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.
Other books with a similar reviewer score: