The Unknown Ajax

OK, so I went and bought another Heyer regency romance. They’re addictive. And with The Unknown Ajax, I finally hit upon one of Heyer’s best. 

The characters:
Lord Darracott: The head of the household. An eccentric and miserly individual. Father of four sons, three of which are deceased. He controls the whole family by withholding his money.

Hugh Darracott: Son of Lord Darracott’s second son, he has never met the family. They expect him to be of low class with horrible manners due to his father’s marriage to a ‘weaver’s daughter‘. With the death of Lord Darracott’s eldest son and grandson, he is now the heir to the title and estate.

Matthew Darracott: Lord Darracott’s only surviving son. After his brother’s death he believes he is the heir. He comes to Darracott Place when he learns otherwise. With him come his two sons, Vincent and Claud.

Vincent Darracott: Matthew’s elder son, he and his grandfather seem to be one of a kind. Selfish and a lavish spender, his lazy, no-care attitude suffers a check in front of his grandfather – from whom he is always borrowing money. He hates Hugh for stealing away the title from his father which would have then passed to him.

Claud Darracott: His dream is to be the Pink of the Ton i.e. the best dandy in town. He eagerly takes big, clumsy, slow-witted Hugh under his wing to mould him into a gentleman.

Richmond Darracott: The son of Lord Darracott’s youngest son, he is the Lord’s favorite grandchild; He sees in him a spirit of his own and gives him his every desire – as he sees it. But Richmond has his own way of getting what he wants out of life, and as is usual in Georgette Heyer’s books, the brother of the heroine provides a lot of the drama – this is no different. He is brother to;

Anthea Darracott: The Lord has hit upon a great plan – to marry Hugh to his cousin Anthea. That way, the title and estate will stay in the family and Hugh can be controlled. Anthea is the only one of the grandchildren who is not afraid to stand up to her grandfather. She makes it clear to Hugh that she has no intention of marrying him – apparently, neither does he – which results in the two becoming fast friends. It isn’t long before Anthea begins to suspect that the dim witted behaviour is put on by Hugh.

Mrs. Darracott: Mother of Anthea and Richmond, she adores her children and stands in great trepidation of her father-in-law. She is forced to stay under his roof after her husband’s death.

Lady Aurelia: Wife of Matthew Darracott and mother of Vincent and Claud, she remains unaffected by the rages of her father-in-law Lord Darracott and maintains her cool under any situation. Descended from Earls, she has a commanding presence handling any situation with dignity.

Although the plot in this novel was easy to unravel, the characters were refreshingly different. Hugh, although rich and handsome, spent half of the book acting like a huge man with a low intellect. Although we knew he couldn’t be so (he’s the hero!) it was an interesting change. Anthea herself was fooled for a time which added to the fun. With the romance question cleared up in the beginning, Anthea is left free to fall in love – with a man she had told she would never marry! A light, refreshing read.

Venetia

My first read after exams: Venetia by Georgette Heyer. I love Georgette Heyer and have read many of her mysteries and romances, but I have to say, she isn’t that innovative in her plots. It’s always the same story: A rake falls in love with a spontaneous and unconventional girl. The perfect hero (although he’s had a questionable lifestyle) is bored with his life and has become hardened towards love. Venetia was no different. The hero of the novel, the rakish Lord Damerel, comes on a chance visit to his estate which lies next to Venetia’s home. They meet, are intrigued by each other, and soon a happy accident occurs which throws them in each others’ way for an extended period. The inevitable ensues and they fall in love. The next inevitable occurs and Lord Damerel sees how his scandalous reputation will never do for a good and beautiful girl like Venetia. He never asks her to marry him and sends her away. Then the happy coincidence happens that Venetia’s own parentage isn’t as spotless as one would have thought and so they can get married! Yay for everyone!

OK, it may seem that I don’t like Georgette Heyer but I do! It’s just that sometimes, I wish for something a little different. Novels like Cotillion and The Devil’s Cub are beautiful and I can read them again and again, but when I pick up a different novel, I want a different story. In Venetia, we have the same absurd yet likable characters in the form of Venetia’s two hopeful suitors; the same innocent and intriguingly beautiful girl, who is lovable and ‘different’ from all the run of the mill society ladies who have been setting their caps at the hero of the piece. Alright, so Lord Damerel wasn’t as in demand as some of the heroes of her novels are, but he was still rich, and that counts for something in the Heyer world. What always gets me, is that the guy, who has had such a reckless career is actually supposed to be kind, loving and caring underneath it all.

When all is said and done, a Heyer novel is meant to be taken as it is: a Regency Romance. It’s supposed to be delightful and entertaining and not modern in any way. That means, the end in view is always a happy marriage with proper considerations to money. Georgette Heyer includes a wealth of detail in her novels of the Regency Period. If that’s what you’re looking for, then Venetia is as good as any other. Although not one of Heyer’s best, any Georgette Heyer fan would swoon at the hero’s feet. He is all that is expected from a Heyer hero. But if you want variety, try Cotillion or April Lady.