There was a time when men made tough decisions and didn’t flinch when disappointing people. Now, of course, everyone is a faggot . Regular readers will know of my project to read lots and lots  of Dennis Wheatley, a former best-selling UK author. He was one of the pioneers of genre fiction and created several long-running series featuring some dashing debonair heroes.
One such hero is Roger Brook, secret agent in the employ of Prime Minister William Pitt. Roger gets sent into Europe to scuttle the plans of rival Great Powers for the glory of Britain. It’s rip-roaring, sabre-rattling, timber-shivering good adventure.
It is also bodice-ripping.You see, Roger Brook is a cad. A damnable cad.
The Sultan’s Daughter is the eighth in a series of twelve books covering the period from 1783 right up to 1815 when Wellington finally put paid to that nasty Corsican atheist Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo. While Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe was quite effectively winning every major battle single-handed as a rank’n’file soldier, Brook was equally single-handedly winning the espionage war. Each book is epic in its own right, and The Sultan’s Daughter weighs in at a hefty 511 pages. Those are proper pages too, with lots of words on ’em.
As an aside, I tried reading this one in a single day but my mother threw an epic tantrum and shouted at me for an hour so that scuttled my plans more effectively than Brook himself could’ve managed. I retired to bed at 4am stuck on page 464, floundering like Napoleon’s army in Egypt. The thing is, Wheatley writes such page-turners that smashing through 464 pages in one day wasn’t at all boring.
The Sultan’s Daughter begins with Brook already tight with Napoleon, who has made him an aide-de-camp. The little Corsican’s star is rising fast as the French Republic’s premier soldier but he hasn’t yet taken supreme power by coup d’etat. Pitt sends Brook off from the south coast and almost immediately he’s hunted by a French frigate in the Channel, captured on his landing, and comes within a whisker of summary execution. From there, the pace never lets up. Napoleon is sent to invade Egypt and push on through Syria to India so Brook tags along.
So far, so much spying. What about him being a cad? He’s got a long-running on-off love affair with an English girl Georgina but they’ve agreed not to marry in order to keep their affair more exciting. So he starts the book banging her.
“After a moment Georgina shrugged her fine shoulders, smiled and said, ‘Dear Roger, that no two lovers could have had more joy of one another I’d ne’er deny; but marriage is another thing. We agreed long since that did we enter on wedlock the permanent tie would bring ruin to our love. ‘Tis because I have been your mistress for only brief periods between long intervals that the flame of our desire for one another has never died.'”
So, he’s got his English plate spinning without needing to promise commitment. A firm foundation. His moral fibre is really tested during the French sacking of Cairo. While out late at night Roger surprises six infantrymen who have kidnapped two local women. Brook gets a glimpse of one as her veil falls and she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. He decides to try a rescue through negotiation, as he doesn’t fancy his chances when so outnumbered. A barter ensues.
“Roger decided that a gold piece per man with something extra for the Sergeant should do the trick, so he said, ‘Ten louis.’
The Sergeant spat. ‘Then your luck’s out. She’s worth twenty times that. Just look at her, and think what she’ll be like when you’ve got her clothes off.’
‘All right. Twenty-five, then.’
‘You’re wasting my time, Colonel. When we’ve had our fill of her we’ll bring the other lads along. Plenty of them will cough up ten francs a go to put her on her back. She’ll earn us twice that in a week, and more.’
Eventually they settle a price and Roger takes her to his logistically-convenient Airbnb apartment. The girl, Zanthe, asks he also rescue her maid but she’s not a looker so he passes. A cad you say? How about this exchange:
‘So you mean to force me!’ she flared.
‘I trust not. Must I remind you that barely an hour ago I saved you from a most terrible ordeal at the hands of six ruffians, who would later have hired you out to scores of their comrades. Since you are a fully experienced woman, I should have thought you would be happy to reward me.’
They argue a bit more then Roger continues:
‘But all this is irrelevant to our situation. I give not a damn how you feel on such matters. The night grows old and I have no mind to parley with you further. Under the age-old usages of war you are now mine, to do with as I will, and I have made clear my intentions. Oblige me by getting yourself undressed.’
He battles some serious LMR, rapes her, and naturally she ends up enjoying it. Unfortunately for Brook he’s then sent away on urgent business by Napoleon and finds Zanthe gone on his return. Apparently she wasn’t so enthused about his rape game. Anyway, I shan’t spoil the story but note she is The Sultan’s Daughter of the title and appears quite a bit later. Towards the end of the book, Brook finds himself desperate to return home to Georgina but enjoying Zanthe too much. Zanthe has twice saved his life – once from impalement by a fat Turkish sultan  and once from plague – and is now living with him in Alexandria as they plan a future together. Brook is riding near the sea when he spots an English vessel sending sailors ashore for water. Finally, a chance to return home!
“As Roger thought of those months ahead during which, if he remained in Egypt, he must continue to suffer from the sweltering heat, myriads of flies, possibility of being killed by an Arab or stung by a poisonous reptile, and living all this time among companions growing daily more desperate with fear about their future, he had never before so greatly longed to be back in the green fields of England.
Only the thought of Zanthe deterred him from galloping back over the crest, pulling out his white handkerchief and waving it aloft to the little party of seamen who meant home and safety to him. She had given him intense pleasure. She loved and needed him. She had twice saved his life and had nursed him back to health. Could he possibly desert her? Sill worse, could he simply disappear without a word, leaving her to months of misery, wondering whether he were dead or alive and what had happened to him? She was very beautiful and he would soon be strong enough to become again her lover in the fullest sense. But there were other women as beautiful, even if in a different way, and as passionate in England. In a few years she would look middle-aged and have become fat and unwieldy. Why should he sacrifice every other thing for which he craved to saddle himself with a half-Asiatic girl whom he would have to take with him as his wife wherever they went, whether they actually married or not?”
Brook ends up ditching her the next day and barely looks back. All’s fair in love and war . I’m sure the more successful players among you know the dilemma. Nobody wants his bird getting fat and old.
If you’d like to see how I deal with all the hot birds I meet while adventuring overseas, why not try my new memoir Younger Hotter Tighter which is full of this stuff. And I don’t like the French either.
 Except me.
 And lots.
 Actual impalement on a wooden stake, not a figurative impalement like what Casanova got from a fat Turk in his memoir.
 Technically, this is both.