From the desk of Elaine Simpson-Long:
An Infamous Army is a novel about the battle of Waterloo with a love story attached, not the other way round and the title refers to the Duke of Wellington’s unkind nickname for the motley collection of national armies under his command in 1815.
The story is set in Brussels where English society, the ‘ton’, had flocked for the season as it was the place to be and a hectic social whirl takes place in the months before Waterloo. Here we find Lord Worth and his now wife, Judith, whose romance we read about in Regency Buck. Judith, who I freely admit is not one of my favourite Heyer heroines, is now a matron of some years with a child and rather conscious of her status and reputation so when the notorious Bab Childe hits town and Charles Audley, her delightful and charming brother in law falls madly in love with her, she is not best pleased, foreseeing disaster and scandal.
Bab Childe is a character who I really love, though on the surface she seems to have inherited all the wildest characteristics of her grandfather, Vidal (yes he of Devil’s Cub who makes a brief appearance), she is beautiful, brave and warm hearted and it is the involvement we, as readers, have with Charles and Barbara, their coming together, their parting and their final reconciliation which keeps us hooked.
Heyer is very clever here. Would you read some seventy pages given over to a description of the campaign at Waterloo if you were not personally involved? Probably not. The first time I read this Heyer I was totally overwhelmed with admiration when reading this section – it doesn’t bore, it doesn’t drag, it is as history should be. It seems that I am not alone in my admiration as this account of the Battle of Waterloo is so highly thought of that it has been used at Sandhurst Military Academy in their training programme ever since.
When reading a biography of Georgette Heyer I came across a rather lovely anecdote from her son who remembers being taken, as a child, to the United Services Institute, where they found a model of the Battle of Waterloo. His mother began to describe it to him, too absorbed to notice the arrival of a party of school children filing in behind her whose mistress told them to hush and listen as she recognized the speaker and knew she was in the presence of an authority.
When I go to my library, I find Heyer’s books filed in the romance section along with Mills & Boon, Harlequin et al. Please don’t think I am dissing such books, I am not. I adore a good romance as much as the next person but I think Georgette Heyer is a writer who should not be classified in this genre. She deserves more recognition and appreciation. She never received it in her lifetime from the literati of the day and it was a source of some bitterness to her. She certainly proves that she deserves it in this marvelous book.
5 out of 5 Stars
- An Infamous Army, by Georgette Heyer
- Sourcebooks Landmark; Reprint edition (September 1, 2007)
- Trade paperback & eBook (512) pages
- ISBN: 978-1402210075
- Genre: Historical Fiction
We received a review copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark © 2007; text Elaine Simpson-Long © 2010, austenprose.com. Updated 19 March 2022.