This is my first read by Georgette Heyer. I’ve heard a lot about her, and I mean a lot, both from the historical fiction and the historical romance readers I know. She is the favorite of many, many readers. I was expecting a lot, and the book didn’t disappoint. It is, in fact, a pleasing mix of romance and historical fiction.
Lady Barbara Childe is the female equivalent of a rake. She flirts with many men, but refuses to get married after her first atrocious attempt. Colonel Charles Audley, however, is determined, patient, understanding, and in love with Barbara. They quickly get engaged, but that isn’t the end of the story, although it had me confused for a bit, wondering where they would go next. On the other hand, there is the lead up to the Battle of Waterloo. As one of the Duke’s personal staff, Charles is bound to go to the fighting and a great deal of the book deals with the looming conflict and the battle itself.
I definitely was immersed in the period while reading this book. The beginning was a little slow because it takes time to get used to a whole different world. Heyer never slips out of it, and while the book was written a good 70 years ago, I still think that’s impressive. The characters surprised me and jumped out of the page; especially Barbara, who is incredibly compelling and understandable by the end, despite the fact that she is about as different from me as possible.
The best part, however, was definitely Waterloo. The book alternates between Charles’ family and the battle itself, giving us two viewpoints. Heyer does a brilliant job getting across the tension, the distress, and the complete alienation from the world that the patient loved ones are feeling. The battle scenes are astounding and even upsetting because the author puts you right into the army’s shoes. This is historical fiction at its best, showing us what the past may have been like.
So now I begin to understand why Georgette Heyer is so popular. I’ve got another of hers waiting in my TBR pile and I’ll be on the lookout for more. Her books are being reissued, so this may not be too difficult. The lovely cover above is the result of this reissue. Buy this book on Amazon.