HarperCollins, Apr 2003, 25.95, 306 pp.
In 1809 in the Iberian Peninsular, though isolated from his side's main forces, Richard Sharpe and his unit defend Oporto, Portugal from Napoleon's armies. The city and the surrounding area are home to the famous red wine and numerous influential English red wine-exporting families. His superior Captain Hogan assigns Richard to keep safe the House Beautiful wine heiress Kate Savage and keep an eye on slick Colonel Christopher.
As Richard and his commandos perform their current mission, the French attack them. Portuguese irregulars led by philosopher poet Lieutenant Vicente save the beleaguered English. The two units consolidate heading to Kate's winery only to arrive, as she is to marry treacherous Colonel Christopher.
In his eighteenth appearance as a soldier during the Napoleonic Wars era, Sharpe lives up to his name, retaining a keen freshness as he battles the French and the bureaucracy. The tidbits from history, of which there are plenty, are brilliantly interwoven into the taut story line so that the audience receives a smooth plot yet know what is fact and what is Bernard Cornwell's vivid imagination. Anyone who relishes the era, enjoys war stories, or is a historical buff should read the Sharpe novels that bring in focus the realistic atrocities of battle as few novels short of All's Quiet on the Western Front has achieved.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner