Review: These Old Shades

Rating: 5 / 5

These Old Shades is a vivid Georgian (1714-early 19th century) romance by Georgette Heyer.

A mysterious page, Léon, employed by Justin, the Duke of Avon, is found to actually be Léonie. The mystery deepens as Justin makes Léonie his ward, providing her with jewels, clothes, security and everything she has ever only dreamt of. Justin conceals some deep reasons for adopting her, concerning an old rivalry with a French nobleman, the Comte de Saint Vire who tries desperately to get Léonie in his power. But, as Justin sets his plans concerning Léonie in motion he little thinks that the affection he feels for the page would deepen into a completely different and stronger emotion towards the woman ....

The plot and story is simple enough. The magic of These Old Shades lies in the masterful layers to the novel. Heyer is at her best with her trademark romance and intrigue, the delightful and witty banter and dialogues and the wry reading of certain character types. TOS is also chock-full of Heyer's research into Georgian and French fashions - for the men and the ladies, speech, mode of transport, lifestyle and amusements.

But, where TOS exceeds beyond a generic romance is in the detailing of her characters. Every character comes to life through the action and dialogue, whether it is the beautiful, intelligent, fiercely loyal Léonie, Justin's flighty sister Lady Fanny, his irresponsible brother Lord Rupert, the villainous Comte de Saint Vire or Justin's moralising friend Hugh Davenant. But, with the suave Duke of Avon and his redemption through the power of love, she has created an unforgettable romantic hero.

When we meet Justin, he is a hardened rake, an inveterate gambler given over to vice and laden with cynicism towards his fellow men. He is also a slightly sinister character, having cultivated among his acquaintance a reputation for omniscience and has rightly earned his nickname of Satanas. Into this slightly lonely existence bursts Léon with youthful impetuosity and innocent wisdom. As we come to know him through his dealings with Léon then Léonie, we see her breaking down the barriers surrounding his heart until the true man emerges.

It is difficult for me to name a favorite book by Heyer. I've re-read her books for the better part of 8 years and have found my tastes altering depending on age, mood and temperament. While TOS doesnt remain my favorite (now I prefer her older heroines and mature stories) I still look on it with a lot of fondness. It's the first Heyer I read, and I never looked back.

And, for those who just cant get enough of these characters, read the prequel (of sorts) The Black Moth and the sequel to this one, Devil's Cub.

7 comments:

avdi said...

Woo you seem to be a pucca Georgette Heyer fan. I need something pulpy n fast to read and she seems perrrrfect.

Smita said...

I have never read any Georgette Heyer book but now am intrigued enough to pick one...

Search engines here I come....

Avionic Spanker said...

Not really my kinda read, but as I run through your reviews define couch quotient and papaya pit for me

couchpapaya said...

avdi - it's so hard to tell isnt it :)

smita - do u want some reccos? do u?? do u??? lol u know a long time ago i found a version of the black moth online, read it before u buy to see if u might like the style.

spanker - yeeeeesh!!!!!!!!! u remind me i must edit a lot of those old posts. sigh. i dropped those terms a while ago, but basically the papaya pit was meant to be a thumbs down (it's the pits) while CQ was a thumbs up (worth seeking ur couch for). obscure and silly, ya i know!!! all the older reviews before june this year are up on MS anyway, and i re-wrote most of them so they read better over there.

Smita said...

Yes I do!!!
Yes I do!!!
Yes I do!!!

Bouncing-Bubble said...

I've already reserved the Black Moth. That wd be the first bk by Heyer for me.

couchpapaya said...

smita - try the 3 mentioned here or the convenient marriage/the grand sophy/sylvester for some madcap action .....

bubbles - let me know when ur done !!! and advance apologies if u haaaate it :P

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