These Old Shades, by Georgette Heyer

The Duke of Avon, out for an evening stroll, is nearly knocked over by a young boy running away from his bullying brother. Something about the youngster seems to appeal to the Duke, who takes him on as his page. And then begins Avon's plan for vengance on one of his oldest enemies.

This was a recommendation from A Good Read; all the people on the panel raved about the book. I think I did try a Georgette Heyer novel some time ago and wasn't much impressed, but they all said this was an especially good one, and not quite so Mills-and-Boon-y as some of the others. This was Heyer's first published novel I think.

It was quite an enjoyable read, although I'm not sure why it has been quite so highly praised. What I did like, and what was I think helped by an excellent reader, was the characters of Avon (drawling, upper-class) and his brother Rupert (excitable toff). Rupert especially was quite funny, with his speech peppered by plenty of careless exclamations and oaths ("Thunder and Turf"), and the interplay between the two brothers worked very well - Avon keeps his plans secret for most of the book, and Rupert (and others) can't make sense of what's going on.

It reminded me a little bit of a Russian book in that individual characters may have several different names; the main character was referred to as The Duke, Avon, Justin, His Grace, and Satanas (those are the ones I can remember) so I sometimes wasn't altogether sure who was being talked about.

Avon/Justin was done well though: you start off not really liking him, as he seems to be an idle gentleman who spends his time gambling and ordering servants about. But through the book he shows a more noble side and so the happy ending feels very satisfying.

Something else that appealed to me was the book's title - it's not clear from the book what the significance of it is (and Wikipedia suggests it's a reference to the fact that the characters are based on another of Heyer's works) but I really like the sound of it.

Liked it. Might try another GH.

Completed : 25-Nov-2013 (audiobook)

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