|Richard Sharpe and the Defense of Portugal, Christmas 1812|
|Preceded by||Sharpe's Skirmish|
|Followed by||Sharpe's Honour|
In the winter of 1812, a group of deserters from all the armies of the Peninsular War - French, British, Spanish, and Portuguese - descend on the isolated village of Adrados, on the Spanish-Portuguese border. Led byObadiah Hakeswill andPot-au-Feu aka Sergeant Deron, Marshal Soult's cook. They seize a number of women on pilgrimage to a convent in the village, including Josefina Lacosta who is traveling as Lady Farthingdale, and Madame Sarah Dubreton, the English-born wife of a French colonel of cavalry.
Richard Sharpe, recently brevetted to Major, is sent with Patrick Harper to deliver a ransom demanded for the release of Lady Farthingdale. Upon reaching Adrados they meet Colonel Michel Dubreton and his Sergeant on a similar mission. They deliver the ransom, but Hakeswill then demands more by the New Year. Sharpe and Harper note that Adrados is extremely defensible with a castle, a watchtower, and a convent all defensible buildings against attack. Madame Dubreton gives Sharpe a clue where they are being held in the convent.
Nairn believes that the deserters will not agree to a release at all, regardless of ransom, and thinks a rescue is the best option. It is proposed that Sharpe and the Light Company, with two companies of the 60th Royal American Rifles, will attack the watchtower and the convent to free the ladies and then wait for Colonel Kinney to come with his 113th Fusilier Regiment and Sir Augustus to supervise the surrender of the deserters. They propose to capture the convent on Christmas Eve when the deserters will be almost certainly inebriated.
They capture the convent and free the women. Sharpe discovers that several French battalions are on their way to capture the village in order to occupy South Portugal. Sharpe decides to make a stand and blackmails Lord Farthingdale into leaving the village, thus making Sharpe the commanding officer. He ingeniously defends the village by setting a trap for the French, using rockets to destroy a battalion, mining a building, and generally anticipating his enemies moves. His wife, Teresa Moreno, rides to fetch reinforcements who arrive just in time to assist.