Sunday, May 18, 2008
These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer
Under the reign of Louis XV, corruption and intrigue have been allowed to blossom in France, and Justin Alastair, the notorious Duke of Avon and proud of his soubriquet ‘Satanas’, flourishes as well. Then, from a dark Parisian back alley, he plucks Leon, a red-headed urchin with strangely familiar looks, just in time for his long over-due schemes of revenge on the Comte de St. Vire. Among the splendours of Versailles and the dignified mansions of England, Justin begins to unfold his sinister plans - until, that is, Leon becomes the ravishing beauty Leonie...
It's a compliment to Georgette Heyer that she can write a story with one of my personal pet peeves and make it work - this is a girl in pants story.
The story has a mystery, romance, friendship, a villain or two and a case of stolen identity.
The Duke of Avon is an arrogant, cynical and jaded man. He constantly refers to himself has the devil thus showing how fond he is of his bad reputation. One day while strolling on the streets of Paris he finds a young "boy" running away from a beating and decides to protect him. "He" becomes Avon's page and totally devoted to his saviour who "he" believes to be a noble and good man no matter what Avon, and everyone else, says to deny it. It is soon apparent that there is a motive for Avon's actions other than the kindness of his heart. Leon, or Leonie, will be his instrument of revenge towards an old enemy.
I love how Heyer shows the relationship between the older, jaded aristocrat and the young naive girl. He is always in control of his actions and emotions, she is very impulsive and emotional. She is always very honest, sometimes too honest in her remarks and about her situation but Heyer makes it work wonderfully. Unlike other stories with girls disguised as boys Avon immediately sees that Leonie is a girl and let's her continue the ruse to keep appearances and till he can discover more about her. Once he does he puts her in his sisters care what Leonie sees as a loss of his favour. It's clear from early on that Leonie loves Avon and that he fights what he feels for her because he feels he is too old and unworthy.
Without giving much away of the plot Leonie will be put in danger by Avon's old enemy, The Comte de Saint Vire, and it will take several adventures to rescue her and uncover the truth of Leonie's past. In the mean time we get to know a few more members of Avon's family and have some insight on his past. I liked that it had action, witty and funny dialogue, a good plot and believable characters. Heyer does a good job with portraying the Georgian atmosphere and mannerisms (the book is set circa 1756) making it a very good read.