Well, it was bound to happen. He was in a bit of a vulnerable state, what with Grace having died in childbirth, the child dying too, and the damned lawyers taking the house. He bought it with the money he brought home from India in the shape of the Tipoo’s jewels, but he put the house in Grace’s name and the lawyers snatched it away. So there he was, broke again, unhappy in the Rifles and stuck in London, and that’s where I caught up with him. Not that he’ll be faithful of course. There’ll be Astrid in Copenhagen, Josefina in Lisbon, Theresa in Spain … Although he’s a soldier he’s a soft-hearted devil, and he’ll fall for any woman with a pretty face. But say what you like about Richard, he’ll not string you along with a pack of lies.
If none of that makes any sense, it’s because you are not, like me, slowly working your way through the Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell. I’ve been reading some, listening to others, but after it took an agonising couple of hours to find out exactly how Richard was going to rescue the Rifles and then the rest of the South Essex at the Lines of Torres Vedras, I’ve decided to read all the rest. Audiobooks are all well and good, but not when a full working day gets between me and Sharpe’s reinstatement as breveted Captain of the Rifles…
I’ve only known Sharpe for the last few months, but there are the other men in my life, the faithful few who have been with me for the last 10-15 years and who I fully expect to see me into my dotage. Who’s to say my eye won’t be caught by James (Bond) or Peter (Wimsey), or any one of a handful of cynical rakes in coats by Weston, their hessian boots champagne-polished to an impossible gleam? Come to that it’s been far too long since I spent any quality time with Percy (Blakeney).
I blame the school library, introducing me first to the works of Georgette Heyer and then to Baroness Orczy. This was fatal to a romantic but desperately unattractive 15-year-old at an all girls’ school. And so I spent my formative years in the company of intelligent, sarcastic, witty, athletic and often fabulously wealthy men, with charm and humour lurking in their eyes, who could drive a high-perch phaeton and turn a coach-and-four on a sixpence. And just when you thought they were nothing but selfish fops and dandies, it turned out that they had a social conscience, spoke a couple of languages and had even read many of the leather-clad books in their libraries. How was I supposed to resist?