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The Cross-Dresser, the Thief, his Daughter and her Lover: Queer Desire and Romance in Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Stacy Gillis



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


When romance fiction consolidated as a genre in the 1920s and 1930s, a series of generic conventions concerning the heterosexual imperatives were consolidated. This article considers how these heterosexual imperatives function as a mask for queer desire in Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades (1926). Drawing on the work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, the article identifies in the novel a detailed account of male-male desire through arguing that while the romantic narrative is concerned with the Duc of Avon and Léonie, his former cross-dressing page, the substantial sexual tension in the novel occurs in the meetings and exchanges between Avon and Léonie’s biological father Saint-Vire. While These Old Shades ends with the presentation of Léonie by Avon as his Duchess, it is male-male desire which has (queerly) driven this romance plot to its ‘natural’ conclusion of marriage. The article considers what happens when the rivalry, explicitly about desiring a woman, is an implicit homosocial bond and how this functions within the heterosexual imperatives of the romance novel. The article questions how desire functions in the romance novel, and, more crucially, about how these texts can be read as resisting, at least in part, that which has been traditionally understood as their raison d’être – the heterosexual imperative.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gillis S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Women: A Cultural Review

Year: 2015

Volume: 26

Issue: 1-2

Pages: 57-74

Online publication date: 16/07/2015

Acceptance date: 03/03/2015

Date deposited: 20/07/2015

ISSN (print): 0957-4042

ISSN (electronic): 1470-1367

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/09574042.2015.1035024


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