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The History of Maritime Piracy

Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425

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Books for Adults ~ Fiction

Kydd               Artemis               Seaflower               Mutiny               Quarterdeck               Tenacious

Command               The Admiral's Daughter               Treachery               Invasion              Victory

Conquest               Betrayal               Caribbee


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                    Art: Kydd
Kydd
by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2022, ISBN 978-1-4930-6880-7, US $19.95


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After a long day at work in his family’s wig shop, Thomas Kydd sits in a pub, minding his own business. A press gang waltzes in. forever altering his path in life. He’s whisked aboard the Duke William, an old ship-of-the-line bound for Spithead where the Royal Navy fleet gathers before setting sail to wage war against France in 1793. Rated a landman, Thomas finds his life is no longer his own. It belongs to King George, and no one in this new domain cares whether he lives or dies. He is alone. He has no friends. He is totally out of his element. It is up to him alone to fit in, to find his way in an alien world, until one man, Joe Bowyer, takes him under his wing with a warning: stay a landman and remain mired in the anger and despondency overwhelming him, or pull himself out of the dregs to become a seaman.

Kydd takes Joe’s advice to heart and discovers he has a knack for sailing . . . if he survives. There are rumors that the captain is a Jonah. The ship leaks. Each day brings new trials: suicide, murder, piracy, treachery, battles on land fighting alongside French Royalists or at sea against Revolutionists, imprisonment, betrayal, desertion, menacing French privateers, and fire.

With the mastery of a virtuoso, Stockwin delivers a seamless tale that ensnares the reader in whatever Kydd sees, hears, feels, and experiences, be it a ferocious flogging, the depths of despair, men fomenting mutiny, or the brutality of war. Readers quickly find themselves transported back to the late eighteenth century. No punches are pulled. No incidents betray the readers’ sense of believability. Kydd is a deftly woven and riveting sea story that refuses to let go once the grappling hooks are thrown. When the last page is turned, readers yearn for the next book in the Kydd Sea Adventures.



Review Copyright ©2022 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: Artemis
Artemis
by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2022, ISBN 978-1-4930-6881-4, US $19.95

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Six months have passed since Thomas Kydd was pressed into the Royal Navy. He has risen through skill and courage to become an able seaman. His mess mates have helped him through thick and thin: Renzi (his educated and logical friend), Stirk (a tough gun captain), Doud (an easygoing topman), Doggo (a wild but ugly able seaman), Pinto (a well-groomed yet deadly Iberian), and Wong (an enigmatic circus strongman). Together, they embark on Artemis, a frigate captained by Black Jack Powlett, in this second in the Thomas Kydd Sea Adventures.

After a harrowing sea battle – replete with broadsides and hand-to-hand combat – with the French Citoyenne, Artemis returns victorious, but wounded, to England where Kydd meets the king and reunites with his sister. Cecila’s news of home is not good; their father’s eyesight is failing and Kydd must take over the wig shop to support the family. He thought he had finally found his path in life; now, he must give up his love for the sea. It seems a harsh sentence, one that will be akin to life in prison, but Renzi is certain they will find a solution. The question is whether they will do so before Artemis sails after repairs are made.

Between Renzi and Cecila, a remedy is found in the nick of time. When their frigate weighs anchor in August 1793, Kydd and his mates find themselves bound for India. Speed is essential, but only the captain knows why. During the voyage, they endure storms at sea, lightning strikes, a crossing-the-line ceremony, monsoons, and encounter Army deserters, a pirate execution, and a woman who drives a wedge between Kydd and Renzi.

India turns out to be only their first destination. From there they sail to China and the Philippines. Their stop in the latter is fraught with peril, since no one knows whether Spain has joined the war as a French ally yet. Kydd and Renzi are both promoted to petty officers, which means new quarters and different mess mates. A stranded scientist with Admiralty orders sends the Artemis on an expedition 2,000 miles away farther into the Pacific and they must reach the island by a specific date. Treachery and turbulence earmark this stopover where they encounter cannibals and an American marooned on the island for four years.

From a journey to the far side of the world to navigating the Roaring 40s, the Furious 50s, and the Screaming 60s, Stockwin once again delivers a masterful and galvanizing adventure that provides us with numerous you-are-there experiences alongside Kydd. Some scenes are nightmarish. Others allow us to feel as bereft as he does. We readily identify with how changes impact existing ways of life and some professions become antiquated. The final episode in this circumnavigation of the world is riveting and disquieting, compelling us to read the next installment of Kydd’s exploits in the Royal Navy.



Review Copyright ©2022 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: Seaflower
Seaflower
by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2022, ISBN 978-1-4930-6881-4, US $19.95


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With the demise of the Artemis, Thomas Kydd finds himself the key witness in the upcoming court martial of her only surviving officer. His last visit to England involved a hero’s welcome and grand celebrations. Now, he and his surviving mates are virtual prisoners, instead of being given leave to visit family. Then, on an April night in 1794, they are whisked aboard a lumbering, decaying warship bound for the Caribbean. There will be no trial, no testimony, no one to blame for the shipwreck. The underhandedness leaves a bitter taste in the survivors’ mouths, but what recourse do they have against the Admiralty?

Their destination is Guadeloupe, currently under the occupation of British troops working with French royalists. Kydd and his friend, Nicholas Renzi, quarter in the town with a family still loyal to the monarchy, but fear of retribution permeates their lives. Rebels and insurgents inhabit other parts of the island and, when fighting resumes, the British and royalists are unable to stop the enemy’s advance. A mass evacuation ensues with much chaos, during which Kydd and Renzi become separated. Renzi accompanies the exiles on a different ship for Jamaica; Kydd helps his countrymen evade their pursuers, knowing that death awaits him if they are caught.

Kydd and his comrades are rescued just in time, but not without casualties. No sooner is he safe aboard Trajan once again than a hurricane strikes. Afterward, he is tasked with sailing the damaged vessel to the dockyard in Antigua for repairs; instead, the shipwright condemns the warship and Kydd finds himself ashore with a new assignment, Master of the King’s Negroes. Although he enjoys learning the construction side of shipping, he feels out of his depth in managing slaves who accomplish tasks he has little knowledge of. He longs to return to the sea, where his true talents will be most useful. The master shipwright is a religious man with strict rules. When Kydd violates one of them, he commits an unforgivable sin and is once again adrift.

A chance encounter with an admiral leads to Renzi working as a writer in Spanish Town, Jamaica. Most days he duplicates orders and tends to mundane matters. On rare occasions he translates French newspapers and papers that might contain nuggets of intelligence for the admiral. Renzi dislikes his assignment, but it suits his despondency over the loss of Kydd whom he believes died as the insurgents overran Guadaloupe.

Reunion is a constant theme throughout this story, not just with shipmates, but also with family. Fire at sea, ship engagements, a cutting out episode, and good leaders versus bad ones are some of Kydd’s many adventures this time around. His education continues in ways that provide readers with an understanding of life in the navy. He also has the opportunity to see impressment from the flip side; instead of being a victim, he is charged with acquiring a crew from amongst very reluctant men.

The mark of a great storyteller is one who consistently captures the mood of the story in ways that allow readers to experience firsthand the highs and lows the characters face whether these involve the pain of flogging, the misery of yellow fever, the bleakness of being landbound, the drudgery of paperwork, or nerve-wracking reconnaissance. Julian Stockwin is such an author. At the same time, he spins his tale with succinct writing and tantalizing action. Seaflower catches the reader in its web from the first page and doesn’t let go until the last. Even then the reader is left wanting more, which in this case is possible because this is but the third title in the Kydd Sea Adventures series.




Review Copyright ©2022 Cindy Vallar

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Cover
                                Art: Mutiny
Mutiny

by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2022, ISBN 978-1-4930-6883-8, US $19.95
Also available in e-book format

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Thomas Kydd, now a master’s mate, returns in this fourth book that takes place in 1797. His promotion means he and his friend have separated. While Nicholas Renzi is aboard a 74-gun ship-of-the-line, Thomas serves on Achilles (64) where he makes a new friend, who doesn’t always approve of what Thomas does. He finds his mood turning morose from being separated from Nicholas. This changes somewhat after two encounters. One involves a married woman, and the other a drunken, but veteran, sailor with a low opinion of the Royal Navy.

The fortuitous arrival of Nicholas’s vessel reunites the two friends and, when the opportunity presents itself to forego the mindless routine of being anchored at Gibraltar, they volunteer for a special mission to Venice. Being circumspect is a necessary part of their assignment, which proves both a blessing and a hindrance. It is carnivale, a time when everyone wears masks, which makes it difficult to tell friend from foe. Renzi is acquainted with the city and speaks Italian, but the visit stirs up memories that drive a wedge between him and Thomas, as well as the others accompanying them. An additional complication is a clandestine pact between Austria and France that impacts Venice and endangers their lives and their freedom.

When Kydd finally returns to Achilles, he finds an unhappy ship. Some crew replacements are men given little choice in joining the navy. With orders to return to England, the ship sails for home. Thomas senses the brewing tempest, and news of the fleet’s mutiny at Spithead merely adds to his growing unease. The captain’s attempt to forestall the men from joining that ill-fated revolt backfires when the ships anchored at Nore also rise up against the Admiralty. Conflicted, Thomas wavers between being an officer now and a seaman before, until a new love interest, a dishonest gentleman, and a charismatic mutineer push him closer and closer to a fateful decision.

This volume in the Thomas Kydd novels focuses more on the mental and behavioral aspects of sea life, particularly as they affect Thomas and Nicholas. Each portrayal differs based on each man’s character traits and past experiences, with striking differences and similarities that strain their friendship almost to the breaking point. Rather than concentrate on the better-known mutiny at Spithead, Stockwin portrays the subsequent insurrection at Nore. The seamen’s discontent is justified, but the Admiralty’s response differs between the two anchorages. This is convincingly shown via scene shifts between London and Nore, as well as the almost palpable tug-of-war waging within Kydd. Equally well-rendered are the confusion and precariousness of carnivale, and the tragic death that leads to Thomas’s first true encounter with love. Commodore Horatio Nelson and Kydd’s first fleet action are artfully entwined with the major story threads. Mutiny provides readers with the feel of being swept into a maelstrom where the only way to endure is to hold on tight and hope to survive.



Review Copyright ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: Quarterdeck
Quarterdeck
by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2022, ISBN 978-1-4930-6884-5, US $19.95
Also available in e-book format

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Following the Battle of Camperdown (October 1797), Thomas Kydd is promoted to lieutenant and assigned to HMS Tenacious, a 64-gun ship-of-the-line. He and his friend, Nicholas Renzi (who now holds the same rank), head to Kydd’s home while the ship undergoes repairs. During this leave, Thomas realizes that if he’s to succeed as a king’s officer, he needs to acquire the traits of a gentleman. An assignment that falls to Nicholas, who believes the request reasonable but nigh unto impossible. Still, with dogged determination, Thomas perseveres and benefits when his sister helps add further polish to his social graces.

When Kydd finally meets his new commander, all his hard work and practice cannot erase the fact that he is a tarpaulin officer (one who begins his career as a seaman who lives on the lower deck). Captain Houghton wants only gentleman officers, men he can rely on to represent the ship and the country appropriately. Therefore, Thomas is being reassigned . . . until urgent orders arrive that prevent that. Consequently, he becomes Tenacious’s fifth lieutenant, the most junior and the one responsible for the signal flags.

Assigned to the North American station, Tenacious leads a convoy of merchant ships west to Halifax. Not even out of sight of England, French privateers cut out slower vessels and it is Kydd who alerts the captain to this intrusion. As the voyage progresses, Thomas feels more and more like an outsider, someone who doesn’t belong among the other officers in the wardroom. It doesn’t help that Nicholas easily fits in and has found someone new with whom to have philosophical discussions. Before long, Thomas feels as if he’s caught between a world in which he doesn’t belong and one to which he can never return.

A misstep in reading the signal flags doesn’t help the situation; it merely serves to intensify the isolation and loneliness that he feels. Yet, what he doesn’t understand is that while he may lack all the social graces that the other officers have, he has knowledge and experience they lack because he has “come aft by the hawse.” This expertise comes in handy when he commands a ship’s boat amidst an ice field blanketed by fog from which the French emerge and fierce hand-to-hand combat ensues.

Thomas’s attitude begins to change during a dinner conversation on the admiral’s ship. Instead of worrying about his social station, he concentrates on becoming as informed as possible about global affairs and how events in one place affect events elsewhere in the world. Then someone from his past emerges who threatens his ability to lead men. Only his knowledge of life on the lower deck allows Thomas to effectively deal with the situation. An encounter with a French frigate with unexpected armament requires his knowledge of navigation and working in a shipyard to protect Achilles and those who serve on her.

Quarterdeck is an excellent account of what it is like to be a fish out of water in a world totally foreign to all that you know. It also shows the intricacies of what is required to be a lieutenant. Along the way, Kydd encounters three people who will influence his life in unexpected ways. One is a relative he has never met. The second is an American who wants the new United States Navy to be as successful as the Royal Navy. The third is a woman whose presence at a royal ball is “either inspired deviltry or the purest ignorance!” (312)

While readers may be unaware of the fact that one aspect of writing is to show how a character matures and changes between the beginning and end of a story, Stockwin does a superb job demonstrating this character arc in Quarterdeck. This allows us to experience the full gamut of emotions that Kydd does, while at the same time, we readily identify with each because in one way or another we've felt the same way.



Review Copyright ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art:
                                    Tenacious
Tenacious
by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2022, ISBN 978-1-4930-6885-2, US $19.95
Also available in e-book format

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In the year since the mutiny at the Nore, Thomas Kydd has gone from seaman to lieutenant and is now accepted as an equal among his fellow officers. His ship, the 64-gun Tenacious, is recalled from Halifax to support Admiral the Earl St. Vincent off the coast of Spain. As they sail across the Atlantic, Thomas sets his sights on a new goal of commanding his own ship, but the problem is how to achieve it. His friend Nicholas Renzi wrestles with a different dilemma, whether to continue in the navy or return to the life from which he exiled himself five years earlier.

General Buonaparte has his own plans of action. Barges large enough to land troops are being built in northern French ports and soldiers are massing on the coast. It seems he intends to put to sea, but for where? Whispers of Constantinople, of Egypt, of England are all possibilities, but where exactly is Napoleon once he successfully evades the British blockade?

This sixth entry in the Kydd Sea Adventure series incorporates a sequence of key incidents during the waning years of the French Revolution: the royals’ flight from Naples with the aid of the Royal Navy; the devastating fleet action at Aboukir Bay; a secret mission to capture Minorca; and the siege of Acre. Kydd emulates Nelson in hopes of getting noticed with a daring suggestion that evens the odds during the Minorcan expedition, and leading a contingent of seamen in a desperate bid to prevent Napoleon from reaching Constantinople. Along the way, he discovers what type of leader he wants to be and comes to terms with the consequences of betrayal.

Steadfast, stubborn, and resolute are synonyms of “tenacious,” a word that applies both to a warship and the men who serve on her. Stockwin allows his readers to stand side by side with the characters as they endure this riveting and harrowing account of a world at war.




Review Copyright ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art:
                                    Command
Command
by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2023, ISBN 978-1-4930-7127-2, US $19.95
Also available in e-book format

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It is early in the first decade of the 19th century. England still fights the French. William Pitt is no longer prime minister. King George once again suffers madness. And no matter what Thomas Kydd does, Captain Rowley finds fault with it. They share a past, one as treacherous as a rogue wave on a storm-swept sea. This latest incident sees Kydd relieved of duty and awaiting the admiral’s decision on charges of dereliction. He expects to be tossed out of the Royal Navy; instead, he receives orders to hie to Malta and take command of a new brig-sloop. Although this is the backwater of the Mediterranean, with little chance of engaging the enemy and advancing his career, nothing dampens his spirit. He has achieved a dream: being the indisputable commander of his own ship, and what a fine vessel is HM Sloop Teazer.

His orders are many-fold, especially for a single vessel, but he is determined to carry them out to the best of his ability. He conveys dispatches and important passengers, escorts small convoys, protects trade, renders service to the civil government of Malta, and harries the enemy. Three familiar faces join him in these endeavors: his servant Tysoe, Midshipman Bowden, and Toby Stirk (a former mate and gun captain of Seaflower). Gone, however, is Nicholas Renzi, and it’s possible the two friends may not encounter one another again.

As always, nothing is as simple as it appears. Time and again, Kydd must rely on his astuteness and lessons learned from past mistakes to deal with sticky situations, such as one vessel to protect a convoy of twenty-seven, Barbary corsairs, and a cunning but brutal French privateer. All while taking individual seamen and melding them into a cohesive unit that works and fights together as one.

Stockwin excels at showing readers the isolation and loneliness of command, as well as the profound responsibility that rests on Commander Kydd’s shoulders. This is also a tale of what it takes to fit out a new ship and what happens when peace comes, ships are decommissioned, and officers find themselves out of work. This leaves Kydd in a quandary because the navy is his life, but it also offers opportunity that sees him in command of a ship transporting convicts and settlers halfway round the world. Instead of glossing over less-than-glamourous aspects of life, Stockwin seamlessly incorporates them into Kydd’s life in ways that serve to mentor Kydd as a leader of men who must make life and death decisions that affect those who serve under him. Neither does Stockwin neglect Renzi, but his path in life profoundly shifts after a near-death experience. Command, the seventh offering in the Kydd Sea Adventures, provides a startling contrast between life in the Royal Navy and merchant marine, as well as providing glimpses of what awaits those who find themselves forging new lives in Australia.




Review Copyright ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: The Admiral's
                                        Daughter
The Admiral’s Daughter
by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2023, ISBN 978-1-4930-7152-4, US $19.95
Also available in e-book format

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Peace does not bode well for Thomas Kydd in 1803, because he stands adrift on English soil since his return from Australia. Although pressed into the Royal Navy, it has become his life and he desperately wants to return to its fold. The peace, however, is tenuous and the powers that be in London have decided it is better to declare war anew first rather than allow Napoleon Bonaparte to proceed with his plan to dominate the world. Kydd receives a summons to appear in Plymouth, but by the time he arrives there, the admiral has few ships to offer him. He opts for one that he knows well, HM Sloop Teazer, his last command. He also secures permission for Nicholas Renzi, now a civilian, to accompany him aboard Teazer as his secretary. (A position that allows Renzi time to work on his study of natural philosophy with an aim to write a book that will shed new light on this topic.)

As the ship is readied for duty, Kydd must hurriedly set sail with less-than-a-full complement for France. It is vital that British citizens leave before Napoleon learns of the imminent declaration of war. But it is a race against time because Napoleon has already issued arrest orders for any English found in France. Through luck and ingenuity, Kydd and most of his crew escape aboard Teazer with their rescued passengers.

After returning to his new home base at Plymouth, Kydd meets with his commander, Admiral Sir Reginald Lockwood. He is in charge of protecting the coast of England, and Kydd is assigned to patrol from Weymouth to the Isles of Scilly. His primary task is to stop enemy privateers and warships from attacking coastal vessels. Secondary duties include delivering dispatches, important passengers, and unusual cargo to wherever they may be needed, as well as to work with the Revenue to stop smugglers. This is Kydd’s first time to sail in home waters, so there is a learning curve to master, and the chance for fame and glory is minimal. But this assignment allows him to be in total command, away from the watchful eye of superiors.

Privileges and responsibilities come with his new command, some of which find him not at sea but on land. As an officer in command of his own vessel, he is expected to have a real home and to entertain . . . at least this is what his sister Cecila tells him. He also needs to look to his attire; he must have suitable civilian fashion to mix and mingle at social affairs. At one of these parties, he meets Persephone Lockwood, the admiral’s daughter. They are attracted to each other, even though her family has ties to the royal court. Two problems arise as their relationship grows serious: her mother is determined to separate the lovers, and a sojourn with Renzi brings someone new, who quickly becomes an obsession, into Kydd’s life.

This eighth volume in the Kydd Sea Adventures offers readers a wealth of experiences rarely encountered in other naval adventures (a tour of Plymouth Dockyard, what occurs when a ship is caught in a ground sea, and a church service at sea). His nemeses this time around are himself, a brutal French privateer whose knowledge of England’s coast is beyond remarkable, and a mystery man who has organized the smugglers over a wide region in ways that allow them to evade capture. There is a nail-biting chase that results in a difficult choice. There are several confrontations with Renzi, one that threatens to dissolve their friendship once and for all. A dangerous mission results in friendly fire from a frigate off a treacherous section of the French coast. Someone from Kydd’s past provides surreptitious clues about how smugglers work and ventures undercover into their perilous enterprise. Readers experience the frustrating futility that Kydd and his men do as they watch a merchant ship wreck and are unable to rescue her crew. There is the promise of retribution to come, as well as devastating grief. The Admiral’s Daughter is a blend of highs and lows that will affect each reader in different ways. It is consummate storytelling that is not to be missed.




Review Copyright ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: Treachery
Treachery
by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2023, ISBN 978-1-4930-7154-8, US $19.95
Also available in e-book format

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Neither Kydd nor Renzi are in good places when this latest Kydd Sea Adventure begins. Renzi suffers from guilt for abandoning his friend when he needed him most. Kydd wallows in grief at the sudden loss of his beloved. Renzi makes a new vow to help Kydd, but it takes an encounter with footpads and the press gang to draw Kydd sufficiently out of his anguish to at least do his duty as captain of Teazer.

This Thomas Kydd is not the one that his men admire and willingly follow. This is a harsh, unyielding commander who demands immediate obedience. As a result, unease and possible mutiny ripple through the crew, though Kydd is too blinded to see or listen to Renzi’s warnings. It takes another to turn the tide before it’s too late.

Teazer and her crew have been relegated to the isolated station of the Channel Islands, where Admiral Saumarez is in charge. For Renzi, this provides him with new opportunities to continue his research. For Kydd, he is given a chance to show his mettle; Saumerez judges by deeds and courage instead of hearsay and innuendo. Kydd accepts the chance to prove himself worth; in doing so, he draws the ire of those who have been on station longer than he has. Then Kydd receives secret orders, which he successfully carries out. Upon returning to home port, his ship is boarded and he is accused of smuggling, which is against Admiralty rules. And the admiral denies ever giving him secret orders.

Treachery* is the tale of what happens when an officer loses his command and must seek employment on land. It is also about backstabbing and vowing to clear one’s name, as well as following paths that go against one’s beliefs. Privateering and espionage play key roles in these struggles. The machinations behind a plot to kidnap Napoleon Bonaparte show the tenuous scheming between the English government, French émigrés, and French royalists. The action is riveting and the emotions are profound. Internal struggles play out alongside external ones. This ninth title in the series is one that fans will enjoy not only for these reasons but also because it delves further into multi-dimensions of character.


Meet the author


*This book was previously published under the title of The Privateer's Revenge.


Review Copyright ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: Invasion
Invasion
by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2023, ISBN 978-1-4930-7127-2, US $19.95
Also available in e-book format

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Having cleared his name, Thomas Kydd returns to his beloved Teazer albeit with a new first lieutenant who is reliable but neither ambitious nor innovative. Orders return them to the coast of France to search for enemy vessels. These are to be destroyed or taken in any way possible, for Napoleon is preparing to invade England and the Royal Navy is the country’s first line of defense. Upon encountering an enemy escorting a British prize, Kydd attempts a night boarding to retake the ship. The unsuccessful bid results in Nicholas Renzi, Kydd’s longtime friend and ship’s clerk, to suggest an alternative. The risk is high, but Kydd takes the chance. The result makes Admiral Saumarez realize that Kydd and Teazer are needed elsewhere where they can be used to better effect.

Kydd’s new orders assign him to Admiral Keith’s Downs Squadron, situated near the English Channel and close to the action. A brief meeting with his commanding officer makes it clear that on this station, Kydd’s first duty is to destroy the enemy no matter what. First, though, he must learn exactly what he faces and how dire the situation is for his country. This takes him to London where he becomes privy to closely guarded information about Napoleon’s plans and capabilities, as well as English plans to thwart the invasion. The newspapers are also rife with rumors of all sorts of strange inventions that the French emperor will use to achieve his goal of conquering England. Kydd’s secret meetings reveal that anything, even the most preposterous idea, may indeed be possible. Before long, he discovers the reality of this and the dilemma it poses to the way naval wars are fought.

During this time, Kydd returns home to visit his family. The experience makes him realize just how much he has changed since he first departed Guilford as a wigmaker. He decides if he wishes to go any further in his career, he must reenter society. To that end he hires a special tutor to turn him into the gentleman he must be to hobnob with those with power and influence.

Renzi, on the other hand, is summoned to a secret tête-à-tête to which not even Admiral Keith is privy. He is asked to participate in the negotiations for a prisoner exchange, although this is merely a cover for his real purpose. The cartel ship will get him into France and while there, he is tasked with finding an inventive American and persuading him to work for the English, whom he detests, instead of Napoleon. Otherwise, Renzi must kill him.


This tenth installment of the Kydd Sea Adventures provides a rousing fresh perspective about the invasion threat that England faced during the Napoleonic Wars. Stockwin draws the reader in with danger and possibilities and then clearly shows the personal struggle that seamen faced as new ideas threaten duty, morality, and traditional rules of engagement. Woven into this excellent tapestry are elements of everyday naval life, such as the savagery of sea combat and hand-to-hand fighting, searching for an AWOL crew member, and edge-of-your-seat lifesaving gambles. At the same time, readers glimpse life in Paris during the war and what it’s like for an enemy to openly walk the streets there. Equally compelling are the scientific inventions that are introduced, the conflicts they arouse, and how personal experiences can be melded with new ideas to provide alternative ways of achieving goals. Along the way, readers meet such historic people as Robert Fulton, William Pitt, Admiral Keith, and Captain Frances Austen (Jane Austen’s brother). Invasion is a thought-provoking experience filled with exploits to interest fans of historical fiction, nautical fiction, and even steampunk.


Review Copyright ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: Victory
Victory
by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2023, ISBN 978-1-4930-7166-1, US $19.95
Also available in e-book format


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After delivering dispatches and mail to blockading ships off Brest, HMS Teazer nears England. A lookout spots a French privateer and Commander Thomas Kydd pursues. Except the enemy is not alone. The privateer lures Teazer into a trap and a French frigate swoops in to capture the English prize. It’s a nail-biting chase that drives Kydd and his crew closer and closer to France, but they refuse to surrender and when it’s over, good men and a good vessel are gone.

With many men of higher rank clamoring for ships to command and with Napoleon’s invasion fleet ready to sail any day, Kydd’s prospects of securing a new vessel are slim to none. Yet each morning he visits the Admiralty in hopes of gaining his desire. Until one day, he receives a note telling him not to return. He faces a future on half pay with no idea of where to turn or what to do, but Nicholas Renzi studies the missive’s wording and a kernel of an idea blossoms. After he and Cecilia Kydd investigate, they launch a surprise befitting a post-captain.

The relationship between Nicholas and Cecilia grows strained in the aftermath of her brother’s promotion. Nicholas doesn’t want to declare his true feelings until he publishes his book and can comfortably support a wife and family. Cecilia is miffed that he refuses to take the plunge after all his hard work. When he does, he experiences a rude awakening regarding publishing and what will and will not sell. Like dominos falling, one crushed dream results in an awareness that another must also die. At the same time, Cecilia begins to wonder if maybe she must let go of her vision for the future as well before it’s too late to have the family and home she desires.

In this eleventh book in the series, Stockwin snares the reader’s attention from the start and the realm of emotions experienced mirrors the crests and troughs of waves during a storm. Other books depict the Battle of Trafalgar, but his use of a midshipman to witness Admiral Lord Nelson’s death resurrects the sorrow and devastation felt then in a way that makes these feelings just as palpable two centuries later.

Equally acute is the opening battle with the two French ships. There’s an immediacy that transports the reader to Teazer’s deck to experience the confusion, the wreckage, the smells, and the sounds that mark the hell that the Teazers undergo, as well as the grief Kydd senses as his beloved ship sinks. Just as profound is Renzi’s shock and dismay that his magnum opus may never be published and the realization he must grapple with as to what that means for his future with Cecilia.

“Victory” is defined as overcoming an enemy, of succeeding in an endeavor against great odds. This novel depicts victory on many levels, in different ways, and with profound passion. It also demonstrates the price that victory, or Victory, must pay in order to triumph over evil. This is a voyage not to be missed, one that will haunt the reader long after the last page is turned.



Review Copyright ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: Conquest
Conquest
by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2023, ISBN 978-1-4930-7168-5, US $19.95
Also available in e-book format

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Soon after the victory at Trafalgar and the death of Lord Horatio Nelson, the Russian tsar and the Austrians capitulate, leaving the Coalition against Napoleon Bonaparte in ruins and Britain once again alone in her struggle against the French. Having escorted Nelson’s body home, Thomas Kydd and his men expect to join the nation in mourning their beloved hero. The Admiralty has other plans. L’Aurore is to rendezvous with Commodore Home Popham. No other information is provided; simply get to Madeira as quickly as possible.

Kydd dislikes being kept in the dark, but the need goes far beyond whatever he may imagine. Napolean began the race for empire, but now that Britain rules the seas, it is time for her to launch her own imperial expansion. The first objective is to take command of Cape Town in south Africa, settled by the Dutch who are now allied with the French.

To maintain secrecy, the fleet sails westward to Brazil, but all does not go as planned. Kydd’s frigate escorts the slower transport ships, while the rest of the fleet continues on as planned. In the dark of night, the dreaded call of “Breakers!” is heard. No sooner is that danger processed than Kydd realizes there is also land to their other side. Trapped with no idea as to where they are and how to extricate themselves from this dangerous situation, Kydd anchors and warns the rest of his flock to do the same. Dawn reveals that not all the ships in his care have weathered as well, so by the time they finally arrive in African waters, the army’s horses, men, and artillery are greatly depleted. Still, there is little else to do but carry on and Kydd is assigned as naval liaison, which means he must go ashore and witness the battle rather than being an active participant – a fact that greatly chafes.

Despite their small amphibious force, the British succeed, almost too easily. It doesn’t take long to discover why the town capitulates so easily – there is but a few days’ worth of food left and starvation threatens. With the help of Nicholas Renzi as Colonial Secretary, General Baird begins work as the new governor. The townsfolk must be won over and there is still the Dutch army who has retreated to a mountain stronghold to deal with. And any day now, French squadrons that patrol the waters around Africa and the Indian Ocean are certain to launch their own attack to reclaim Cape Town for their emperor.

On one coastal patrol, Kydd and his men happen upon a shipwreck with seemingly only one survivor. With the help of a translator, it is soon revealed that others set off on foot. Knowing the dangers these stalwart individuals face, Kydd is determined to find them before they all are lost. That kindness is later returned when information about an impending attack leads Renzi to trek into the wild bush in hopes of verifying the existence of this secret army, while Kydd risks a court-martial and the loss his men’s respect when he abandons a sea fight to discover the true reason for the enemy frigate’s dogged pursuit of them.

This twelfth installment in the Thomas Kydd series provides an exotic locale that is vividly recreated by Stockwin. The perils and beauty are keenly experienced, and the adventures, both at sea and on land, are riveting. There is the mysterious warning of the Ox-eye, a reunion with a circus strongman from Kydd’s past, a reclusive French woman, and a battle in which camels and a fog-horn play key roles. Treachery and intrigue abound, leaving Kydd and Renzi, as well as readers, wondering who to trust. Conquest is thrilling adventure with high stakes that keeps readers on the edge of their seats from beginning to end.



Review Copyright ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: Betrayal
Betrayal
by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2023, ISBN 978-1-4930-7499-0, US $19.95 / UK £ 14.99
ebook ISBN 978-1-4930-7500-3, US $5.99 / UK £5.99

Sneaking around the African jungle in the dark of night isn’t the safest way to take the enemy. After all, there are lions and snakes and animals with horns. The water may be more familiar, but unknown dangers lurk there as well. The French ship has chosen her hiding spot well some distance up the Zambezi River where L’Aurore cannot venture. A frontal assault by boats will be a slaughter, but Captain Thomas Kydd is not to be deterred. It’s vital to discover the location of Admiral Maréchal’s squadron and Nicholas Renzi’s intelligence, acquired from locals, is their first lead. Kydd’s plan is fraught with danger and timing will be key.

Later, Kydd learns the risks have been for naught. Maréchal and his ships have returned to France. Of course, that presents Kydd with another dilemma – one that he gives no thought to until after he meets with his commander, Commodore Home Popham. They are far from home and the war, and with everything going smoothly in Cape Town and its environs, the opportunity to distinguish themselves in ways that will gain them honors, riches, and promotions are just about nil. Has Kydd truly gone from working in a wig shop to commanding his own ship only to have his career stymied?

Never fear, Popham isn’t one to sit on laurels. Prior to Trafalgar, an idea was put forth to the prime minister and received his blessing. It involves taking advantage of the unrest in South America to gain new allies and profit from the seizure of the treasure currently going to, when possible, into Napoleon’s coffers to fund the war. Now is the perfect time to implement that amphibious operation and using a page from Nelson’s handbook, Popham intends to have his squadron sweep across the ocean and seize Montevideo and Buenos Aires for the British just as they did when they conquered Cape Town. With Kydd’s help, they should have no trouble gaining the army’s assistance and swaying the other captains over to their way of thinking. There’s only a slight problem; they will be undertaking this venture without proper orders from the Admiralty. Better to take action and ask for forgiveness later. After all, this will be a cakewalk. What can possibly go wrong?


Stockwin is a master at recreating exotic locales that transport readers back to past places and times. Nowhere is this more evident than in Betrayal, the thirteenth Kydd Sea Adventure. Contrasts between Africa and South America make the latter even more menacing, as do revelations about Popham that Renzi shares with Kydd. Equally engaging, at least to anyone who has ever thought of writing a book, is Renzi’s trials and tribulations once he decides to craft the novel that his friend suggests. As with any creative endeavor, taking an idea and turning it into reality isn’t as easy as it appears. In this regard, Renzi’s writing shines a mirror on the dilemmas that Kydd faces. Patriotic fervor is another theme interwoven into this story. Rather than a coin with two sides, this passion can be multi-faceted and involve intrigue as much as treachery. While Kydd spends a fair portion of his time on land in this tale, the contrivances that place him on water are unique and the action, hair-raising. While stories set during the Napoleonic era are many, Stockwin selects lesser-known aspects of it to provide readers with uncommon undertakings where the risks and the rewards are high.




Review Copyright ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: Caribbee
Caribbee
by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2023, ISBN 978-1-4930-7501-0, US $19.95 / UK £14.99
ebook ISBN 978-1-4930-7502-7, US $5.99 / UK £5.99

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This fourteenth Kydd Sea Adventure returns Captain Thomas Kydd to the Caribbean, which he hasn’t visited since he was press-ganged into the Royal Navy as a seaman. Now, he comes to Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane of the Leeward Islands Squadron for assistance in rescuing captured men in Argentina. Instead, Kydd and L‘Aurore are reassigned to Cochrane’s command since he is woefully short of frigates to protect the all-important sugar trade and to prevent the French from sending theirs to ports where the proceeds can fill Napoleon’s war chest.

Unfortunately, Kydd’s return isn’t all happy. One of the other commanders in the squadron is known to him and not in a good way. Captain Tyrell of the Hannibal was a lieutenant when they first encountered each other and his penchant for strict discipline left a bitter taste in Kydd’s mouth. Now in command of a ship-of-the-line, Tyrell is even more of a martinet, continuing to sow seeds of hatred amongst his crew. Equally unsettling is the fact that Tyrell thinks Kydd familiar but cannot fathom why. Sooner or later, Kydd fears that Tyrell will remember and destroy all that he has worked so hard to attain.


In the meantime, Renzi is plagued with a deep sense of foreboding. Napoleon is not one to take defeat lying down. In the year since Trafalgar, he has had time to plan and foment payback. Renzi fears that when he launches his next attack, it will prove catastrophic. It doesn’t take long for the emperor to reveal his next move, and it brings English trade to a standstill. One of the Jamaican planters affected is none other than Renzi’s brother.


Further complicating British trade in the West Indies is the fact that a pair of mysterious corsairs are seizing British vessels without fear of reprisal. The raiders and their prizes simply vanish and are never heard from again. While Kydd and his men patrol the Caribbean Sea in search of the enemy, Renzi follows through on the thought that a masterful organizer, similar to a spy master, is behind the many French successes. If Renzi can figure out where the enemy’s base of operation is, Kydd and the rest of the squadron can destroy the enemy once and for all.


Caribbee is an engrossing tale that mixes sea adventure and intelligence while contrasting how two men command their ships. One garners loyalty, the other, hatred bordering on mutiny. One aspect of this comparison involves the transfer of one of Kydd’s lieutenants and how he deals with the intolerable situation that he encounters. Interwoven into the central theme of the war and the navy, readers will enjoy noteworthy episodes that include tangling with an underwater volcano, a love interest for Kydd, a bumbling lieutenant who makes an audacious arrival that arouses Kydd’s ire sufficiently to want him transferred off L’Aurore, and a charge of murder that may see Kydd hanged. One of the best so far in the series where readers get reacquainted with people from Kydd and Renzi’s past and jaw-dropping action abounds.




Review Copyright ©2023 Cindy Vallar

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