Fabulous Fiction Firsts #301

British historian (Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, And Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832, which was made into a television mini series in 1999) Stella Tillyard brings a dramatic flare to her well-crafted and meticulously researched debut novel Tides of War * .

Set in Regency England, this epic tale rides the line between romance and adventure. Newly married and charmingly unconventional Harriet is left behind when husband James leaves to fight alongside the Duke of Wellington at the Peninsular War (1812-15) in Spain. 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 Camile Florens.

"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." We watch as the city of London - a city in love with science, the machine, and money ushers in modernity. Characters real and fictional such as émigrés investor/banker Nathan Rothschild, scientist Frederick Winsor, Spanish artist Francisco Goya, and Surgeon General James McGrigor add verisimilitude to the layered plot.

This debut novel will delight fans of Bernard Cornwell who like their historicals fast-paced and action-packed. Cecelia Holland and Philippa Gregory fans would appreciate the romance element and gorgeous period details.

* = starred review