It is 1809, a few years after Lieutenant Richard Sharpe's heroic exploits on the battlefields of India and at Trafalgar, and Sharpe finds himself fighting the savage armies of Napoleon Bonaparte as they try to bring the whole of the Iberian Peninsula under their control. Napoleon is advancing fast in northern Portugal, and no one knows whether the small contingent of British troops stationed in Lisbon will stay to fight or sail back to England. Sharpe, however, does not have a choice: He and his squad of riflemen are on the lookout for the missing daughter of an English wine shipper, when the French onslaught begins and the city of Oporto becomes a setting for carnage and disaster. Stranded behind enemy lines, Sharpe returns to his mission to find Kate Savage. Sharpe's position on enemy grounds is precarious, and his search is further complicated by a mysterious and threatening Englishman, Colonel Christopher, who has his own ideas on how the French can be driven from Portugal. Christopher's scheme is dangerous, and Sharpe and his Riflemen are the only obstacles standing in his way. Suddenly, a newly arrived British commander in Lisbon, Sir Arthur Wellesley, unknowingly comes to Sharpe's rescue. Just when Sharpe and his men seem doomed, Sir Arthur mounts his own counterattack, an operation of breathtaking daring that will send Marshal Soult's army reeling back into the northern mountains.