Saturday, June 27, 2009

These Old Shades



Curious experience. Was Heyer not sure whether to go for drama or for comedy or did she deliberately pitch it between the two so she could move from one to the other? I did note it was written in the Twenties so perhaps she was still figuring out what she wanted to write. But then I got distracted by the memory of The Masqueraders also written in the Twenties and hallo, again with the genderbending, Our Georgette. Intreeeeeeguing. I can totally see myself hunting down a biography or something once I've cut a thorough swathe through the Regency romances.

But oh, despite bracing myself for the non-Regency fashions, I was quite hooked and did enjoy it far more than expected. Maybe because of the shifting tone and definitely because of the fascinating plot and the utterly enigmatic hero. Yeek! I mean, really he's so sinister at the start and, while I was vaguely amused at the very homoerotic dynamic set up between him and his friend, it almost bordered on paedophilia when our heroine disguised as a boy arrived. Pederasty, isn't it? Cos you only know the page is a girl if you've read the blurb on the back.

Man, I liked that device so much, of Heyer narrating in the facade with masculine pronouns instead of telling us the secret up front like she did in The Masqueraders. Makes for such interesting reading, a great secret thrill of conspiracy between her and us, that knowing wink. So it was a bit annoying to see the page be so revoltingly wide-eyed and adoring. Argh! I keep wanting to read Heyer write a snarky girl-pretending-to-be-a-boy and really get into the gender issues, elbows flying and all. Cos, having read The Corinthian, The Masqueraders and this, clearly it's a trope that captured her imagination for a while. I wonder if she felt she'd explored it all she could within the parameters of the decade and her own ability.

Only when I was a good way in did I realise or remember that this is a sort of sequel or at least references events in The Black Moth and man, did that make me grind my teeth cos all of a sudden I wanted to read that one even though I'm fairly certain it's too soon in my Heyer journey to properly appreciate her 'juvenilia'. And the irony is I wouldn't be reading These Old Shades if I didn't know it's a prequel to the book I really want to read, Devil's Cub. *lol*

But there were enough clues to piece together the story quite nicely and chuckle at the characters four years on and delight at Heyer writing a love story for the bad guy in that novel. I did love the way she redeemed him but still chill us as to his fiendish mind. And argh, his sarcasm ... *dies with happiness* He was so viciously subtle and droll. The conversation with the fellow who comes to buy the page, the one who keeps talking about his wife ... oh man, that killed me with giggles.

He was so marvellous, even with his horrible fashions and foppish ways. *shudders* La, sir, the only fop I adore is Percy Blakeney! But I consoled myself that the Duke of Avon could very well be what Heyer imagined Blakeney to be before the Revolution. Still what bloody amazing nerve to have such a fop as our hero. Not just a bad guy but a foppish bad guy who picks up a fan in the course of the novel! *convulses* Dude, Heyer. You rock. Although I do wish you would stop calling so many characters Anthony. This is the third I've encountered and really, that's more than enough, thank you.

The heroine did nothing for me. Frankly, she was a bit of a credulous idiot, witlessly adoring, frequently obnoxious and annoying. And when she talked to herself, she was even more annoying! No, I did not care for her at all. I'm really rather hoping the heroine in Devil's Cub will be a lot wittier and more interesting but, keeping my theory of Heyer heroines in mind, it prolly won't be the case. No matter if so, I'll buy Frederica and re-read that next.

Marvellous use of the younger sister and brother. My god, how Heyer distinguishes voices just takes my breath away. I could hear them, that capture of pace and intonation was just perfect. She's so incredible with dialogue. Argh. *foams at the mouth with envy* And I do love her over-abundance of commas and exclamation marks. I'd scream if I saw them in anyone else's work. In hers, they seem to fit right into the delightful satire and so I feel quite a horrid glee at each burst of such.

4 comments:

Melissa said...

Nice review! I hope you enjoy Devil's Cub when you get to read it. I think the heroine in that is almost completely the opposite of Leonie, so I'll be interested to hear what you think of her. Happy reading!

BTW, I actually don't think The Black Moth is too bad for a first book...

Liz said...

Hi,
I'm really enjoying your Heyer reviews, which are so often absolutely spot on. I read These Old Shades for the first time a few days ago and you got it dead right. Leon/ie is immensely irritating, but as so often with Heyer everything else makes up for it. I don't like the gender confusion novels so much either and The Corinthian is probably the only one I've read so far that I really didn't like. Devil's Cub is wonderful though - I read that before TOS so I'm working my way backwards.

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dri said...

Heh, Melissa, you were absolutely right. I totally did enjoy Devil's Cub and very much loved that Mary Challoner was so different from Leonie.

Oh really? Okay, I'll keep that in mind for when I really miss Heyer and want to read something new. Ta!

~~~~~~~~

Thanks, Liz! And oh I'm so glad to hear someone else was as irritated by Leon(ie)! The Corinthian was the first Heyer I read and now I realise it was the discovery of Heyer's fabulous style that made me love it so much cos yeah, the story is not one I particularly like and I definitely loathe the innocent ingenue type! *lol*