Immersion into the atmosphere, vernacular and overall culture of a British officer’s continental life is what you’ll find with Georgette Heyer’s The Spanish Bride.
The title is misleading. Readers expecting a dashing love story between an officer and a beautiful Spanish woman will be slightly surprised. While the Heyer does give romantics every bit of that in her wonderful, off the cuff style, her real art lies with history in this novel.
Juana is a girl of only 14 when Napoleon’s occupation and defilation of Spain forces her family apart. Circumstances found her only remaining family, a sister, pushing her into the arms of Brigade-Major Harry Smith. Smith instantly fell for the young spitfire.
The Spanish Bride is a love story, but also a blow by blow account of the British engagement of the Napoleonic wars, specifically his occupation in Spain and the Duke of Wellington’s drive to force his troops back into France. Heyer’s style is similar to her other books, yet so different that it can seem daunting at first. She literally drops you into the middle of a war.
Based on a true story, Heyer developed the dialog and plotline from Harry Smith’s Autobiography and many history texts regarding the war. Don’t let this scare you. Immediately you are made to feel as if you are one of the Light Brigade chaps ready to take up arms. Silly round-about discussions regarding new leaders of divisions and commands have you feeling like one of the boys.
“The fellow who commands us will have to be a good fellow,” said Charlie Beckwith. “None of your old women, thank you!”
“And no damned reviews and inspections!”
“Must understand outpost duty!”
“Mustn’t be one of these cats on hot bricks who won’t go into action unless they’re pushed!”
“Take heart!” said Harry Smith, entering in the middle of this discussion. “The news is out. It’s old Alten.”
It makes one wonder how Heyer did it. While some of the secondary characters seem superfluous in the beginning, over time they slowly needle their way into your consciousness while reading the book.
“A friend was killed, and one wept over him; but soon one would find another friend, not dead but miraculously alive, and a spring of gladness would make one forget the first sorrow.”
Smith and Juana bring you through the war and its many hardships across the cities and small villages. Small details, like what soldiers ate, where the divisions traveled and how they camped are included in the book. All this presented in a format any romance reader can enjoy.
The battle scenes can be intense and just when you think the book is getting a little too history heavy, Heyer will throw a little bit of feisty our Juana for your pleasure.
The book does not go further than the Napoleonic wars, but history tells us Smith does later go on to become a General and the Governor of the Cape Colony in South Africa. Juana even has a town in South Africa named after her called Ladysmith, which the people started to refer to her as in her later years.
- Lieutenant General Sir Henry George Wakelyn Smith, 1st Baronet of Aliwal GCB
- Juana María de los Dolores de León Smith (Lady Smiht)
The Spanish Bride, by Georgette Heyer
Trade paperback (496) pages
Kelly Yanke Deltener is a freelance writer currently contributing to Examiner.com as the Jane Austen Sequel Examiner. She is an avid Austenite and a member of JASNA. In addition to reading and writing, you can find her puttering in her garden, questioning the tastes of her friend’s interest in reality television, raising her two wonderful boys and running 1/2 marathons. She finds time for her husband in all this nonsense as well. You can follow Kelly on Twitter as austenforever.
Celebrating Georgette Heyer – Day 06 Giveaway
Enter a chance to win one copy of The Spanish Bride, by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2008) by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about the plot or characters, or if you have read it, which is your favorite character or scene by midnight Pacific time, Monday, September 6th, 2010. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, September 7th, 2010. Shipment to continental US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!
Day 07 Aug 11 – Review: The Corinthian
Day 07 Aug 11 – Review: Faro’s Daughter
Day 08 Aug 13 – Review: The Reluctant Widow
Day 08 Aug 13 – Review: The Foundling