A gentleman was strolling down a side street in Paris, on his way back from the house of one Madame de Verchoureux. He walked mincingly, for the red heels of his shoes were very high. A long purple cloak, rose-lined, hung from his shoulders and was allowed to fall carelessly back from his dress, revealing a full-skirted coat of purple satin, heavily laced with gold; a waistcoat of flowered silk; faultless small clothes; and a lavish sprinkling of jewels on his cravat and breast.
Thus opens These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer and the gentleman in question is Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon, known by friends and enemies alike as Satanas – the devil. He is glamorous, jaded and fascinating and, on this particular evening, he meets his match! He encounters the intriguing and equally fascinating, red-headed, Léon – who is really Léonie! Masquerading as a tavern boy, she is escaping a beating at her brutal “brother’s” hands. So Avon, on a whim, takes her into his household and parades her, in pre-Revolutionary Parisian society, as his page. These Old Shades follows a twisting course as young Léon is swept into a dangerous game by the Duke when he takes his revenge upon an old enemy. As Leonie falls in love with Satanas of the curious and heavy lidded eyes – so do we! Well I did anyway! On lazy summer afternoons in my mid-teens, I discovered Georgette Heyer and the Duke. An impression was made that has lasted a life time. I’ve found many other characters since then who have some things with him in common – most notably Mr. Darcy, of course! But for me no other character in fiction weaves quite the same spell!