Friday Reads – Burke in the Peninsula by Tom Williams

My recommended Friday Read this week is the exciting historical novel Burke in the Peninsula, by Tom Williams. Let’s take a look at the cover and find out a bit more about the book.


1809 and Burke has barely returned from South America when he is sent off again, this time to join the war being waged by Spanish guerrillas against the French. It’s not long before he’s fighting for his life, but which of the Spaniards can he trust?

Burke faces new adversaries and finds old allies in a dramatic tale of adventure during the Peninsular War, set against the background of the bloody battle of Talavera.

It’s real history – but not the way you learned it in school.

Buy link


James Burke has just arrived with the British Army in Spain. He is to reconnoitre ahead of the army, disguised as a Catholic priest. But first, he needs a cassock. His sergeant, the resourceful William Brown, suggests that he can probably have one made by one of the camp followers.

“The area that the camp followers occupied was, as usually seemed to be the case, remarkably well ordered given the bad reputation of the women inhabiting it. In fairness, Burke knew the reputation to be often undeserved. Many of them were the wives or, at least, common-law wives of men in the Army and all the women contributed to the welfare of the troops by helping with cooking and cleaning and, indeed, occasional sewing. It was true, though, that many – if not most – of them helped keep body and soul together by providing, for consideration, the companionship that men on the march would be unable to get elsewhere.

Burke was hardly a prude but, as he stood by listening to William negotiating with the women, he found himself blushing at their conversation. He was pleased that he had left this part of the business to his sergeant who was all too clearly comfortable with this badinage.

Soon things were settled. William introduced Burke to Sofia, a comely wench who had attached herself to the Army somewhere in Portugal. “She’s from these parts, you see,” explained William, “so she knows what a Roman cassock should look like.”

“So she can start now. We need the wretched thing by morning.”


Burke did not like the sound of that ‘ah’.

“We need the cloth.”

“She doesn’t have it?”

“Be fair, sir.” There was the slightest tone of exasperation in William’s voice. “You can hardly expect her to be carrying a bolt of cloth with her just on the off chance.”

“Well that leaves us in something of a quandary, doesn’t it, sergeant?”

“Don’t you worry, sir. You can rely on me.”

Burke nodded. He suspected that he could. William’s abilities as a scavenger were second to none. Burke settled down to wait, ignoring the half heard jokes of the alleged seamstresses around him, while his sergeant vanished away into the camp.

He was starting to worry when, half an hour later, William returned with the cloth.

“Well done, William. Where did you find that?”

“Best you don’t ask, sir.”

Burke looked at the cloth, looked at William, and decided not to ask again.

It was very good cloth and Sofia turned out to be a very good seamstress. She used a knotted string to make some measurements and then told Burke that he could leave her to it. “It will be ready for you in the morning.” Burke rose to return to the officers he was to mess with but William showed no sign of leaving.

“Don’t worry, sir. I’ll bring it to you first thing.”

“You don’t have to wait here, William. We can collect it in the morning.”

“I’m happy to wait, sir. It will be my pleasure.”

Burke caught Sofia’s eye and she nearly burst out laughing. He pretended not to notice and made his way back to where Jenkins had left him.”

What readers are saying

‘I was very happy when I saw that Burke In The Peninsula was out… His adventures are realistic and historically accurate.’

‘Wonderful writing. Really enjoyed it.’ Robert Pocock of Campaigns and Culture, (a battlefield tour guide and recognised expert on the wars,)

Meet Tom

Author bio

Tom Williams used to write about business but he’s given that up to indulge himself and write historical novels. The latest in his series about Napoleonic-era spy, James Burke, was published in September.

You can read more about the world of James Burke (and Tom’s other books set in the mid-19th century) on his web-site: There’s a blog on it as well.

Tom is on Twitter (as @TomCW99) and Facebook:

Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your new book, Tom. Wishing you lots of sales.

Published by Bookouture on 23rd November. Now on preorder: Amazon:

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