Friday, 17 April 2015

'An Infamous Army' by Georgette Heyer (1937)

Synopsis: An Infamous Army is the sequel to Devil's Cub and Regency Buck. The year is 1815. Brussels is the most glamorous city in Europe and many British aristocrats have rented homes there for the summer. Napoleon has escaped from Elba and has returned to neighbouring France but no-one in the city is much concerned about this. One of the most scandalous figures in the city is the beautiful widow Lady Barbara Childe who is the granddaughter of Dominic Alastair and Mary Challoner (now the Duke and Duchess of Avon). Barbara wears revealing dresses, paints her toenails gold, swears like a sailor, and is having a very indiscreet affair with a notorious Belgian count. At a ball, Barbara then meets a dashing and handsome soldier called Colonel Charles Audley who is the younger brother of the Earl of Worth. For Charles it's love at first sight and it isn't long before Barbara falls for Charles. She then accepts his marriage proposal. However, Barbara isn't quite willing to give up her ways and she continues to flirt outrageously with other men, subconsciously daring Charles to break off their engagement. Charles endures these flirtations as best as he can but eventually it all becomes too much and after a nasty argument he breaks off their engagement. Shortly afterwards Charles is summoned to the Battle of Waterloo...


Georgette Heyer did a meticulous amount of research for all of her historical novels but for this book she completely out-did herself. An Infamous Army is widely considered to be one of the most historically accurate accounts of the Battle of Waterloo ever written. It was even on the required reading list at Sandhurst for many years. Unfortunately I wasn't really able to appreciate this book. In fact it bored me to tears. Usually I very much appreciate historical accuracy and attention to detail but Heyer's account of the Battle of Waterloo completely overwhelmed me. I found all of the battle tactics and manoeuvres in it extremely confusing and difficult to keep up with. I guess this might not be much of an issue for military history buffs but as most of my knowledge of Waterloo comes from what I've gleaned from Les Miserables and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell I was pretty lost.

As a romance this book didn't work for me either. I liked the glimpses that I saw of Charles in Regency Buck but he doesn't get a huge amount of character development in this one and Lady Barbara is very unlikeable. She's selfish, flighty and callous and is basically just a female version of her awful grandfather. She's even caused two men to kill themselves by breaking their hearts. Ooh, how lovely! There were a couple of points where the characters discussed Barbara's "good heart" but I couldn't see any actual evidence of this and I couldn't understand why Charles fell in love with her. Judith Taverner is in this book quite a bit too and that was yet another issue that I had with it. Judith really annoyed me in Regency Buck and she wasn't any more likeable in this one.

I think this book is now my least favourite Georgette Heyer novel. I really didn't like it :( There have been other Heyer novels that I've found mediocre but even those books had some characters that I liked and certain scenes that made me smile - and that certainly wasn't the case with this one. I'm pretty disappointed. I truly loved These Old Shades but none of its sequels have lived up to that book for me. I'm glad to put this series behind me.

Rating: 2/5

2 comments:

Lianne @ eclectictales.com said...

Great review! I haven't read this one yet though I read the prequels to this (which I didn't know went together as a loose series of sorts) but I did enjoy Regency Buck the most from the group. That's too bad the romance didn't work in this novel, but it's comforting I guess to know that the historical detail is quite meticulous :) I don't think I'll be in any rush to pick this book up any time soon...

Hannah said...

Well, I don't think you'll be missing out on much! In terms of the writing and the historical accuracy this probably is one of Heyer's best but I just didn't find it very entertaining.

Mmm, I did liked Regency Buck more than this one but I wasn't a huge fan of that book either because Judith and Worth got on my nerves. I loved Beau Brummell though! :)