Book Review: Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s Enemy: The Defense of Portugal, Christmas 1812

Posted March 12, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s Enemy: The Defense of Portugal, Christmas 1812

Sharpe's Enemy: The Defense of Portugal, Christmas 1812


Bernard Cornwell

historical fiction, military fiction that was published by Penguin on April 1, 2001 and has 352 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Sharpe's Fortress: India 1803, Sharpe's Trafalgar: Richard Sharpe & the Battle of Trafalgar, October 21, 1805, arpe's Prey: Denmark, 1807, Sharpe's Rifles, Sharpe's Havoc: Portugal 1809, Sharpe’s Eagle, Sharpe’s Escape: Richard Sharpe and the Bussaco Campaign, Sharpe's Gold: Richard Sharpe and the Destruction of Almeida, Sharpe's Battle: Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro, Sharpe's Company, Sharpe's Sword, Sharpe's Fury: Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Barrosa, Sharpe's Honor, Sharpe's Regiment

Fifteenth in the Richard Sharpe fictional military series featuring the now Major Richard Sharpe fighting in the Peninsular War.

My Take

I’m thinking “the best of times, the worst of times”. Yeah, Richard gets his majority and amazingly defends against a much superior force. And loses his heart. I know it’s stupid to cry about a fictional character, but I can’t help but think of the waste…even if it is just a story. Besides. Sharpe just doesn’t do well with women…

Whoa, it’s turnabout and turn again between rescuing the ladies and celebrating a lovely Christmas dinner cooked by their prisoner, Marshal Pot-au-feu, followed by some pretty tricky tactics. Listening to the French discuss how to cook the various dishes…mmmm…tasty. I must try that chestnut soup! Listening to Harry Price explain in a pidgin of French and English how to play cricket is too funny. Then there’s the very learned discussion between Sweet William and the captured aide-de-camp Pierre about architecture and their preferences for tenth and eleventh century work over the more modern styles.

The Germans in the 60th decorate a hornbeam tree for Christmas; a holiday custom not yet imported to England.

It’s a tale of insults, trickery, and impressive tactics with which Sharpe confounds the enemy…his own side as well. All in spite of that idiot Farthingdale. The poor, badly wounded Sir Colonel who had to monopolize the doctors to get his boo-boo bandaged while men who actually were wounded had to wait their turn. Jerk.

The Story

It’s a combination of bad propaganda, the threat of a sizable enemy force, and Lady Farthingdale’s kidnapping that sends Sharpe and Harper to explore the village of Adrados and deliver the ransom for her ladyship. Only, it seems they aren’t the only ones delivering money.

Colonel Dubreton and Sergeant Bigeard have also arrived with the ransom demanded for their women. It seems there may be detente. It’s even better when Madame Dubreton manages to pass on some clues as to where they are located in the building, for naturally, there will be no exchange of ransom for the women.

Naturally, as well, this will never hold our Richard up from doing his duty, protecting women. It’s just pure luck that Richard gets there before Dubreton. And just another bit of luck when the mostly English foot soldiers are complemented by the French cavalry. A lovely bit of cooperation that manages to last through Christmas dinner.

It’s also a good thing Richard had those few days with Captain Gilliland playing with Congreve’s rockets. He knows precisely what to expect of them and how to use them. He’s also damned lucky that Teresa is on his side.

The Characters

Major Richard Sharpe, well, okay, it’s just a brevet rank, but still, a commission from His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales! He’s clever, stubborn, inventive, and stubborn, oh, did I mention that Sharpe is really stubborn?? His wife, Teresa, a.k.a., La Aguja, the Needle, has a very high price on her head and leads a band of partisans. They have a now-18-month-old daughter, Antonia.

Sharpe’s Company consists of…
Sergeant Patrick Harper, an Ulsterman from Donegal who is still with Isabella; Sergeants McGovern and Huckfield; Daniel Hagman; Lieutenant Harold “Harry” Price; and, Bell.

The additional Rifles Nairn gives Sharpe includes the 60th Royal American Rifles with Captain William Fredrickson, a.k.a., Sweet William, with his eyepatch and wooden teeth; Captains Brooker and Cross; Thomas Taylor, an American marksman who wears out his bayonet from sharpening; and, the German Sergeant Rossner. A major, two captains, four lieutenants, 11 sergeants, and 165 rank-and-file to sneak in and hide.

Major Michael Hogan runs Wellington’s Intelligence department and is Sharpe’s friend. Father Patrick Curtis is an Irish priest, hates the English, and is Britain’s chief spy now in Portugal with an important cameo role. Major General Nairn is a lovable old coot and in charge while Wellington is out gadding about! He’s certainly loved by his batman Chatsworth. Captain Gilliland has arrived in Portugal with wagonloads of rocket artillery. Lieutenant Colonel Kinney commands the relief troop accompanied by Major Ford.

General, Marquess of Wellington, Grandee of Spain, Duque de Ciudad Rodrigo, Generalissimo of all the Spanish Armies. And “Nosey” to his men; “the Peer” to his officers.

Colonel Sir Augustus and Lady Farthingdale, a.k.a., Josefina LaCosta (see Sharpe’s Eagle), are the start of it all. Sir Anthony is an expert on warfare. He wrote a book. Cribbed all of it from everyone else. Bought his rank. Hasn’t a clue.

There’s the bit where Farthingdale approves of Sharpe’s defence preparations, not because they need to be prepared for an attack, but because:

Busy troops, Sharpe, are troops not liable to make mischief.

We first encounter Chef du Battalion Colonel Michel Dubreton and Sergeant Bigeard when they arrive to deliver the ransom for three French women…including Madame Dubreton.

“Colonel” Obadiah Hakeswill is serving under Sergeant Deron, a.k.a., Marshal Pot-au-Feu, a renegade French cook, who heads up a sizable force of deserters from all sides. They support themselves by preying on the countryside…something like the French army does, come to think. Now they’ve hit the jackpot.

The horrible Major Ducos makes his appearance and has way too much information about Sharpe and the people he knows. Even his own side hates him.

The Title

The title is accurate enough for it is Sharpe’s Enemy who causes the most killing blow.