrigued, Heyer added humor and BAM! A hilarious romp.The Duke of Avon is strolling home one night and happens upon a ragamuffin fleeing from their nasty guardian. The Duke buys Leon and makes him his page and soon figures out that Leon is actually Leonie and that a mystery surrounds her.As usual, I enjoyed the side characters more so than the main. Rupert had me cracking up every time he spoke and I just loved Fanny's silliness. Of course, I just loved Leonie, as well. She was a very outspoken heroine, not at all the norm.When a Heyer novel makes me grin like a silly person without realizing it, than it is definitely a keeper! These Old Shades is a true Heyer classic! On to Devil's Cub!more
My first Heyer, and I think I'm a fan. This was crazy melodramatic plot, with entertaining, likeable (and dislikeable) characters, all of the twists of Wilkie Collins with much more tongue in cheek.more
Enid Blyton meets PG Wodehouse; all very frothy and silly, but a smattering of historical slang does not a satisfying story make. Leon/Leonie is a typical Heyer-oine, delighting the hero and all secondary characters with the force of her desire to act like a boy (this theory that a heroine must mask or deny her gender to be regarded as 'equal' to the men is popular with Heyer); a tedious caricature who speaks in stunted sentences peppered with French, to show that she is foreign ("Ah, bah! Monsieur, he is a pig-person - voila!") The Duke of Avon - given the preposterous and anachronistic first name of Justin, which I chose to mentally replace with his family name, Alastair - was a promising hero, a dark and brooding Sir Percy Blakeney with a Reputation, until Heyer chose to iron out his personality and make him a safe and aging suitor - tamed by this supposedly 'original' young woman in his care. And Avon's relationship with Leon/Leonie was disturbing throughout - an aging roue buying a young lad as his 'page', the cringing dependency of a whiny and obsequious 'ward' who sits at her master's feet, and then the suggestion that this is the basis for a successful marriage? Not to mention the irony that 'high-born' Leonie is considered a very forward young woman who will bow to no man's will - put her in a frock and the 'hoydenish' behaviour is replaced by a submissive, simpering, tearful milksop! The contradiction in terms of a Heyer hoyden is not unique to this story, however.The plot volleys between the France of King Louis XV and Georgian England, but the only real difference is the increase of bad accents and a change of titles. Nobility of birth is all, personality is nil; men are men, despite addressing each other as 'beloved' and carrying fans, but being a woman merely gets in the way of a good Adventure. The dialogue, usually the best feature of Heyer's writing, is drawn-out and repetitive in this novel - if the 'banter' and exposition were trimmed, this book could be a hundred pages shorter - and certain words and phrases are over-used ('twinkling' eyes, 'desolated' men, that unattractive 'gurgle' of the more mature women, and a smattering of schoolgirl French). A weak novel, unfortunately bought in tandem with its sequel, 'Devil's Cub' - but a recovery might be in order before crawling on hands and knees to meet Leonie again!more
A wonderful author to re-discover Georgette Heyer's writing style is comparable to that of Jane Austen. Her historical romance novels are well researched and historically accurate. Her romance is all light, similar in style to that of Jane Austen, with flawed female and male characters, whose personalities growth through the novel. The novel is so far my favorite by this author. And focuses on a young French noble woman, who was traded to a farming family for their second son. She is rescued by an English noble man with a grudge against her birth parents, who initially plans to use her purely for revenge, but love develops between the two.more
This is a very cute book. While I don't generally hold with books that have the whole "girl disguised as a boy" motif (I think girls look ~more feminine dressed as boys, not less), I was able to suspend disbelief and enjoy this book anyway - partially because she didn't have Justin fooled for more than a couple of minutes anyway. While I also have friends who would argue that familial similarities are not close enough to see someone out of the blue and identify them, I had no trouble accepting this - in Leonie's case, her eyes and hair were unique enough that they could possibly be identifiable. This book was a joy to read. While Leonie's hero worship of Justin gets a bit old at times, I admire her spunk Justin is a fantastic character - rakish, thoroughly lacking in morals (so it seems), and eventually redeemed by Leonie's innocence and adoration...a truly enjoyable read.more
This is my ultimate comfort read, and, heresy that this may be to some, is far more satisfying, and better for you, than a box of chocolates. I haven't yet read a Georgette Heyer novel that hasn't had fully realised characters, interesting plots, fully realised characters and sparkling, witty dialogue. This one is a classic, with reason, and is just sheer bliss from start to finish. I don't want to give the plot away, but Heyer transcends and transforms the conventions of romantic fiction and produces a scintillating and exciting novel. Try one. If you don't believe me fans such as A.S. Byatt, Margaret Drabble and Stephen Fry (yes really!) can't be wrong.more
Read all 32 reviews

Reviews

My first GH novel and still 50 years later, one of my favoritesmore
Charaters are known by many names and along with the use of time period language this can make it hard to follow at times. The story and relationship of naive fiesty girl to older jaded man who changes as a result develops slowly over time in a pleasant yet old fashioned manner without sexual tension more
One of Georgette Heyer's most popular novels, These Old Shades is a Georgian romantic-adventure-novel, and the first in a series of three titles devoted to the affairs of the Alastair family. It follows the story of Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon, dubbed "Satanas" as a result of his many scandalous and unworthy deeds. When Avon "rescues" the red-headed "Leon/Leonie" from the streets of Paris, it is with the intention of using him/her in a game of revenge against his old enemy, the Comte de Saint-Vire. But even the devil can fall in love, and soon the Duke has another goal in sight...Reading These Old Shades is a bit like chewing on crushed glass - quite painful, and attended by the knowledge that it cannot be good for me. If I were not so intent on reading Heyer's entire ouevre as part of a project, I might have spared myself the discomfort. Set it down to my neat soul, or a completist nature. However that may be, my long-standing distaste at this work is mostly unchanged, with a few grudging caveats.I am aware that many readers perceive in this novel a story of redemption, and I am constrained to acknowledge, after this re-reading, that Avon does indeed allow love to soften him somewhat (one of the aforementioned caveats). But though I came to believe in the sincerity of his regard for Leonie, I found him such a hideously vile "hero" otherwise - cold, manipulative and hypocritical - that I remained indifferent, much as I would if informed that some horrible mass-murderer had a secret fondness for puppies. Puppies are lovely (I have a soft spot for them myself), but let's keep our gaze focused on all those mutilated bodies, if you please...Avon demonstrates an inhumanity that I find hard to forgive, particularly in a romantic hero. His behavior towards women is exploitative and contemptuous, and I found myself thinking of him as a likely rapist. I realize that this might seem far-fetched to some, as it is never mentioned in the text (this is Heyer, after all), but I think it safe to assume that an eighteenth-century aristocrat who wouldn't hesitate to abduct a "lady," and who has such a reputation for debauchery, has probably used coercion with women of lower economic classes. His stricter standards, as regards his own sister, and eventually Leonie, thus struck me as arising from a hypocritical double-standard, rather than any honorable impulse.Avon displays a virulent kind of class hatred that, while perhaps not surprising in a character of his time and background, was still grating to witness. In this schema, class is not a question of upbringing, but of blood. It is innate - nature rather than nurture. Thus the peasant boy who is foisted upon society as the Comte's son is discontented and dull-witted, and longs only for a farm, while the aristocratic girl raised by peasants is all delicate sensitivity - a diamond in the rough. The scene, early in the novel, in which they are compared, had almost the flavor of racism to it, as if he were an "animal" and she a "person." While perhaps not as contemptible as Avon, the "heroine" of the piece is more irritating than charming, displaying exactly the kind of "my man can do no wrong" attitude that I find so obnoxious. Anyone placed, as Leonie was, in a position to observe the worst of human behavior, could not be unaware of the suffering that must accompany it, and her indifference to Avon's past cruelties seems incredible. Perhaps we are meant to believe that she is so grateful at being rescued from a life of misery, that she has abandoned all independent thought, as concerns the matter? How charming...I have been taken to task by my fellow readers before, both for imposing my modern views on characters meant to be historical creations, and for reading too much social meaning into works that are meant, at most, to entertain the reader. I suppose my response would be that there is quite a bit of ugliness in These Old Shades, and however "appropriate" the attitudes and behaviors depicted may have been for characters of that time and place, they do NOT entertain me. If that is what Georgette Heyer meant to do, than regrettably, she has failed...more
This one was definitely not my favorite Heyer. In fact, if it had been my first, I doubt I would have read any more of hers, which is a shame because she's one of my favorite authors. This one, though, was difficult for me to get through.

First of all, I had a hard time with the hero, Justin Alstair, the Duke of Avon. His motives at times seemed highly questionable. He claims he knew from the first that his new page was a girl, yet he let her continue with the charade much longer than seemed necessary; in fact, he went out of his way to flaunt his new page all over Paris society, taking her into places that few men brought their pages, places that were not at all suitable for a nineteen-year-old girl. I know it was all part of his plot to ruin his old rival, the Comte de Saint-Vire, but it showed a tremendous lack of respect for Leon/Leonie as a fellow human being rather than a disposable pawn. The fact that he called her his child over and over in the story was also a bit disturbing, given where readers know the story is going to end up. Leon/Leonine's slavish devotion to him, too, seems to be a bit much. Their relationship just had a few too many "ick" factors for me to be completely comfortable.

If you can get past the hero and heroine's questionable motives and actions, though, many parts of the story are enjoyable and trademark Heyer. The secondary characters are, as always, wonderfully drawn. The antagonist is delightfully evil, and the plot itself is good. The last third or so of the book did have my complete interest as much of the first half did not. All in all, I'm not sorry I read this one, but I am very glad that it wasn't my introduction to this author.more
One of Heyer's best, together with its sequel Devil's Cub. Set in mid-18th century unlike her more usual Regency, the heroine Leoine is absolutely delightful. One odd fact: the implied back-story between some of the leading characters matches the plot of The Black Moth, though the names of the characters are differentmore
It was a good book with lot's of twist and turns. The ending was as expected. However, having figured that out about 25% into the book it was still a great read and kept my attention. The characters were all interesting and most played a huge part in making the story enjoyable.more
I really like the way Heyer doesn't fuss about trying to make the plot twists a surprise.more
The title, I learn after a little 'wiki research' is after the characters who are shades of those in Heyer's first book 'The Black Moth'. (I still haven't had occasion to come across this one in the library.) Since plot of this book was no sequel, Heyer just changed the old characters to new name though they retain their mannerism and felicity.

Book was delightfully written - only two complaints being the age difference between the lead pair was mammoth, 20 years! And I feared that if the book continued 30-40 more pages, I would be irked of same 'delightful, innocent and at the same time 'infantile' tone of the heroine of the novel. However, Heyer did rein it tightly to keep the humor alive all through the book.

This one works for humor than for the passion.more
These Old Shades is the first book in the Alastair series; the other two are Devil's Cub and An Infamous Army. I read Devil's Cub first and then Infamous Army. As it just so happens, Devil's Cub is basically my all-time favorite Heyer book and Infamous Army is excellent in a different way than her usual. So These Old Shades had a lot to live up to. Ultimately, I enjoyed it, especially on a second read-through, but it didn't quite meet my expectations. Set before the French Revolution, it follows Justin Alastair, Duke of Avon, through his wild life in Anjou. When his life collides with a young page named Leon, he begins a new course which will ultimately change everything.

I enjoyed seeing a new view of Avon and of Leon *cough*, and especially of Rupert! Nonetheless, Devil's Cub remains my favorite (mostly because of Mary).more
I came very late to Georgette Heyer, having read my first of her books only a couple of years ago because it was on the Guardian's 1000 Novels You Must Read list. I'm working my way through, and found that one of the most recommended books, An Infamous Army, was listed as third in "the Alastair trilogy." This is the first of those, and the first of her books I've read that is not set during the Regency period for which Heyer is best known. I believe the time period is about 1760, well before the French Revolution and Napoleon, so Justin Alastair, Duke of Avon, can readily travel between Paris and England. Justin is a typical Heyer hero -- arrogant, rich, handsome and apparently quite selfish. When a young boy cannons into him on the street, fleeing from a brutish relative, Justin has no qualms about buying the boy with a piece of jewelry. He already suspects that all is not as it seems, and that his new page may be the means of settling an old score. Surprises are in store for one and all, and not least for Justin himself. A very enjoyable read, and as well-researched as the Regency books as far as I could tell.more
This book was strangely perverse, but I kind of enjoyed it anyway. Despite the AMAZINGLY IRRITATING main character.more
Tis story was foreshadowed in Georgette Heyer's first book The Black Moth because the main characters bears many similarities in both books. But in this case Justin Alaistair the Duke of Avon is more fully fleshed out. He is never as bad as he is painted.

The story begins when he rescues a waif from the streets of Paris with striking hair and makes him his page. There is a mystery subtly interwoven in between action and adventures that makes this book very enjoyable.more
I got about half-way through this book before my digital library loan expired. I didn't mind very much, because this book is bizarre. I disliked all the main characters, and the beginning third of the book was very strange. It would have been fun to see how the Duke enacted his revenge on Leonie's real family, but I have better books to read right now. :P

I still want to read some Georgette Heyer romances, so hopefully I can eventually acquire an Alameda County library card (they have a large selection of Heyer Kindle books).more
I had read Heyer before, but not her more popular ones. I decided that it might be nice to read a few of these classic Regency romances as a break from my literary classics reading this year. These Old Shades was a good start, although it takes place before the Regency period. I would recommend it on its own, but especially as the prequel to The Devil's Cub.more
(12 Dec 2011 – leaving gift from Heather)One that I didn’t remember all that well, but then the plots of the Heyer Regency Romances are fairly similar in many respects. Delicious as ever, with cross-dressing and people recognised by their hair galore – you know how it’s going to come out, but it’s great fun getting there. And even though she is ruffled and called “Infant” a great deal by a man twice her age, we have a lovely feisty heroine who is plucked from obscurity and poverty at the whim of an English Duke and set on a path to fame and fortune, as well as great supporting characters who are just as lively and beautifully drawn. Beautifully drawn, too, are the period details of dress and personalities, including the French King himself: reading this, you’re in for a well-researched extravaganza of quality escapism.On rereading: I know jolly well that I read all of Heyer in lovely hardbacks with mint green covers from my school and village library in my early to mid teens (did everybody have a wild urge to read SETS of books then? I worked my way through all the Heyers, all the Agatha Christies, all the James Bond books, all the Tanith Lees …) and so even if I didn’t remember the details of the plot, it was a comfortable book to sink back into.more
always a favorite - but I was amazed at how much more it came to life in audio. The voices were good (except maybe Leonie), but I LOVED Avon!more
Classic Georgette Heyer, set slightly earlier than her beloved Regency period, but non the less delicious. A rather ridiculous plot is carried off by strong and likeable characters, in particular Leon/Leonie. The descriptions of Versailles are sumptuous. Read it as a romp! (I re-read it this time as I was feeling unwell, and it did help me feel much better!).more
So this one is fine. It mostly takes place in Paris. I don't really have much to say about it. Off to the next one. One good thing about Heyer ... there are plenty to choose from.more
It's my favorite book of Heyer's. I love the characters--they are nuanced and unusual. In a way, as a modern woman, I feel that I shouldn't like this book as much as I do: Avon's manipulative and controlling, and Leonie is far too adoring of him. But on the other hand, these aren't supposed to be modern characters, and Heyer does a very good job of engaging our emotions very quickly. Justin and Leonie are both lonely and loners, and despite their age difference (which wouldn't have made much difference in the Georgian period), they are quite similar in their determination and sense of honor. I admire Leonie's fire and Justin's sense of justice.more
I admit it, I have a bit of a kink when it comes to girls masquerading as guys and managing to pull it off. Especially during times when, historically, it was believed that women were incapable of even a fraction of what men were capable of. To shed the dress and don some breeches and go about the country side takes moxie and young Leon, er, Leonie has that in spades. Her story is wildly entertaining to read about and yet Georgette Heyer manages to kick it up another notch by adding in court intrigue, a debauched rake, and an ancient score that needs to be settled. Little Leonie finds herself in the middle of a whirlwind of scandal and only with the help of her savior, the Duke, does she have a chance to survive.I have loved all of Georgette Heyer's gender benders, The Corinthian, The Masqueraders and now I can add These Old Shades to the line up. Her historical novels are so filled with period detail you feel like you really are in the century she is portraying. While it may be a stretch to believe that such characters as the Duke and Leonie can manage to pull off their very scandalous story then just remember it is France from before the time of Napoleon. The dissatisfied lower classes had to become dissatisfied somehow and some of the upper crust's hi-jinks definitely contributed to that.Speaking of class differences that was one of the only problems I had with this story. The classism displayed by the characters, while accurate for the time, in some ways I think went a bit too far. The Duke loves Leonie and at the same time expresses disgust and distaste for the people in the class she was raised in. There was some character development as well that made the characters themselves reflect the very traits that distinguish them as being a commoner or a noble even in situations where it would be far fetched to believe it. In the nature versus nurture argument These Old Shades falls firmly on the side of nature and I can't say any more or will risk spoiling it.Georgette Heyer makes you fall in love with her characters even if they really don't deserve it. Whether it is a debauched rake who is addressed as Satan (and rightfully so) on a number of occasions, or a headstrong girl who thinks little of everyone save for her savior the Duke Heyer will make them lovable and you will care what happens to them even if you don't agree with them, their ideals, or their lifestyle choices. The romance turned out to be very sweet and left me wondering what will happen to them down the road. Thankfully I don't have to wonder long because this is the first in a trilogy. Next is Devil's Cub followed by An Infamous Army each taking place generations later. I look forward to it!more
Over the past few years, I have begun a collection of Georgette Heyer's works. If you enjoy a good, clean Regency romance, she is your go-to source. You will not find the passion here as in Julia Quinn's works, but instead a more subtle courtship. I love her historical descriptions and well-drawn characters. This particular book, THESE OLD SHADES, is classic Heyer. It was an enjoyable read, and it held my interest until the very end. The reason for the 4-star rating? There is quite an age difference between the the hero and heroine (20+ years), and at times it seemed unbelievable to me that the worldly Duke of Avon could fall in love with the child he calls "infant." It seemed a bit awkward at times, but fortunately, by the end all was resolved in another satisfying conclusion. Very enjoyable Regency romance as always!more
Light, diverting, and fun. Better in the first and last thirds than in the middle, where the heroine's childlike innocence became a bit wearing. And the end, where the villain is finally dispensed with, is absolutely delicious.more
This is a book I relish page by page. My second reading was a particular joy, because I had finally figured out the large cast, and could sit back and enjoy the delicate machinations and dry wit. Heyer rejoices in her period details, and so do I. Oh, for the days when dangerous men wore red high heels, diamanté buckles, powdered wigs, flowered pink satin, and flourished their fans. It was the last European era where men dressed as flamboyantly as women; the last time macho men wore rouge and diamonds. I only wonder how many hands they had. Heyer's characters are forever carrying scented handkerchiefs, snuff-boxes, bouquets, walking sticks, quizzing-glasses and fans; then, they pick up glasses of wine. Where do they keep it all? She was punctilious about getting slang and turns of phrase just right, and she gives a convincing portrayal of the morals and feelings of the time.On the other hand, Heyer's insistence on the importance of bloodlines in determining a person's character is weird and jarring; I would expect it of her characters, but not of a 20th century author. It's something she portrays as objective fact, not as a common perception of the time. Somehow, this doesn't seriously affect my enjoyment of the book, though I wouldn't argue with anyone who found it insurmountable.Never mind exactly where the plot's going. Heyer knows precisely who her characters are; she's confident with their reactions and voices from the first page, and she loves to put them into a situation and let them go. It feels like she's been writing them for years."These Old Shades" is a marvellous variation on the reformed-roué tale. Leon/ie is a piquant character, not another 'fiery red-headed' heroine, and the Duke is, in my opinion, a unique and delicately drawn rake - a mature man who is surprised by his own development, but navigates it with grace and dignity. (Unlike another reformed rake, Brontë's Rochester, Avon never allows himself the luxury of self-deception). The romance is subtle, restrained, and deeply felt. By the climactic scene, I was involved with the characters, and was touched by their role reversal.more
Georgette Heyer outdid herself with this one. This is going in my top five for sure! The whole girl disguising herself as a boy thing always had me intrigued, Heyer added humor and BAM! A hilarious romp.The Duke of Avon is strolling home one night and happens upon a ragamuffin fleeing from their nasty guardian. The Duke buys Leon and makes him his page and soon figures out that Leon is actually Leonie and that a mystery surrounds her.As usual, I enjoyed the side characters more so than the main. Rupert had me cracking up every time he spoke and I just loved Fanny's silliness. Of course, I just loved Leonie, as well. She was a very outspoken heroine, not at all the norm.When a Heyer novel makes me grin like a silly person without realizing it, than it is definitely a keeper! These Old Shades is a true Heyer classic! On to Devil's Cub!more
My first Heyer, and I think I'm a fan. This was crazy melodramatic plot, with entertaining, likeable (and dislikeable) characters, all of the twists of Wilkie Collins with much more tongue in cheek.more
Enid Blyton meets PG Wodehouse; all very frothy and silly, but a smattering of historical slang does not a satisfying story make. Leon/Leonie is a typical Heyer-oine, delighting the hero and all secondary characters with the force of her desire to act like a boy (this theory that a heroine must mask or deny her gender to be regarded as 'equal' to the men is popular with Heyer); a tedious caricature who speaks in stunted sentences peppered with French, to show that she is foreign ("Ah, bah! Monsieur, he is a pig-person - voila!") The Duke of Avon - given the preposterous and anachronistic first name of Justin, which I chose to mentally replace with his family name, Alastair - was a promising hero, a dark and brooding Sir Percy Blakeney with a Reputation, until Heyer chose to iron out his personality and make him a safe and aging suitor - tamed by this supposedly 'original' young woman in his care. And Avon's relationship with Leon/Leonie was disturbing throughout - an aging roue buying a young lad as his 'page', the cringing dependency of a whiny and obsequious 'ward' who sits at her master's feet, and then the suggestion that this is the basis for a successful marriage? Not to mention the irony that 'high-born' Leonie is considered a very forward young woman who will bow to no man's will - put her in a frock and the 'hoydenish' behaviour is replaced by a submissive, simpering, tearful milksop! The contradiction in terms of a Heyer hoyden is not unique to this story, however.The plot volleys between the France of King Louis XV and Georgian England, but the only real difference is the increase of bad accents and a change of titles. Nobility of birth is all, personality is nil; men are men, despite addressing each other as 'beloved' and carrying fans, but being a woman merely gets in the way of a good Adventure. The dialogue, usually the best feature of Heyer's writing, is drawn-out and repetitive in this novel - if the 'banter' and exposition were trimmed, this book could be a hundred pages shorter - and certain words and phrases are over-used ('twinkling' eyes, 'desolated' men, that unattractive 'gurgle' of the more mature women, and a smattering of schoolgirl French). A weak novel, unfortunately bought in tandem with its sequel, 'Devil's Cub' - but a recovery might be in order before crawling on hands and knees to meet Leonie again!more
A wonderful author to re-discover Georgette Heyer's writing style is comparable to that of Jane Austen. Her historical romance novels are well researched and historically accurate. Her romance is all light, similar in style to that of Jane Austen, with flawed female and male characters, whose personalities growth through the novel. The novel is so far my favorite by this author. And focuses on a young French noble woman, who was traded to a farming family for their second son. She is rescued by an English noble man with a grudge against her birth parents, who initially plans to use her purely for revenge, but love develops between the two.more
This is a very cute book. While I don't generally hold with books that have the whole "girl disguised as a boy" motif (I think girls look ~more feminine dressed as boys, not less), I was able to suspend disbelief and enjoy this book anyway - partially because she didn't have Justin fooled for more than a couple of minutes anyway. While I also have friends who would argue that familial similarities are not close enough to see someone out of the blue and identify them, I had no trouble accepting this - in Leonie's case, her eyes and hair were unique enough that they could possibly be identifiable. This book was a joy to read. While Leonie's hero worship of Justin gets a bit old at times, I admire her spunk Justin is a fantastic character - rakish, thoroughly lacking in morals (so it seems), and eventually redeemed by Leonie's innocence and adoration...a truly enjoyable read.more
This is my ultimate comfort read, and, heresy that this may be to some, is far more satisfying, and better for you, than a box of chocolates. I haven't yet read a Georgette Heyer novel that hasn't had fully realised characters, interesting plots, fully realised characters and sparkling, witty dialogue. This one is a classic, with reason, and is just sheer bliss from start to finish. I don't want to give the plot away, but Heyer transcends and transforms the conventions of romantic fiction and produces a scintillating and exciting novel. Try one. If you don't believe me fans such as A.S. Byatt, Margaret Drabble and Stephen Fry (yes really!) can't be wrong.more
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