Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sharpe's Enemy

Sharpe's Enemy is chronologically, the fifteenth book in the Sharpe's series by Bernard Cornwell. It was first published in 1984, making this the fifth book that Cornwell wrote in the series. It has to be said that Bernard Cornwell is one of my favorite authors and he doesn't disappoint here.
For those that aren't familiar with the character, Richard Sharpe is a soldier in the Peninsular War and is promoted from the ranks after he saves Lord Wellington's life on the battlefield. The stories follow Sharpe, his friends and his enemies through the war.
Sharpe's Enemy by Bernard Cornwell
Published by Harper Collins in 1994
Sharpe's Enemy begins in December of 1812 when a ragtag army of deserters from the British, French, Spanish and Portuguese take over a small Spanish town, raping and pillaging it during a holy day. Two women who were visiting the old convent are captured and spared the indignities of Pot-au-Feu's men - which includes the most odious Obediah Hakeswill.  Lady Farthingdale and Madame Dubreton are taken prisoner and will be held for ransom. To make matters worse, the survivors of the massacre are saying that the British are responsible, making the shaky alliance with Spain all more shakier.

The task falls to the newly promoted Major Sharpe to deliver the ransom money and retrieve Lady Farthingdale, the wife of Sir Augustus Farthingdale. Sharpe and his good friend Patrick Harper travel to the town where they meet French Colonel Dubreton who has come to pay the ransom on his wife. They gold is taken, but they are not allowed to have the women. Further ransom is demanded and the heroes leave, heading back to their own lines.

Major Sharpe is then given command of a small force to rescue the hostages on Christmas Eve; which he does, capturing Pot-au-Feu in the process, but the slippery Hakeswill escapes. Lady Farthingdale isn't all she appears to be as she is really Josefina, someone who Sharpe is intimately familiar with.  Lord Farthingdale arrives in the morning with the main force to clean up the rest of the deserters from the adjoining castle. Hakeswill is eventually caught, stripped and thrown into the castle's dungeon with the remainder of the deserters.

The French arrive after the battle has been won and pleasantries are exchanged. The French are adamant that the British leave in the morning. They have been sent to destroy the castle and they intend to do it, even if the British are there. Seeing himself up against an insurmountable force, Sir Augustus agrees to the French demands; which doesn't sit well with Sharpe. Sharpe's wife, Teresa, who is fighting with the Spanish partisans arrives to wish her husband a merry Christmas. He sends her to get reinforcements as he intends to hold the castle as something doesn't seem right the story the French have told them.

After effectively blackmailing Sir Augustus with the knowledge of who is "wife" really is, Lord Farthingdale agrees to head back to the British lines, leaving Sharpe in command. The French are amassing troops to occupy the castle and invade Portugal in an effort to drive the British forces out of Spain. Under the expert command of Major Richard Sharpe, the British are able to hold the castle until reinforcements arrive and thwart the French plan. During the battle, Hakeswill is able to escape yet again, this time killing Sharpe's wife in the process and then surrendering to the French.

Colonel Dubreton witnessed the death and returns Hakeswill to Sharpe. Lord Wellington praises Sharpe for his actions and offers his condolences on the loss of his wife. Colonel Hogan, Harper and a few of Sharpe's friends get him drunk to help get him on the road to recovery. Obediah Hakeswill is executed by firing squad for desertion and the final bullet is fired by Sharpe himself, thus ends the life of Sharpe's Enemy.


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