The Regency Reading Room
So you've read every book in the Sharpe series and are wondering what to read next? Below are a list of books that you might find enjoyable.
For Lovers of Historical Military Fiction
By Bernard Cornwell:Author's Website
The Starbuck Chronicles:
Set during the American War of Independence this story has a wide cast of characters both real and fictitious. In the search for Richard Sharpe's father several characters seem to hover between the status of hero and villain. No one seems to be totally 'good'. A likely suspect is Kit [don't call me kitten] Vane.The Warlord Chronicles
By Patrick O'Brian:Author's Website
By Sea: The Aubrey/Maturin Series
There are over twenty books in this series. O'Brian writes with wit and humour, (one reviewer calls him a male version of Jane Austen). Full of details, you can almost smell the salt as you turn the pages, but it is the characters themselves that keep you wanting more, long after you have finished reading. Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin share an extraordinary friendship for two men who seem so different. Great descriptions of naval battles, interesting and humourous little anecdotes. These books are a must read.
By Other Authors:Too Few For Drums by R.F Delderfield
Written in 1964 this book seems to be a blueprint for many of the later novels about the Napoleonic War. In it we meet a young naive Ensign Graham who is left in charge of a small group of infantrymen following the sudden death of his Captain. Abandoned behind enemy lines, Ensign Graham has to earn the respect of his men and learn how to lead them as they fight their way to safety. Assisting him is the veteran Sergeant Fox and a camp follower named Gwyneth. But this is not a romance novel. It is a simple story that concentrates on one the small group of men and their private battle rather than the larger view of the war. The ending is realistic rather than happy. Be prepared to shed a tear.The Other Side of the Hill by Peter Luke
This is the based on the true story of Harry Smith and the young Spanish girl he rescued during the sack of Badajoz and later married. It is full of interesting little details and scenes and lots of memorable characters. Watch out for the nuns in the convent.Bonaparte's Sons by Richard Howard
Richard Howard is supposed to be a pseudonym for a well-known historical writer. At first you will wonder if it could be BC himself trying his hand at telling the tale form the French point of view. There are certainly similarities in some sections. But by the end of the novel you will have changed your mind. There are two more books in the series, Bonaparte's Invaders and Bonaparte's Conquerors.A Shred of Honour by Tom Connery
This novel sits on the border between land and sea. George Markham is a lieutenant in the army who has been assigned to a group of marines aboard the 'Hebe'. Markham is almost the antithesis of Sharpe; a well-born Irish bastard of a well known General who can't seem to stay out of trouble. He acts before he thinks, can't keep his mouth shut in front of authority and much prefers the company of women to men. He doesn't know how to command his troops who are a mixture of men traded off from the 65th foot and marines. Needless to say, the two groups hate each other and Markham has to somehow pull them together. The men under his command are interesting too including the Sergeant, a Scot named Rannoch who seems to be a Harper type character. Markham had been accused of cowardice in the past [court-martialed but he got off], he's broke, likes to duel and chases every woman he sees.
Set during the siege of Toulon in France, the hero manages to meet most of the famous men who were around at that time, including 'Captain' Bonaparte. There are a few holes in it, but the fast pace makes up for a few little inconsistencies. It is obvious that Connery has read Sharpe and there are a few similarities that may cause BC to curse, but they are rather minor and you will get the the feeling that Connery did more research than BC. He seems to have better grasp of the little details that really make the characters and story come alive. The book is more reminiscent of BC's earlier works that concentrated more on Sharpe and his men rather than the 'bigger picture'. There are now another two books in the series, Honour Redeemed and Honour be Damned. Tom Connery also writes naval stories as David Donatchee.The Devils Own Luck by David Donatchee.
This is the first in currently five novels that focus on the brothers Harry and James Ludlow. Harry is a Captain, although no longer in the royal navy after being court-martialed for duelling. James is an artist and between the two of them they get into more trouble than the whole of Wellington's Army! The first book deals with a murder and contains a scene that would have been right at home in one of Ann Rice's Beauty Novels. But, for all the tension and danger that Donachie tries to build, there is still something lacking. However the story is quite enjoyable. The mystery angle is certainly interesting and you do find out a little about the interesting activities that take place 'below decks' which usually only get a passing mention in most naval stories.
Napoleonic Era Non-fiction:Surtees of the 95th (Rifles) by William Surtees
In more ways than any other writer from the ranks of the 95th (Rifles), William Surtees'story most closely resembles that of fiction's most famous Rifleman. Surtees actually came from a humble background and served in the ranks. He was not born a gentleman but had to approximate one at a time of huge class distinctions. Surtees rose to the rank of Quartermaster. Through his tone we feel the difficulties of living with those of higher station, but through his words we also experience life on campaign from the viewpoint of a soldier who couldn't resist picking up a rifle for a 'pot' at the French. An essential perspective on life in the Rifles during the Napoleonic Wars.The Recollections of Rifleman Harris edited and introduced by Christopher Hibbert.
A vivid and entirely authentic impression of what it was like to be a fighting soldier in the Napoleonic Wars. Benjamin Harris was a young shepherd from Dorset who joined the army in 1802 and later joined the dashing 95th Rifles. His battalion ws ordered to Portugal, where he marched away under the burning sun, weighed down by his kit and great-coat, plus all the tools and leather he had to carry as a battalion's cobbler. Rifleman Harris was a natural story-teller with a remarkable tale to unfold, and his Recollections have become one of the most popular military books of all time.A Dorset Rifleman: The Autobiography of Sgt. Williams Lawrence 1790-1869 edited by Eileen Hathaway, forward by Bernard Cornwell.
An excellent book, one of the best of this type of collections from eye witnesses. Easy to read and colourful, a great help in bringing this period of history to life with good illustrations. A must for anyone interested in this period or a fan of the Sharpe series who wants to get an insight into the real Riflemen of the Napoleonic warsThe Sharpe Companion - The Early Years and The Sharpe Companion (Tiger to Devil) by Mark Adkin.
Named "the direct heir to Patrick O'Brian" by The Economist, Bernard Cornwell is the undisputed master of historical battle fiction, and for more than twenty years, his Richard Sharpe series has thrilled millions of readers worldwide on both the pake and on television. Now author Mark Adkin, a major in the British army, has created this indispensable guide covering Sharpe's early career, from his beginnings as an illiterate private fighting on the battlefields of India to his legendary command of the Light Company. A treasure not only for fans of the series but also for anyone interested in nineteenth-century warfare, The Sharpe Companion includes: a chapter devoted to each Sharpe book, glossary of characters both real and fictional, illustrations and photographs and maps of every battle and skirmish. Full of fascinating historical details, thrilling contemporary accounts of actual battles, and impeccable research, The Sharpe Companion is a must for every student of military history and an essential addition to every Sharpe fan's library.Wellington: The Years of the Sword by Elizabeth Longford.
Wellington, posthumously nicknamed 'The Iron Duke', was a genius and one of the truly great British leaders. Many have written about him but I doubt if Elizabeth Longford's biography has ever been or could be bettered. She not only writes of him as a soldier but of what made him the man he was; the times he was brought up in and the country's political and private life. (from the Foreword by LORD GUTHRIE, FORMER CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE STAFF)Captain of the 95th (Rifles) by Jonathan Leach.
A must for Peninsular War enthusiasts and all those interested in the famous green Riflemen. Captain Leach brings his military experiences during the Napoleonic Wars into sharp relief. We share the rigours of campaigning and dangers of the battlefield, but his descriptions of the events in the broader military scene and his description of the country through which he journeys assist in bringing the era to life for everyone interested in the adventures of this famous regiment and its men.Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars by Davis Chandler.
The military campaigns of Napoleon forms one of the most significant episodes of modern world history. This dictionary is a complete, concise reference work which covers all the warring nations, their important soldiers, sailors, strategies, armaments and the battles that shaped Napoleon's career. The book includes much fascinating material - the brilliant campaigns that Napoleon himself commanded, as well as related events such as the Peninsular War and the American War of 1812. There are portraits of hundreds of noteworthy characters, and to overcome the tendency of a dictionary to fragment its subject, the author has included large-scale entries on topics of general importance from Coalitions and Coups d'Etât to the French Revolution and the Duke of Wellington.Wellington as Military Commander by Michael Glover.
Triumphant over Napoleon at Waterloo, idolized by his men, Wellington was one of the greatest commanders in history. Yet he achieved his victories despite impossible obstacles, not least George III's own army: chaotic, undisciplined and recruited mainly from drunks and idlers (in Wellington's famous words, 'the scum of the earth'). But, as Michael Glover brilliantly shows, Wellington's genius was as the greatest improviser in the history of war, whose campaigns made the best of every situation and left room for no surprise. Known affectionately as 'Old Nosey', he had a passionate interest in army life, and, although his famed temper could reduce grown men to tears, his commitment to discipline, improving conditions and reducing casualties inspired undying loyalty. This exciting narrativefollows Wellington's career from his early days in India, through to the Peninsular campaigns and the glorious victory at Waterloo. Drawing on lively accounts of privates, sergeants, officers and Wellington himself, with unrivalled descriptions of strategy, weapons and formations, it takes us right into the heart of the battlefield.Napoleon and the Hundred Days by Stephen Coote.
Vienna, 1815: as the political giants of Europe assemble to determine the fate of the continent after the wars of the last twenty years, the news arrives that Napoleon has returned to France. Bonaparte - the revolutionary turned emperor and 'disturber of the world's peace'- had been defeated and exiled, but now he is fast advancing on Paris, gathering troops and taking cities without firing a single shot. Europe's peace is not to last. As Stephen Coote brilliantly re-creates the action sweeping across France, culminating at the epic Battle of Waterloo, he looks back on the rapid expansion of Napoleon's empire, where time and again he floored the Allied armies with his sudden attacks. And we meet, too, Napoleon's fellow players: Josephine, his great love; Talleyrand, his duplicitous erstwhile foreign secretary; Fouché, the sinister head of the secret police; Blücher, the uncouth yet courageous Prussian commander; and Wellington, the Iron Duke. Stephen Coote paints a vivid portrait of the legendary emperor and military genius, whose immense ambition, courage and tenacity won - and lost - him a vast empire.The Line Upon a Wind by Noel Mostert.
An Intimate History of the Last and Greatest War Fought at Sea under Sail, 1793-1815. TAn excellent account of naval warfare during the period of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Mostert switches brilliantly between large scale accounts of the main battles of the war and a close-up look at life on board, including an account of the mutinies in the Royal Navy, giving a real feel of the tensions that could develop on a Ship of the Line. Beyond the traditional bounds of books on this topic, it includes chapters of the War of 1812 and the repeated clashes with pirate states of North Africa. One gets a real sense of the impact of American naval power and the concern it caused in Britain. Well over half of the book deals with events between the outbreak of the war in 1793 and the battle of Trafalgar. The second half of the war is covered in some detail, and not as a postscript to the life of Nelson.Napoleon's Cursed War by Ronald Fraser.
Popular Resistance in the Spanish Peninsular War. This very valuable book looks at the Peninsular War from the point of view of the Spanish civilians - the people who triggered the first provincial uprisings in 1808. This is not just a history of the Spanish guerillas. Although they provide the most famous example of popular resistance to Napoleon in Spain, they are only part of the story. With the Spanish Bourbons prisoners in France, the provincial uprisings were all examples of popular resistance, with crowds forcing the local authorities to move. Fraser looks at the people involved in the struggle - looking at who were they, why did they take part in the fighting and what did they want to achieve. In some ways this book contains an unusual mix of styles, with sections of detailed statistics (on the number and size of guerilla bands for instance) but also accounts of individual experiences of the fighting. Fraser does not neglect the more traditional military aspects of the struggle, for one of the ways in which popular resistance to the French manifested itself was the ease with which the Spanish could find new recruits for their armies.The Spanish Ulcer: A History of the Peninsular War by David Gates.
By July 1807, following his spectacular victories over Austria, Prussia and Russia, Napoleon dominated most of Europe. The only significant gap in his continental system was the Iberian Peninsula. He therefore began a series of diplomatic and military moves aimed at forcing Spain and Portugal to tow the line, leading to a popular uprising against the French and the outbreak of war in May 1808. Napoleon considered the war in the Peninsula, which he ruefully called "The Spanish Ulcer", so insignificant that he rarely bothered to bring to it his military genius, relying on his marshals instead, and simultaneously launching his disastrous Russian campaign of 1812. Yet the war was to end with total defeat for the French. In late 1813 Wellington's army crossed the Pyrenees into the mainland of France. This history of the war combines scholarship with a vivid narrative, revealing a war of unexpected savagery, of carnage at times so great as to be comparable to World War I. But it was also a guerilla war, fought on beautiful but difficult terrain, where problems of supply loomed large. The British Navy, dominant at sea after Trafalgar, was unable to provide crucial support to the hard-pressed, ill-equipped and often outnumbered forces fighting the French. Gates' history provides a serious assessment of the opposing generals and their troops, as well as analyzing in detail the social and political background.