Lambdin (The Invasion Year, 2011, etc.) spins another salt-spray-in-the-face sea yarn, a tale of Captain Lewrie in command of the good ship Reliant and in pursuit of privateers.
It’s 1805. Great Britain is at war with Napoleon, and Spain is the emperor’s ally. Privateers from both nations prey on merchant traffic. Reliant is anchored in Plymouth harbor while Lewrie enjoys a bit of featherbed entertainment with his lover, Lydia Stangbourne. Then Admiralty orders arrive. Reliant is to hoist sail for Bermuda, then the Bahamas and finally patrol the Florida coast for privateers. Storms and fair winds abound, canvas is unfurled from flying jib to topsail, with Lambdin master of all things seaworthy as Britannia rules the waves. Reliant navigates the reefs and shoals of Bermuda, and then Lewrie deals with the Honourable Francis Forrester, once a shipmate and now a vain Nassau-anchored harbor-warrior. Lambdin’s knowledge is encyclopedic, with much esoteric information about Cuba and Florida in the early 1800s, about towns and harbors along America’s southeast coast, about people and their lives, about political tensions over America’s neutrality as great powers warred in the New World. The dialogue is spot-on—“I despise him for a pus-gutted, slovenly, arrogant, idle waste of the Crown’s money as ever I clapped eyes on, sir”—and there’s sufficient powder smoke, cannons fired and grog downed to satisfy ambitious armchair sailors. Reliant brushes Cuba, patrols the Florida Keys and sinks two privateers in Mayami Bay before stumbling upon the French privateer Otarie at Charleston. Lewrie, lord of the Reliant and an ocean away from the Admiralty, worries about his sons, both serving in the Royal Navy, his daughter living with his brother, his half-Cherokee bastard son and his love affair with Lydia, the first woman to reach his heart since the death of his wife, all while cornering and conquering a gaggle of privateers in the marshy inlets along the Florida-Georgia coast.
Aye, sir. Lewrie's a worthy shipmate for Aubry and Hornblower.