Review: The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer

Posted January 12, 2020 by Sophia Rose in Reviews / 20 Comments

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Review: The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer
The Unknown Ajax
Narrated by Daniel Philpott

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Audible Studios
Released on February 4, 2010
Length: 11 hrs and 50 mins
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
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The Delight

An aristocratic family is reeling from the loss of two family members only to learn the son of the family prodigal is the new heir.  And what a prodigal he is likely to be reared provincially in the wilds of Yorkshire in the wool industry and only attaining some respectability through an officer’s rank in Wellington’s army.  Oh yes, the Darracotts are in an uproar about Hugo, the Unknown Ajax.  As one of the most sparkling of Georgette Heyer’s gems, I couldn’t resist picking this one up in audiobook and enjoying it once again.


Georgette Heyer has a gift for the Regency comedy of manners, spirited Regency dialogue and cant, ripping plots, and slow-burn sweet romance.  The Unknown Ajax takes us to a family estate on the coastal border of Sussex and Kent where the majority of the story is the happenings during a family gathering for the arrival of a long lost family member.  This is just after the allied victory at Waterloo ending the Napoleonic Wars when many military are returning home including the new heir of the family.

The Darracotts are all in an uproar about some country bumpkin from Yorkshire inheriting their prestigious family title and estates.  None want him and least of all Anthea whom her grandfather, the current Lord Darracott, is insisting she marry this new heir while Vincent another grandson feels the injustice of giving way to the rural interloper.  Into this atmosphere of genteel hostility arrives large, phlegmatic Major Hugo Darracott.

The book introduces the situation, the characters, and then how Hugo’s arrival is like the cat among the pigeons- a part he gladly plays because he is well aware what they all think of him.  He was curious about his dead father’s estranged family and now he’s seen them.  He knows he must inherit and take over the estate after his grandfather so he has his work cut out for him to charm them in his own whimsical way.  But, of all of them, he most seeks to win over his beautiful, sharp tongued and equally sharp-witted cousin Anthea.  Meanwhile, an over-zealous custom’s agent hangs about hoping to catch the smugglers operating in the area and there are rumors of a ghost at the family dower house.

I have enjoyed most of Georgette Heyer’s books over the years, but this one is probably one of my top favorites.  It all boils down to Hugo.  He’s such an engaging hero.  He puts up with a great deal from all his new-found family and their ignorance about his past that he faces with either silence or amusement.  He’s humble and doesn’t need to show off just how capable he is.  It all comes out slowly though so that by the end not one member of the family is in doubt of his worth.

The comedy of how Hugo fools them all and just the quirky, fun characters surrounding him particularly Claude the high-strung dandy who studiously sets out to bring Hugo into fashion or that rivalry among the valets going on below stairs.  Just so much to make one smile and laugh.

But, she doesn’t neglect the suspenseful moments or the sweet sparkling romance to give the story its heart.  The way the final scenes play out is riveting even while delighting the reader’s sense of humor.  The adorable way Hugo courted Anthea into first liking him to finding herself falling for him was another master stroke.

The focus of this book is on the family as a whole and the dynamics of having such characters all under the same roof.  I thought this was all painted so well and was itself an entertaining part of the story.

This was my first occasion to hear Daniel Philpott narrate and I was impressed with his range of voices from curmudgeonly old Lord Darracott to tart Anthea, dramatic Claude and stately Lady Aurelia.  And many more.  Genders, classes, regional accents, pacing, tone, and timing were all splendidly worked.

All in all this revisit to an old favorite went prodigiously well, as Hugo might say.  I can heartily recommend this one to those who enjoy sweet Regency era comedy romance or want to ease their way into the classics through this almost-classic.

Challenges Met

Mt. TBR #3
COYER Winter Friends #23
Literary Pickers #3 picture on the wall
Romanceopoly #2 Cobble Street (HR not set in London)
Audio #1
Historical Fiction #2
Romance BINGO #2 animal on cover- dog and horse

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

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2 years ago

Sounds like an interesting set-up for a historical romance book and Hugo sounds like a great hero to read about. Nice it also has some sweet romance and a bit of suspense mixed in. I like it when a narrator can do a large range of voices well, i always find it impressive when they can make each character sound like a different person.

Sophia Rose
2 years ago
Reply to  Lola

Oh yes, she set this story up so well. I couldn’t wait to see Hugo when he finally came on the scene.

I agree. It’s amazing to me, too, how some narrators are so gifted that they sound like an entirely different person from one sentence to the next.

Carole's Random Life in Books

I really need to give Georgette Heyer a try. I have a couple of her books but haven’t picked one up yet. This sounds like a good place to start since it is one of your favorites.

Sophia Rose
2 years ago

How fun! Definitely pick them when you’re in the mood for light and airy stuff. 🙂

Mary Kirkland
2 years ago

Having an unknown relative come and just take over would bring upheaval to any family of that time. Sounds like a good book.

Sophia Rose
2 years ago
Reply to  Mary Kirkland

You got that right, Mary. They were all up in arms until he finally arrived and they could see that he wasn’t going to be a jerk about things.

Angie Elle
2 years ago

You know, I have never read this author, but I’ve always wanted to. You make this book sound so engaging. It sounds like a great place to start!

Nice review. 🙂

Sophia Rose
2 years ago
Reply to  Angie Elle

Oh fun! Yes, this is a good one to start and arguably one of her best, Angie. 🙂

Lover of Romance
2 years ago

You honestly can never go wrong with picking up Georgette Heyer.,…a true classic romance author!! I love how it has such heart in the story.

Sophia Rose
2 years ago

So true, Renee! I’ve not been disappointed by any of the ones I’ve tried.

Lindy@ A Bookish Escape

This historical romance sounds fantastic! Hugo sounds like the perfect malled, and I love that you got comedy and suspense in this romance as well. I always enjoy when family dynamics are included in a story and done well! Wonderful Review Sophia!!!

Sophia Rose
2 years ago

Hugo was the best. All those elements in the story just made it even better. 🙂

Debbie Haupt
Debbie Haupt
2 years ago

Yes I can see why this checked all your must haves for historical romance Sophia Rose, thanks for sharing!

Sophia Rose
2 years ago
Reply to  Debbie Haupt

Ha! Yes, it was so me. Georgette Heyer is a perfect fit for my reading tastes. 🙂

2 years ago

This sounds fun. I’ve never read Georgette Heyer but somehow or other A Christmas Party came across my radar (I was looking at holiday mystery lists I think) and while I haven’t read it yet, it did spark my interest in her other books as well. I’m definitely going to try her this year!

Sophia Rose
2 years ago
Reply to  Greg

Sounds like a great plan, Greg. Hope you enjoy the one you pick out. Her mysteries can be just as fun and full of antics.

Carole Rae
2 years ago

I really must read more Georgette Heyer

Sophia Rose
2 years ago
Reply to  Carole Rae

I second that!

Rachel @Waves of Fiction

I’ve never read Georgette Heyer, but I do love historical romance, as you know. I’m going to see if they have a library audio for this one especially since you loved it enough for a re-read.

Sophia Rose
1 year ago

Oh cool! Heyer is a classic and I came to her late when Sourcebooks did all those re-releases. These are just light and fun.