Original date of publication: 1990
My edition: 2006 (Sphere)
Why I decided to read: it’s a continuation of the Morland series
How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, September 2009
#14: Spring-summer 1815; covers the Battle of Waterloo
As Napoleon’s reign comes to its inevitable end and the allied troops converge for a last, decisive battle, the beau monde of English society gather in Brussels, essentially creating their own little society there, complete with cricket matches and balls and coming out parties. Lucy and Heloise, now respectable matrons, take Rosamund and Sophie there for their coming out, as James Morland (back in England) attempts to deal with the devastating loss of his daughter, Fanny. In Brussels, Rosamund deals with her feelings for Marcus, and Sophie falls in love with a French major. It seems that the only man not in uniform is Bobbie, Earl of Chelmsford.
This is a very strong addition to the series, again, with some very strong characters and character development. The titles of the books in this series often have a double meaning; in this case, you could consider Rosamund and Sophie as kind of campaigners in the marriage market, even as Wellington and his men campaign against Napoleon. Although the outcome of the war is of course well known, I found myself invested enough in the characters to care about who survives this particular chapter of history—or not. The novel features many returning characters, but introduces a nice collection of new ones that I hope to see in future installments of the series. Plus, there’s that rivalry between Benedict and Nicholas, still children here, which threatens to blow into a full conflict later on…
The author’s descriptions of the period are excellent, describing as they do the calm before the storm, so to speak: the day to day lives of people in English society, leading up to that famous ball on the eve of the battle of Waterloo, and through the battle itself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Harrod-Eagles is especially skilled at battle scenes. Once again the Morland family has a front-row seat to what’s going on, and are indeed active participants. It’s an interesting way to learn about history, especially since I don’t know much about the 19th century pre-Victoria. Military history seems to be something that Cynthia Harrod-Eagles is passionately interested in, as seen in the descriptions of the battle at Quatre Bras and Waterloo.