For Liberty and Glory, By James R Gaines

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No country likes to read about its defeats, so it's unsurprising that the Marquis de Lafayette is little known in Britain. This masterly account explores the close relationship between the cool George Washington and the ardent Frenchman.

Lafayette was a "pushy French teenager" when he arrived in America in 1777, but won Washington's respect, even love. Eventually, he commanded an army at Yorktown, the battle of 1781 that lost us the colony.

Gaines tells the action-packed story of these two ambitious aristocrats with panache, clarity and unexpected flashes of humour. CH