Book Review

DocTurtle’s Infamous Army

Title: An Infamous Army
Author: Georgette Heyer
Genre: Regency

Book CoverClap your hands, everybody… everybody clap your hands!  We’re Lambda Lambda Lambda, and Omega Mu! And we’ve come here on stage tonight, to do this show for you….

Ladies and gentlemen, the hottest Math professor reviewing romance: DocTurtle is back! This time, with Georgette Heyer’s An Infamous Army, chapters 1-3.

Part 1: Chapters 1 through 3

Well, folks, it’s time I moved onto the second book on my SBTB-assigned reading list, Georgette Heyer’s classic historical romance novel An infamous army, described by the cover as “a novel of love, war, Wellington, and Waterloo.”

Waterloo…I’m finally facing my Waterloo

To the contrary, I don’t feel bested or beaten, and I’m heading into this new assignment with alacrity: it should be more up my alley than the contemporary category romance y’all inflicted on me before. It did take finding a good half hour of uninterrupted reading time to get into the first chapter of this next novel, but since I gained a bit of traction, the going’s been smooth so far.

As I did for my last read, I’ll do my best to keep up with the liveblogging, offering folks on both Smart Bitches and Judge a Book chapter-by-chapter accounts that include my favorite phrases and my insights on the characters’ actions and motives. Without any more flim-flam or foofaraw, then, let’s head into

Chapter 1. In which every soul in Brussels is enumerated, one by one

It is Brussels, early in 1815. The Congress at Vienna has just, unshockingly, declared Napoleon an outlaw. Half of the British peers living in Belgium have assembled in the Earl of Worth’s drawing room to make confusing cross-talk on the political and military goings-on.

Sorting out who’s saying what in this Tolstoyesque opening chapter made it hard to find a foothold. What can be surmised from the start is

1. The Duke of Wellington is pretty much God,

2. Ms. Heyer’s professed fears of being compared to Thackeray (whose Vanity fair also centers in part on Napoleon’s final campaign) are unfounded; their writing styles are entirely dissimilar, and

3. Ms. Heyer loved her some exclamation points. You’d swear these people are a hundred feet apart from one another for all the yelling they’re doing.

Aside from the first page’s careful description of a buxom Belgian babe strutting down the sidewalk and Lady Worth’s marriage-minded connivance at the chapter’s close, you wouldn’t at all suspect this is a “romance” novel.

 

Chapter 2. Heyer swipes Austen

If the first chapter read like the first of War and peace, the second reads more like Pride and prejudice. There’s even mention of a Darcy (Philip, no relation, presumably). This chapter exists mostly to introduce two no-doubt-soon-to-be-rival love interests, Lucy Devenish and Barbara “Bab” Childe.

In this chapter Lady Judith Worth leads her young charge Lucy Devenish to a party at Lady Charlotte Greville’s, where a startling and gasp-making entrance is made by the widow Lady Barbara Childe (who, if one must compare Heyer to Thackeray, one might consider the Becky Sharp to Lucy’s Amelia Sedley). Got that?

Said Lady Barbara appears sporting (quel horreur!) gold-painted toenails. Lady Sarah Lennox, Lady Worth’s bosom companion remarks, “she learned that trick in Paris, of course.”

Ah, those decadent French people.

 

Chapter 3. Enter the Duke

Another day, another ball.

As if we’d not yet had our fill of British peerage, we’re now introduced to Colonel Charles Audley, Judith Worth’s brother, who serves on the Duke of Wellington’s personal staff. He’s just flown in from Vienna, and boy are his epauletted arms tired.

“I got in last night, too late to knock you up,” he tells his sister. Hee hee! Truly this is one of my favorite divergences between British and American slang.

A few pages later and we find ourselves at the Hotel de Ville, site of a tremendous ball at which will appear the King and Queen of Netherlands, their sons (including William, the Prince of Orange and for the time being the commander of the British Forces in the Low Countries), and most importantly of all, the Duke of Wellington, a man whose appearance may as well be as shoddy as Lieutenant Columbo’s, for all the pains Heyer takes to place his garb in the shadow of the other officers’. The Duke shows his amiability by shaking a few hands and slapping a few backs…were there babies to be kissed, he’d have seen to that as well.

The romantic plot creeps forward and inch or two when Audley, to Judith Worth’s chagrin, looks beyond young Lucy and is struck upside the head (and in other parts, too, no doubt) by Bab’s scandalously-low-cut beauty.

The plot thickens! No sex yet, though. Unless you’re a foot fetishist with a thing for Bab’s gold-plated toes.

 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Marianne McA says:

    Did no-one tell Doc that Heyer doesn’t do sex?

  2. 2
    RfP says:

    Marianne McA, methinks his expectations were first set by bad covers, then reset by the O’Reilly Blaze.  That would explain his continuing surprise:

    you wouldn’t at all suspect this is a “romance” novel.

  3. 3

    Yay!!!  More DocTurtle!

  4. 4
    Tae says:

    I can’t agree with your assessment that DocTurtle is the hottest math professor since I married one too and I think mine is pretty hot. But I do agree that math professors are hot.

  5. 5
    Silver James says:

    All I want for Christmas is more DocTurtle! w00t!

  6. 6
    Suze says:

    I don’t think Heyer intended this to be a romance so much as a fictional portrayal of actual historical events, with a little romance tossed in to make it more appealing to us unwashed masses.

    And yes, Doc Turtle, you’re a good, good man, and I’m inexpressibly impressed that you finished the category novel.  Be thou warned, the only sex in Heyer is implied.  Those of us who love her (and we love her a lot) get off on witty repartee.

  7. 7
    Miri says:

    I may have to get this book and read along with Doc Turtle!

  8. 8
    tracykitn says:

    Hmmm. Not one of my favorite Heyers—I personally will have to dig out The Grand Sophie.

  9. 9
    Jessica D says:

    I’m excited for Doc Turtle’s review, but that earworming was just cruel.

  10. 10
    Ros says:

    I love An Infamous Army, though I will admit to regularly skimming through the actual battle.  As a romance novel to give to a male reader, this one has an excellent pedigree though.  It used to be (and possibly still is) required reading for British Army officers training at Sandhurst.

  11. 11
    Tamara says:

    I’ve always been rather ashamed that the only way I made it through this book was to skip all those silly historically accurate and detailed parts of the war to get back to the love story. (I did it with Spanish Bride, too.) Sorry, Heyer.

  12. 12
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    I’ve always been rather ashamed that the only way I made it through this book was to skip all those silly historically accurate and detailed parts of the war to get back to the love story. (I did it with Spanish Bride, too.) Sorry, Heyer.

    Me too, me too!  (And although I’m loath to criticize The Grand Georgy in anything, I don’t think battle scenes were Heyer’s strong point at all—her dry, clinical accounts of troop movements suggest, to me anyway, that her real interests lay elsewhere.) I read Heyer for the witty repartee and character development, and for her ability to escalate comedy into frantic, side-splitting farce; for battle scenes that suck you in and make you feel you’re a part of the action, I recommend Sharon Kay Penman.

  13. 13
    Dana says:

    I seem to have found Heyer a bit backwards. I read The Spanish Bride for a history class a few years ago and fell in love with her writing. After that, this was before all the reissues, I haunted ebay for her other historical novels and only tried her romance novels when These Old Shades came with a batch of historical novels I won in an auction. Loved it. And promptly haunted ebay for her romance novels. :) I’ve been slowly replacing my collection with all the new Sourcebook reissues.

    Ms. Heyer loved her some exclamation points.

    Heh, it took me awhile to get used to all the exclamation points. When I first read Heyer, it was really hard to not imagine that all the characters were yelling at each other.

  14. 14
    Kay Webb Harrison says:

    I remember Charles A. as Judith’s brother-in-law, not her brother-brother.

    Also, Judith and Worth’s romance is in Regency Buck. Barbara is the grandchild of Mary and Dominick from Devil’s Cub, which makes her the great-grandchild of the Duke of Avon and Leonie from These Old Shades.

    Kay

  15. 15
    CEmerson says:

    I remember Charles A. as Judith’s brother-in-law, not her brother-brother.

    I’m seconding this.  Peregrine, the Regency Buck himself, was Judith’s only brother as far as I remember.

    I also second the readers who skimmed over all the Waterloo and Wellington stuff.  I know Heyer did some serious homework for those sections, but damn, can’t we get back to Bab and her gold-painted toes already?

  16. 16
    Ziggy says:

    Also, Judith and Worth’s romance is in Regency Buck. Barbara is the grandchild of Mary and Dominick from Devil’s Cub, which makes her the great-grandchild of the Duke of Avon and Leonie from These Old Shades.

    Cue huge excitement! I did not know that! I HAVE to read this book now!

  17. 17
    Tracy Grant says:

    “An Infamous Army” is one of my favorite Heyers (the other too being “The Grand Sophy” and “Venetia”).  I love the characters and the love story is great, but I also love the glimpse of Brussels on the eve of Waterloo and the diplomatic and military details.  I agree the description of the battle isn’t as gritty as Bernard Cornwell’s (I love his “Waterloo” book), but I found it quite riveting.

  18. 18
    Anna Lawrence says:

    In what bizarre alternate universe do exclamation points equal ‘yelling’?

  19. 19
    Suze says:

    In what bizarre alternate universe do exclamation points equal ‘yelling’?

    I’m kind of with you there.  Don’t they simply signify an exclamation?  Which, granted, Heyer’s characters do with great regularity, but I never got a sense of yelling.

    Is this because I’m older than internet etiquette?

  20. 20

    Darn, I wish he hadn’t mentioned the exclamation points because I’m re-reading Heyer, decades after my first reading, and now every exclamation point jumps off the page at me. Did she ever meet an exclamation point she didn’t like? Was she paid per exclamation point?

    Someone had better tell DocTurtle that the book will also be full of characters ejaculating, but not in the way he expects—only as a dialogue tag.

  21. 21
    The F says:

    Oh I do adore this DocTurtle. MORE MORE MORE. :D

  22. 22
    Saint Fool says:

    Another late comer to Heyer …. and I have this one. I shall have to read along with DocTurtle on this one. Gold toenails? My goodness!!!

    Much69? Not in Heyer’s work.

  23. 23

    Great review..I’ll be looking forward to more of these in the times ahead.

  24. 24

    Immense stuff..Looking forward to more of these.

  25. 25

    thanks for sharing this…brilliant post.

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