|Series||Richard Sharpe stories|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback) and audio-CD|
|LC Class||PR6053.O75 S52 1987|
|Preceded by||Sharpe's Skirmish|
|Followed by||Sharpe's Honour|
Sharpe's Enemy: Richard Sharpe and the Defense of Portugal, Christmas 1812 is the fifteenth historical novel in the Richard Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell, first published in 1984. The story is set in 1812 during the Napoleonic Wars.
In the winter of 1812 a group of deserters from all the armies of the Peninsular War - French, British, Spanish and Portuguese - descends on the isolated hamlet of Adrados, on the Spanish-Portuguese border, led by Obadiah Hakeswill, the antagonist of Sharpe's Company, and Pot-au-Feu aka Sergeant Deron, as Marshal Soult's cook. They seize a number of women on pilgrimage to a convent in the village, including Josefina Lacosta who is travelling as "Lady Farthingdale", and Madame Dubreton, the English-born wife of a French colonel of cavalry.
Richard Sharpe, recently promoted to the rank of Major, is sent with Patrick Harper to deliver the ransom demanded for the release of Lady Farthingdale. Upon reaching Adrados they meet Colonel Dubreton and his Sergeant on a similar mission. They see both ladies are safe and deliver the ransom but Hakeswill then demands more by the New Year. Colonel and Madame Dubreton are careful not to let the fact that they know each other be picked up by the deserters. Sharpe and Harper note that Adrados is extremely defensible with a castle, a watchtower and a convent all defensible buildings against attack. Madame Dubreton gives Sharpe a clue that she is in the convent.
Nairn believes that the deserters will not agree to a release at all regardless of ransom and thinks a rescue is the best option. It is proposed that Sharpe and the Light Company, with two companies of the 60th American Rifles, will attack the watchtower and the convent to free the ladies and then wait for Colonel Kinney to come with his 113th Fusilier Regiment and Sir Augustus to supervise the surrender of the deserters. They propose to capture the convent on Christmas Eve when the deserters will be almost certainly inebriated.
They capture the convent and free the women. Unfortunately, Sharpe discovers that multiple French battalions are on their way to capture the village in order to occupy South Portugal. Sharpe decides to make a stand and blackmails Lord Farthingdale into leaving the village, thus making Sharpe the commanding officer. He ingeniously defends the village by setting a trap for the French, using the rockets to destroy a battalion, mining a building, and generally anticipating his enemies' moves. His wife, a Spanish partisan commander Teresa Moreno, rides to fetch reinforcements who arrive just in time to assist the tiring men. Hakeswill, who was kept as a prisoner, escapes during the last hours of the fight and kills Teresa. Hakeswill tries to desert to the French, but falls in the hands of Dubreton who returns him to Sharpe as a thank you for rescuing the Colonel's wife. After a court martial, Hakeswill is shot by a firing squad and the coup de grace is administered by Sharpe himself.
Richard Sharpe: Brevet Major in the British Army Pot-au-Feu: Sergeant Deron, who appears in Sharpe's Havoc, and is the leader of the renegade band
References to other novels
- Josefina LaCosta was the female lead in Sharpe's Eagle and Sharpe's love interest. She was last seen in Sharpe's Gold where she had set up house in Lisbon entertaining wealthy allied officers. It transpires that she is not actually entitled to be called Lady Farthingdale, she has never married Colonel Sir Augustus Farthingdale, but is merely pretending to be his wife in exchange for his maintaining her in a life of luxury.
- Cornwell describes Adrados as the Gateway of God where outnumbered Spanish knights defeated Moors during the Wars of Spain. The convent in Adrados was set up to commemorate the piety of this event.
- Madame Dubreton uses a line from the poem "Eloise and Abelard" by Alexander Pope. She said "withering in my bloom, lost in [a convent's] solitary gloom."
Sharpe's Enemy was the sixth book in the Sharpe series written by Cornwell by year published. After the addition of many more novels to the successful series it resides about two thirds of the way through the series and Sharpe's military career.
The novel was adapted for the second season of the Sharpe television series. It guest starred Jeremy Child as Sir Augustus, Helena Mitchell as Sarah Dubreton and Tony Haygarth as Pot-au-Feu. The adaptation kept the basic plot of the novel but many details were changed, notably the character of Josefina was not reused and was replaced with a new character, Isabella (played by Elizabeth Hurley), the wife of Sir Augustus and an old flame of Sharpe, with whom he has a sexual encounter while rescuing her. (In the novels, Isabella is the name of Harper's wife; the television adaptation instead gives him a girlfriend named Ramona.) Teresa is introduced earlier near the beginning of the adaptation, as is Ducos who accompanies Dubreton to his first meeting with Hakeswill. Sharpe is not promoted to major until midway through the adaptation prior to his return to the convent, Teresa is killed earlier when Hakeswill escapes after the convent's capture and the final battle with the French is significantly downgraded, being reduced to a single repulsed charge. The task of finishing Hakeswill's execution is given to an anonymous officer which Sharpe merely watching from the distance.