This is another of Broster’s adventure tales set during the French Revolution, similar to Mr Rowl, which I read 18 months ago. Like that book, it features two protagonists one of whom is a French royalist who displays a demeanour of noble suffering, which I have to say, is entirely self inflicted. It has a very slashy subtext, which I am beginning to realise is true of much of Broster’s work, although I’m sure this wasn’t intentional.
Laurent de Courtomer is the son of royalist émigrés, brought up in England. While still there, he saves the life of Aymar de Richeterie, better known as the Breton guerrilla leader, L’Oiseleur. In the process he develops what can only be described as an unhealthy pash for the hapless leader of chouans. Flash forward a year and everything has changed. Laurent is back in France, Napoleon has been imprisoned, and then escaped. While acting as a courier in Brittany, Laurent is captured by Imperialist forces. There is another prisoner, a traitor who, betraying his own men, was then shot by them (but not killed, obviously) before being captured. This traitor is of course, none other than our friend Richeterie. Naturally Laurent, on no evidence whatsoever, refuses to believe that Richeterie could possibly have done what is claimed, and nurses him back to health. Strangely though Richetierie refuses to deny that he betrayed his men, until eventually Laurent gets it out of him that the betrayal was all a ruse gone wrong, and worse, that he is staying mum to nobly keep his girlfriend’s name out of it. The girlfriend is a bit of a wishy washy sort of character who has hysterics when she eventually finds out, as of course she does, that Richeterie had carried out this ruse, betraying his men in the process in order to save her life.
I dunno, I think I’ve read too much Sharpe where it all seems a bit more gritty and real.
I did not particularly enjoy this book and it took me a long time to drag my way through it. I found the situation Richerterie finds himself in totally unbelievable and was unable to generate much sympathy for him. Broster also uses far too many exclamation marks for my taste. In the ten years between this book and the later Ships in the Bay (which I thoroughly enjoyed) Broster greatly improved as a writer, and got rid of a sad tendency towards melodrama.