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.

Castle Dor: Historical Fiction Challenge

“It is a curious coincidence that no poet, or shall we call him investigator, has ever lived to conclude this particular story. His work has always been finished by another.”

So says Doctor Carfax in Castle Dor. The words have an eerie quality when we learn that Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch died before completing his book which was later finished by Daphne du Maurier. The legend of Tristan and Iseult is one that has haunted poets and novelists alike with more than one version still extant. Castle Dor deals with the same legend set in 19th century Cornwall.

The legend
Tristan, a young knight and nephew to King Mark, brings home the Irish Princess Iseult who is to marry his uncle. The young couple accidentally (or intentionally in some versions) ingest a love potion meant for King Mark and Princess Iseult. They fall madly in love and pursue an adulterous relationship, hiding and scheming behind the King’s back. They are betrayed by Iseult’s maid and the King, intent on revenge, kills young Tristan with a poisonous arrow. In some versions he forgives the couple as long as Tristan agrees to leave. In this version, Tristan marries Iseult of the White Hands(namesake of Princess Isuelt), sister to Sir Kahedin, and leaves returning the Princess to her King.

Castle Dor is very detailed in the various versions of the story. We are introduced to Doctor Carfax and Monsieur Ledru who pursue the true origins behind the legend of Tristan and Iseult.  They believe that the place they have come to, known in the novel as ‘Troy’, is the actual setting of the star crossed lovers’ story. Their investigation reawakens the legend into the lives of Linnet Lewarne and Amyot Trestane. Recently married Linnet Lewarne hates her old husband. Descended from royalty her beauty and poise is matched by no other. Amyot, a Breton onion seller from aboard a ship, comes to Linnet’s inn. Even before they meet, Linnet is drawn to him by the sound of his voice. From that moment onward, their lives are connected and as Doctor Carfax realizes, they relive the original legend to the letter. He tries desperately to avert the end.

Linnet Lewarne is the reincarnation of the Irish Princess Iseult. The potion in the original legend is supposed to free the lovers from responsibility for their actions (such actions a noble knight would never dream of doing). But in the novel, although we have a certain drink, brewed and drunk by Linnet and Amyot, it is hard to absolve them of all responsibility. Linnet seems cold, harsh and cruel both to her husband and to all others who have done her no harm. Amyot on the other hand seems genuinely in love while not forgetting his duties to others. While in the beginning of the story I had some sympathy for Linnet, as the novel progressed, I found myself unable to like her.

Daphne du Maurier was the perfect author to finish the novel. Her love of old legends and stories, and the whole atmosphere created by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch suited her own style. In fact, I couldn’t see where the seam came in; where Sir Arthur left off and Daphne began. The story was executed flawlessly.

Suddenly Single

I love reading, but every once in a while I get sick of all the serious reading I do and want something that requires no mental effort whatsoever. I just want a book I can read and not really give my whole mind to. Suddenly Single was such a book and helped me ‘pass the time’ and was relatively easy to figure out. Reading a no-brainer, I relax and am rejuvenated for another bout of classics and difficult authors who are actually trying to put something in my brain!

As you can probably tell, I’m not a fan of the ‘light romance’ genre. These books always seem too unreal and end up happily for everyone. I like a happy ending as well as the next person, but make me believe it. I don’t want to know I’m fooling myself! That being said, there is something to be said for such novels. They are good to pass the time with and help you to just let go of the effort; because reading does require effort. You have to let yourself be drawn in, and use your brain to critically analyze the more difficult literature. Maybe I’m speaking as a literature student, but novels do require some insight. You have to make some connections. But with books like Suddenly Single it’s just fun.

All such books have the typical story. A successful and strong woman gets dumped or contracts some disease; in short – she is at a life altering position. The book then moves on to discuss how evidently, men find her attractive, sexy and just all round brilliant, yet she has just been dumped by a very attractive husband/boyfriend, who, God knows why left her. Obviously, there is a paradox involved which (most of the time) resolves itself by the said dumper wanting her back! I am thankful to say such was not the case in Suddenly Single. Our heroine here has her share of flaws and I was left wondering why her boyfriend hadn’t left her ages ago! But don’t worry, the story turns out as you hoped and knew it would. So read on and relax!

The Blue Castle

The Blue Castle is one of my all time favorite books. Valancy, the protagonist, is someone we can all relate to. At 29, she is still unmarried. Even in this day and age, going past the ‘marriageable age’ is a huge issue; especially in a culture like Pakistan’s. Valancy’s idealism and dreams are ones which we all have. Though the novel is presented as a fantasy, we all, at some point or another, want to do what Valancy does, to break free from the rules of culture and society and do something outrageous! I know I have.

As always, L. M. Montgomery’s heroines have a unique quality about them; something, which strictly speaking, isn’t beauty but charm. Valancy, after she breaks free from her restraints, is almost beautiful – but not in the conventional way that her cousin Olive is. She has a personality of her own and the blue castle which she dreams of is the place where her true potential comes to the surface. As Barney, her……..  (I’ll let you find out for yourself!) says, ‘you belong to the woods’. That is where her special charm finds it’s proper domain.

Who among us doesn’t have annoying relatives? Relatives who intrude, boss and try to control our very existence? It may be an old aunt or some far off older cousin, but we’ve all felt the helplessness – especially during family reunions. Valancy lives eternally in a family reunion. The family has found an easy target in Valancy and boss the very life out of her. To break free is a harder step than it seems, even for Valancy. But nevertheless, she finds the necessary push to live her life the way her heart desires…………where does it all end? Do her dreams come true? Most importantly of all, does she find true love? Or is the stigma of age one that she can’t get around?……Read it and tell me all about your views!