An Infamous Army
It feels as though I am committing some form of romance sacrilege when I give Georgette Heyer at B+. Still, even though I enjoyed An Infamous Army, it just didn’t quite rise to DIK status.
The book is set in Brussels in the months leading up to the Battle of Waterloo and it describes the almost frenzied behavior of the elite trying to make merry in the shadow of impending war. Lord and Lady Worth and their family have joined others as they await the arrival of Wellington and his army in Brussels. While it seems a long time in coming, the arrival of Lord Worth’s younger brother, Colonel Charles Audley, staff officer to Wellington, sets the events of the novel into full swing. Charles is all that a dashing military man should be – mid-thirties, honorable, brave, and temperate. At his first social event in Brussels, he sees Lady Barbara Childe at a distance and arranges an introduction to her, much to his family’s annoyance.
Barbara is the opposite of Charles in almost every way. As a widow, she cares practically nothing for propriety and less of what others think of her actions. She leads the charmed life of a belle and her sole purpose is to flirt. From their first meeting, Charles tells Barbara that he loves her and spends the weeks before the battle trying to win her heart. Though she consents to marriage, she fights any constraints placed on her by Society due to the engagement. The more others push her to be respectable, the less respectable she becomes. Charles, who is called away to duty more often than not, places no constraints upon Barbara or her behavior. He wants her to realize that he will not rule over her – the one thing she fears most. If her actions are constrained, it must be her decision to do so and one made out of love for him.
Nevertheless, at one point Barbara is pushed to the brink of propriety because of a misunderstanding, with her subsequent actions creating a scandal within Charles’ own extended family. When the situation gets so bad as to threaten the cohesiveness of the family, Charles steps in and handles the problem with almost military efficiency. Barbara resents his high-handedness and the engagement is ended. As the battle becomes reality, however, she realizes her mistakes and wants to make things right, but she fears that she has waited too long.
Like Heyer’s other books, the romance and angst between the couple captured my interest and held it. Charles is the ideal hero – gentlemanly and commanding. Barbara, on the other hand, begins as a feisty thing, but gradually matures as the book progresses. The secondary characters (and there are many here) are also worth rooting for and, in many instances add humor, (which is sometimes quite dry) to the novel that can break even the most tense moments.
However, there are certain moments in movies and books that just don’t do it for me and this book had several of them. The constant descriptions of the troops, troop movements, and who was where doing what bored me. I kept reminding myself that the name of the book is An Infamous Army and that descriptions of troops and battles are a part of the package, but if I weren’t reading the book for review, I would have skipped them. Also, I did not really become interested in the book until about 80 pages into reading. Yet, once I was hooked on the romance, I truly enjoyed the characters – hero, heroine, and secondary.
This novel is a delightful romance and, for those who love a well-researched historical novel, it will certainly be a keeper. It is most likely the model on which others have based novels in this same setting. As usual, Heyer does not disappoint.
|Review Date:||November 5, 2007|
|Book Type:||Classic Fiction|