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Noble Ajax, you are as strong, as valiant, as wise, no less noble, much more gentle, and altogether more tractable!”

When Anthea Darracott finally says these lines (at the end of the book) the reader heaves a sigh of relief, and may also think she could have used a little less literary reference 😉

To help with that, here is the history of Ajax, and how Heyer often uses Shakespeare in her books.

(My ratings at the bottom of  this post)

The Unknown Ajax

That aside, The Unknown Ajax is an entertaining read. Set in the country, this book is about the grandchild of an irate, imperious and not-so-good landlord Lord Darracott who sets more store by his Family Name than by management of his estates and family. He now has to introduce the Heir to the family – the man having shown interest in knowing better what he will inherit and having quit the Army where he was a Major, and heads  ‘home’ – to Darracott Place. To receive him Lord D assembles his complete family. While he stays with one of his daughter-in-laws and his grand-daughter Anthea and grand-son Richmond, he invites over his Politican son and his very correct and well-bred wife, and their two sons Claud and Vincent. It is a full house to which Major Darracott is introduced.

And what a grandchild. Hugh Darracott, or Hugo as he prefers to be called, is a tall, blonde man. Though handsome, he does not really favor his family in anything except his height. To top it all, he is a provincial. Not up to the mark of the Noble Darracotts. Brought up by the family of his mother who were weavers, Hugo had never met his grandfather or cousins – and therefore, neither them him.

The book is entertaining to say the least. The moment Hugo perceives the preconcieved notion of his relatives, he tries his best to fit into that notion.  Especially after Lord Darracott decrees his grandchildren to teach him to be a Lord, in manners, dressing and speech! He starts speaking in a broad Yorkshire accent, toys with his very dressing-conscious cousin Claud, listens good humoredly to Vincent jibe at him and secretly worries about the youngest Richmond.

Meanwhile Lord D hatches a plan to wed Anthea to the Major and thus keep the estates in good hands. What more can a girl want? She hates him. The Major thus informs her of his being already secretly betrothed to a Yorkshire Beauty and the two soon become good friends.

While Anthea suspects Hugo to be as  ‘up to the mark’ (if not more) as the rest of them, the family loves to hate him. Intermingled with his fun repartees are suspicions of ghosts, a troubled boy Richmond who is not allowed to join the Army and smugglers!

This book is about the country and the rising problems of smuggling on the coastal towns. The marshlands are lovingly described, even as Hugo a newbie to them needs to be told all their virtues.

The highpoint of the book comes at the end, Hugo wonderfully plays with the family and the local authorities to keep the former out of legal trouble. proving he is not just an Ajax, but a smart one.

Of course, meanwhile Anthea has fallen in love with Hugo, and realises his fiancee was nothing but a figment of his very fertile imagination. Lord Darracott too slowly and steadily finds himself ensnared by the charms and subtle dominance of his heir, giving up completely by the end of the book.

Of course, there is a surprise element which makes Hugo all the more acceptable to his family. But I suggest you figure out the gaps on reading the book. Eventually, Hugo of course, redeems himself as a true Darracott of Darracott.

The book is a pleasure to read, and rests almost completely on the charms of the Hero. Initially I was a little surprised to see a Hero so unlike the usual Heyer ones. Not only was Hugo good natured, laid back and not someone anyone could be in awe of, on  first meeting. But he wins over the readers with his smartness and good intentions. Anthea is the perfect heroine for this man with her caustic tongue and passionate nature.

So, here are my Ratings:

Protagonists: Likable, but took me a little time to fall in love with

Side Characters: Lady Aurelia is magnificent. Claud and Vincent the perfect opposites, and Richmond manages to make you feel like boxing his ears. Lord Darracott is real! Overall very well developed characters.

Plot: Lots of action emerges mid-book, going on till the end, complete with smuggling, ghosts, bullet injuries and legal men.

Environment: Fun, small element of danger and toying with the Law.

Regency Information: Deals with the dilemna of the people dealing with smuggling thanks to the war.

Recommendation: Recommended especially to new Heyer readers. The Yorkshire accent is a take-home! The romance is low-key. Brings out the Nobility’s view on the common man, and of course, smuggling.

The book can be re-read for lighthearted fun anytime.

Rating: Three on Five!

This Blog

I had read Georgette Heyer first as a schoolgirl, on the sly, even on days before exams.
And loved every moment of it.
Today, more than a decade later, I am revisiting each book of hers and all the Romance and Adventure the regency period can offer through her.

This blog is a list of all the books as I read them, with my ratings for it.
I wholeheartedly suggest Heyer to any avid book reader! Not just for the stories, but her inimitable writing style.

-D Chaudhury

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