“In that December of 1853 his reputation as one of the most valiant officers in the service of Queen Victoria was undeniable, but in the breasts of his fellows burnt the secret desire to see the regimental daredevil brought to his knees. In the breasts of the fair sex burnt the same desire, except that they wished him to be brought to only one knee-at their feet, declaring his unquenchable passionate devotion.”
And that my friends, is Captain Rowan DeMayne, the hero of this story. Having disgraced himself over an unsuitable female and cast out by his family Rowan joins the 43rd Light Dragoons in the backwaters of India where they see little action, although they can march quite prettily in their full dress uniforms. The other half of this story is that of Mary Clarke, born and raised in the barracks and doomed to spend her life as the wife of a foot soldier – and if he dies she must immediately marry another – and there is never a way out of that life. Or is there?
The 43rd is called to Crimea to the aid of the fallen Light Brigade and as they begin the long journey there Mary gets the opportunity to “get a leg up” in life when she’s offered the job of personal maid to Rowan’s
vapid beautiful wife. The 43rd makes an incredible journey as they travel across India, oversea to Egypt, then to Alexandria to set sail once again to reach the Crimea.
On the surface that might sound a tad bit boring, but trust me it’s not. Rowan carries some serious emotional baggage and Mary may be the only one who can heal them. Their verbal battles were a lot of fun to watch as the tension heated up between them. You’ll get to see the difficulties of moving a large troop of soldiers and their horses across land and sea – let alone how dangerous a ship full of terrified horses during a storm at sea can be. You will feel as parched and dirty as the soldiers did as they march across the barren desert, and heartbreak at the suffering of their fellow soldiers during the savage Russian winter. As for the final days before the seige of Sebastopol is finally over? Terrifying.
“What had it all been for, they asked themselves. Why had thousands died by sword, sickness and extremes of weather? For what reason had boys agonized and been sundered only yesterday?…There was no victory, no glory in this! Why had they come?”
Yes, war is hell. Another unputdownable book from Emma Drummond, and she will keep you on pins and needles until the very very last page. I really liked using Mary’s character to show the disparity between *classes* of the common foot soldier and their wives and the officers – well done. Drummond also writes under the name Elizabeth Darrell and the same book can be found under both author names. Not sure why, but I love the exotic Eastern settings she uses and I will be hunting down more of her books in the very near future.