Georgette Heyer: The Unknown Ajax

When the unknown heir to the Daracott legacy arrives, the house and its many dependents are thrown up in arms

This “lumbering Ajax” is a former Major, and regrettably the offspring of Lord Daracott’s second son and “a weaver’s brat”.  Not only is he a large, military man with a northern brogue and connections to trade, but he doesn’t seem to be phased by anything his newly met kin want to throw at his head.

At first, they think he is just a dummy.  But soon enough, his family is wondering if the even temper amicability is just a strong a put on as his thick accent.

Heyer’s Unknown Ajax is not her usual romp.  We have a very unique character in Hugo, Major Daracott, who is more Bingley than Darcy.  The pace plods along as slow as Hugo seems to be witted, and is filled with a lot about the place and the Gentlemen (smugglers).

Its less of a love story and more a duck out of water character study.

After my third read, I am now convinced it is elegant.  And like my favorite Old Man’s Beard Moss, it grows slowly but is ultimately beautiful.

I much prefer the funny, almost slapstick pace of Heyer’s Reg romps.  The Unknown Ajax is not a two day, or for that matter two week, read.  Instead, its a slow and steady ponderer.

But ultimately, for all its slow burning heat, its satisfying.  Yes, the romance centers on two cousins, but like The Grand Sophy, because these cousins have not been raised together and only met in adulthood its a little less icky.

The story is less about the romance, I think, and more about Regency masculinity.  We have several different men in the book–a foppish wannabee Pink, a devil-may-care Corinthian who is a rakehell not likely to reform, a young man restrained by culture and expectation.  The hero is the very opposite, a salt of the earth man who has had a wealth of life experience, and accordingly, has his priorities and outlook in perspective.

Uniquely, there is also a funny sub-plot struggle between two valet grasping to out-do each other.  From this, we get a rare glimpse into the serving class and how their vanities and sensibilities intertwine with the wealthy families they serve.

Heyer’s history is seamless and full of depth.

It are these details that ultimately make The Unknown Ajax a worthy read.

4.5 out of 6 A solid historical character study of Regency gentlemen.

Content Rating/Heat Index
Adult subject matter, mostly political
Some violent scenes, although not graphic
Recommended for older teens and above. Generally clean, younger teens will find subject material boring unless they are history buffs.

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3 Responses to Georgette Heyer: The Unknown Ajax

  1. My favourite Heyer of all time, with wonderfully vivid secondary characters. Heyer’s secondary characters are always so good but I think that they shine especially bright in Unknown Ajax, without outshining a strong hero and his practical heroine.

  2. HJ says:

    I’m glad you liked The Unkown Ajax – I don’t think it’s quite as slow as you say! But I do wish US readers would get over the cousin thing and stop icking and gagging! Quite apart from the fact that you’re out of step with a large part of the rest of the world still, it must be apparent to readers of Heyer and Mary Stewart that it’s not a factor in the UK now and was even less so in the early twentieth century, let alone the eighteenth and nineteenth. Sorry, you’re coming in for some built-up annoyance on this point! I’ll warn you that it comes up in other Heyers and maybe it won’t occasion comment then?

  3. admin says:

    Thanks for your comments!

    As to the cousin thing, I have blogged enough about it in the past to make my sentiments known…it gives me the heebies to imagine marrying any of my cousins so perhaps I am unnaturally prejudice.

    I am not sure what your mean by US being “out of step with a large part of the rest of the world” and assuming you meant by “its not a factor” that you meant there was no stigma attached?

    With 10% of marriages in the world a result of cousins marrying, and some of those indeed occurring in the US I am not sure it is necessarily a national issue.

    I did write a post about consanguinity for those interested in reading more.

    As I stated in the post, the genetics is not the source of the gag reflex…it really is a personal bias which I freely admit and openly invite contrary opinion.