History looks so tidy in hindsight. In 1815, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte literally “met his Waterloo” in a battle so huge that the phrase has become a metaphor for overwhelming defeat. Two of Europe’s greatest generals faced off against each other, and Wellington’s forces won, ending Bonaparte’s imperial ambitions. Simple, yes?
But real history is no simpler than current events, as I learned when writing my October 2019 release, Once a Spy. My research was an education in how vital gathering intelligence was, and how difficult it was to transmit information in an era when everything had to travel by horse and hand.
Armies can’t turn on a dime; if the commander makes a wrong guess about which way the enemy will come, the battle may be lost before it begins. Military commanders were desperate for all available information. For example, an English camp follower was once captured by the French and questioned to find out what she knew of the movements of the Allies. (I stole this incident for Suzanne, the clever heroine of my book!)
Wellington’s victory could easily have gone the other way. Napoleon’s army was larger, and many of his troops were battle- hardened veterans. Not only was Wellington’s army smaller, but many of his soldiers were untrained. He chose the site of the battle, dug in, and prayed that Prussian allies would arrive in time. They did, arriving late in the day after a brutal march over difficult terrain, led by 72-year-old Prince Blücher. The Prussians made victory certain and decisive.
Interestingly, Waterloo was truly won by an alliance of nations. The British army comprised soldiers from all over the British Isles, meaning many were Scottish, Irish, and Welsh. A significant number of Wellington’s troops were Dutch-Belgian, along with military units from various German states.
A painting shows Wellington and Blücher shaking hands near La Belle Alliance, the tav- ern Napoleon used as his headquarters. The name means “the Beautiful Alliance,” a phrase that could be used to describe the coalition that brought down the emperor. Cooperation was as beautiful a thing then as it is now!
About Once a Spy
Love and survival in the shadow of Waterloo . . .
Wearied by his years as a British intelligence officer, Simon Duval resigns his commission after Napoleon’s abdication. Hoping to find new meaning in his life, he returns to England, where he discovers his cousin’s widow, Suzanne Duval, the Comtesse de Chambron. Working as a seamstress, living in reduced circumstances, Suzanne has had a life as complicated as Simon’s. While both believe they are beyond love, their sympathetic bond leads him to propose a marriage of companionship, and Suzanne accepts.
She didn’t want or expect a true marriage, but as Suzanne joins Simon in a search for his long missing foster brother, warmth and caring begin to heal both their scars—and a powerful passion sparks between them. Then news from France threatens to disrupt their happiness. Napoleon has escaped from Elba and Wellington personally asks Simon to help prevent another devastating war. Only this time, Simon does not go into danger alone. He and Suzanne will face deadly peril together, and pray that love will carry them through.
About the Author
Mary Jo Putney is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author who has written more than sixty novels and novellas. A ten-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America RITA, she has won the honor twice and is on the RWA Honor Roll for best-sell- ing authors. In 2013, she was awarded the RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. She lives in Maryland with her nearest and dearest. Visit Mary on the web at MaryJoPutney.com and follow her on Facebook.