Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
TYPE OF NOVEL: Georgian Romance, Historical Fiction
SETTING: 1750’s France and England
- Justin Alistair, Duke of Avon “Satanas”: a debauched rake who has earned the nickname “Satan” for all the scandalous and dishonorable deeds he commits. Age 40
- Léon Bonnard: a poor and abused child running away from his brother who beats him and forces him to work in his tavern. Age 19
- Comte de Saint-Vire: Justin’s mortal enemy. Twenty years ago the Comte refused Justin’s petition of marriage for his sister and humiliated him throughout all of Paris. (There is a lot of bad history between these two)
By chance on a walk home the Duke of Avon encounters Léon who is running away from his tyrannical brother. The Duke is quick to notice something particular about Léon’s appearance – with his cooper-red curls and violet-blue eyes. A very unique combination… The Duke purchases Léon on a whim thinking he will be of some use to him, not just as a page, but in a very important game of revenge. But as the story unravels we learn more and more about Léon and everything is not as it seems…
WHAT I LOVED:
- The Duke: A libertine rake who is reformed by love? Yes, please! I adored this Heyer hero! He enchants from the first encounter with his calm and suave manner. He truly is a quick wit and Heyer’s talent for satirical dialogue is on full display with Alistair. I loved hearing all of his witty replies, sarcastic observations, and dry rejoinders. But I think what I loved most is witnessing his transformation. We know he has a devilish past, but we see the Duke act responsibly, care for the well-being of others, and grow to be most tender and affectionate.
- It’s A Bit My Fair Lady: It may just be me, but I felt some Henry Higgins/Eliza Doolittle vibes in this story! Especially because staying with the Duke is his good friend, Hugh Davenant, who behaved in a very Colonel Pickering fashion by frowning at the Duke for buying Léon and continuously wanting him to “end this folly.” In addition, Léon is later put through a rigorous education and transformation in order to debut into society, and is something of a smashing success, just like dear Eliza. 😉
- The Magnificent Climax: Throughout the story we learn that the Duke has an agenda against his mortal enemy, Saint-Vire, and that Léon plays some part in it all. And while readers might piece it all together beforehand, the moment when the Duke finally strikes to end the game is nothing short of masterful. Talk about a delivery! Talk about composure! Something truly heart-wrenching happens (a scene so poignant it brought me to tears), and with steely determination the Duke is forced to play his final move. And to know that his tender devotion and sense of justice truly propels his actions (not just revenge), makes you admire his actions all the more. It was brilliantly, brilliantly done.
- The Whole Gang Works Together: Of course there are some entertaining and likable secondary characters full of personality in this story! And throughout the tale they assist our principal characters in their mission each developing a special relationship with Léon. It was wonderful to see these secondary characters band together at the end to aide in the Duke’s final move. (Rupert and Hugh were my favorites)
WHAT I WASN’T TOO FOND OF:
- Some may complain about the age difference/paternal relationshi between our hero and heroine, but I wasn’t bothered by it. I did sometimes feel, however, that Léon acted more like someone at the age of 15 or 16 rather than 19 though.
NOTE: There are two more stories written about the Alistair family (some generations later) Devil’s Cub and The Infamous Army. Also, it is said that These Old Shades was originally intended as a sequel to The Black Moth, but with changed character names.
Scandal, dishonorable secrets, revenge, abductions, rescues, transformations, reformations, and romance – These Old Shades is brimming with action and drama! It is such an endearing and lively tale one that is sure to entertain and delight readers of historical fiction and humorous escapades. My list of Georgette Heyer favorites grows longer and longer… 😉