After watching the first nine episodes of the exploits of Maj. Richard Sharpe (based on the Bernard Cornwell novels) and starring Sean Bean, I’ve become partial to green jackets and the dashing Riflemen who wore them and served in the 95th Rifles in the Peninsular War against Napoleon, oh, about 200 years ago or so. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Sgt. Will Atkins, also of the 95th Rifles, and also wearing a green jacket, was the lead protagonist in this delightful novel by Susanna Fraser. The HUZZAH! could be heard from here to Brooklyn.
The Sergeant’s Lady is the story of Anna Wright-Gordon Arrington, a woman following the drum and her husband in the battles against Napoleon. Only her husband, a Lieutenant in King’s Army, turns out to be not quite an Officer and a Gentleman. When he’s murdered by Spanish townspeople who take offense at his treatment of a relative, Anna is relieved to be in widow’s weeds. She asks to return to Lisbon and then home to Scotland by the next convoy. That convoy is escorted by Sgt. Atkins, a career enlisted man who finds he is attracted to a woman he can never have due to their different stations in life. A life-threatening situation causes the two of them to set out on their own, and Anna and Will discover a mutual common ground, quite literally, and fall in love, but must part for propriety’s sake upon returning to the regiment. When Anna needs to leave the encampment post haste, she only has time to write Will a hasty note and then is gone from his life, seemingly forever.
The second part of the book follows the two on similar yet separate roads. The question remains, will those roads converge, and can they overcome the roadblocks of English society long enough to find happiness with each other?
Susanna Fraser writes an intriguing love story encompassing aspects of English societal rules as well as Army life during this period. We get an idea of just what it must be like to “follow the drum” and then return to England while the battles still rage on “over the hills and far away” (sorry, couldn’t help but throw that in). To be honest, I also could not help but envision Sean Bean as Atkins, and instead of a Midlands accent, broad Yorkshire kept bursting forth from the good Sergeant’s mouth. Oh, well. In any event, I enjoyed Anna and Will’s story immensely, with or without Mr. Bean looking over my shoulder.