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Books for Adults - Fiction

The Mountain of Gold                    Destiny's Tide                    Battle's Flood

Cover Art: The Mountain of Gold
The Mountain of Gold
By J. D. Davies
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 2012
Hardcover ISBN 978-0-547-58099-9, $25.00
E-book ISBN 978-0-547-58102-6, $25.00


Captain Matthew Quinton would just as soon hang his prisoner, Omar Ibrahim of Oran, for the pirate and traitor that he is. But the Barbary corsair, who himself was taken from his home in Baltimore, Ireland by Barbary corsairs and joined them rather than become a slave, dangles information about a mountain of gold that Quinton can’t ignore. Against his better judgment, he orders his ship back to England where King Charles II arranges for Quinton, with the help of Ibrahim, to lead an expedition to Gambia to find this treasure. Matthew is certain the tale is nothing but a hoax, but he dares not go against His Majesty’s orders.
While waiting for his new ship, Matthew must deal with a more personal problem. He is next in line to inherit the earldom of Ravensden from his brother, Charles, who’s slated to wed a mysterious woman who has been wed twice before. Matthew’s wife and uncle are certain Lady de Vaux intends to murder Charles, and begin an inquiry into her past in hopes of turning up evidence that she killed her previous husbands. Matthew is also against the marriage, but since it has the king’s blessing, there is little he can do to prevent it.
Before Matthew departs for Gambia, he learns that some members of the government are determined to make certain the treasure remains buried. An attempt is made on his life, then an unexplained fire threatens to destroy his ship. Nor are Matthew and Omar the only ones seeking the gold. Soon after they arrive in Africa, an emissary of Louis XIV of France attempts to kidnap and torture Omar into revealing the gold’s location while thwarting Matthew and his men from achieving their objective. To further complicate matters there’s Omar himself, for how can one really trust a pirate and traitor?
Although this is the second in the Matthew Quinton series, The Mountain of Gold works just as well as a stand-alone tale. Davies spins a complex web of intrigue and adventure in which readers soon find themselves aboard a ship of the Royal Navy, or staying in a home that is greatly in need of repair, or trekking across the desert under a broiling sun. The first paragraph grabs your attention and once ensnared, you won’t resurface until the story ends. By then it will be too late – the author will have captured your interest to such a degree that you can’t wait for the continuation of Matthew Quinton’s adventures. What is particularly refreshing, at least from my viewpoint, is that Davies opted to set his story in the Cavalier period, rather than the more popular Age of Nelson. He deftly brings to life this bygone era while vividly recreating the experience of sailors in the Royal Navy and the dangers and wonders these intrepid explorers and fighters encountered.
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Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art:
          Destiny's Tide
Destiny’s Tide
By J. D. Davies
Canelo, 2019, ebook ISBN 978-1788632300, US $2.99

Once a vibrant town, Dunwich’s importance dwindles because of Mother Nature and because of its rivalries with other Suffolk towns. Jack and his father, Peter Stannard, are English traders whose ships make them important merchants in Dunwich. But growing up in Peter’s shadow is fraught with peril, for Peter is abusive and Jack never measures up to his deceased older brother. His father’s penchant for drink and strange affliction only worsens the abuse that Jack endures.

Jack has high hopes to reclaim his town’s stature by answering King Henry’s summons to first teach the Scots a lesson for reneging on a promise to wed their infant queen Mary to Prince Edward and then attack France. Jack commands the Suffolk contingent of ships, much to the chagrin of Raker of Southwold and Maddox of Walberswick. The rivalry between the three towns is an ancient one, but there is bad blood between Raker and Peter. Jack doesn’t understand why, but he definitely experiences the results. No sooner do they arrive at the gathering spot for the king’s ships than he is arrested. When he finally faces his accusers, he also learns the serious charges they have brought against him.

Once a soldier, Thomas Ryman set aside his sword to take holy orders. After a decade with the Grey Friars of Dunwich, he and his fellow brothers are turned out of their home upon the king’s dissolution of the Catholic Church and its monasteries. Having last fought the Scots at Flodden Field, he decides to take up his sword once again and sail with Jack, his former student. Thomas’s familiarity with soldiering and his past contacts provide him with a means of rescuing Jack after his arrest.

This first book in the Jack Stannard of the Navy Royal series occurs between 1537 through 1547, although the principal portion of the story takes place from April 1544 through July 1545. It is a mix of life in England during perilous times and battles at sea in which ingenuity and fortitude play equal roles. Davies’s vivid and poignant portrayal of the capture of the Scottish warship Unicorn, the rescue of a Genoese captain, and the sinking of the Mary Rose keeps readers on the edges of their seats while holding their breaths. Equally compelling are scenes involving the ongoing religious changes that begin with the dissolution and climax with the partial destruction of a Dunwich church. Destiny’s Tide is also a tale of secrets, jealousy, and betrayal. Since most naval stories focus on later historical periods, it is refreshing to be to an earlier era when a temporary navy safeguards the realm and we see it begin to evolve into the royal navy we are familiar with today.

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History behind the novel: England's Atlantis

Review Copyrighted ©2019 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: Battle's Flood
Battle’s Flood
By J. D. Davies
Canelo, 2019, e-book ISBN 978-1788632317, US $5.99, UK £2.99


England in 1555 differs from the one in which Jack Stannard fought the Scots and witnessed the death of his friend aboard the Mary Rose. Henry VIII is dead; his daughter, Mary, sits upon the throne and expects her first child. Her husband is King Philip of Spain, but in spite of the peace between both countries, he has no desire to allow his wife’s people to venture into realms he deems the total domain of Spain, namely the New World and Africa. Not all Englishmen agree with this, chief among them being the Hawkins.

It is also a time when Catholicism once again holds sway, much to the delight of Jack and his daughter, Meg. Love blossoms between her and a young Spaniard whose father is friends with hers. Hope and prosperity give rise to great expectations, but that which is today isn’t necessarily true on the morrow.

The passing of twelve years brings many such changes. The Virgin Queen rules England and has restored the faith of her father to the land, much to Meg’s chagrin. She holds out hope that it is a temporary aberration, one that will change once again when Mary Queen of Scots succeeds her cousin Elizabeth. Jack, on the other hand, and his eldest son Tom are involved in the business of smuggling arms to France, where Protestant Huguenots are stockpiling arms for the day when the Catholic monarchy allies with Spain to stamp out the heretics. While Tom has been raised mostly in the Protestant church, his father retains many Catholic tendencies, and it is those that come to the attention of Francis Walsingham, the queen’s spymaster.

John Hawkins’s new expedition to Guinea and possibly the Caribbean is purported to be a trading venture into Spanish domains, but it has an ulterior purpose known only to a few. Walsingham wants Jack to accompany the expedition. Although hostilities with Spain are on the distant horizon, England is unprepared to wage war at this time. Therefore, Jack must do whatever he can to keep Hawkins from breaking the fragile peace between the two countries, and to keep a detailed record of everything that happens. Such unfamiliar waters to Jack and Tom require them to hire a skilled, black Portuguese, who is somewhat abrasive at times. But the voyage gets off to a rocky start; foreign ships entering the port fail to salute and a tavern brawl creates animus between Tom and Francis Drake, who one day vows to get revenge. And venturing to strange lands with unfamiliar customs and unknown dangers adds to the perils Jack and Tom face.

Such a journey means a lengthy separation from family and friends, so Jack puts Meg in charge of the family business. She tries to warn him that her stepmother is up to no good, but time prevents him from heeding the warning. Having despised and distrusted her stepmother from the moment they first met, Meg slowly unravels the intrigue and discovers that Jennet is in league with Jack’s most hated enemy. To thwart her stepmother, Meg devises a plan of her own, one that will protect the business, her father, and the secret she guards.

Battle’s Flood is the second title in the Jack Stannard of the Navy Royal trilogy. While the prologue takes place in 1555, the majority of the story takes place between 1567 and 1569. The backdrop for the story is Hawkins’s third voyage to collect slaves in Africa and then sell them to Spanish colonists in the New World. Yet even that one event did not occur in a void, as Davies shows as he deftly weaves the tumultuous European history into this tale in ways that make it easy to understand the intricacies of trying to survive in a world verging on war. He drops you into the midst of a battle or a storm at sea with just enough description that then compels your imagination to vividly fill-in the details. Peaceful interludes are woven into engrossing and sometimes nail-biting action, rife with mutiny, poisoned arrows, tribal warfare, the slave trade, smuggling, cannibalism, love lost, betrayal, enmity, feuds, scheming, regrets, and so much more. Equally compelling is his historical note, not only because he provides the history behind the fiction but also because he addresses inconvenient truths, thorny issues, and his treatment of these in the book. While history books discuss these events and recount the unfortunate circumstances that result in the abandonment of so many, those accounts are often mere words on a page. In Battle’s Flood, Davies brings to life the infamous and the famous, and transports you back to the sixteenth century in a way that makes you feel as if you are there.


Book review Copyright ©2020 by Cindy Vallar


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