An Infamous Army, by Georgette Heyer

It's been decades since American audiences have seen decent editions of Georgette Heyer’s books. While British readers were enjoying the beautiful reprints Arrow Books released a few years ago, Americans had to make do with Harlequin’s paperback editions, with their bland cover art, cheap bindings, and uninspiring forewords*. That’s why I was so delighted to see the new Sourcebooks editions of Heyer’s books: at long last, these are the reprints her books deserve.

The first Sourcebooks title is Heyer’s 1937 novel An Infamous Army. Like all of Heyer’s books, An Infamous Army features a love story: the stormy courtship of Lady Barbara Childe and Colonel Charles Audley. Reversing traditional literary gender roles, Heyer’s heroine is arrogant, ruthless, and selfish, while her hero is gentle and considerate. A lesser author might have driven this pair through tedious Taming of the Shrew-style hijinks, but Heyer gives her characters a happy ending that feels both plausible and hard-won.

An Infamous Army is set in the glittering social scene of Brussels, a few weeks before the Battle of Waterloo. Heyer is writing about people trying to have fun in an unsettling time and place, and her scenes of nervous gaiety have just the right brittle touch. The military aspect of the story might be more difficult for readers to follow—these scenes are well written and historically accurate, but if (like me) you don’t know much about the Napoleonic Wars, I recommend reading the book’s Afterword before reading the novel, as it provides a quick and helpful summary of the events surrounding Waterloo.

An Infamous Army isn’t Heyer’s most endearing book, but it is one of her most exciting. Charles and Barbara make an intriguingly unconventional pair, and Heyer’s battles scenes are dynamic, suspenseful, and painstakingly researched. I’m even more excited about Sourcebooks’ next Heyer release—Cotillion, which is one of her most endearing books—but this handsome edition of An Infamous Army suits her story beautifully, and is sure to attract plenty of new readers.

*”Uninspiring” is too kind a description. I still cringe at the memory of the foreword Catherine Coulter wrote for The Grand Sophy.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


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