Alice Church ~ The Belles of Waterloo
Maria, Georgy and Harriet navigate their first throes of passion, scandal, and love in the heady pre-war atmosphere of Brussels in 1815.
Little do they know they will soon be waltzing their way to the battle of the century at a small village called Waterloo.
As the fight for Europe rages outside the city walls, Maria seeks to find herself – will she also find a husband along the way?
I don’t know if it’s due to popularity or just my own gravitation towards other periods of history, but there seem to be far fewer historical fiction books set around the Battle of Waterloo.
This is a shame as it’s a fascinating time. I studied this at the age of 7, and still remember an awful lot about Wellington, Napoleon and the battles. What I wasn’t aware of, was that a lot of British people lived in Belgium during this time.
And this is where Church has set her novel, giving us an insight into 19th century society amidst constant turmoil.
The characters in The Belles of Waterloo are based on real people, which provides additional depth to the story. But there is definitely more romance and fun than perhaps there really was. However, this makes the book a delightful read. It has no hidden depths, and is slightly frivolous at time – but at its core is a lovely story of society, romance and heroism.
Yet Church shows us the harsh realities of war, as we see the daydreams of the girls brought into sharp focus when they experience the aftermath of the battlefield, volunteering in the hospital with the wounded soldiers.
It does lack drama, and I would have liked a little more about the Battle of Waterloo itself, as this feels a little rushed. While the girls themselves are not on the field, more of it could have been shared through overheard conversations, news and updates from the battle. There could also have been a little more time spent in the hospital, which showed the progression of the giggling girls into calm, capable women. That said, I did like the poignant scene where Maria and Georgy say goodbye to their childhood.
The afterword shows us what happens to the characters in later life, which is actually extremely sad. Whilst reading about such lively, energetic women, we forget that life expectancy in the 1800s was short and this is a stark contrast to the jollification in the book.
It’s well-researched, nicely written and cute. If you’re looking for a fun period drama then you’ll love this.
Thank you to Universe Books for my copy and to Random Things for having me on the tour. Opinions my own.