Historical Porto and its Role in the Peninsular War, by Alicia Quigley

Romance author, Alicia Quigley, has just released her newest Regency romance, Lady, Lover Smuggler, Spy. This story is the third in her series about the loves of the Arlingby family. The heroine in Alicia’s most recent Regency romance was a soldier’s wife during the Peninsular War, much of which took place in Portugal. Alica has just returned from a trip to Portugal, where she was able to visit the historical city of Porto. This city was the site of an important victory for General Wellington, and today, Alicia shares her research with us.

Let Alicia Quigley take you back to the days of the Peninsular War in Portugal . . .


Historical Porto and its Role in the Peninsular War

Porto is a beautiful welcoming city in Portugal, known for its lengthy history, and the famous fortified wines named for it. I recently had the opportunity to visit Porto. Since I write Regency England-set romances, and the Napoleonic Wars were among the formative events of that era, I have a particular interest in the Peninsular War that involved so many English soldiers, was the making of Lord Wellington’s career and led him to Waterloo. My new release, Lady, Lover Smuggler, Spy is the 3rd book of the Arlingbys series, and the heroine is a widow who followed the drum during the Peninsular War, so having an opportunity to visit Porto was a real treat!

Porto lies on the River Duero, known as the River Douro in Spain, and is famous not only for port wine, but also for a great many excellent reds. The River Douro played a huge role in the Peninsular wars; it flows from the mountains a little southeast of Burgos all the way to the Atlantic at Porto, and passes any number of important Peninsular war sites, such as Salamanca, on the way.

Antique barge near the shore in Porto

The famous port houses are located across the River Douro Porto in the ancient town of Vila Nova de Gaia, which has origins that go back to the Neolithic period. Today, the water front on both sides is enormously picturesque with colorful historic buildings, and numerous river boats offering tours.

It is spanned by a huge pedestrian and vehicle bridge, designed and built by one of Eiffel’s students in the 1880’s, that is still making it easy for tourists and natives alike to access the river front.

Bridge over River Douro. Black ironwork arch, with tour boat passing beneath on the river.

The Battle of Porto was one of Wellington’s great victories, and is a textbook example of deceiving the enemy and taking big but calculated risks, which together led to Wellington’s victory over the French Marshal Soult. Soult’s forces had taken Porto in March of 1809, causing large civilian casualties. In May, Wellington went to relieve the city, approaching from Lisbon. Soult had been unable to bring reinforcements into Porto due to determined resistance by the Portuguese who kept French reinforcements from crossing the River Tamega to join him. The night before the battle he was drawing up plans for an orderly retreat from Porto.

Soult thought he had time, even though Wellington’s troops were streaming into Vila Nova de Gaia, because the French had blown up the bridge between it and Porto, and had destroyed or guarded all the river boats that remained. However, a local barber told an intelligence officer, Colonel John Waters, about four unguarded wine barges. They, along with a local priest acting as a guide and several boatmen, slipped across the Douro and returned with the four boats.

Four dark barges, with oars and masts, moored near the riverbank

Replica wine barges pulled up in front of the Vila Nova de Gaia much as they would have been during the Peninsular War period.

The photo shows replicas of the historic boats. Today you can take a tour of the river in these and experience the two cities from the water.

As soon as the barges arrived, Wellington sent a company of the 3rd Regiment of Foot across the river, and placed them in an abandoned seminary unoccupied by the French, that was located on the high ground on the Porto side of the river. Over the next hour, 600 soldiers were transported as Marshal Soult slept, without the French even noticing! When the French finally sent their light infantry to in response, Wellington’s artillery across the river was capable of spraying shrapnel in the area in front of the seminary even as the soldiers inside fired on the French soldiers trying to dislodge them.

As the French were forced back, the English brought more and more troops across the river. Eventually Soult was forced to withdraw his troops from the river and the Portuguese people pulled out "anything that would float" to help the British troops across. Soult was forced to leave Porto in haste to avoid an overwhelming defeat.

In the end, many of the French soldiers escaped because General Murray, who had been posted five miles upriver from Porto, failed to pursue the fleeing French aggressively. However, the French lost many men and cannons and the battle was a convincing victory. Today, this violent past is a distant memory, and Porto is a wonderful place to enjoy a scenic city and the best of food and wine. You can even imagine what the red coats might have seen as they crossed the Douro in 1809 by taking a river tour in one of the replica barges.



Blond man holding a blond woman, with her long hair down, with ships in the background.



Lady, Lover Smuggler, Spy   Blurb

Mrs. Valerie Carlton is the widow of a soldier who died in the Peninsular Wars. Disowned by her family for "marrying down," she survives working as a governess. When the elder son of the family makes unwelcome advances, Valerie leaves, seeking refuge with a close friend until she can find another position.

Sir Tarquin Arlingby, a wealthy, handsome bachelor on his way home, is staying at the same inn as Valerie and witnesses her being robbed before she can board the coach. He goes to Valerie’s aid and is instantly attracted to her. As her friend’s home is near his estate, he offers to drive her there.

An unfortunate accident forces the pair to spend a night in a village inn. Over dinner, Valerie talks about her experiences during the Spanish campaign against Napoleon and the sense of mission that she felt following the drum, which she misses in her current life. Sir Tarquin, who is secretly spying for the Crown by masquerading as a smuggler to pass information in and out of France, is intrigued by her bravery and his attraction increases. Valerie is also drawn to the handsome baronet.

Tarquin needs a French-speaking woman to pose as a smuggler during a mission to the "City of Smugglers" in Gravelines. When he discovers that Valerie speaks French like a native, he successfully recruits her for the job.

Will the pair survive their dangerous mission? Will they finally acknowledge the depth of their feelings for each other?

Find out in Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy, a Regency romance with intrigue, humor and just the right amount of moderately explicit sex for those readers who enjoy sensuality with their romances.



Lady, Lover Smuggler, Spy   Excerpt

Valerie fell silent, looking down at her hands, and Sir Tarquin, finding himself appreciating the sight of her blonde curls, fine figure, and aura of calm, didn’t need to stretch his imagination far to imagine the son of the Forney household had been unable to resist the temptation of the pretty governess.

"It makes me angry to think of you being preyed upon," he said abruptly, much to his own surprise.

"It is a common enough problem, and far worse has befallen others. He did not force me and, while Mrs. Forney was unkind, I left of my own volition," said Valerie uncomfortably. "My friends have helped me before and will help me now. I would rather spend my time with children, but perhaps I will have to seek employment as a companion to an older lady instead."

"You do not deserve a life as a drudge to children or as the companion of elderly harridan, who will doubtless have a horrid grandson who will treat you as Mr. Forney did," Sir Tarquin exclaimed. "You are young, and have given far too much."

"Whatever do you mean?" she asked.

"You sacrificed a husband and a family to your country, did you not?"

"I suppose you could say so, although it has been three long years since then." A wistful look came over her face. "It seems so far away. Thinking of it now, Robert and I were both practically children; it is almost as though it happened to someone else, or was a story someone told to me."

"Yet you are still all but penniless and without protection as a result, are you not? That is not much of an ending to the story."

She gazed at him thoughtfully. "It was my decision, though I was far too young to understand the possible consequences. In some ways it was worth it all the same; I loved Robert as much as an eighteen-year-old can love anyone, and perhaps even more, I loved following the drum."

Sir Tarquin looked startled. "Did you really? Surely it was a very hard life for a gently bred and sheltered young lady?"

Valerie laughed. "Indeed it was! I had no notion that such hardships were ahead of me. Yet the sense of purpose, of being needed and useful was inspiring . I was always rather bookish, and never truly enjoyed the rounds of parties and balls, to my stepmother’s despair." She hesitated and continued, "My father you know, is very concerned about matters of manners and breeding, and my lack of interest in making a grand marriage upset him."

Summoning up a vision of the ill-tempered Lord Upleadon, whose snobbery was legendary even among the ton, Sir Tarquin could easily imagine that he had made the Season a misery for his daughter. "I can easily imagine he was inexcusably harsh in expressing his disappointment," he replied.

"I see you know my father, so I won’t try to deny it," she replied with a ghost of a smile. "But I can’t regret any of the difficulties, for I did discover the powerful joy of knowing that my life had meaning and purpose, and that overcame all else."

"Even in the tail of the Army with all the camp followers, and rabble you felt so?" Sir Tarquin asked curiously.

"Oh, I rode with the column, Sir Tarquin," she exclaimed proudly. "I had no children to care for and I was handy with horses even before I went on campaign, for my father’s stables are renowned and I spent a great deal of time in them as a child. I soon learned to kill and stew a chicken, and make sure that there was always something to eat at our billet, so it was not long before many of the other officers were to be found at our table."

Buy Link:
Amazon:   https://www.amazon.com/Lady-Lover-Smuggler-Arlingbys-Book-ebook/dp/B01HFUF1K6/ref

Alicia is offering a special giveaway for KKR visitors:   One lucky commentor will be randomly selected one week after this post is published to receive a free copy of Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy. Please be sure to include your email address with your comment, if you would like to be considered for the giveaway.



Prin of a Regency woman wearing a pink and white turban, and a pink dress, holding a white fan

About the Author

Alicia Quigley is a lifelong lover of romance novels, who fell in love with Jane Austen in grade school, and Georgette Heyer in junior high. She made up games with playing cards using the face cards for Heyer characters, and sewed Regency gowns (walking dresses, riding habits and bonnets that even Lydia Bennett wouldn’t have touched) for her Barbie. In spite of her terrible science and engineering addiction, she remains a devotee of the romance, and enjoys turning her hand to their production as well as their consumption.

Connect with Alicia online at:

Website:   www.aheyerlove.com/

Twitter:   https://twitter.com/QuigleyAlicia

Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Heyer-Love/1377608839152667?ref=hl

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One thought on “Historical Porto and its Role in the Peninsular War, by Alicia Quigley

  1. Pingback: Historical Porto and its Role in the Peninsular War, by Alicia Quigley — Kathryn Kane — Romance | Nathalie M.L. Römer - Independent Multi-Genre Author

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