These Old Shades, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

Guest review by Keira of Love Romance Passion

For a truly exceptional read, Regency or otherwise, that makes you giddy with glee you need to pick up These Old Shades, by Georgette Heyer. It’s a delightful story about a cross-dressing female who goes from rags to riches and from unloved to abundantly loved. It’s even a guardian/ward romance! Not to mention the kidnapping sequence and the revenge plot! It’s positively action packed.

The hero is a cross between a dandy-like Corinthian, with his scented handkerchief, heeled shoes, and fan — and — the veriest devil of a man with fierce eyes, keen intelligence, and a merciless thirst for revenge. The heroine is a Nonpareil who can sword fight, capture princes with a flutter of eyelashes, and shock matrons with her language!

What really pleased me is the slightly different formatting. There seemed to be much more dialogue in this novel than in others also by Heyer. In addition, every chapter has a little summary-like heading telling you what you’ll find in the upcoming section. It was very nice and a source of amusement with titles such as ‘Lady Fanny’s Virtue is Outraged’ and ‘Mr. Marling Allows Himself to be Persuaded.’

One of my absolute favorite parts is a reflection of what’s going on between some side characters:

‘I don’t trust him.’

‘Why, I think I do for once.’ Hugh laughed a little. ‘When last I saw Léonie – Léon she was then – it was “Yes, Monseigneur” and “No, Monseigneur.” Now it is “Monseigneur, you must do this,” and “Monseigneur, I want that!” She twists him round her little finger, and, by Gad, he likes it!’

‘Oh, but there’s naught of the lover in his manner, Hugh! You have heard him with her, scolding, correcting.’

‘Ay, and I have heard the note in his voice of – faith, of tenderness! This wooing will be no ordinary one, methinks, but there is a bridal in the air.’

‘She is twenty years behind him!’

‘Do you think it signifies? I would not give Justin a bride his own age. I’d give him a babe who must be cherished and guarded. And I’ll swear he’d guard her well!’

‘It must be. I do not know. She looks up to him, Davenant! She worships him!’

‘Therein I see his salvation,’ Hugh said.

These Old Shades, pp 274

I hardly have the words to describe how awesome that last line is and indeed this whole section. The only thing that could make this story better is more of it! I did not want it to end!

These Old Shades is a must read for Heyer fans and one I would very much recommend for new comers to try first. You will not be disappointed.

Read an excerpt on Scribd

Keira is the webmistress of LoveRomancePassion, a website featuring the latest news, reviews and interviews in the romance world. She’s a longtime romance reader, a new Kindle owner, and a junkie for USA TV shows. She loves marriage of convenience plots and angst ridden breakups that ultimately end up in gooey happily ever afters. You can follow Keira on Twitter as ReviewRomance.

These Old Shades, by Georgette Heyer
Sourcebooks (2009)
Trade paperback (384) pages
ISBN: 978-1402219474

Celebrating Georgette Heyer – Day 03 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of These Old Shades, by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2009) by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about the plot or characters, or if you have read it, which is your favorite character or scene by midnight Pacific time, Monday, September 6th, 2010. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, September 7th, 2010. Shipment to continental US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Upcoming event posts

Day 03   Aug 04 – Review: The Masqueraders
Day 04   Aug 06 – Review: Devil’s Cub
Day 04   Aug 06 – Review: The Convenient Marriage
Day 05   Aug 08 – Review: Regency Buck

Celebrating Georgette Heyer   •   August 1st – 31st, 2010

84 thoughts on “These Old Shades, by Georgette Heyer – A Review

  1. I have been a fan of Georgette Heyer for many years and I agree with Keira’s comments re These Old Shades 100%. A wonderful book and, as with most of her novels, can be enjoyed over and over again! I re-read the Heyer novels on a regular basis and never grow tired of them. The vivid characters, the Regency setting, the language, the plots, the romance … it’s all wonderful!

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  2. These Old Shades was one of the earlier Heyer books I read. It was an older edition which I passed along after reading it. I would love one of these beautiful new editions to keep and re-read. Can’t remember any exact scene that was a favorite. Leon/Leonie was a delight at her first big social event. I love this month of Heyer. Thanks.

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    • Yes, Rupert is in this one! I believe in Devil’s Cub Leonie says something like, “I am quite in the habit of running off to France with Rupert.” I think that’s a reference to These Old Shades. Rupert may be my favorite character as well. I think part of what makes Heyer so great is that her side characters are so well drawn and contribute so much to the humor of the novels, and Rupert is a perfect example. His interactions with Leonie are hilarious.

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  3. Oh, this sounds a bit like Orsino and Viola/Cesario in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. One of my favorites! =)

    I can’t wait to start reading the Alastair trilogy! =D

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  4. Yes, Meredith, Rupert is most definitely in this one … if you enjoy him in Devil’s Cub, you must definitely read These Old Shades; Rupert is a joy in both books!

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  5. I adore this book. The Duke of Avon is one of Heyer’s best heroes – totally morally corrupt while thoroughly lovable and, at least if you’re Leonie, perfectly trustworthy. Together they are my second favorite couple I have encountered in Heyer (right after Sherry and Hero of Friday’s Child).

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  6. What I love is how action packed the novel is. And what interestse is the story of the heroine who is both beautiful to look at and skilled in combat.

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    • Very action packed. Lots of traveling too – to court, from court, to the countryside, to town, to Britain, to France, they go everywhere!

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  7. These Old Shades is has probably my favorite hero except for Sylvester. To me, he is the quintessential RAKE and one of the most multidimensional hero ever. His proposal at the end of the book is my ultimate favorite. How can one not melt to that?!?!?

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  8. (I already have multiple copies, so no need to enter me for the drawing.)

    You mentioned several of my favorite things about THESE OLD SHADES. It’s my fave of Heyer’s “girl dressed as a boy” books.

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  9. I really enjoyed These Old Shades. Justin is a great hero :) But I loved so many of the characters! I think I need to reread this one at some point…

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  10. I adore These Old Shades because of Justin… he’s just too wonderful. And Leonie is just one of the smartest, funniest characters ever. It’s also great to see them both again in Devil’s Cub (my personal favorite… so far).

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  11. Re These old shades. it’s hard to pick my favourite part – the whole book is wort rereading. Must I choose ? It’s a personal favorite of mine.

    There is more – Heyer’s books The devil’s cub and An infamous
    army concern the children, and then grandchildren of the
    folks in These old shades.

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  12. Leonie is my favorite character in “These Old Shades.” I also loved her when she appeared in “Devil’s Cub.” She may be young and innocent, but she knows her own mind and can stand up to Justin when she needs to. She was his equal, despite their vast age difference. I just adored her mischieviousness, stubborness and hot headedness.

    My favorite scene was when Rupert called Justin “Satanas,” enraging Leonie, who backed him into a corner with a fencing foil. The climactic scene in which Justin revealed the Comte de Saint Vire’s villainy also was wonderfully written.

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  13. I recently found a used copy of this one and can’t wait to read it. I love the idea of the cross-dressing plot, and now I think I’ll be in for a real treat.

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  14. So far I have had the same reaction to every book review. “Oh, that looks so good! I’ll have to read it.” :)

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  15. Not wishing to damp others’ spirit, but now we are coming to one of the finest books by Heyer, unlike her other two earlier ones.

    First published in 1926, this one is IMHO a big leap in Heyer’s writing skill after her first attempts with The Black Moth and Powder & Patch, her hand was more secure.

    Avon is one of her prototypes heroes, one of the Alpha-males (altough I prefere his son, who you will meet soon at before this week ends) and Leonie, also a prototype heroine, outspoken and frequently her behaviour might be outrageaous, but she is a darling. “Bah!” is one of her trademarks :).

    For those who enjoy the idea of the cross-dressing plot, wait for The Masqueraders, that is also a delight in that subject.

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  16. I’m surprised to learn that people don’t know that “These Old Shades” is part of a series of four of Georgette Heyer’s books — VERY loosely woven together; if you check too closely, the time element doesn’t quite fit, as I found out when I read about it on a Georgette Heyer site (sorry, can’t find the link).

    “These Old Shades” is followed by “Devil’s Cub,” “Regency Buck,” and believe it or not, “An Infamous Army,” all including descendants of Leonie and Justin. It’s quite loose, but it’s nice to be able to read them that way, just in case anyone is interested.

    Since people did not know the above, perhaps they also don’t know about the pronunciation of her last name? It’s actually more like “Hair” if you kind of drag it out into 2 syllables. Surprise! Here’s a link:

    http://www.heyerlist.org/faq.html#How%20should%20I%20pronounce%20“Heyer”

    OK students, there will be a test later ;-)
    (heh,heh!)

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    • But, Cathy, Regency Buck does NOT include any of the Alastairs, it is only woven with An Infamous Army, because characters from RB reappear in AIA, from the hero’s side. The relation of AIA with TOS and DC is from the heroine’s side.

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      • That’s a lot of interweaving. :) I read Devil’s Cub first and as it was my first Heyer it was harder to read and get into than any of the rest because I wasn’t used to the style. I’ve also read Regency Buck and it was pretty cute too. I’m glad you shared how it’s related to AIA and not TOS b/c otherwise I would have been very confused!

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  17. It’s getting harder and harder to decide which of H’s books to read next. This one sounds pretty good!

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  18. This one sounds fabulous! I love the idea of more dialogue, as dialogue is generally my favourite part of Georgette Heyer novels.

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  19. The description of the hero really caught my attention–theres no why I’m NOT going to be able to read this book now lol. My interest is captured! I definitely need to start a to-be-bought list just for this author :-)

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    • Haha — I know Justin sounds like an oxymoron but it’s pulled off really well. :) I was definitely thrown the first time I read about him in heels and with a scented handkerchief.

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  20. The first paragraph of the review says it all. What could be more intriguing than a story packed with so many twists, turns, and contrasts. It sounds like a delightful read.

    librarypat AT comcast DOT net

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  21. The Edwardians are different in tone from the Regencies, richer and more melodramatic but still very enjoyable. In the TOS/Devil’s Cub duology, you get a taste of both. TOS is a combination of a wild romp and a serious revenge, with excellent side characters in Fanny and Rupert and Hugh. Then, 20 years later in Devil’s Cub, Avon and Leonie’s son is a sense reprises their journeys just prior to the regency period, and we get to see all of the above again, as well as meet one of my favorite of Heyer’s heroines, Mary. While some complain that Leonie is just too-too, I enjoy her a lot.

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    • Actually it’s Regency because it’s pre-revolutionary France. The revolution took place between the years 1789–1799 and the Edwardian period is 1901-1910.

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  22. It took me some time to figure out this was related to the earlier book, _The Black Moth_. As a result I found some of the references to past events confusing. Despite that, this is one of Heyer’s best. I really enjoyed her books set in the eighteenth century rather than the Regency and who wouldn’t love the cross-dressing, the language, the fashions, the abduction and rescue, and finally Justin holding the room with the story of Leonie to catch the villain out. I envy those who are getting to read it for the first time.

    Cassandra

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    • Even more overlap! Wow. Talk about a confusing series to follow it seems. That’s DC, AIA, RB, and TBM now that all somehow fit into or around TOS.

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  23. These Old Shades was Georgian, I thought. I thought Regency was post 1800, or even later. I did not know to read Devil’s Cub after TOS so I read them in reverse order 2 years ago. I will get them in the correct order this time to get more of the jokes.

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    • Yeah you’re probably right with the time period. I call it a Regency because it’s the more well known genre even though it’s part of the Georgian period.

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      • What part of the Georgian Period ? Wikipedia says the setting is about 1756.
        Which goes along with Louis 14th and La Pompadour see page 50.
        But ~~~~ see chapter 13, Quote: Justin’s own adventures, 10 years ago , for King Charles 11, this brings it to the 1670s.
        Also , we learn that Elector George is on the throne 1714_1727. see page 122.
        So what is it? Or am I missing something?
        Please help
        Pat

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  24. Pingback: ‘Celebrating Georgette Heyer’ at Austenprose – August 1st – 31st, 2010 « Austenprose

  25. I confess, as someone who does not typically read romance novels, all of the genre parlance in this review rather confused me … but still, well done, and it sounds great! Rakes usually annoy me more than anything else (even the one in Heyer’s Lady of Quality … ugh) but the dialogue you quoted makes me think that won’t be the case in this instance. I’m certainly intrigued! Thank you.

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  26. I love the scene where Leonie goes on about the “Pig person”. I remember laughing aloud so many times when reading this book… Heyer must have been a fountain of humor at social events, if her books are any indication.

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  27. I read These Old Shades forty years ago. I remember wading through the story trying to understand the language of a past age. It was worth it. I still have These Old Shades in my library as well as Devil’s Cub and Regency Buck. Georgette Heyer was and is my all time favorite author! To truly appreciate a Heyer romance one must put aside contemporary morals and values and jump into history. I love Leonie, the Duc of Avon, and of course, Rupert!

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  28. This is not one of my favourite Heyers, but my favourite scene in it is, I think, the whole abduction and chase sequence.

    Followed, of course by the obligatory taking-care-of-an-invalid-in-an-inn setup.

    Another favourite (but more of a throwaway line) is the bits with Mr. Manver’s roan – and the way the Duke walks into the middle of the big brouhaha over Leonie’s & Rupert’s disappearance – along with the theft of the roan – and figures it all out in a flash.

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  29. My family refers to this book as “Diesel Shades” because my little sister once thought that was what we were saying.

    I LOVE it. It’s even on a list of books I want to buy that’s stuck to my refrigerator right now. The Duke of Avon is one of my favorite characters ever, mostly for his sense of humor. This is one of the few books I can actually quote from.

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  30. These Old Shades is my all time favorite Heyer novel. While I wouldn’t actually agree with the tone of the reviewer’s commentary – as a point of clarity – I will state that for me one of the story’s most endearing characteristic is the pathos or mortal drama that explains why our heroine had been living as a boy.

    The dialogue is not to be missed. It has several great adventures and introduces the Alastairs – a most entertaining family. I reread the novel all the time. So, yes, there is a lot of frivolity and wit in this book, but I would say that it overlays a story with a darker undertone than others in Heyer’s oeuvre.

    Alastair, the Duke of Avon is the quintessential “nobleman” – a noted raconteur, a scoundrel, a rake, he is scandalously unrepentant, faintly sinister, yet terribly appealing to all women (whether or not they admit it). He drinks too much, gambles too much, etc…

    Heyer makes the book standout because his redemption could have simply been a mere footnote to the story’s conclusion since it was not required to save her life. Istead These Old Shades is as much about his redemption as it is about saving Leonie’s life.

    I initially found myself struggling with the term “cross dressing.” In fact, I had a reactionary response to it. I love romance novels and have read all types. There is a great deal of fun in a story where the woman is disguised as a man but in These Old Shades that term never occurred to me. Maybe because she is forced to do so at a very young age against her will. After the three Alastair novels, The Masqueraders is my most favorite. Prudence was “cross dressing.” (Isn’t my mind funny?) I have reread that scene where Sir Anthony grabs her wrist many times. It scares me each time.

    Other heroines, like Prudence, in Heyer’s books and other Regency, Georgian, Edwardian stories have cross-dressed by choice as lark, temporary disguise or are running away. Leonie does not fit in those categories. Which leads me to a question, has anyone ever read a “cross-dressing” novel similar to Leonie’s? Maybe there is another unusual story out there waiting to be read.

    Read TOS. Somehow, I now have three copies of this novel. I’m not quite sure how that came about. :)

    Thank you for allowing me to participate!

    Happy Reading!

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  31. Ah, the third Heyer I read, but always my favorite. I’m not even sure what it is that makes me read it over and over again. It’s not just fluff: there’s dark material mixed in with the light, serious moments amid the frivolity. Every time I read it something new jumps out to make me treasure this book even more.

    Of course, Justin is wicked awesome. ;) For some bizarre reason, one of my many favorite parts is the scene where he is reading a letter from Lady Fanny aloud to Hugh at breakfast. Her handwriting is atrocious, but he just goes along reading whatever the words resemble most. This tiny dialogue, plus all the other fun family interactions (esp. with Rupert!) make TOS stand out.

    I found this book impossible to read to my sister without cracking up. I highly recommend it to everyone!

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  32. This is one of my favorites–I love the fastidious dressing of the hero (lace! brocade!) coupled with his absolute ruthlessness. You really see the relationship between hero and heroine develop–it does not happen all at once, so you are convinced that this unlikely couple will last. And the action! The details! Excuse me…I think I have a book to re-read. (And then–Devil’s Cub, which may be even better!)

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  33. I’m loving this event, Laurel Ann! When faced with the sheer volume of Heyer’s works, it can be a bit hard to figure out which ones you want to read first. Each review here has helped me with that–either pushing books up or down on the list.

    These Old Shades is very close to the top–I love girl dressed as boy plots, and I love anti-heroes. There is something dreadfully romantic about a hero about whom nothing good can be said except that he loves the heroine.

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  34. Old Shades sounds terrific, I really enjoyed the review. The descriptions of Leonie and the excerpt really grabbed me. Now I need to find a copy to read!

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  35. Leonie sounds like a another strong Heyer heroine. I love this event, which exposes readers to all of Heyer’s romance novels. The reviews are great because they give you a brief snapshot of the book.

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  36. Having just finished Devil’s Cub, I’m very interested in reading These Old Shades. Looking forward to finding out why Justin was considered so secretive and sinister.

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  37. This was maybe my third or fourth Heyer, and it is by far the best book for sheer drama. Justin playing the Avenging Angel…. incroyable! Rupert is hilarious, running off with the landlord’s hat. Leonie throwing her pig-swill at the pig-man. So many great moments. I never liked Devil’s Cub half as much. Mary was just too judgmental and Juliana a bit too snitty, like Chloe from P&P only without the charm.

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  38. A sword wielding, matron shocking, cross dressing heroine that pulls herself up from poverty to wealth – oh, please how can I resist? I admit to having an affinity for the cross dressing female storyline since seeing that Katherine Hepburn movie with Cary Grant, oh, what the heck is the title! Why must my brain fail me now? Hopefully you guys know the one I am speaking of. I also like the use of chapter headings, I always find these interesting, trying to figure out what they mean and the ones Keira mentions already have my mind going; what brought upon her outrage and to what was he persuaded? I guess I will have to wait and find out for myself.

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