The battle at Waterloo that finished Napoleon and set Europe's course for the next century is made clear enough for curious amateurs--in a fictional but authentically detailed treatment by a West Point graduate. There is enough human interest and psychological portraiture to lift this scholarly effort out of the dark world of textbooks, but the real and considerable strength of McDonough's first novel is his depiction of the decisions leading to and the progression of the individual battles not far outside Brussels that constituted the battle of Waterloo. Patient readers willing to slog through the long but necessary setup covering the days immediately before the battle will understand the precarious--and by no means advantageous--situation in which the allied but divided forces under the Duke of Wellington and Field Marshal Blucher found themselves. They will also understand the outnumbered French emperor's reasons for pressing an attack--although no one will ever understand Napoleon's reliance on his featherheaded brother Jerome. At the center of the story is the superhuman effort of the Coldstream Guards and their Scottish colonel who blunted the head of Napoleon's attack with their dogged defense of a strategically placed chateau. On the fringe of the action the young wife of Wellington's chief of staff waits and waits. Her story is as fresh and as poignant as any from the world's most recent war. A work of scholarship and love. Difficult to begin, but persistence is well rewarded.