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These Old Shades (2001)

These Old Shades (2001)
2.52 of 5 Votes: 2
0099465825 (ISBN13: 9780099465829)
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These Old Shades (2001)
These Old Shades (2001)

About book: Okay, I am officially a Georgette Heyer reader now. I can see why she is touted as the best of the best when it comes to historical romance. This book was thoroughly enjoyable. I tell you, Avon is a very singular hero. I have read few books with a hero whose dialogue was so expressive, yet ironic at the same time. His wit is so sharp that it could cut diamonds. What's really interesting is that Avon is considered the worst of the worst when it comes to being a debauched rake, yet you never see him looking or acting anything less than elegant. I really admire that Heyer was able to convey this about him without going into his dirty deeds. All that occurs before the book begins. In fact, so much is conveyed and not expressly shown in this story, and done with remarkable skill. I have to say that I read this story, looking to Ms. Heyer to teach me (as a writer) the ability to create powerful dialogue that shows and does not tell. Avon is quite the character. He is definitely a dandy and a fop, wearing bright colors, dripping with lace and jewels, and high-heeled shoes. He even carries a fan that he uses. But he is a man of his time, with a masculinity that is not questionable. And to think we don't have to see him bedhopping to believe in his masculinity!! I thought that Ms. Heyer did a fantastic job in showing Avon's transition from being a cold man with a heart of stone to a loving person. You see this in his manner changing towards friends and family. And you see it in how he interacts with Leonie, who gives him her steadfast, unconditional love from the very beginning.Avon is bent on revenge, but he exemplifies the saying, "Revenge is a dish best served cold." He waited over twenty years to obtain his revenge on his enemy. When the tool of his revenge stumbles into him on a Paris street, it takes a while for you to see how he/she plays into it. Avon concocts a shallow, bored, remote demeanor that is very misleading. The whole while, he is feeling and seeing everything that goes on around him. He sees right through Leon's facade, realizing that she is a girl. Her unique coloring, Red hair and black eyebrows, immediately brings to mind his worst enemy, Saint-Vire. Yet it takes the reader a little while to put the puzzles together. You are not bored though, as the story unfolds and you get to realize what Avon's plan is. For the lines in this story are so laugh out loud funny, you might want to be careful where you break out this book. I'm sure people thought was I was crazy in the moments I read this story in public, because I would burst out into hilarious laughter. As for the revenge plot, you have to read this book until nearly the very end to see how marvelously and skillfully Avon executes his plan for revenge. I have to say, 'Bravo.' And to be honest, it couldn't have happened to a better person. One of my favorite characters in this story is Rupert, Avon's younger brother. Why? Because he made me laugh so hard. He had the best lines. I firmly believe that Loretta Chase must have thought of him when she wrote Bertie in Lord of Scoundrels, although Rupert is not nearly as unintelligent as Bertie is portrayed to be. Rupert does a very good job as serving as comic relief in a story that would have been quite dark without these moments of humor. Because of his contribution, I cannot even consider this a dark read. This is also in part to the back and forth dialogue between characters which has the cadence and the humor that endears comedic movies of the 1930s and 40s to this reader and movie buff. The scene with the horse that Rupert 'borrowed' and its livid owner who comes to Avon's home for redress was laugh out loud hilarious. Definitely like a scene from 1940s slapstick comedy at its best. Some of the characters that add to the wonderful atmosphere are Fanny, Avon's sister, Marling, her staid husband, and Hugh, Avon's less staid, but certainly moral friend, who often disproves of Avon's behavior, but is a steadfast friend all the same.Leonie is a character that I liked, although at times her ingenue nature was a bit much for me. The older I get, the less I really enjoy the very young, vivacious, extremely audacious-mannered heroines. I did not let that lessen my enjoyment of this story, for Leonie is the perfect foil for Avon. This older, very jaded hero needed a very young, sweet heroine with a zest for life. He would not have fallen in love and committed to a happy ending as a happily married man otherwise. In fact, I think his cold heart would have grown colder through the years, probably pushing everyone away who loved him, had it not been for Leonie's advent into his life. Leonie is the character that everyone loves. I suppose she might be considered a 'Mary Sue' by some, but again, I don't quibble, for this story needed a character like her for it be successful. Also I reject the notion that an old fashioned, feel-good story doesn't have its place in the world. They most certainly do. And at the end of the day, the escapades of this hoyden do make you smile and feel good.This novel gave me a very good look into 18th century life in France and England, for which I was grateful. It is said that Heyer's book stand up against the most stringent historical accuracy sticklers. She is a testiment to the genre of historical romance, which is always taking hits as being low-brow fiction. I wonder why this has not been made into film, for I feel it would make a wonderful movie. And it has an appeal outside of those readers who enjoy romance.This book was a joy to read, and it has made me an eager fan of Heyer. I would love to read more of her books, and since I've heard that she had some older, sensible heroine (one of my favorite types in historical romance), I expect to enjoy those books just as much, if not more.For those romance fans who haven't read Heyer, take it from me. You really should give her a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

“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”.My review If you meet Satanas in a dark alley in the middle of the night and you are desperately seeking escape from a wretched life of violence and harassment, maybe you’d be as happy as young Leòn at becoming his, body and soul, bought for a diamond pin. Very happy to become his page and wear good clothes, to follow him wherever his libertine life led him without complaining, without questioning. Especially if Satanas is just a nickname for a rich, elegant, fascinating nobleman: Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon. And mainly if he appears to you like this:“ 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”.Leòn’s new life as Avon’s page will lead the youth from a murky Parisian backstreet to the corrupt splendours of 18th century Versailles and the dignified mansions of England. If you were the young boy saved by the illustrious man from a horrible life of ill-treatmments, wouldn’t you admire him immensely, though everybody else considers him selfish, arrogant and even cruel? This is precisely what Leòn starts doing. The child’s worshipping admiration for the Duke - Monseigneur, as he calls him – becomes amusement to the libertine’s old friends and, strangely enough, a menace to his old enemy, the Comte de Saint-Vire. In fact, the reason why the Duke bought Leòn was that he was struck by the boy's unusual colouring, which reminds him of his enemy's red hair and dark brows. When Leòn is revealed to be Leonie , the story gets even more intriguing with the Duke making her his ward to be introduced at Versailles … (read this brilliant page online)This is the beginning of an incredible series of enticing fast-paced adventures mingling intrigue, romance and the unmistakable Heyer mark, her incredible wit. A real romp to read all in one go to the very end.What is incredible is that we have these incredible gripping characters taking shape under our eyes through their delightful dialogue exchanges and the incredible pressing flow of actions; all of them, even the secondary ones (i.e. Mr. Manvers, the Curé or Madame de Saint-Vire) are very neatly connoted , though only with a few thorough brushstrokes.The two protagonists are outstanding and peculiar, though they have the trademark Heyer clearly printed on themselves. Justin Alastair is …” known by the soubriquet Satanas, for his cold exactitude and prescient understanding of what his opponent will do next, as well as a certain elasticity in his moral fiber. The Duke has restored his family’s fortune through gambling; he is, as one would expect of one of the first peers of the realm, an arrant snob, careful, although certainly flamboyant, in his dress, and punctilious in manner” (from Vic Sanborn’s review at Jane Austen’s World). Someone told me Leonie is possibly Heyer’s least admired heroine. This sounds so impossible to me! However , I read that she is one of the characters Heyers herself loved most and I myself loved her immensely. Leonie is as loveable as flawed, a whirling personality, an oddly naïve female rogue, an irresistibly charming - though very little accomplished - young lady, ravishing beautiful and disarmingly stubborn, brave and fragile at the same time. If she can wrap the formidable Duke of Avon around her little finger with a smile and a gaze full of admiration under her lashes, how can we resist her ?The plot is very well designed but readers need a great fix of … suspension of disbelief, of course. As for me, I’ve gone through the story with a constant smile on my face and making a great effort to put it down from time to time.These Old Shades is the first book in the Alastairs Trilogy and I’m glad about it . This means there is more delight expecting me and many other willing readers out there, in Devil’s Cub and in An Infamous Army.My review is on my blog too, FLY HIGH, at
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The book is meant to be a light hearted, entertaining affair. It suited me perfectly for the holiday season. Avon's witty dialogue was always hilarious. Though I guessed the mystery surrounding Leon's birth from the very beginning, it was still entertaining to see how Avon planned out his revenge. The only thing that kind of got on my nerve was Leon's naiveté. Heyer might have exaggerated her innocence and lack of understanding for the entertainment value, but I feel that it went too far. The way she often talked and behaved were really more like a 10 year old instead of a fully grown young woman of 19. Nonetheless, the book as a whole is still a joyful read. 3.5 stars
I'm a fan of romance novels, especially historical, so I tend to read quite a bit of them. I know that Georgette Heyer is sort of a legend in this subgenre, but I have never read any of her books before now. I chose to read These Old Shades because it's part of a trilogy. I thought, hey, I'll read the three books and then decide what I think of her writing. Sadly I didn't enjoy the first installment. At all. I found the Duke of Avon to be a rather fashionable reptile with a fan (yes, you read that right). Do not get me wrong, I enjoy these fashionable anti-heroes (see, Eloisa James' the Duke of Villiers), but Heyer's Avon felt rather cardboard. There wasn't much to him, really, apart his vapid need for revenge and calling Leonie "my infant", which made me very, very uncomfortable. Now, Leonie. Apparently she's nineteen. I disagree. I believe that the girl has the emotional and and intellectual maturity of a teenage girl. I'd give her fifteen at most. But that isn't the worst part. That was Leonie's obnoxiousness and tendency to call everyone stupid. She's just extremely annoying and silly. The moment she opened her mouth, I wanted her to shut up. I admit I wanted to strangle her upon occasion. I didn't really see anything deeper inside her personality as Avon did. Leonie's really just an infant. As to the romance between Avon and Leonie, all I can say is that, boy, am I skeeved. This pairing just did not work for me; there just wasn't any chemistry between the protagonists. Also, the age difference just made my skin crawl. And that, believe me, is quite an achievement, because age differences between couples have never fazed me before. I also don't give a damn if it's the man or the woman (if it's hetero romance) who's older. But this time it just felt so wrong. It's not that Avon is twenty-plus years older than Leonie (and a reptile), but rather that she has the maturity of a kid, despite her being nineteen. Honestly, it felt like Avon himself saw her as a child, calling her "my infant" all the time. Even after their unfortunate nuptials. Eww. Soooo... one down, two to go, and then I'll make my decision whether to read more of Heyer's work. But really, I'm hoping that this one was just an odd miss and I'll enjoy the other two in this trilogy.
The literary equivalent of those marvelous British period dramas with utterly glorious settings and luscious costumes.I can never resist this sort thing. Pages of details of soft white brocades, ruffle upon ruffle, falling over great hoops, auburn hair piled in elaborate curls, pearls against soft pale skin, and perfect accessories like...chicken-skin fans. And since this is 18th century France before the Revolution, the men are just as gorgeous and even more colorful....When we first meet the hero, the Duke of Avon, he is arrayed "in a full-skirted coat of purple satin, heavily laced with gold," his wig immaculately powdered, carrying a beribboned cane, and mincing along in high heels. The Duke is returning to his palatial Paris hôtel from a night of gaming or perhaps other amusements when an urchin stumbles across his path and begs for help: "Great violet-blue eyes gazed wildly up at him, terror in their depths." This is a Georgette Heyer romance so we all know where this is going, but getting there is splendid fun. The plot is a lively but improbable mix of The Count of Monte Cristo and My Fair Lady yet it's all so glittering that I hardly noticed the plot holes as I gawked at ballroom scenes at Versailles and yearned to own one marvelous gown after another. The descriptions are splendid, the dialog witty, and the protagonists are likable, particularly the little urchin who is transformed into....well that would be telling! Along the way, we get to meet luminaries at the court of Louis V, including the famed courtesan, Madam Pompadour....splendidly dressed, of course! I've read most of Georgette Heyer's Regency romances, but I'm new to those set in 18th century France and England. You can be sure I'll be back for more! Read with fellow Georgette Heyer Fans who added so much to the pleasure--thank you all!
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