1817 and 1818 have not been good years for Matthew Hervey. His beloved wife Henrietta is dead and he is no longer in the Sixth regiment. Now he is kicking his heels in a corrupt and unruly England far removed from its once glorious past. 1819 sees Hervey in Rome with his sister Elizabeth where a chance meeting with man of letters Percy Bysshe Shelley leads him to rethink his future. Realizing just how much he misses the excitement of military action and the camaraderie of his regiment, Hervey hurriedly purchases a new commission and is refitted for the uniform of the 6th Light Dragoons. Hervey’s most immediate task is to raise a new troop and to organize transport, for his men and horses are to set sail for India with immediate effect.
What Hervey and his greenhorn soldiers cannot know is that in India they will face one of their toughest trials. A large number of Burmese warboats are being assembled near the headwaters of the river leading to Chittagong, and the only way to thwart their advance involves an arduous and hazardous march through jungle territory. What begins as a relatively simple operation becomes a journey into the heart of darkness, as Hervey and his troop find themselves in the midst of hot and bloody action once more.
ALLAN MALLINSON’S and stirred readers and critics with the military adventures of young Captain Matthew Hervey at the Battle of Waterloo and amid the harsh terrain and treacherous intrigues of India. Now, in 1817, Hervey returns to an England whose hard-won peace is shaken by the distress and discord of its people. And even as he is caught up in the turbulent dawn of a new era, he must combat a deliberate attempt to orchestrate his own ruin.
The honors he won in India fell short of Captain Matthew Hervey’s deepest desire — to return to his beloved 6th Light Dragoons. But now circumstances allow him to resume command of the unit — and to marry the beautiful Lady Henrietta Lindsay, whom he has loved since childhood. Meanwhile, however, his soldier’s heart is pierced by the sight of men in British scarlet crippled in the service of king and country, now forgotten and cast off, reduced to begging and petty crime. It is no wonder that rabble-rousers clamor for reform and that lawlessness is erupting everywhere, from the cities to the countryside.
As for Hervey’s own cavalry, guarding Regency Brighton and ambushing French smugglers in midnight coves, he finds them, too, vastly changed. Their new lieutenant colonel, Lord Towcester, is a cold-eyed martinet — vain, inept, and bigoted — who cares less for the welfare of his men than for keeping the shine on their gleaming brass buttons. Moreover, it soon becomes clear that he will stop at nothing to bring about Hervey’s disgrace and downfall. For in this young officer, a war hero and former aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington, Towcester sees all that he himself once forfeited through cowardice.
But the scandal that haunts Towcester is an old and secret one and to expose it would cost Hervey his rank, the command of his beloved Sixth — and the means to support his radiant, passionate bride. Even the charming and determined Henrietta, not above a little politicking in high places to right wrongs, is unable to diplomatically put a stop to Towcester’s vendetta.
As the Industrial Revolution builds and food riots give way to rioting Luddite mobs, Hervey’s troop is posted to counter the threat of a general insurrection. But his field tactics and peacekeeping vision are jeopardized by enemies both within and without. And then fate calls his regiment to the dark frozen wastes of a distant frontier, where another people’s way of life is being destroyed by the march of change, and where tragedy and bloodshed will force a showdown between Hervey and his nemesis.