Political intrigue in Britain threatens to scupper Trenton Grey’s plans to continue as a Confederate blockade runner in Wonnell’s (‘290’: Volume I: Blockade Runner, 2015) sequel.
Grey is in Liverpool, England, supervising the construction of a new ship to replace his, which was commandeered by the Confederate navy, as well as another, called 290, whose owner intends to use it to disrupt Union shipping. Grey is lonely and longs for his cousin Joanna, who is waiting for him in the Bahamas. To circumvent a law against “equipping and arming” ships in England to use against countries with which Britain is not at war, the shipyard is relying on a legal opinion that distinguishes “equipping and arming” from basic construction. The U.S. Consul in Liverpool, Thomas Dudley, gets wind of this, and the American minister in London, Charles Adams, convinces the authorities to adopt a more expansive reading of the law. Despite the sharpest maneuverings of the British system by Confederate sympathizer Austen Layard, undersecretary to the British Foreign Minister, an official order to seize the 290 slowly wends its way through the British legal system. Layard connives to warn Grey, but will the 290 be able to flee Liverpool before the American steamship Tuscarora arrives to shut it down? As with the previous volume, this novel is rife with authentic detail and period language. Wonnell’s knowledge of the British governmental structure rivals his impressive knowledge of sailing ships and Civil War history. The result, again, is a book of impressive authenticity with a compelling plot and diverse characters. It starts off a bit slowly, but once the intrigue starts, it’s gripping. However, the author might have given more depth to the female characters and expanded on the social activity in Liverpool and New Providence, which is important to the plot but given short shrift. The romance between Trent and Joanna is also a bit melodramatic, and a few action scenes early on could have made some of the extensive background information on British law and politics a bit easier to digest.
An often good read, particularly for Civil War enthusiasts.