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You can’t dance when soldiers are approaching

The Last Waltz Book Cover The Last Waltz
by Dorothy Mack
Historical Fiction , Romance
Sapere Books
Pub Date 20 Nov 2019

Can Adrienne reverse her family’s misfortune? When her gambling father dies, young Adrienne Castle must find a way to support her family. In desperation, she visits a gaming house in disguise, intent on winning back some of her father’s lost fortune using her skill at cards. But when her brother falls ill and her luck runs out, Adrienne is forced to seek the aid of a wealthy distant cousin, Lord Dominic Creighton. With a beautiful fiancée and a promising military career, Dominic has everything he could wish for and to her surprise, Adrienne finds him generous and warm-hearted. Despite her poverty and lack of experience in respectable society, Dominic tries to make her feel comfortable in his world. And as their bond grows, it seems that Adrienne is in danger of staking her heart on a man who is already in love with another…

This historical story is set in Brussels just before the time of the Battle of Waterloo, June 1815 Allied forces, consisting of British, Dutch, Belgian and German soldiers, thwarted the attempts of European domination by the French general and emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. This battle marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), Waterloo was the definitive battle for Wellington and and Napoleon and the war  which took the lives of 5 million people.  See: https://booksgosocial.com/2019/10/29/the-regency-decade-1815-part-one-waterloo/

This site tells us a little about what was happening in Brussels from 1812 after until just before the Battle and the novel continues with this society as its backdrop. There was a social whirl that ex-pat Britons and their Continental compatriots enjoyed, including of course, the Officers from the Allied Forces – who were very dashing and usually of a high social rank as such rank was purchased for the young family scions.

So  against this background we have the story of a small family struggling with poverty but well-bred and distantly related to those with more money and titles.  It was common amongst the better off in English society to take in poorer relatives and help them either to launch themselves into Society, or to find suitable employment. Here we have a child with rheumatic fever, which of course is serious even today and then could easily kill or leave sufferers with heart conditions.  Whilst this disease is now rare, in the late eighteenth century it was more common and also becoming recognised as a result of streptococcal infections that include pharyngitis, impetigo, and scarlet fever but rarely recognised as the continuum of these illnesses. It becomes Rheumatic Fever when it begins to affect the organs. Scarlet fever seems to occur in waves and thus rheumatic fever follows.

Part of the storyline involved the game of Piquet and gambling. Piquet is a card game rarely played these days, it is a 2 player game with 32 cards. Similar to whist it has card combinations and tricks but where the object is to reach 100 points within 6 deals. If you fail to reach 100 then you are penalised. I guess you gamble on winning the 100 points. There is a set of complicated instructions about being called the Elder or the Younger that you can obtain if you really want to play by a gentleman called David Parlett. Interestingly the rules now played were not established until much later in the 19th century than this book is set even though the game started in the 16th century. You can also buy sets of Piquet cards.

I liked this story. It was complex and long enough to develop the characters and their situation and imbed it into a historical context. The style was easy to read and flowed well.

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