Georgette Heyer,
The Spanish Bride
(Sourcebooks, 2008)

The story of soldier Harry Smith and his young wife Juana allows Georgette Heyer to color her novel about the Peninsular Wars with a vibrant romance. As ardent and at times absurdly impetuous lovers, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Smith provide passion -- and some much needed humor -- to offset the trials of Wellington's armed forces.

Balancing the daily activities of camp life with the knowledge and strategies of Wellington himself, Heyer's writing thoroughly encompasses these military endeavors against Napoleon. From massacres to balls and lost rations to animal care, The Spanish Bride offers glimpses into all aspects of military life, from the famed general to his infantry soldiers.

Unfortunately, even Juana's youthful vitality and enthusiastic outlook can't enliven the entire campaign. Heyer's real and lively cast of characters will draw readers in, but good company doesn't equal exciting circumstances. The novel accurately details tough and tedious journeys alongside the Smiths' more personal anecdotes, resulting in a series of long, slow-moving descriptions with a sprinkling of charming moments.

As a way of experiencing Wellington's wars, Heyer's historical accuracy and genuine characters make The Spanish Bride a brilliant lesson. However, this novel lacks impact on two counts: the trudging pace keeps anyone who wouldn't relish the military life a bit too close to the atmosphere of the Peninsular Wars, and the avoidance of the battle of Waterloo (which Heyer handles in An Infamous Army) leaves the ending sudden and weak.

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review by
Whitney Mallenby

18 April 2009

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