Cornwell’s excellent long-running Sharpe series (Sharpe’s Havoc, 2003, etc.) takes the soldiers’ soldier to real-life battles around Bussaco and Coimbra, Portugal.
Having imposed Napoleonic and imperial peace everywhere else in Europe, the Corsican monster has sent his troops to sew up what remains unconquered on the Iberian Peninsula. But, zut!, the Portuguese will not roll over. Lord Wellington—on his way to that Iron Dukedom—has dug in for the long haul, contrary to the French and occasional Portuguese belief that the English will cut and run for their ships when things get the least bit tough. Wellington’s forces have secretly constructed a series of forts and battlements that extend from the Tagus River to the Atlantic, completely protecting Lisbon and its monarch. He has also instituted a scorched earth policy throughout the countryside, ordering the destruction of every bit of food and provision that might allow the French to dig in and stay. While carrying out those orders near the university city of Coimbra, Captain Sharpe encounters the treacherous Ferreira brothers, one a turncoat officer, the other a hulking sadist with a thriving business in slaves and prostitutes. The Ferreiras have been caught with a stash they were planning to sell to the Frogs, and when Sharpe puts the supplies to the torch he incurs the murderous wrath of Ferragus, the criminal kingpin, a fury that will plague the captain every bit as much as the Emperor’s armies. Further complication comes from the awful Lieutenant Slingsby, a minor county boozer who cynically married the pregnant sister-in-law of Sharpe’s commanding officer and now expects to move into Sharpe’s position. Everything comes to a boil in Coimbra, where Ferragus has a warehouse secretly stuffed with enough supplies to keep the French fed for a good long siege of Lisbon and where Sharpe falls into a trap laid by the brute. He will emerge with the assistance of a clever Portuguese chum and a spunky English governess.
Another good one.