A joint Judge a Book By its Cover and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books production, DocTurtle’s Review of Georgette Heyer’s An infamous army continues! with
Part 2: Chapters 4 through 8
Onward, ho! In more ways than one. In the chapters currently under consideration, the rakish Lady Barbara Childe plays a central role as, with no effort at all, she lures upstanding military man Colonel Charles Audley to the center of her wicked web. Before the play-by-play commences, a bit of color commentary in the form of a mea culpa: Audley is indeed the brother-in-law of Lady Judith Worth, and not her brother. My bad. I must have lost my eyes in Bab Childe’s cleavage.
Chapter 4. Where were we? Ah, yes! A ball...
The soirée at the Hôtel de Ville continues. Colonel Charles Audley takes Lady Barbara “Bab” Childe for a spin around the dance floor. Once there, homeboy wastes no time in coming right to the point: “ ‘I love you,’ replied the Colonel.”
Wow...these two have said a whole...let’s see...twelve lines to one another before this one.
Of course, eight pages later he’s helping the much plainer Lucy Devenish with the lace of her gown (“I made sure you would prick me at least!” Hee hee! Yes, I do have the mind of a twelve-year-old sometimes), which had come undone in the heat of her parting with her besotted escort. But after the party’s over, morning comes, and Charles tracks Bab down in the Allée Verte, where she is wont to take her matinal ride. Here he meets Bab’s suitor, Monsieur le Comte de Lavisse, and they share a civil three-way exchange the subtext of which can be summed as follows:
“Yo. Back off.”
The chapter ends with Bab more smitten with Charles than she’d like to admit...have we a shrew-taming in the works?
Chapter 5. War! Huh! Good God, y’all! What is it good for?
The next thirteen pages consist almost entirely of meticulous preparations for the imminent battle, as the Duke of Wellington, with unrivaled patriotic fervor, continually excoriates every soldier but the British soldier: “Besides all these foreign troops, there were the British, who must be used as a stiffening for the whole.” Blah blah blah. Et cetera. I’ll spare the Bitchery the details, as many of y’all have confessed to skimming such chapters in order to get to the more juicy stuff. Speaking of which...
Chapter 6. More juicy stuff
Bab makes a showing at another swanky ball, and, true to form, finds herself at the center of a gang of suitors who attempt to snatch a rose from her fingertips. Who succeeds? Why, our classy Colonel, of course. “I did not bargain on a man of you inches,” says Bab. Surely no double entendre was intended?
Bab is intent on showing just how bad she can be, flirting, sassing, throwing around such dastardly unladylike language as “dashed” and “deuce” and “curst.” How awful! However, her half-hearted attempt to parry Audley’s amorous thrusts meets with failure as she finds herself engaged to the Colonel by the chapter’s end.
My question for my readers: can anyone make sense of the metaphor “to squint like a bag of nails”?
Chapter 7. The friends and families of the happy couple rejoice
Ha ha, just kidding! No one, yet no one, thinks the affair is bound to last. Bab’s and Charles’s friends and family waste no time in showering the newly betrothed with suitable well-wishings and assorted felicitations:
“Impossible! No, no, you’re joking!” insists Judith Worth.
“What’s that? Engaged? Nonsense!” offers Lord Vidal, Bab’s brother.
“Barbara! The disastrous Lady Barbara Childe!” declares the Prince himself.
Nevertheless, the pair proceed to sell the arrangement as best they can, which isn’t very well at first, seeing as she’s a consummate flirt and he’s a penniless staff officer.
I shouldn’t leave this chapter behind without mentioning that much of the action here takes place at another goddamned ball with all of Brussels’s best and brightest in attendance. Don’t these people get tired of dancing?
Chapter 8. A family affair
Charles will soon be off on an inspection tour, but not before he has a chance to join his fiancée and family for a stroll in the park. M. Comte de Lavisse comes along too, hoping to place a fly in the cooing couple’s ointment. The Colonel’s coolness throws him off, though, and the Count’s attempts to provoke his rival’s jealousy (aided by Bab’s attempts to do the same) fail miserably.
This chapter’s literary highlight comes on pages 126-127, in which Heyer executes her most skillful literary device yet, comparing the three lovers to the swans to which they throw cake crumbs.
So, how’s it going so far? Meh. The writing is exquisite, the story dull. This is almost the antithesis of my last read, in which earthy, often pedestrian language told a fast-paced action-packed story whose conclusion had to be reached in 40% of the pages An infamous army has got. It’s entertaining enough, and I’ll surely see it to its end, but I can’t help thinking there’s something else out there that can offer a creditable mix of the two genres the kindly folks at SBTB have inflicted on me.