Lambdin’s rough-but-lovable rascal Captain Alan Lewrie (King, Ship, and Sword, 2010, etc.) returns for a 17th installment.
Following the breakdown of the Peace of Amiens, war is back on between England and Bonaparte’s France, and Lewrie finds himself off the coast of Haiti in his frigate Reliant. Lewrie, along with fellow seamen on other ships in his squadron, sits outside Port-au-Prince harbor awaiting the surrender of a group of French ships, as the island's former colonizers have just been expelled following L’Ouverture’s successful rebellion. After a close call trying to save a ship full of civilians run aground within sight of the vengeful guns of the long-oppressed Haitians, Lewrie and the other captains head north, to escort a fleet of merchant ships back to England—“herding cats,” as Lewrie’s puts it. Before they set off, though, Lewrie learns that he is to be knighted soon after his return to England, although he fears it may be more out of sympathy for the loss of his wife—murdered by French assassins—than a reward for meritorious service. During the ceremony, King George III, famous for his poor mental health, extends himself a little farther than intended, to Captain Sir Alan’s benefit. During the fêting that surrounds the ceremony, Lewrie meets the lovely Lydia Stangbourne and her rakish brother Percy. Lewrie hasn’t been involved with a woman since his wife’s death. Neither he nor Lydia are unknown to scandal, and they soon develop deeper feelings. But, as always, new orders come in, and soon Lewrie is helping to test an experimental weapon that threatens to rub wrong even Lewrie’s notoriously flexible sense of military honor. Although the book doesn’t really stand on its own—it’s not meant too, of course—newcomers to the series will delight in Lambdin’s expert deployment of period detail; his mastery of the details of life on a 19th-century frigate; and the irresistible Captain Alan Lewrie himself.
A pleasant blend of light humor, drama and cracking historical naval action—another solid entry in the series.