Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - FictionDockyard Dog The Sugar Revolution The Sugar Sacrifice The Sugar Rebellion
Not even a year has passed since the American Revolution when twenty-two-year-old Evan Ross steps aboard HMS Wind as the new Third Lieutenant. Being assigned to a frigate is every officer’s dream, but it’s been three months of hell – all because the Admiralty ignored the captain’s request and appointed Evan instead. While the ship sails for England, a Yankee smuggler is spotted unloading cargo on Antigua. A direct violation of the Order of Council – all trade between the United States and the Caribbean islands must be carried on British ships with British crews – so Evan is ordered to assist in capturing the smuggler. On shore, he comes face to face with some of his former shipmates, deserters from the Royal Navy who have no intention of facing punishment. A struggle ensues, during which Master’s Mate James Wilton saves Evan’s life. Their wounds are severe enough that they are shipped ashore while the Wind heads home.
Fed up with the continual violation of the Order of Council, and the resultant loss of needed tariffs to fill the nearly bankrupt royal coffers, the First Lord of the Admiralty assigns his protégé a special assignment. He must do whatever it takes to put an end to the smuggling, regardless of whose feathers get ruffled. At twenty-five, Captain Horatio Nelson is more than equal to the task, for he hates to lose. With his men fully behind him, they sail for Antigua to implement that order, as well as two others. Nelson must see that the desired expansions to the Dockyard are completed quickly, and also gather intelligence on what the French are doing in the Caribbean since war between his country and France is inevitable given the long animosity between them.
No one on Antigua is pleased with Nelson, for his orders directly impact the pocketbooks of influential sugar planters and the corrupt men working in the Dockyard. The former have the wherewithal to thwart him at every turn, and since Nelson must also patrol the sea and confer with his commanding officer on Barbados, he needs someone he can rely on to assist him.
During his recuperation, Evan becomes frustrated in dealing with the loss of one arm and with the lack of anything to do. The navy seems to have forgotten about him and James, who is recovering from a leg injury. They spend many hours together, and their friendship raises a few eyebrows around the Dockyard since ranks and officers don’t usually interact except when necessary. Nelson’s arrival seems like a godsend, but they are disappointed to learn there are no positions aboard any of the naval ships. But Evan is just the man to become Nelson’s representative at the Dockyard with full authority to oversee that construction progresses apace, and James is his assistant. They are less comfortable with Nelson’s second and secretive assignment – spying on the Antiguans and gathering as much intelligence as possible on the smuggling.
Frequent excursions to the Flying Fish, a tavern operated by slaves, but owned by one of the planters, provide Evan and James the perfect place to begin their espionage. The husband and wife who manage the tavern and one of the ladies, with whom Evan has become close, agree to help, and their acquaintance with maroons (escaped slaves) provides Evan and James with many eyes. Two docked vessels flying Dutch colors raise Evan’s suspicions, because neither ship looks to be in distress (as claimed) and neither captain – a Frenchman and an American – strike him as being merchants.
As the intelligence helps Nelson to clamp down on the smuggling, the planters become more riled since they’re losing profits. Then a French sailor asks Evan’s girlfriend if the slaves and maroons are armed. Several months later two plantations are attacked and people are murdered, and with Nelson’s successes, the planters try a new tactic – offer Evan a lucrative job with the smugglers. But his heart and soul belong to the navy, and he has no intention of disappointing Nelson, a man he likes and respects.
Dockyard Dog takes place between June 1784 and June 1785, and is the first volume in the Evan Ross series. Although the majority of the action takes place on land, readers who like tales of nautical and historical fiction will enjoy this story. Evan’s disability is not glossed over, and his friendship with James, while unusual for the time period, aptly demonstrates that people can be friends no matter what color their skins. Garford brings Horatio Nelson to life and focuses on a time in his life before he became the legendary commander who sacrificed his life to save England. In spite of the 425 pages, Dockyard Dog is a fast-paced read filled with action and intrigue. I look forward to reading Evan’s next adventure, The Sugar Revolution.
Meet the author
Review Copyrighted ©2016 Cindy Vallar
The Sugar Revolution
By Lyle Garford
CreateSpace, 2016, ISBN 978-0-9952078-0-6, US $13.99
Kindle e-book $4.99
Three years have passed since Commander Evan Ross and Lieutenant James Wilton thwarted the smuggling on Antigua. Much of their time has been taken up by dockyard business and both are eager for more stimulating work. They still long to once again serve on vessels of the Royal Navy, but England remains at peace and there aren’t enough ships for all the officers to serve on. Illness and an inability to curb a prince’s manipulative behavior result in Captain Horatio Nelson being called home in late 1786, and now Evan and James await the arrival of a new commander of the Leeward Station.
By the summer of 1787, France is in crisis. There’s no work. The harvests have failed. Robbers plague the countryside and cities. Some of the nobility realize reform is necessary, and the Marquis de Lafayette invites members of wealthy and influential families to his home in hopes of getting them to suggest and work on the changes. One guest is twenty-four-year-old Count Anton de Bellecourt, who believes that going to the colony of St. Lucia will help in this regard. If he can persuade the other sugar planters to find more innovative and cost-saving ways to harvest the sugar and to free their slaves so they can earn a living, these reforms will stimulate change in the French government. Lafayette wants peaceful reform, but Anton is willing to spill blood to achieve his goal if necessary. Which is why the ship he hires to transport him and his family to the Caribbean island is captained and crewed by rogues and the ship carries a secret cargo – guns.
Captain Rand, Evan’s new boss, finally arrives in 1788, bringing with him Captain Standish, the man charged with gathering intelligence in the Caribbean. As far as Rand is concerned, he sees little need for spies and blames the French for every wrong. But Standish thinks differently and the presence of five French Royal Navy vessels at St. Lucia worries him. So does the fact that he has heard nothing from his agent there in three months. With the help of Antigua’s governor, Standish persuades Rand to provide Evan with a vessel so he can track down the agent and get a report. At the same time, he is to assess the military forces on St. Lucia.
Soon after Evan, his girl friend Alice, and James arrive on the island, they learn the agent was murdered. His killer is unknown. Evan also meets Anton de Bellecourt, and the more Evan learns, the more he suspects that something may be off where the count is concerned. Evan finds an unlikely ally in a man who was once his enemy, and Evan and Captain Marchel Deschamps of the French navy must work together to uncover the truth behind the mysterious count, the arming of runaway slaves, and the violence affecting Antigua and several French islands. But the task is far more dangerous than anyone suspects, for someone has an agenda all his own and if successful, no whites will be left alive.
The Sugar Revolution is the second book in the Evan Ross series. Several scenes, including one involving gun smugglers, take place on ships, but the majority of action occurs on St. Lucia and Antigua. Unlike the first book, the coupling between characters in this story seems excessive (although that is a personal opinion). The plot is complicated, yet Garford does a seamless job weaving the various threads together so the reader has a clear understanding of events and the political situations affecting what occurs at home and in the colonies. The action keeps the reader enthralled, and I look forward to reading Evan’s next adventure.
Review Copyrighted ©2016 Cindy Vallar
The Sugar Sacrifice
By Lyle Garford
Lyle Garford, 2017, ISBN 978-0-9952078-2-0, US $13.99
Kindle e-book $4.9
When Baron Jean Baptiste Raimond La Chance arrives in St. Lucia in December 1792, he introduces the innovative guillotine to the enlightened citizens of the French island. His assistants, who arrived first, are agents who explained the rights of man to the slaves and confiscated any property belonging to royalists. He should deal with two consequences of freeing the slaves – the decrease in food and sugar production – but he’s more interested in punishing anyone who impedes the Revolution’s agenda. His first target is Marchel Deschamps. Not only is this naval officer a traitor, who refuses to divulge where a cache of gold is hidden, but his father was responsible for ruining La Chance’s family. Once La Chance learns all he needs to know from Deschamps, the traitor has a date with Madame Guillotine.
The summons from the British spymaster in the Caribbean is a welcome diversion from the normal routine of running the Navy Dockyard on Antigua, but Commander Evan Ross and Lieutenant James Wilton also know it means they must risk their lives once again for king and country. The turmoil in France has had a ripple effect that has now spread to their own backyard; and with no word from St. Lucia, they are ordered to go to the island, locate Deschamps, find out what’s going on there, and rescue him if necessary. Speed is of the essence, but with war on the horizon between England and France, they are hampered in quickly leaving Antigua. Nor can a British warship just sail into the French port, so they must convert a navy ship to an American trading vessel, disguise themselves as traders, and acquire a handpicked crew that includes not only seamen, but also a lock picker, a forger, and a burglar. Also accompanying them is Manon, James’s girlfriend, who grew up on St. Lucia and whose father still lives there. While on St. Lucia, she and her father disappear and the attempt to rescue Deschamps is derailed. Out of options, Evan returns to Antigua for more help, but James remains behind to search for Manon.
The Sugar Sacrifice is a roller coaster of excitement that has readers sitting on the edges of their seats and holding their breath. It’s a stunning tale of consequences, courage, loyalty, and heartache into which rays of hope still beam. Some readers may not gain a full understanding of the title until the Author Notes at the end, even though Garford hints at the reason early in the story. Others may find the violence difficult to read, but it is historically accurate and never gratuitous. Garford achieves what all historical novelists strive toward – portraying history in a way that makes it come alive and puts readers in the midst of the action. In fact, the horrors of the guillotine are so vivid readers will hear the blade drop. Whether newcomers to the series or already fans, readers of this third book in the Evan Ross tales will find this one as entertaining as the first and eagerly await the forthcoming title, The Sugar Rebellion.
Meet the author
Review Copyrighted ©2017 Cindy Vallar
The Sugar Rebellion
By Lyle Garford
Lyle Garford, 2018, ISBN 978-0-9952078-4-4, US $13.99
Ebook ISBN 978-0-9952078-5-1, US $4.99
Grenada is a dangerous place in which to live in 1795, especially if you are English and white, particularly if you are Ninian Home, the governor. Originally colonized by the French, the English acquired the island as a prize of war, but British politicians have shown little regard for these people’s interests and even less for the mulattos and slaves. One of the latter is Julien Fedon, a plantation owner whose father was white and mother was a former slave. His position within the original colonists, his influence among the free mulattos, and his land make him the ideal candidate to lead a rebellion. The day to strike comes in March when Governor Home ventures from the safety of St. George. If they can capture him, as well as other wealthy English families, the rebels can use them as a bargaining chip to gain their demands.
Crippling wounds ten years ago nearly ended the Royal Navy careers of Evan Ross and James Wilton until Horatio Nelson offered them the opportunity to work for the British spymaster in the West Indies. They have become adept at what they do and the war with France makes their services much in demand. Their most pressing assignment now concerns the rebellion on Grenada, which has reached a stalemate after ten months. They are to assist the acting governor and an incompetent colonel in the Royal Army to bring about an end to the situation. Against his better judgment, Evan allows his wife, a former slave, to accompany him because she’s good at making friends, discovering tidbits of information, and not getting caught. One of her first revelations is that a female rebel may be sneaking into and out of St. George to spy on the British.
A two-fold problem faces Evan and James. They no established network of underground contacts, and the acting governor fears that time is running out for the hostages – forty men, women, and children. The direness of the situation compels James to offer to infiltrate the rebels. If he’s caught, he will most likely die, but he has one advantage over all those privy to their plan. He’s black. When added to his friend’s skill with weapons and a passing knowledge of French, Evan realizes that James might just succeed.
But the rebels are leery of the Royal Navy deserter and one of them yearns to kill him outright. Julien enlists the aid of his female spy, who should do whatever she must to ascertain the truth – a painful, but necessary condition since he is in love with Sophie Ventour. And when James meets Sophie, she awakens feelings he thought long dead. Each day becomes a tightrope to walk where his heart must battle his conscience, as well as the French spies who are helping the rebels and Sophie’s brother, the rebel who wants to kill him.
The Sugar Rebellion is a fast-paced depiction of an actual, but little known, uprising. Garford could have delved deeper into the psychological ramifications that Evan, James, and Sophie face in their line of work, but his rendering of infiltration and spying deftly unfold. Fans of the Evan Ross series will enjoy this fourth book that brings to life this Grenadian rebellion from differing points of view and demonstrates that events are never just black or white or that honor is neither colorblind nor restricted to one gender.
Book review Copyright © 2018 Cindy Vallar
The Sugar Inferno
By Lyle Garford
Lyle Garford, 2019, ISBN 978-0-9952078-6-8, US $13.99
Ebook ISBN 978-0-9952078-7-5, US $3.49
With little information divulged in his orders, Commander Evan Ross arrives at the Admiralty in London for a meeting in February 1798. He finds himself amid august men – the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and former Prime Minister, and the Foreign Secretary – as well as his immediate superior and spymaster, Captain Sir James Standish, and General Thomas Maitland of the Royal Army. Something must be done regarding the volatile situation in Saint Domingue and Evan provides vital firsthand knowledge of what he and his men have learned in dealing with the many factions on the island.
The British first intervened in the chaos there five years before, but they have yet to achieve any of their three goals: stop the flow of money to France, prevent Spanish intervention, and gain a trading partner that will fill their own coffers. The British have invested too much to simply walk away, but the war with France impedes their ability to provide additional funding and troops. In short order Evan explains that yellow fever, the sheer numbers pitted against them, and devious and intelligent leaders, who ally when necessary and betray each other when not, make it extremely difficult to forge the necessary alliances. Further complicating the situation are those who wish the status quo of slavery to continue and those who do not. Then there’s the question of who governs Saint Domingue – those who live there or men sent from France’s Directory? The two principal leaders are Toussaint L’Ouverture, a mulatto who wants to end slavery yet allows it to continue, and Andre Rigaud, a mulatto who cares little for whites or blacks and believes mulattos should govern not only the island but also the world. Adding to this volatile mix are the Spaniards who live on the other side of the island (Santo Domingo) and would like to control the whole island. France has no intention of abdicating control; sooner or later a new administrator will arrive and he may not come alone. Then there are the Americans who also want a piece of this lucrative pie.
News also arrives that the black armies have attacked two key British forts; the loss of one could allow these armies to reach Port-au-Prince. With all this knowledge, the men in power decide that the original objectives will stand, but General Maitland has final say in how he achieves them once he arrives at Saint Domingue and assesses the situation. Evan will assist him in that regard, especially with the assistance of his best friend, Lieutenant James Wilton, who currently spies on the Spanish side of the island, and Midshipman Baptiste, who has infiltrated Toussaint L’Ouverture’s inner circle to become a trusted advisor.
Of course, the best laid plans of the British do not coincide with those of the French. Theodore Hedouville has been sent by the Directory to take control of the island with the help of 300 soldiers, with additional troops being supplied by the governor of the Spanish side of the island. Accompanying him are two spies, Hubert Montdenoix and Flemming Linger, who return to the Caribbean to once again stir up trouble, in hopes that the French will control not only Saint Domingue, but also Jamaica. Montdenoix also searches for his British counterpart, a one-armed man whom he intends to put out of business.
Once again, Garford deftly weaves a gripping tale of a complex situation in a way that makes it easy for readers to understand the many diverse historical threads. The Sugar Inferno is the fifth book in the Evan Ross series, and while it includes details about the workings of the Royal Navy, its primary focus is on the important tasks that naval spies did and how they did it. Populated by many rich characters, some real and others fictional, each is diverse and multifaceted with human foibles and frailties. This fan looks forward with eager anticipation to the next and final adventure in the series, The Admiral’s Pursuit.
Review Copyright © 2019 Cindy Vallar
The Admiral’s Pursuit
By Lyle Garford
Lyle Garford, 2020, ISBN 978-1-7772783-0-4, US $12.99
Ebook ISBN 978-1-7772783-1-1, US $3.99
Shortly after crowning himself emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte devises a plan. Not trusting his naval advisers to oversee its deployment, he sends orders to several of his admirals, telling each only what they need to know to carry out single stages of his strategy – a plan to which no one else is privy. He, the most powerful man in the world, is determined to finally bring about the demise of his nemesis, the British, and particularly the Royal Navy.
Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, who commands the British naval forces in the Mediterranean, is beyond frustrated. Two days ago, the French navy broke through the blockade of Toulon and vanished in foul weather. Determined to break them once and for all, he must pursue them, but where? The list of possibilities – Egypt, Portugal, the Caribbean, the English Channel – precludes venturing off in any direction without some clue as to their destination. Yet no one has seen even one of their ships.
Like his English counterpart, Rear Admiral Edouard Burguês le Comte de Missiessy is frustrated. He commands a French squadron of ships, but his orders are vague and the ultimate goal remains unknown. He receives three sealed envelopes containing his emperor’s commands, but he can only open each at a specific time and place. The first tells him to sail from Rochefort, France to Spain where he is to take aboard a large contingent of soldiers. No reason is given. Nor do the contents of the second envelope provide enlightenment. They simply provide him with his next destination and a warning not to open the third envelope until after he arrives there.
Admiral Pierre-Charles-Jean-Baptiste-Silvestre de Villeneuve is unhappy and troubled. His orders tell him to break through the British blockade, but the storm that permits him to accomplish this feat damages his ships so much that they must return to Toulon for repairs. Escaping the blockade a second time will not be so easy, but his emperor’s orders give him little choice in the matter. Unlike previous orders, these are strangely silent on why. Does this mean Napoleon no longer trusts him? Or is someone setting him up to fail? The answers are not forthcoming, and all he can do is obey.
Best friends and fellow spies, Captain Evan Ross and Commander James Wilton are desperate to capture Hubert Montdenoix, their archrival in the Caribbean, who time and again has been a thorn in their sides. They finally have that chance on St. Lucia, but the firing of a cannon alerts the French spy and he escapes, even though the lookout’s signal could not have been a warning about Evan and James’s carefully laid snare. Evan has the unsettling feeling that some other danger is afoot and it isn’t long before he discovers what it is. He is also certain that Montdenoix is behind the many rumors that keep him from pinpointing exactly where the danger lies. This makes it doubly important that he and James bring an end to this man’s interference as soon as possible.
This last entry in the Evan Ross series takes place between December 1804 and November 1805, and provides an account of the Royal Navy’s chase of the French fleet from Europe to the Caribbean. Garford does a commendable job showing the various commanders’ frustration at being hampered by orders and lack of knowledge, while making this sometimes muddy episode in naval warfare crystal clear. Evan and James meet new comrades in arms, such as Admiral Alexander Cochrane, and renew old acquaintances. Horatio Nelson devised the plan that allowed both Evan and James to remain and excel in the navy in spite of their disabilities. In addition to a tale of the chase that precedes the Battle of Trafalgar, it also recounts a little-known episode in naval history about HMS Diamond Rock, the only rock to be commissioned as a sloop of war in British naval history. The Admiral’s Pursuit is a fitting conclusion to this series, and while Evan and James will be missed, readers will find the ending satisfying, surprising, and emotional.
Meet the author
Review Copyright © 2020 Cindy Vallar
The Sugar Sands
By Lyle Garford
Lyle Garford, 2021, ISBN 978-1-7772783-5-9, US $13.99
Also available in e-book format
Cashiered from the Royal Navy after being found guilty of trumped-up charges of thievery, Owen Spence vows that one day there will be a reckoning with his accuser, a member of the same family that ruined his father. Until then, he must find a new path in life, preferably one involving the sea. A beautiful innkeeper, with whom Owen has an affair, helps in this endeavor, and he soon commands a sloop ferrying cargo and passengers for a plantation. The brutal treatment of the slaves disturbs him, but he is in no position to intervene and desperately needs money to survive. The monotony of his work has him wishing for another job – a real possibility when he happens upon his uncle, whom he hasn’t seen in years.
Alan Giles runs a successful trading company and is seeking a new captain for one of his vessels because he wants to spend time with his family on Barbados. Happening upon his nephew is pure luck, but the more they become reacquainted, the more Alan believes that Owen might be just the man to replace him. And not just in commanding the ship. With his naval training and sea experience, Owen could also surreptitiously gather information for the Foreign Office. After all, Alan’s trading ventures extend from Boston to Porto Bello, and the news he has acquired leads himself and spymaster Sir James Standish to believe that war is in the offing. Should that happen, it would be devastating to the West Indies where more sugarcane is produced than foodstuffs.
This first title in the Owen Spence trilogy takes place between 1772 and 1775, but the series will cover the entire span of the American Revolution. The opening scenes involving Owen and the Royal Navy are quite visual and easily capture the reader’s attention. Once he’s dismissed, the novel serves to set the stage for the forthcoming books. There is some action, as well as an additional romantic angle – both draw readers into the story and make them care about the characters – but the majority of the book involves gathering information and run-ins with a shadowy French ship with an American first mate, who is related to the same radical family that drove Owen’s first mate out of Virginia. This setup promises that when the final confrontation comes between Owen and his crew versus the Frenchmen, more than sparks will ignite. Equally propitious is the expected comeuppance of the family that destroys Owen’s naval career.
Much of the story consists of dialogue, but where action, such as the raid on Bermuda or the confrontation in a Boston tavern where rebels meet, takes center stage Garford keeps the reader riveted. What makes The Sugar Sands different from other stories of the Revolutionary War is its perspective. It unfolds from a Caribbean colonial viewpoint, one rarely covered in works of either fiction or nonfiction. Garford also ably demonstrates how the laws and tariffs that England institutes set the colonists on a war footing. The story is more land-based than sea-based, but incorporates thought-provoking topics – slavery, taxation, conflicting loyalties – that remain relevant today.
Home Pirate Articles Pirate Links Book Reviews Thistles & Pirates
Click on the Cannon to Contact Me