An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer

This is my old copy of this book. It cost me 90 cents back in 1968/69 and, if I remember correctly, was purchased from our local newsagent. Many of my Georgette Heyer novels were purchased there on a Saturday or after school  and I can remember my excitement when a new novel appeared on the shelves or my great disappointment  when I came away empty handed.

 An interesting snippet about this book is that it was on a suggested reading list for Sandhurst Military Academy due to Georgette Heyer’s brilliant description of the Battle of Waterloo. I wonder how many officer cadets read it?

My reason for mentioning this novel is that I want to add a new copy to my bookshelf because I’m taken with its cover. 

Yes, I'm going to re-read it in the near future

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Book Review: Softly Grow the Poppies by Audrey Howard

Fans of Audrey Howard, of which I’m one, will find this an excellent read. Set during World War I, it is the story of two brothers, their call to duty and the women they love.

SOFTLY GROW THE POPPIES touches on many aspects of life at this time. Men eagerly donning uniforms and thinking war is an adventure.  Soldiers on leave reluctantly returning to the war front knowing what awaits them. Women taking up the cause as ambulance drivers and nurses. On the home front, old men, boys and women left to carry on and support the war effort as best they can and finally, the plight of the returned soldier and the Spanish Flu pandemic.

Against this grim backdrop, love blossoms, is lost and found, and ultimately triumphs. As in all true love stories, there are misunderstandings, doubts and regrets. 

Alice Weatherly, an only child and heiress, disobeys her domineering father and goes to the railway station to say good-bye to her sweetheart, Charlie Summers. Charlie, a cavalry captain and younger son of a baronet, is about to embark for the war in France. Accompanying Alice is the independently wealthy and unconventional Rose Beechworth, whose property adjoins the Summers and Weatherly estates. Also at the station to bid his brother farewell is Harry Summers, the heir to Summer Place. 

Rose and Harry deny their attraction to each other at first. Harry must set his affairs in order before he, too, departs for France. Love is not a priority. Alice's and Charlie’s romance is all the more sweeter being a forbidden love.

When Charlie is posted as missing, feared dead, Alice becomes an ambulance driver and goes to France in search of him. She returns from France a changed person and when Charlie, suffering from memory loss, is eventually found and returned to Summer Place, their relationship also changes.

The graphic description of the carnage on the battlefield contrasts with the idyllic country scenes of two great houses and the lives of the people attached to them. Conversion of Summer Place, one of the houses, into a hospital brings the war to their doorstep and they see for themselves the tragic consequences – death, horrendous injuries and men broken in both mind and spirit. 

Although abrupt, the ending puts everything into place neatly. The villain is exposed, a family is re-united and the future looks bright. A true Audrey Howard ending.

More Adventures in Redcoats

Surfing the internet has once again uncovered two more authors writing in the historical military fiction genre, IAIN GALE and ADRIAN GOLDSWORTHY
"FOUR DAYS IN JUNE" was the debut novel by Iain Gale released in 2006.  It covers the four days of the Battle of Waterloo from the view points of five  military figures, Wellington, Napoleon, Marshal Ney, General De Lancey, Colonel MacDonnell and General Ziethen, a Prussian officer.

This novel was followed by the adventures of Jack Steel set during the Spanish Wars of Succession. There are three books in the series so far.

His latest novel is KEANE'S COMPANY released this year and is set during the Peninsular Wars (1808).  James Keane, an officer in the 27th Foot, and his band of hand-picked men, are sent on an intelligence gathering mission behind enemy lines.

Iain Gale also writes military fiction set during World War II and has written a number of non-fiction books on a variety of subjects.

"TRUE SOLDIER GENTLEMAN" is the first in a series of novels by Adrian Goldsworthy set during the Napoleonic Wars. Four books, out of a possible twelve, are currently available. The titles are all taken from songs popular at the time and another little gem, especially for fans of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Wickham is amongst the officers of the 106th Regiment of Foot.

Adrian Goldsworthy is also an ancient historian who has written several non-fiction books about the Roman Empire.

Book Review: The Dashing Captain Daniel Rawson

Captain Daniel Rawson is the main character in a series of novels by Edward Marston set during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701 to 1714). 

The Battle of Blenheim and the Duke of Marlborough’s residence, Blenheim Palace, I knew of, but I was unfamiliar with other events in this war in Europe, during the reign of Queen Anne.

I have just finished reading the first three of the five available: “SOLDIER OF FORTUNE”, “DRUMS OF WAR” and “FIRE AND SWORD”. These three novels cover the  war years to 1708 and the Battle of Oudenarde.

Edward Marston, while telling a good tale, provides background and reasons for this war through the opinions of his characters. The battle scenes are descriptive and the story moves forward at all times and is never bogged down in the detail.

Captain Daniel Rawson is all that a hero should be – clever, loyal, courageous, handsome and a favourite of the ladies. His exploits as an intelligence gatherer behind enemy lines are daring and his plans ingenious. 

Humour is provided by the dour Sergeant Henry Wellbeck and the unusual relationship he shares with the Captain.  Wellbeck seems to hate everyone and everything, especially army life. His gruff exterior, however, does not hide the camaraderie and respect he has for Daniel Rawson.

I’m looking forward to more of the Captain’s adventures in the next two novels in the series “UNDER SIEGE” and “A VERY MURDERING BATTLE”.

Matthew Hawkwood - A Regency James Bond

James McGee writes crime novels set in Regency London during the Napoleonic Wars  featuring Matthew Hawkwood, an ex-soldier, who is now a Bow Street Runner and described as "a Regency James Bond".

The series commences with “RATCATCHER”, also released under the title “HAWKWOOD”, followed by “RESURRECTIONIST”, “RAPSCALLION” and “REBELLION’. 

 “THE BLOODING”, which takes Hawkwood to America, is due for release in 2014.

Another series for my reading wish list …..

Book Review: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

"THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN" has all the right elements to be a good read  - a lost child, a devastating revelation, an unsuitable marriage, an old manor, a sinister uncle, a wicked aunt, a sick cousin, a poor orphan, an abandoned cottage, a walled garden. And it was. Once we got into the story proper -  what lead up to the events of 1913.

I did have difficulty with some aspects of the story:

I was angry at Nell's adopted father for revealing where Nell had come from at her party and thought this was very cruel, especially when his wife was against it. He caused Nell's estrangement from her family, an outcome he hadn't foreseen, as he was only interested in salving his guilty conscience. 

Nell's reaction of keeping "her family" at arms' length was understandable, but the  treatment of her daughter was not. In similar circumstances wouldn't you make an effort to ensure your child felt wanted?

I did not find Nell or Leslie endearing. Cassandra fared a little better. Too much time was spent developing their relationship at the start, but once we set off on the trail of Eliza Makepeace the story gained momentum.

Frances Hodgson Burnett's presence at  Rose's party distracted me as I began to make comparisons between "The Secret Garden" and "The Forgotten Garden". Totally different stories, I know, but it did have that effect.

Finally, why did Eliza and Nathaniel agree to the plan devised by Rose's mother so readily?   I think a little more inner turmoil would have been warranted. Sorry, you'll have to read the novel to find out what that plan was.

Despite these minor hurdles, I was eager to discover what had prevented "the Authoress" returning to the ship and did enjoy this story. I will certainly read more of Kate Morton's novels.

Another Redcoat Series

"THE SCARLET THIEF" is the first in a new series by Paul Fraser Collard introducing Jack Lark and his adventures in the Crimean War.

From the back cover:
"1854: The banks of the Alma River, Crimean Peninsular. The Redcoats stagger to a bloody halt. The men of the King's Royal Fusiliers are in terrible trouble, ducking and twisting as the storm of shot, shell and bullet tear through their ranks.

Officer Jack Lark has to act immediately and decisively. His life and the success of the campaign depend on it. But does he have the mettle, the officer qualities that are the life blood of the British Army? From a poor background Lark has risen through the ranks by stealth and guile and now he faces the ultimate test...

THE SCARLET THIEF introduces us to a formidable and compelling hero - brutally courageous, roguish, ambitious - in a historical novel as robust as it is thrillingly authentic by an author who brings history and battle vividly alive."

The sequel "THE MAHARAJAH'S GENERAL' is due for release in November, 2013.

Another two for my reading wish list.

Book Review: The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller

For my next read I decided to leave the medieval world behind for a while and move forward a few hundred years to the end of the First World War - the year 1920 to be exact - and a mystery.

This is an unusual detective story. It opens on a railway station platform, with a silent crowd waiting to pay their respects to the Unknown Warrior, whose coffin is aboard a train bound for burial in London, and a mysterious figure standing alone.

Dealing with his own personal loss and a life that has changed forever, ex-soldier, Laurence Bartram, receives a letter from the sister of a former school friend who is trying to make sense of why her brother, John Emmett, committed suicide after surviving the war.

Puzzled by the relevance of items in John Emmett's possession at the time of his death, Laurence sets off to find the answers and soon becomes embroiled in a mystery that brings back the recent horrors of World War I and its devastating effect on those that lived through it and its aftermath. I won't elaborate on the story further,  as that would spoil it  for those who haven't read it, only to say it is a tragic tale.

My interest was held to the very end of the novel. The image of that mysterious figure at the station was always in my mind. Who was he and  what connection, if any, did this person have to the unfortunate events  in the story? I had many theories, none of which were correct, and to me the essence of a good mystery novel is one that keeps me guessing until the author decides to reveal the solution.

I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading Elizabeth Speller's next entitled "The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton" also featuring Laurence Bartram.

If you want to know more about the aftermath of World War I, Aftermath is a great website to visit. There is a page devoted to the Unknown Warrior.

Book Review: Shakespeare's Rebel by C.C. Humphreys

The story opens with John Lawley, swordsman and ex-player,  awakening from a drunken stupor in  "the lowest tavern in Wapping". We soon learn what matters most to this man - his son, the mother of his son, the theatre,  his friends and his loyalty to the man he serves, "mad" Robert Deveraux, the Earl of Essex.

 All John Lawley wants is to make amends to his family and get back to what he loves doing - arranging sword fighting scenes for the theatre. To do this, he must avoid being drawn into the treasonous escapades of the Earl of Essex,  the clutches of Sir Robert Cecil, Queen Elizabeth I's feared minister and spy master, and alcohol.

One of John's friends is William Shakespeare, the playwright. Shakespeare is grieving the loss of his son, Hamnet, and  agonising over one of his greatest works,"The Tragedy of Hamlet".  While dealing with his own troubles, John must also try  to keep his friend and family safe. A wrong move in these dangerous times could have dire consequences.

This novel was my introduction to C.C. Humphreys and  I enjoyed every word . It has all the ingredients of a good read - romance, humour, action, intrigue, rivalry, tragedy - and a lovable character in John Lawley.

Rory Clements, Historical Crime Writer

My browsing has turned up another historical crime writer, Rory Clements. His novels, five to-date, feature an Elizabethan investigator, John Shakespeare.

Visit the author's site to read excerpts from his novels. He also has some interesting information about the Elizabethan world in which his novels are set.

Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
Book Review


They were called "The Devil's Brood," though never to their faces. They were the four surviving sons of Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine. With two such extraordinary parents, much was expected of them. But the eldest-charming yet mercurial-would turn on his father and, like his brother Geoffrey, meet an early death.

When Henry died, Richard would take the throne and, almost immediately, set off for the Holy Land. This was the Third Crusade, and it would be characterized by internecine warfare among the Christians and extraordinary campaigns against the Saracens. And, back in England, by the

Also by Kate Sedley

My early morning browsing also uncovered another novel by Kate Sedley entitled "For King and Country". It is set during the English Civil war and has found its way onto my "Reading Wish List". Now to track down a copy ......

For Readers of Medieval Mysteries

Following my usual routine of having breakfast at the computer and dropping toast crumbs all over my keyboard, I stumbled across the name of another medieval mystery author,  Brenda Margaret Lilian Honeyman Clarke, who writes for this genre under the pen-name of  Kate Sedley.

There are fifteen books  featuring Roger the Chapman,  a crime solving peddlar, some of  which have recently been re-released.

This author also writes under the pen-name of Brenda Honeyman/Brenda Clarke. These novels are historical fiction and cover events mainly in the 14th and 15th centuries, i.e. Edward II, Henry V, the Wars of the Roses etc. Originally published in the 1970s, you may have to search second-hand bookshops and libraries to find copies.

Love a Man in Uniform - Especially a Redcoat

My bookshop browsing has unearthed more gems for my reading pile - the Captain Daniel Rawson series by Edward Marston.

From the dust jacket of the first book in the series, SOLDIER OF FORTUNE, comes the description of our hero:

"The dashing Captain Daniel Rawson - spy, linguist, duellist, ladies' man and career soldier - can charm a woman as well as he can parry a sword."

Book Review: The Cousins' War Series by Philippa Gregory

I recently finished reading the last of the five novels that make up this series .... absolutely loved them all.

My favourite, however, is The Lady of the Rivers, the story of Jacquetta, Countess of Luxembourg, mother to Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV.

Underlying all the historical fact and the turbulence of the era is a love story (yes, I'm a bit of a romantic) between Jacquetta and Richard Woodville. This is a real 'feel good' story and even though the ending of their tale is not a happy one, their relationship outshines all the bad and lingers well after the final page is read.

Philippa Gregory has done an excellent job of bringing the subjects of these five novels to life. Her interpretation of the facts and  the way she presents them to the reader is very well done. The main characters are strong, determined (some may say obsessed) women of a time when to be a high-born female was to be nothing more than trade goods; in some cases their lives  were barely mentioned in the chronicles of the time.

The beauty of this series is that all the novels are stand alone books, which to my mind is a positive. Many a time I've been to the library or bookshop to find that one of a series is missing (usually the first one).

In closing, I have to comment on the fate of the princes in the tower. The discovery in 2012 of Richard III's remains beneath a car park in Leicester, England, has raised the question again of what happened to them. In her novels, Philippa Gregory presents both sides of the argument, and one thing is evident, there were many others who had motive and access to the boys to blame their disappearance soley on Richard III. Besides I was born in Yorkshire and am a Ricardian at heart ....... and who knows? If the remains of a king lost for over 500 years can be found, there is still hope that one day this other mystery will be solved.

Other novels in the series: The White Queen, The Red Queen, The Kingmaker's Daughter and The White Princess.

The Jack Absolute Trilogy by C.C. Humphreys

I just came across a new author (to me anyway), C.C. Humphreys (also writing as Chris Humphreys), who has written a number of novels in the historical adventure and fantasy genres.

The 'Jack Absolute Trilogy' caught my eye as Jack Absolute is described as " the 007 of the 1770s".

This prompted a visit to my local library but unfortunately the three books - Jack Absolute, The Blooding of Jack Absolute and Absolute Honour were out on loan.

This series is a little unusual as the latter two novels are the prequel and sequel to the prequel respectively. Confusing, I know, but you can choose to read them in chronological order or in the order in which they were written.