Georgette Heyer,
An Infamous Army
(William Heinemann, 1937; Sourcebooks, 2007)

The Duke of Wellington and his "great hooked nose" continually crops up in Georgette Heyer's novel, keeping An Infamous Army on track as successfully as he commanded the historical force at the Battle of Waterloo. Don't worry if at times his intrusions are too abrupt or apparently bland in comparison with the story of the fictional leads, however; long before the end, Heyer's readers will be glad to remember them. Every piece of background surrounding the military and its illustrious leader's work falls strikingly into place during the epic battle scenes, elevating detailed descriptions into a powerful and moving portrayal of Napoleon's final defeat.

While Wellington's intriguing personality and duties form the main thrust of her novel, Heyer also applies her brilliance in writing romance. Far more troubled and complex than Heyer's signature heroines such as Frederica or The Grand Sophy, widowed Lady Barbara Childe epitomizes the wild social whirl leading up to the conflict before coming into her own when confronted by the war. Through Barbara's relationship with Wellington's aide-de-camp Colonel Charles Audley, this novel includes not only the story of those physically at Waterloo, but also the tale of those affected by the fight from the time it was prophesied to its aftermath of victory. This encapsulation involves Heyer's readers in a fictional narrative as satisfying as her historical account, for while it is difficult to achieve epic heights, it is perhaps even more so to leave them without causing disappointment. Heyer deftly manages this feat with the aid of her heroic leads.

Undoubtedly tough on those who lack memory or are easily confused, An Infamous Army is a thorough and vivid rendering of "love, war, Wellington and Waterloo." Whether this novel leaves readers wanting tissues or an illustrated list of the Allied uniforms, it will certainly leave them touched.

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review by
Whitney Mallenby

6 October 2007

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