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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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985278,714 (3.65)119
  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 26 (next | show all)
I had read this before, but now I've read it again on the kindle. It is readable, of course, and gives a fascinating detailed account of the battle of Waterloo. I had forgotten the love story so I didn't know what exactly would happen.
  franoscar | Jul 14, 2016 |
Colonel Audley enters a ballroom in Brussels and immediately falls in love with rakish young widow Lady Barbara Childe. (She is the granddaughter of Dominic and Mary from [b:Devil's Cub|311308|Devil's Cub (Alastair, #2)|Georgette Heyer|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1386920835s/311308.jpg|1964370], and he is the younger brother of Lord Worth from [b:Regency Buck|311127|Regency Buck (Alastair, #3)|Georgette Heyer|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1388411281s/311127.jpg|9667210].) She is equally drawn to him, and they seem to unconsciously understand each other in a way that none of their acquaintance can fathom. Barbara feels fenced in by all the limits on her life (girl can't even paint her toenails without everyone gossiping, goddamn!) and rebels by trying to scandalize Audley into leaving her. At last they have a vicious fight, say things they regret, and break their engagement. Shortly thereafter, Audley is called up to take part in the fight against Napoleon, at the Battle of Waterloo.

The battle is recounted in astounding detail for the next approximately hundred and fifty pages. It is sometimes very difficult to follow. Here's an example: "Hew Halkett was brought up in support of the Brunswickers on Maitland's right; Du Plat was formed on the slope behind Hougoumont; and Adam's brigade, forming line four deep, came up to fill the interval between the Brunswickers and Hougoumont." I could hardly keep straight which officers were Allies and which part of Napoleon's forces (a chore not made easier by the fact that this is the first I'd heard of these names, and a number of French-named people fought for the Allies), nor which names were officers, which were regiments, and which were place names! (In the quoted example, for instance, Hougomont is actually a farmhouse, not a regiment, but I only figured this out halfway through the battle because it was never actually stated.) But Heyer interjects human notes as well, and alternates the technical recounting with stirring, bloody anecdotes, like: "Roaring at his officers to follow him, Macdonnell launched himself across the courtyard. Hatless, with nothing but a sword in his hand, he fell upon the French in the gateway, and with such force that they broke involuntarily, as they would have before the charge of a mad bull. His officers and a few sergeants rushed to his support. For an instant the French were scattered; and while a couple of ensigns and two sergeants held them at bay, Macdnonell and Sergeant Graham set their shoulders to the double doors, and forced them together, the sweat pouring down their faces and the muscles standing out like corrugations down their powerful thighs."
The way Heyer describes Wellington's squares of infantry standing against repeated attacks, and making the best use of even little swells in geography, convinced me of his strategic skill. Heyer's account of Waterloo was apparently masterful enough to be taught in military academies, but it doesn't make for a great novel. It's too broad: every piece of the action is recounted, often very quickly and with no explanation. She has Audley constantly traveling to each part of the battlefield in order to narrate the entire battle, when I think just concentrating on a single part of the action would have been both more comprehensible to the general reader and had just as much narrative urgency. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |

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. ( )
1 vote 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 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Georgette Heyerprimary authorall editionscalculated
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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