Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Fiction
In May 1800, a Frenchman hires Captain Charles Bigelow to ferry boxes of quarry tile from Baltimore to London. Bigelow knows the tiles are a subterfuge; the cargo he carries is really 120 bars of gold raised by wealthy Americans to help First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte and the new French Republic. Bigelow considers these men traitors to America and arranges to have the gold stolen and given to the United States when his adopted country needs it. Arrangements are made in the room where he stays, but his first mate John Robinson overhears the plans and wants the gold for himself.
Once in London, Robinson comes to an agreement with several nefarious men to steal the gold from both the French and Bigelow. Little things the captain has noticed make him suspect that Robinson is aware of his secret, so Bigelow changes the goldís hiding place. When his cohorts discover the gold is not where Robinson says, they drag him to the docks where they intend to force Bigelow to divulge the new hiding place.
Bigelow meets a longtime friend, Richard Waterstreet, at the docks, who introduces him to his twelve-year-old son, Roland. When Robinsonís mates, the French agents, and the American agents all converge at the same place, Richard Waterstreet is killed in the ensuing struggle. His dying wish is for Bigelow to take care of Roland, who is now an orphan.
Fearing the authorities will uncover the secret shipment, Bigelow takes Roland aboard his ship. Robinson pretends that the men attacked him and rejoins the crew, but the captain no longer trusts his first mate. On the voyage back across the Atlantic, Bigelow entrusts Roland with a map to the gold and written instructions should anything happen to Bigelow. He also extracts a promise from Roland that the boy will guard these with his life and never trust Robinson.
Soon after they reach the Caribbean, the ship is wrecked during a hurricane and only two people survive Ė Roland and Robinson. They both reach an island, but not at the same location and while hurrying to safety, Roland sees pirates capture Robinson. Truly alone in a strange land, carrying a weighty secret, Roland doesnít know what heíll do. But an older seaman, who is heading home after many years at sea, befriends him. Paul Whiting takes Roland home to Philadelphia where he and his wife adopt the boy. Roland eventually tells Paul the truth, and his new father vows to protect his son and his secret, and when the time comes, heíll help retrieve the gold to save the United States.
Robinson escapes his captors and pursues Roland as far as Baltimore, where he loses the ladís trail. But that doesnít thwart him from spending the next eleven years searching for Roland and the gold. Others are also seeking the boy and the treasure, and they are even more dangerous than Robinson. They have something he does not Ė many men, a lot of contacts, and plenty of wealth to find what they seek.
This coming-of-age story spans the first decades of the 19th century, culminating in the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. It brings together patriots and pirates, including Barbary corsairs, while exploring the power of greed and the determination of people willing to die for what they believe in. A number of historical personages make an appearance, including George Armistead, Francis Scott Key, Samir Ahmed er Raisuni, Hezekiah Frith, and Admiral Alexander Cochrane. A proofreader would have caught the misspellings and missing words*, and readers may find the opening a bit disconcerting. Chapter one takes place in September 1800, and ends on a cliffhanger, but then the story steps back in time to earlier in the year and readers are left to wonder what happened. The answer isnít unveiled for several chapters, but thereafter, the story unfolds seamlessly. Roland is an action-packed adventure that takes place on land and at sea. Readers of historical fiction will enjoy watching Roland mature and become the man all of his fathers would have been proud of.
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Review Copyrighted ©2016 Cindy Vallar
*Please note that the author assures me that these errors have been corrected in editions published after I received mine. I was unaware of this at the time of my review.
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