An Unconventional Officer
Set during the Napoleonic Wars, this novel introduces us to Paul van Daan, an English officer both unconventional and dashing, with an almost unbelievable success rate with women. But Paul is a decent man at heart, and when one of his lovers becomes pregnant, he marries her. Unfortunately, it is only after he marries Rowena that he meets the dazzling Anne and falls in love. The war keeps them apart, until a forced marriage to another officer leads Anne to Spain, where she meets Paul again—and uses her brains and courage to aid the wounded. Anne also becomes Rowena’s best friend. The ending is bittersweet, for Rowena loves Paul deeply, and he also loves her in a quiet way very unlike his soul-mate bond with Anne.
Inevitably, Cornwell’s Sharpe looms over any novel about the British army during this period. It is obviously the inspiration for this series (I had the sense that Sharpe and Harper were situated just across the camp from Paul and his men). Although the book sometimes suffers from awkward grammar and punctuation, and the manners and mores of the early 1800s aren’t terribly sound, I enjoyed it—and since Sharpe and Harper aren’t marching again at the moment, I am more than happy to follow Paul and his men!