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The Bermuda Privateer                The Black Ring

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        Art: The Bermuda Privateer
The Bermuda Privateer: A Nicholas Fallon Sea Novel
By William Westbrook
McBooks Press, September 2017, ISBN 978-1590137444, $22.95

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Someone hidden in shadows pens a secret message, but it falls into Nicolas Fallonís hands while he and his band of misfits cruise off the coast of Portugal. Retired from the British Royal Navy, Nico now commands the privateer Sea Dog. His years of fighting the French imbued the twenty-eight year old Bermudian with a hatred for them, and learning the contents of that missive doesnít bode well for his country.

The news only worsens once Sea Dog returns home. Two of his employerís ships are long overdue and a pirate with a heavily armed frigate wreaks havoc in the Caribbean. Nor does the navy captain sent to hunt this pirate impress Nico as a fighting commander. Not to mention rumors that Spanish treasure is bound for French war coffers.

But his arrival also brings two surprises. Ezra Somers offers him a partnership in his salt-trading business, and Somerís daughter is more friendly than usual. Nico and Elinoreís budding romance must be put on hold, though, because Ezra needs to find out what happened to his missing ships and trusts only Nico to discover the truth, so Sea Dog must go to Grand Turk.

On the island, Ezraís representative shows Nico the various facets of harvesting the salt and managing the office. The ships still have not arrived, and even Nico concludes that they were either lost at sea or taken by pirates. If the latter, how do the pirates know which vessels to attack for greatest gain? His investigations reveal a traitor in their midst, but first he must see that two new merchantmen reach their destination. With the help of their masters and the navy captain who has arrived at Grand Turk, Nico sets in motion a daring, but risky, plan. When the linchpin in his plan fails to carry through, Nico and the Sea Dog pay the price once they engage the pirate frigate and come face to face with her bloodthirsty and slightly insane captain.

Like riding the high crests and deep troughs of a stormy sea, The Bermuda Privateer leaves readers gripping the edge of their seats with little time to catch their breath. From a secret alliance to treasure-laden ships bound for the enemy, Nicholas Fallon and his crew of misfits battle a maniacal pirate and traitorous allies, while forging friendships in unlikely places. Westbrook deftly interlaces history with memorable characters and pirate lore in this debut novel that includes a spellbinding running fight in the midst of a hurricane.

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Review Copyrighted ©2017 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: The
          Black Ring
The Black Ring
By William Westbrook
McBooks Press, 2018, ISBN 978-1590137680, $22.95, CAN $29.95
Also available in e-book formats $9.99 / $11.99

StarStarStarStarStar
Keeping accounts and working in the office are not Nicholas Fallonís cup of tea and after weeks of such busy work, heís more than ready to return to the sea. His partner, Ezra Somers, founded the Somers Salt Company of Bermuda; his daughter, Elinore, is the love of Nicholasís life. When a message requests Nicholasís presence on Antigua, both are wise enough to know that the sea is as vital to him as blood. With his schooner refitted, he collects his crew, including his childhood friend, Beauty, and his coxswain, Aja. Beauty lost her leg in an accident many years ago, but she is the bravest person Nicholas knows and a superb second in command. Aja has grown from the scared, mute boy left to die on a sinking slave ship, to a vital member of the crew with hopes of one day captaining his own vessel.

Upon their arrival at English Harbor in Antigua, Nicholas joins Rear Admiral Harry Davies aboard his flagship. Although Nicholas is not part of the Royal Navy, he has, in the past, assisted them and the two men are good friends. This time Davies asks Nicholas to ferry a senior intelligence agent to Cuba, where the man can quietly slip ashore to discover whether there is sufficient dissatisfaction with Spain to warrant British help in undermining Spanish control of the island. As a privateer, Nicholas can go where the Royal Navy cannot. On a more personal note, Davies requests that Nicholas seek out a woman whom Davies cares for in Matanzas.

Always on the lookout for opportunities to take advantage of his letter of marque, Nicholasís curiosity is aroused when they sight strange sails. The ship far surpasses his schooner in armament and men, but she runs up both a Spanish flag and a white one before asking Nicholas to come aboard. Since England and Spain are at war, it could be a trap, yet he accepts the offer. He doesnít buy the captainís story, and his doubt is confirmed when a passenger slips him a note saying they are actually prisoners. Still, there is more to the situation than the Spanish captain admits, which triggers one of Nicholasís out-of-the-box ideas that results in the capture of the enemy vessel.

Nicholas and his crew also cross paths with pirates led by a ruthless defrocked priest known as the ďHoly One.Ē They intercept secret communications between France and Spain that necessitate a visit to Haiti to warn Touissant Louverture. Then there are the captured runaway slaves and Daviesí friend at Matanzas who ae in need of rescuing before they face a firing squad. Beauty sustains a wound from which she may not recover, and news of her condition results in a deadly encounter with the Holy One for Ezra and Elinore.

Interspersed throughout the book are italicized chapters that recount the tale of a captured African warrior who is sold into slavery. These tell the story of Young David, who eventually crosses paths with Nicholas and Aja. All are vividly drawn, such as the portrayal of the slaverís battle with pirates that unfolds from Davidís perspective while he and the other slaves are chained belowdecks. Several are gut-wrenching depictions of the Middle Passage and life as a slave on Cuba. Yet entwined within them is an everlasting hope to reclaim his freedom, no matter the cost.

The myriad subplots are intriguing and expertly intertwined with the main part of the story. From first page to last, Westbrook snares the reader and doesnít let go in this enthralling second Nicholas Fallon novel that surpasses the first. Spiced with gifted ingenuity and daring escapades, this nautical adventure is not to be missed.


 
Review Copyrighted ©2018 Cindy Vallar

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