In the winter of 1811 the war seemed lost. All Spain has fallen to the French, except for Cadiz which is now the Spanish capital and is under siege. Wellington and his British army are in Portugal, waiting for spring to spark the war to life again. Richard Sharpe and his company are part of a small expeditionary force sent to break a bridge across the River Guadiana. What begins as a brilliant piece of soldiering turns into disaster, thanks to the brutal savagery of the French Colonel Vandal who is leading his battalion to join the siege of Cadiz. Sharpe extricates a handful of men from the debacle and is driven south into the threatened city. There, in Cadiz, he discovers more than one enemy. Many Spaniards doubt Britain's motives and believe their future would be brighter if they made peace with the French, and one of them. A baleful priest, secures a powerful weapon to break the British alliance. He will use a beautiful whore and the letters she received from a wealthy man.