Napoleon Bonaparte has just escaped from Elba and everyone in the British
military, including Marcus Blackerby, Earl of Rexford, knows that the war
must begin again and that a battle against the Emperor is inevitable.
Rexford, working for military intelligence, is sent to secure the use of
Amanda Langley's carrier pigeons for transmitting tactical information.
Amanda's pigeons are the last in England that regularly travel between
England and the Continent; the other two lofts have been destroyed by fire
by agents, Rexford believes, working for the French.
Amanda has already refused one attempt by the army to co-opt her birds; the
emissary sent made the mistake of describing, in graphic detail, the fire
that destroyed one of the lofts. Heart-sick at the destruction, Amanda will
not allow the birds she loves put into danger. Rexford, knowing this,
pretends he is merely interested in setting up his own loft. Since he
cannot hide his disgust at the birds, Amanda is suspicious of his motives
and tries to convince him to leave her home. Instead, he wangles an
invitation to stay as long as he pleases from Amanda's match-making mama.
The pigeons are just one of the original touches in this book. Within the
first few pages, Marcus is 'pleased to have worked himself back into a foul
and therefore intimidating mood' – an early hint that he is not the usual
hard-bitten and cynical romance hero. In fact, while he has his fair share
of arrogance, he also has a healthy sense of his own limitations.
Amanda, instead of being a beauty, she is described as too tall, with rust
colored hair scraped back from her strongly boned face and a fondness for
drab, shapeless gowns. The clothing is explained by her work with pigeons –
think of any monument in any city and you'll understand why she avoids
fragile muslins and expensive silks.
Inevitably, the book ends in the aftermath of Waterloo, which gives it a
curious, truncated feeling. Everything in the story moves to the climax,
building and building . . . and then the story ends. I expected fireworks;
I got banked coals. And I'm not sure I mind. It gave me a sense of what
the letdown after the battle must have been like in real life.
Flight of Fancy is, in many ways, an ordinary book. The ways in which it is
not make me curious to see what Judy Veisel will do next.