These Old Shades is the sort of book that amuses one. It starts off with a gentleman, the Duke of Avon, acquiring a page, Leon. There is the instant chemistry between the Duke and his impudent page. A boy and his master, his master who owns him body and soul. It becomes known to the reader that Avon knew that Leon was not who he was from the beginning, that Leon was Leonie! And so the Duke sets off to make Leonie his ward and make her live like a lady. A difficult task since Leonie has been living as Leon for the past seven years. Nonetheless, it was accomplished. As Leonie charms the world around her, plots are unravelled and Avon wants to avenge those made our heroine suffer, denying her her birthright and making her live a life of penury. But never fear for it is a happily ever after sort of tale.
Of course, it is also a romance, a regency romance set in the eighteenth century. There are plenty of romance authors who write great romances in this time period, but Georgette Heyer is the undisputed queen of this genre. There is everything that could captivate an audience – kidnapping, gunshots, suicide, deceit, romance… Oh, the drama! And the book is written so fabulously that it is such a delight to read. One can almost see the fluttering handkerchiefs, hear the clacking of a cane along the floor, smell the perfumes and the snuff. I certainly could appreciate Monseigneur’s very elegant flick of the lace at his wrists. The plot may not be the most riveting, but what captivates the reader is the dialogue and the conversation. One can’t help but need to keep up with Monseigneur’s wit and Leonie’s enthusiasm. There is the delightfully flighty Lady Fanny, the sober Mr Davenant and the very laid-back Lord Robert. Even these characters play their part and are an important part of the book. I know there are those who love a certain Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy, but I think Justin Alastair, Duke of Avon is much more of a literary hero. Of course, there is the question of Monseigneur’s flexible morality and vindictive streak, but then Mr Darcy fair pales in comparison to the liveliness of Monseigneur. Monseigneur shall remain my favourite hero for all that he is – perfect!
There is a second book as well – Devil’s Cub. It is the tale of Avon and Leonie’s son, Vidal and his falling in love. Vidal is the perfect combination of Monseigneur and Leonie. Fiery temper, elite haughtiness, and an effortless nonchalance with a wit to match that reside in his very blood. While in These Old Shades Leonie is not an active participant in the plots, in this book she gets involved in trying to keep all the chaos from her prescient Monseigneur. But Avon being who he is, always knows and resolves issues before anyone can even guess what’s happening. One really can’t help but fall in love with Leonie and her Monseigneur.
I love this book and it is one of my favourites. I hope you enjoy it as well.
PS – There is quite a bit of French in this book, given that the story takes place in Paris and England. But it is a charming addition to the text and not a hindrance to the reader. C’est tout.