True Soldier Gentlemen
Mr Goldsworthy starts us in his tale of the exploits of a fictional English regiment ahead of the action that was to take place in the Peninsula Campaign by several months with the conquest of Madrid by the French. Such a terrible time can only be conveyed into words with tales of atrocities, which might not recommend such a work to the many woman who read of the Regency Era and the romances that are created for it.
Goldsworthy further mixes in, with a hint here, and a glimpse over there, a very familiar George Wickham, the well remembered Rake we have met through Jane Austen's creative work, Pride and Prejudice. He has a part to play here as well. Later, rather than earlier, we find that Goldsworthy's Wickham, along with his wife Lydia, and a personal favorite, Colonel Fitzwilliam, all have parts in the drama. But they are not central to our story.
Goldsworthy's regiment, the 106th Glamorganshire Regiment is central and several characters within are our heroes who we follow. There are moments where POV shifts rather rapidly and so that detracts from a solid read of the material, as is always the case when a writer attempts to be so omniscient. And a giant caveat, as this is a piece of Military Historical Fiction, one might ask where is the romance?
We best not forget we have re-met Lydia Wickham nee Bennet, and though she is not central to our romance sub-plots, that Goldsworthy has given us this lady, shows his affection for Austen. And he has painted a picture of other romances as backstory, as well as the central quest of one of our fine young heroes of the piece.
One should not look to True Soldier Gentlemen for the romance, for that is secondary. (There is much that occurs in the Regency Era that can expand our knowledge of all that occurred in that era, so I read and review a great deal more than just traditional Regency Romances.)
Where this book shines is as a Military History, it is well researched to give one the sense of what regimental life was like at this time, and though Goldsworthy makes his heroes the first to stop dyeing their hair, cutting their queues, and the first to form a regimental mess, ahead of the other regiments serving under Sir Arthur Wellesley, once battle is joined he follows the scripts of what happened in those early days in Portugal in August of 1808. His use of language is vivid and evocative (those of faint heart, be prepared) and this is what makes the book shine amongst others that have also told us of these battles (Rolica and Vimeiro). If you ever would look to find out more detail of what occurred on the continent for the heroic troops of England, this may be the very place to start.
You can find a copy at Amazon com (US) and Amazon.co (UK)
Reviewed by David W. Wilkin