Heyer for Beginners — An Infamous Army (1937)

When I realized that this book was going to star the brother of the Earl of Worth (from Regency Buck) and the granddaughter of Dominic and Mary (from Devil’s Cub), I was skeptical. All these sequels! What was happening here? I really thought Heyer didn’t do series, the way historical romance writers do so often these days. And while I liked Charles Audley well enough in his appearance in Regency Buck, I just wasn’t sure how much I cared about his life — but I guess I was intrigued to find out more about a flame-haired descendant of Léonie from These Old Shades.

The book turned out to be nothing like I expected. Lady Barbara Childe is the most flawed heroine Heyer has yet produced, as far as I am concerned, and I like her all the more for it, while the masterful Charles Audley is a warrior and a gentleman and no pushover for her often frustrating feminine wiles.

But most importantly, the book is about war, in particular about the Battle of Waterloo, and it is told so thrillingly, and with such precision of detail in addition to that of characterization, that it is an astounding achievement just in that regard alone.

My father is something of a war buff, and after I finished this book I gave it to him to read. After fifteen pages, he demanded an explanation — “This is no war book, qiān jīn!” — but I told him to keep going, and the next day he called with an apology and to sing Georgette Heyer’s praises. (I have now given him Simon the Coldheart.)  He is not an easy man to impress, especially when it comes to battle scenes, especially when those battle scenes are won by the British, but he loved this book.

And so did I.

Maura Tan was born in Zanzibar, grew up in Morocco and lives in Singapore, where she is currently studying for her third degree in Contemporary Literature—when not writing reviews for Romantic Intentions Quarterly and eating her bodyweight in durian.