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On Our Bookshelves:
An Infamous Army

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NOVEL: An Infamous Army

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AUTHOR: Georgette Heyer

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DATE OF PUBLICATION: 1937

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REVIEW:

If you’re looking for light-hearted period romance, you would do better, I think, with Heyer’s Venetia (amusingly full of literary references), The Grand Sophy (in which an independent woman sets an unhappy household to rights with wit and humor), or Cotillion (four rather unlikely couples in a dance, and a merry dance it is). An Infamous Army isn’t nearly as sweet a story.

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The young widow Lady Barbara, the female romantic interest, is a troublemaker, creating scandals and causing unnecessary drama. And as the action is set among the British aristocracy in Brussels in 1815, with the political situation extremely precarious, the balls, gossip, and frivolity sit a bit uneasily with the military story, which takes up just about the entire second half of the novel. It’s certainly the most accurate and meticulously researched description of the Battle of Waterloo ever to appear in a work of romantic fiction. (In fact, Heyer’s fictional depiction of Waterloo, based largely on primary sources, is so insightful that it has been used in military history lectures at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.)

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The novel’s combination of military and social history, though unusual, sheds some light on the context of Waterloo as well as its importance: it ended Napoleon’s reign, destroyed the French empire, and ushered in a long era of peace in Europe. And Lady Barbara rises to the occasion and helps minister to the wounded in battle, as do the other English ladies (at least the ones who weren’t prudent enough to leave Belgium prior to the military action).

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RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best):

For die-hard Heyer fans and military history buffs: 4 whistles

For the rest of us, who can appreciate its educational value but see its literary flaws: 3 whistles

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HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon

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Lead-In Image Courtesy of Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com

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Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com