Picked this up partly because I had vague memories of daegaer praising the author to the skies and partly because I felt I should read at least one ancestral book after spending three weeks in the ancestral home. (Last year it was The Revolution of America, by the Abbé Raynal; this year Victorian boys' fiction. Heigh-ho.)
It's pretty formulaic. You know what's going to happen from the very first chapter, where we are introduced to our two youthful protagonists, their feuding aristocratic fathers, and their demure and beautiful sisters (their mothers both being strangely absent), and the intruding band of ruffians who will unite the two families in common struggle despite generations of enmity. Despite a supposed setting in the reign of James I, it was much more reminiscent of Richard Jeffries' firmly 19th-century Bevis.
I was on the lookout for homoerotic subtexts (having only the vaguest memory of what daegaer actually wrote) and well, yes, they are there aplenty. Most notably, the one point of plot resolution that genuinely surprised me is that, rather than either or both of the young heroes becoming romantically involved with the other's sister, as I had expected, the book ends with them heading out into the wild countryside for a friendly bit of close physical combat.
There are some nice bits of description of the flora and fauna of the Peak District, in between manly deeds of virtue and valour, and a couple of interesting minor characters (much more interesting than the two heroes, who are practically interchangeable): the local sage/doctor/college graduate and an underestimated miner's child. The whole thing can be found on-line here.
There are also some glorious blurbs for other books from the same publisher, suitable for presentation as prizes (our copy was presented to my great-uncle Maurice, for "good behaviour", in 1899). Will copy them out for your edification and amusement later in the week.