Having written over ten successful novels to date, it seems author Erastes has decided to challenge herself with a devilishly complex theme, i.e. loss of memory, which is what Muffled Drum [Carina Press, July 4, 2011] centres around. And if that wasn't challenging enough, she has also chosen an obscure but bloody war, The Austro-Prussian War-- 14 June - 23 August, 1866.
Although I have in my possession a sabre/bayonet from this very era, inscribed "Cavalry de La Chat, 1867," it is a not a war I am familiar with; nor is it a period that has been frequently exploited as a background or setting for novels
In this story, Captain Rudolph von Ratzlaff and First lieutenant Mathias Hoffman, two young, handsome, army officers, have decided to resign their commissions and run away together. However, there is one more battle to fight, and following that Hoffman follows through with his resignation, but von Ratzlaff has sustained an injury that has left him with "selective" amnesia--meaning he can remember everything except the past two years and his lover Hoffman.
As is Eraste's wont, there are delicate touches of irony sprinkled throughout that remain on the palate until the story is finished, i.e.
"The scent of sweat and horse rose up in the heat they generated. Concentrating on the unique taste and feel of Mathias's mouth, Rudolph swore to remember this moment throughout the day to come. When I'm cold from the death around me, or blazing with the thunder of the charge, I will remember this--this moment. It is this that men fight for--Mathias is my reason to fight, my haven. My home."
Such was not to be, however, and also complicating the scenario is a Frau Ratzloff & family who are waiting at home, and a predatory ex-lover whom von Ratzlaff seems to be remember for all his non-predatory charms.
However, in the end love triumphs over adversity, and so the story ends in a typically romantic fashion.
Critically speaking I give full marks for the bold tackling of a complex issue, such as a lover, still very much in love, faced with the dilemma of his partner's amnesia--especially since the former has gambled his all for a "happy ever after" relationship.
The choice of such an interesting, but little remembered war, was also a bold but typical Erastian venture, and her attention to detail--i.e., "leutnant" for lieutenant, and "rittmeister" for captain--add greatly to the credibility.
My one quibble (although it does not change the ranking) is that I did not find this story as compelling as some of her other novels. However, since these were five-star stories too, it is merely a matter of degree.
"Two Irish Lads" & "Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky"