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An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer

An Infamous Army (1937)

by Georgette Heyer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Alastair-Audley (Book 4)

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895259,862 (3.66)99
  1. 10
    Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer (arctangent)
    arctangent: Some of the main characters from An Infamous Army appear first in Regency Buck.

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Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)

Heyer is of course one of the twentieth century's most prolific and best-known romance novelists, and many people whose opinions I respect hold her in high regard. It's not a genre I know, and I'd never previously read any of her work. I understand that An Infamous Army is fairly standalone in Heyer's historical timeline, with just a few characters shared with other books - the second written of her famous Regency romances.

I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Heyer's focus is on the aristocratic Englishwomen accompanying the British forces to Belgium, and there is of course a central love affair - between two fairly mature characters, a widow and a veteran soldier - to satisfy those who aren't into the military stuff. But I think she does a very good job of portraying the geopolitical situation of Napoleon's return and the uncertainty of where or how the Allies might respond, much better than I have seen elsewhere in fiction, starting from the spring of 1815 and going through to the day after the battle ends. She has her characters go for a picnic to Waterloo in an early chapter, which of course gives her an excuse to set up the topography of the battle without forcing the pace. My only gripes are that while she's very convincing about the battlefield, her Brussels geography feels a bit more wobbly; and I'm also not convinced that the Duke of Wellington and the Duchess of Richmond would have addressed each other as "Duke" and "Duchess" (formally, it should of course be "your Grace"; informally, they would surely have had nicknames for each other).

In particular, this 1937 novel has a conviction about the horror of war that I did not find in Stendhal or Cornwell. The Englishwomen at the centre of the narrative switch from partying to nursing with dismay but also determination. Heyer was born in 1902, and her father fought in the trenches of the first world war; by the time she wrote this, the next global conflict was looming, and it's impossible not to read the shades of Guernica and the foreshadowing of Dunkirk and Nornandy between the lines of her Waterloo. This was my first Heyer novel, but it won't be my last. ( )
  nwhyte | Jun 21, 2015 |
When this starts, set in Brussels in the spring of 1815, you just know that the Battle of Waterloo is going to feature. And feature it does. The final third of the book is a pretty intensive description of the battle, and it doesn't pull its punches. this may start looking like a regency romance, but it ends in a very different place. There is romance (not the most convincing of romances, either of them, if I'm honest), but there is a great deal of descriptive effort. Almost smacks of "I've done my research, you can read all of it". Lots of uniforms, lots of suffering, lots of guns and ordinance. I'm hard pressed to be sure if this should be recommended to a lover of romance or a military history buff - probably both would find is dissatisfying. The cast of characters is wide and varied. Some of them are more believable than others, Barbara, for example, I couldn't make out, but Judith strikes me as one of those women who supported their husbands and made them make Britain great. Not the best I've read, but it had enough to keep it interesting. ( )
  Helenliz | Jan 22, 2015 |
Eh. It took me a long time - well past half the book - before I cared at all about the characters, including the hero and heroine. They did come to life, finally, but not until just before the battle. And the other characters who were or should have been familiar were mostly annoying - Worth is snarky but not amusing, Judith is utterly conventional (until near the end), the latest generation of the Alastairs don't have either Justin's or Dominic's fire. Vidal is infuriating and so is his wife - a fleshy and conventional Alistair? And Peregrine continues to be an idiot. The setting was mostly annoying - I didn't mind the descriptions of clothes and balls, I'm used to that in Regencies, but page after page of names with little descriptions for some of them...I didn't know, or care, who any of those people were. I'm sure they were actually there...but the only purpose in listing them seems to have been to show off Heyer's research on the battle and its runup. And once the battle got started, various groups were described by a random assortment of titles (Carabiniers, the 92nd, (person's name)'s column) - half the time I couldn't tell which of them were Allied and which French. Which made it impossible to keep track of the battle, and very difficult to be interested in the whole mess. So neither the war, nor the romance interested me much - I'm pleased that Babs and Charles finally ended up together, mildly amused at Lucy (and I wonder what George really thinks of the matter), but overall the book produced a yawn. I don't think I'll reread. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Aug 31, 2014 |
This felt like reading two genres in one book. First, there’s the humorous romanticism that Ms Heyer is so famous for – and so good at – and second there’s a full-scale military campaign, creating a completely different tone.

It’s not that the military side is badly written, as the author has done thorough research and her writing skills are top notch, but for me the swapping and changing from the “classic Heyer” style to the “What’s happening with Napoleon?” in the first half of the book doesn’t gel. Further on, the witty romantic feel virtually disappears to be fully replaced by the Battle of Waterloo and its bitter aftermath.

As mentioned, Ms Heyer’s writing is good, but to me this mix ’n’ match genre doesn’t work. I feel she would’ve been better off writing two shorter books, with one focusing on a Waterloo and its build-up, and another set in Brussels at the time but with the more serious events going on left as a backdrop, rather than a feature that keeps coming to the fore.

Another thing that stopped this book appealing to me as much as others that I’ve read by this author was the amount of characters involved. It took me till Chapter 4 before I started to visualise the main protagonists. The opening chapter introduces far too many characters at one go, ultimately confusing the reader – well, this one at least.

On the plus side, there is some great dialogue throughout the book, as one would expect from Georgette Heyer. The exchanges between Charles and Barbara were especially entertaining. ( )
1 vote PhilSyphe | Aug 26, 2014 |
Although this is an excellent historical fiction of the Battle of Waterloo (and the months leading up to it in Brussels), it isn't one of Heyer's books that I like very much. Upon this reread, I have finally figured out why -- the character of Judith Worth. I liked Judith Taverner very much in Regency Buck but in this one, she has become conventional and slightly stupid. There is also much less humor in this, which is reasonable considering its topic but still missed. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 25, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Georgette Heyerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Higgins, ClareNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The youthful gentleman in the scarlet coat with blue facings and gold lace, who was seated in the window of Lady Worth's drawing-room, idly looking down into the street, ceased for a moment to pay any attention to the conversation that was in progress.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0449232638, Mass Market Paperback)

Historical romance opening in Brussels before the battle of Waterloo.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:49 -0400)

In 1815, beneath the aegis of the Army of Occupation, Brussels is the gayest town in Europe. And the widow Lady Barbara Childe, renowned for being as outrageous as she is beautiful, is at the centre of all that is fashionable and light-hearted. When she meets Charles Audley, the elegant and handsome aide-de-camp to the great Duke of Wellington himself, her joie de vivre knows no bounds - until the eve of the fateful Battle of Waterloo.… (more)

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