Bibliophile reviews These Old Shades

Author: Georgette Heyer
Year published: 1926
Genre: Historical novel
Sub-genre(s): Romance

The Story: The devilish, rakish Duke of Avon rescues Léonie, a young woman disguised as a boy, from the streets of Paris, thus winning her everlasting love and adoration. His reasons are at first purely selfish, as he recognises in her the tell-tale family appearance of his worst enemy, and he believes he can use her to exact revenge. But before long, he begins to really care for her, and his mission of revenge begins to revolve around getting justice for Léonie, who has been wronged by her family.

Review: I really hate it when people dismiss Georgette Heyer as a “mere” writer of romance novels (their wording, not mine). Sure, she did write some that were pure romance (and very good they are too, Venetia for example), but mostly they tended to be humorous historicals about adventures and mishaps where people also happened to fall in love (often apparently as an afterthought by Heyer), while in a pure romance novel it is the story of how the couple fell in love, with descriptions of their feelings of love (and lust) for each other that is the focus of the story.

I have read several of Heyer's historicals, and up to now The Nonesuch has been my favourite. Now, however, I have found a new one. This is the best Heyer I have read so far. It manages to be both plot- and character driven, there is not too much happening as in some of her other novels, nor is there too much silliness as in some, there is no secondary love story to distract the reader, and contrary to The Masqueraders where I was never quite ready to believe in the success of the protagonists' cross-dressing, here it somehow manages to be perfectly believable.

As well as being written with Heyer's usual humour and historical detail that never bogs down the story, it has very well drawn characters, even the supporting cast being allowed to be realistic (something Heyer has occasionally failed to do). I think I have found a new perennial read.

Rating: A perfect historical adventure and love story. 5+ stars.

Now if someone could please tell be why it is titled These Old Shades? I don't remember coming across the phrase in the book, and I'm wondering if it's a reference.

P.S. New term added to the glossary.


Anonymous said…
These Old Shades--Shades as in Ghosts that come back to haunt you. Leonie's parantage was the ghost of an ill deed that came back to haunt her father, Satanas need for revenge against him, another ghost.
Anonymous said…
Shades as in Ghosts, not blinds. The shades of ill-done deeds--Leonie being swaped by her father for a son, his motives in that trade, the way he treated Satanas to start with, Leonie's life of hardships--for the time, this would have been one of the worst things--a genteel girl of good family being raised to work in a tavern.
Anonymous said…
Also this book reuses some of the characters from Georgette Heyer's first book, Black Moth, so "These Old Shades" is also an old book coming back to haunt Heyer. Her writing style has matured a lot in the meantime, which is hardly surprising given she was about 17 when she wrote Black Moth!
Anonymous said…
The wikipedia article on the book gives the same reason as the comment on May 15. This is that Heyer reuses some characters from her first book in this her second book while giving them new names and identities. I guess it is more of an authors title than a readers title.
Anonymous said…
"This Age I grant (and grant with pride),
Is varied, rich, eventful:
But if you touch its weaker side,
Deplorably resentful:
Belaud it, and it takes your praise
With air of calm conviction:
Condemn it, and at once you raise
A storm of contradiction.
Whereas with these old shades of mine,
Their ways and dress delight me;
And should I trip by word or line,
They cannot well indict me. . . .”

This is a poem called the eighteenth century vignettes and the 'these old shades' in the book's title may merely be a reference to the setting of the story

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