A Close Run Thing: A Novel of Wellington’s Army of 1815

Written by Allan Mallinson
Review by Margaret Barr

Debut author Mallinson brings to vivid life the travails and triumphs of Matthew Hervey, cornet in the (fictional) Sixth Light Dragoons cavalry regiment. “Jealousy, snobbery, intrigue, and patronage” rule the ambitious men serving under Wellington. Matthew is untainted but hardly immune to these considerations. Son of a country clergyman, he lacks funds to purchase a lieutenancy and must rise through the ranks on his own merit. In 1813, while stationed in Toulouse, Matthew’s progress is thwarted by a superior officer.

The delivery of dispatches to London enables Matthew to visit his family in Wiltshire. There he encounters a schoolroom nemesis, all grown up: Henrietta Lindsay, ward of the local marquess. Her self-confidence and liveliness attract staid, responsible Matthew – brave in battle but tentative when crossing swords with his ladylove. Hopes of winning her quelled by a rival’s presence, he departs for Cork to rejoin the Sixth. In Ireland, his pity is stirred by the plight of the Catholic peasantry, whose eviction he supervises. Soon after Henrietta appears on the scene, an act of conscience again imperils his future as a soldier – and Bonaparte escapes from Elba.

During the fateful confrontation between Wellington and the French, Matthew fights a very personal battle for the glory and survival of his regiment. Strongly recommended to fans of Jane Austen, Patrick O’Brian, and Napoleonic historical fiction.