Thursday, April 21, 2011


I finished the Poldark Saga two weeks ago. Sorry to say, but the last two books in the series were a little disappointing. It felt like Winston Graham was hurrying to finish up the story. Some interesting characters were pushed to the background or completely dropped in favor of others who I didn't always find interesting. The last novel, Bella Poldark, had two plotlines which I felt were unnecessary. One concerned a serial killer and the other an ape named Butto. Plus, I wasn't terribly interested in Bella's budding career as an opera star. But overall, I loved the series and am glad to have read it.

Since the Battle of Waterloo is a key event in the lives of the Poldarks, I decided to stick with Waterloo and make Georgette Heyer's An Infamous Army my next read. I had read this years ago, but since then I've been to Brussels and I felt it was time to read it again. Many of Heyer's novels are very light reading; the plots and characters don't always stay in my memory. But An Infamous Army is more serious. True, it has the light, fluffy romance. Handsome, dashing Colonel Charles Audley proposes to aristocratic party girl Lady Barbara Childe only a few days after meeting her, and she impulsively accepts. Their respective families are not happy with the engagement, but also don't expect it to last. Charles is well-liked, a really nice guy. Barbara is wild, headstrong, and loves to cause scandal. Not a happy recipe for a smooth romance.

But behind the romance, events are leading up to this terrible battle. As rumors circulate about Napoleon on the march, social activities continue and there is a non-stop round of parties, balls, concerts, and moonlight picnics. Brussels is full of English tourists eager to see the Continent after so many years of war with France. The Duke of Wellington's presence in Brussels gives a sense of security to the English civilians, but when the battle starts, many rush out of Brussels. It is a measure of Lady Barbara's worth that she stays in Brussels despite the danger.

One thing I like about this novel is that several of the characters have appeared in a previous novel (Regency Buck) while Lady Barbara is descended from another family of characters (the Alastairs in These Old Shades and Devil's Cub). Yet An Infamous Army is in no way a sequel, but can be read and enjoyed on its own. Its subtitle is "A Novel of Love, War, Wellington, and Waterloo," and this accurately describes the plot in a nutshell. Many historical figures, including Wellington himself, intermingle with the fictional characters, but they all flow smoothly together. Georgette Heyer was known for her meticulous historical research. The account of Waterloo in this novel is considered one of the best and most accurate ever written by a non-combattant.

The picture above is of the Hotel de Ville in Brussels, where Charles first meets Lady Barbara at a ball.

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