No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Monday, October 23, 2017

2017/88: These Old Shades -- Georgette Heyer (reread)

"I thought to use you as a weapon to – er – punish him for something – he had once done to me."
"Is – is that why – why you made me your ward...?" she asked in a small voice.
He rose, and went to the window, and stood looking out. "Not entirely," he said, and forgot to drawl. [p. 394]
This is a very early Heyer, and rather chilling in its premise: the Duke of Avon, a notorious rake nicknamed Satanas, purchases a young boy, 'body and soul', to serve as his page. His friends and his brother are horrified -- doubly so when they realise (as Avon has known all along) that 'Léon' is in fact Léonie. Avon has plans for Léonie, and Léonie is passionately convinced that she belongs to 'monseigneur'. Can this end well?

Justin Alastair, Duke of Avon, is wicked and charming and witty and very elegant: he's one of those characters whose appeal is plain on the page, but who would be insufferable -- or intolerable -- in reality. His reputation is appalling, and he lives up to it, but he does also have a strong sense of honour, and his machinations on Léonie's behalf seem oddly selfless for a man with a history of very public amours.

I didn't care for Léonie much on first reading. She's a survivor, and she's beautiful and charming and funny -- she wins the hearts of the Duke's family and friends -- but I don't find her temper or her forthrightness especially attractive. Still, hurrah for a spirited heroine and a happy ending!

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