Tides of War by Stella TillyardA Library Journal Top Ten Best Books of 2011
An epic novel about love and war, set in Regency England and Spain during the Peninsular War (1812-15), by the acclaimed historian and bestselling author of Aristocrats
Tides of War opens in England with the recently married, charmingly unconventional Harriet preparing to say goodbye to her husband, James, as he leaves to join the Duke of Wellingtons troops in Spain.
Harriet and Jamess interwoven stories of love and betrayal propel this sweeping and dramatic novel as it moves between Regency London on the cusp of modernity—a city in love with science, the machine, money—and the shocking violence of war in Spain. With dazzling skill Stella Tillyard explores not only the effects of war on the men at the front but also the freedoms it offers the women left behind. As Harriet befriends the older and protective Kitty, Lady Wellington, her life begins to change in unexpected ways. Meanwhile, James is seduced by the violence of battle, and then by love in Seville.
As the novel moves between war and peace, Spain and London, its large cast of characters includes the serial adulterer and war hero the Duke of Wellington, and the émigrés Nathan Rothschild and Frederic Winsor who will usher in the future, creating a world brightly lit by gaslight where credit and financial speculation rule. Whether describing the daily lives and desires of strong female characters or the horror of battle, Tides of War is set to be the fiction debut of the year.
Tides of War by Stella Tillyard – review
T illyard, a historian, creates a vivid diorama of Europe during the Peninsular war. Her large cast mixes factual and fictional characters, who interact in a complex and absorbing series of plotlines. Lord Wellington bestrides the continent in pursuit of Boney while his wife Kitty invests her spare housekeeping money with Nathan Rothschild who, in turn, is bankrolling the British government. Kitty befriends Harriet Raven whose new husband James has left her to join Wellington's campaign in Spain. The emotional heart of the novel focuses on the liberation of these three characters under cover of war, giving the book a very modern feel.
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Stella Tillyard is the author of the bestselling works of popular history Aristocrats and Citizen Lord.
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Tillyard tries her hand at historical fiction with a Regency romance set during the Peninsular war. While Harriet finds herself experimenting with the new freedoms of the age, James falls into the arms of a Spanish double-agent with an alluring lisp. A bodice-ripping romance this isn't, but in Tillyard's safe hands the real-life players of the Napoleonic era spring to life — including Nathan Rothschild, Goya and Girodet.
For writers and readers of historical fiction the Napoleonic wars have been a godsend, inspiring not just the odd novel but battalions and flotillas of books. The novel has dozens of characters, more of them historical figures, like the financier Nathan Rothschild and the painters Goya and Girodet, than made-up ones, and several interlocking plots. The protagonist of the main story is Harriet Guest, the motherless, Shakespeare-quoting daughter of a scientist who likes to fool around in the lab herself, setting off explosions with phosphorus. Her marriage to a soldier, Capt. James Raven, seems similarly experimental, based mostly on sexual attraction, and when her husband goes off to Spain, where he falls into the bed of a Spanish-Irish temptress of uncertain political sympathies, Harriet, with her interest in pyrotechnics, naturally takes up with Frederick Winsor, another real-life character, who is in the process of bringing gaslight to London. In this novel, as in its many predecessors, the Napoleonic era is seldom dull. The romance between Harriet and Winsor, after some initial flame, fails to generate much heat, and the ultimate resolution of her romantic troubles seems hasty.
For her fictional debut, acclaimed historian Stella Tillyard has chosen to focus on a three-year period from early to the summer of — the final third of the Peninsula War and its aftermath. It is a brave act. For while there are few widely-read accounts of the Regency — its politics, economics, social and cultural developments — it is a period that readers and television viewers believe they know well. Jane Austen-meets-Sharpe with a dollop of Vanity Fair. Hovering over everything is the lengthy shadow of Georgette Heyer, whose historical romances bring the period to life through page-turner plots and an encyclopaedic knowledge of changing fashions in gloves. Tillyard is no Heyer. Nor in fairness is Heyer-style romance her aim.