I’ve been whining the same phrase whether it was as a 9 year old putting off setting the table for dinner, not wanting to leave the beach on college spring break, or now when hubby wants to turn out the lights and go to bed. I was enjoying These Old Shades so much I even read it at a bar! Let me esplain – when I met friends for dinner last night at Matchbox’s new location on Capitol Hill (I had NO idea they had another restaurant besides the Chinatown one!) I knew there would be a wait for the table, there always is with pizza that good; I got there first and cracked open the covers while I waited at the bar.
I’m crazy I know, but I hope for delays on my metro or bus commute, and I don’t mind if the friend I’m meeting for coffee is late when I have a book in my purse (and then I marginally resent them when they DO show up and interrupt a particularly riveting moment). And I ALWAYS have at least one book on hand.
When they’re good, it’s like there is an invisible tug, calling me to pick it back up, I play the last scene I read over and over in my head, unable to concentrate on my task at hand, it’s almost like there is a physical pull until I satiate my lust and leave for my lunch break at 11:59 to find out what happens next!
The whole reason I picked this up was because I loved GH’s The Black Moth and These Old Shades was the only paperback on the shelf. What I didn’t know is the two stories are connected! These Old Shades is a sequel of sorts, but the characters have different names. Why did Ms. Heyer do that, I wondered, why not just leave their names the same? The back story was exactly the same, but who knows. I was sooo happy the Duke of Andover got his HEA. In the first book he was heinous, mean, shallow, selfish, and cold-hearted…what better person to be softened by love in a sequel! When I finished the first book, even though I didn’t like the Duke I was sort of sad he didn’t get his comeuppance and find his own HEA, so when I first noticed the similarities in These Old Shades I was already on the road to gratification of seeing that loop closed.
Wikipedia did my work for me and made this handy dandy chart to link all the characters, again, why wouldn’t she just keep their names the same???
|The Black Moth||These Old Shades|
|Tracy “Devil” Belmanoir, Duke of Andover||Justin “Satanas” Alastair, Duke of Avon|
|Lady Lavinia (Belmanoir) Carstares||Lady Fanny (Alastair) Marling|
|The Hon. Richard Carstares||Mr. Edward Marling|
|John Carstares||John Marling|
|Lord Andrew Belmanoir||Lord Rupert Alastair|
|Harriet (Belmanoir) Fleming||Harriet (Alastair) Field|
|Miss Diana Beauleigh||Lady Jennifer (Beauchamp) Merivale|
|Lord Jack Carstares, Earl of Wyncham||Lord Anthony Merivale|
|The Hon. Frank Fortescue||Mr. Hugh Davenant|
|Sir John Fortescue||The Hon. Frederick Davenant|
This was an A- read for me. I loved that the Duke was a REAL rake, he had the true characteristics, history of debauchery, and current scenes showing his coldness, I love when authors show more than tell the reader. It is meaningless if they say, “She was smart and lively,” or “He was arrogant and stand-offish.” I want to see them acting that way, I want to hear the secondary characters’ opinions on these characteristics, I need proof, I don’t just want to be told.
I feel like a lot of more recently written romance novels do this, and one of my preferred story-lines is the “reformed rake” but rarely do I find that much time and dedication has been invested in really proving and showing that the hero really IS a rake and a scoundrel. I can’t feel his character growth and be excited about his transformation unless I believe it from the start. One example of a recent author who DID achieve this successfully is Lisa Kleypas with Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent in The Devil in Winter, so I’m not surprised when I see this is a favorite read on other blogs, it is definitely one of mine too!
The only detraction for me in these older romance novels is the lack of the more lusty scenes, and more introspective looks into both the Heroine and Hero’s thoughts. Leonie’s point of view was only seen on maybe 4 or 5 pages, we got a little bit better of a look inside the Duke’s head, but definitely not as much as current romance novels do.
Like, how did Leonie hide her femininity so well while dressing as a boy? How did she feel about her time spent in the tavern, what scarred her about the experience? I wanted to hear the details of when the Duke started to fall in love with her, how he found her charming, and how she affected him…
Even with these unanswered questions, the fabulous and well-written prose, dialogue, story-line, and depth of the characters definitely made up for what was lacking in my mind.
I would recommend this book to anyone, whether they read romance novels or not. It is a beautifully told story with intrigue, plot twists, and a richly woven historic setting.