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Argument for Ajax
on 6 February 2005
This one has always been one of my favourite Heyers, starting from the opening scene. The heir of old Lord Darracot has died on a solitary fishing trip and Lord Darracot's first reaction is: "Damn him! Damn him! DAMN HIM!". We are straight into the cantangerous heart of strained family relations.
The reason some Heyer readers have probably been dissappointed in this is that they have been looking for a traditional romance. Although this book has that, it takes second role in relation to the comedy of family behaviour. Never mawkish, Heyer plays with her cast of characters, recognising the fact that while relationships between family members can change, even rather suddenly, their characters do not...
This is one of Heyer's hero-led novels and there is a feeling that she sets out to counter her usual hero-types, as she does in The Foundling. And who could not love Hugh, our larger than life hero, the Ajax of the title. Hugh is in a way the male version of the irrepressible Sophy of the Grand Sophy and the antithesis of most Heyer heroes, blond, deceptively simple seeming and probably the least egocentric of all Heyer's men.
I love this book for Hugh, for his non-contrived relatioship with the clever Anthea, her cousin Vincent (One of THE usual Heyer-hero types, revealing some distictly unattractive traits...), for the whole Darracot family, in fact! For the pitch perfect comedy - the climax, as the Ajax takes the reigns of the family, is fantastic. For its intelligent observations on how shifts of power play havoc with extended family relations, cutting other members to size and allowing others openings they never imagined...