There must be, somewhere, a fan of historical romance who hasn’t yet read Georgette Heyer’s wonderful Regencies, but I have yet to meet one. Even my middle brother, who graduated from West Point and used to read nothing but “serious work stuff” belonged to a Heyer fan club when he was a cadet!
There are several universal Heyer favorites, including The Grand Sophy, Venetia, The Masqueraders, and others. I’ve read them all; in some cases, more times than I can count. But most fans will tell you there is a special place reserved for their very first. There certainly is for mine.
I found that first copy of The Unknown Ajax when I was in college. It was crammed on the white-painted shelves of a house near the university that had been converted into a second-hand bookstore . Chance and the alphabet had set it beneath a mullioned window on a bright summer day when the huge old oak tree that stood outside, its leaves rustling in a summer breeze, told me I should be outside, not inside looking at books. At least, that’s the way I remember it, and the memory is surprisingly vivid.
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve read it since. I’ve owned several editions over the years, and though I now have all Heyer’s Regency titles as eBooks, I still mull buying just one more paperback copy, even though I haven’t any place to put it.
Hugo—the “Unknown Ajax” of the story—is a special hero: big and quiet, unpretentious, yet strong and competent. All excellent qualities for a hero, of course. But what sets him apart from every other romantic hero I’ve ever swooned over is his wicked sense of fun that leads those around him to make the mistake of thinking him a fool. The way he manages to stir up everyone while pretending innocence can always set me laughing, and the genius with which he saves the day at the end is…well, it’s just genius. In fact, thinking about it makes me want to read the book again, for the umpety umph time, just for the joy of it.