Saturday, March 25, 2017
There are actually three primary characters in this story: Robert, Emma, and the War with Napoleon.
Emma was used to dealing with everyday injuries, wounds from fights and falls and accidents. Save when Allan had been invalided home, his wounds already neatly stitched, she had never seen the damage done by musket shot or cannon or sabre. The wounds were filthy and infected. Her heart aching with pity, she cleansed and picked out pieces of cloth and debris and bandaged as best she could. She gave water to men who could ask for nothing more. She promised to send the letters of dying men to wives and sweethearts, and when there was nothing more to be done, she closed their eyes.
As she rose from the bed, Charlie took her hand. “We did well, you know. We started out in line, but later we formed a square with the 28th. The cuirassiers came at us again and again, but they couldn’t break us. When one of us fell, we’d pull him inside and close ranks. We stood them off. It took all day, but we stood them off.”
Robert pulled his cloak closer about him and cursed the fate that had sent them storms in the middle of June. Eighteen hours of pelting rain had flattened the high-standing rye and turned the fields into a sea of mud. It had been near midnight before the troops were bivouacked for the night, drenched, tired, hungry, and dispirited. Many of the soldiers had arrived barefoot, their boots and shoes sucked into the mud on the slow march from Quatre Bras. There was no shelter. Officers and staff occupied the few farms and huts that could be found. No fire would burn, no musket would fire. Scarcely a shot had been exchanged the entire day.
This is not romanticized war, but mud and blood and bloated bodies.
Downstairs, Emma found that Adam had brought Kirsty and David back. The children were sitting on the floor, talking to the wounded men, seeming undismayed by their groans and injuries. They had spent the day, Kirsty informed her, helping Caroline take care of the sick men who had been brought to her house.
Of course there is romance and mystery as well. I’ve written about those the previous times I’ve read this book and this series–and the mystery is very good. But the historical bits about the war she pulled from primary sources are heart breaking, and make the love and forgiveness that much more understandable.
Published by NYLA