Paul Tirenne climbed from his horse, handing the reins up to one of seven dragoons sent to arrest him. To escort him, their sergeant insisted, but Tirenne knew the real reason such a number of men made up the party. Ignoring both sentries’ brisk salutes he dragged his feet up the steps at the entrance of a fine house Marshal Soult had made his headquarters, built in the shadow of the ancient lighthouse which commanded the bay. The sergeant followed close on his heels.
Ever since he ignored Colonel Michelot’s orders Tirenne had been dreading this day, but, perversely, he welcomed it at the same time. Whatever the outcome he would be free - dismissed from the service for disobedience, or, if the court martial went badly, executed as a coward. Both his family and new wife would come to terms with the disgrace in time: mercifully his father was too ill to understand.
In the foyer a young lieutenant turned from a huge gilt-framed mirror hung behind his desk. He gave his high collar one final adjustment before fixing Tirenne with a disapproving stare. “They are waiting. You will go straight through,” he said flatly.
Tirenne glanced away from the immaculate uniform, defiantly proud of his own threadbare coat. So dandified an officer had probably never seen a sabre raised in anger, he thought sarcastically. He removed his fur cap, stuffing it firmly under his left arm before nodding at the sergeant who stepped around him to open the door.
It would be worse than he imagined; much worse. Michelot must have had cronies in very high places, for in front of Tirenne sat three men at the heart of the Armee du Portugal. Marshal Soult, Duke of Dalmatia, took the centre seat, as befitted the man who finally drove the British from Spain. On his left, General Francheshi: General Delaborde to his right. Facing such heavyweights Tirenne shrivelled. He suddenly felt very alone.
“Your sword, lieutenant,” Francheshi instructed gruffly. Tirenne obediently unbuckled his sabre, stepping forward to place it on the table directly in front of Marshal Soult
As he moved back a staff officer stepped forward and it seemed there were to be no initial pleasantries. “You are charged, lieutenant, with gross insubordination, in that you did wilfully refuse a direct order given by the late Colonel Michelot, in the face of the enemy, and in fact argued this order be rescinded.” He paused for breath. “You do not deny the charge?”Tirenne said nothing. They must all have known he would not. Behind him a door squeaked open, followed by brisk footsteps. Tirenne turned his head sideways towards the newcomer. Montbrun! What the devil was he doing here? Blank-faced, General Montbrun offered the ghost of a wink.
from "Leopardkill" by Jonathan Hopkins
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Product DescriptionA thrilling war novel set against the dramatic backdrop of the Peninsular War that saw a small British force pitched against Napoleon’s Grande Armee.
It is Autumn 1808. The French army is gone from Portugal...except for one man. And what he has stolen is deadly secret.
Sergeant Joshua Lock and Captain the Honourable John Killen pursue the spy deep into Spain ahead of Sir John Moore’s British army - a force now ordered to fight the French alongside native troops. But instead of helping their new allies, the Spaniards seem to have turned against them.
Their quarry still free, Killen’s discovery of Lock’s affair with a fellow officer’s wife drives the childhood friends apart as savage winter storms grip the Galician mountains. With discipline breaking down, and Spain’s armies in disarray, every man must decide for himself - who is friend and who is foe? Should the outnumbered, starving British stand and fight, or run for the sea, and home?
Whilst unbeknown to the bickering allies, Bonaparte himself is storming through Spain with but a single purpose...to destroy every ‘mangy English leopard.’
Meticulously researched to be historically and militarily accurate, this dashing novel of cavalrymen at war is written by an expert horseman.
About the Author
Jonathan Hopkins has worked in occupations as diverse as bulk tanker loader and kitchen designer, but since 2001 has fitted and repaired saddles professionally.
A lifelong horse-keeper and long term chair of an affiliated riding club close to his home in South Wales, his interest in the cavalrymen who served under the Duke of Wellington originally grew out of research into saddlery worn by troop horses, for which there are no surviving patterns.
Leopardkill is his second published novel.