This section contains reviews of books by David Hayes and members of the forum

Richard Spilman Review: Turn a Blind Eye by Alaric Bond

Turn a Blind EyeOriginally published on the The Old Salt Blog

Alaric Bond, in his latest novel, Turn A Blind Eye, vividly captures the complex and often contradictory world of a seaside village caught between loyalty, prosperity, treachery and murder. It is 1801, on the coast of Sussex. England is at war with the French and its own countrymen. Commander Griffin, new to the customs service has much to learn. He commands the light but agile revenue cutter Bee in action against the often more heavily gunned French and their local smuggler allies. The even greater danger, however, may be ashore. At least at sea, he has a reasonable idea who is his enemy. Ashore, who can be trusted and who cannot, is not quite so clear.

The local fishermen can earn far more smuggling than they can catching fish. Nevertheless, for the fishing village, it may be a devil's bargain as the ruthless criminal gang behind the smuggling operation may demand a higher price than the village is willing to pay. For how long with they be able to simply "turn a blind eye?"

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Review: The Lion of Midnight by J. D. Davies

The Lion of MidnightAs you might expect from a naval novel with the title The Lion of Midnight, this latest instalment of the 'Journals of Matthew Quinton' by historian J. D. Davies carves a new path in the annals of naval fiction.

As I have said before the navies of the 1660's were very different with courtiers rather than professional sailors making command decisions and in this case we are looking at the intrigues of the Swedish court as well. Sweden at the time was a country with a relatively small population compared with it's European neighbours and it was going through a 'golden age; for it's military prowess. It had conquered nearby lands and was respected as a strong military power. Into this mix is thrown Matthew Quinton on a mission to escort a fleet of mast ships home, some diplomatic passengers, a peer of the realm who had signed Charles I's death warrant and an old nemesis of Matthew.

Davies uses his historical accuracy to bring to life 1660's Gothenburg and the plotting of the various European powers in relation to one another and to Sweden in a well developed plot. Quite a bit of the book is spent on land but this does not detract and as you would expect from this author there is a well written climactic sea battle to keep HNF fans happy.

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Linda Collison Review: Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's England by Roy Adkins & Lesley Adkins

Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's EnglandAuthors of numerous history books, the Adkins have a knack for finding fascinating first-hand accounts to illustrate history in a vivid way. As they showed us life belowdecks on a British warship in Jack Tar; Life in Nelson's Navy, so do they recreate daily life for the middlin' to poor sort living ashore in the same era.

Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's England gives us a look at the everyday lives of the people in Jane Austen's world. Using bits of letters, diaries, travel journals, ballads, recipes, court proceedings, newspaper notices and other records, Roy and Lesley Adkins enlighten us with tidbits of English social history -- many of them quite surprising.

Using snippets from Jane's contemporaries the authors shed light on such institutions and customs as marriage, divorce, contraception and extramarital affairs, childbirth and childrearing, food, fashion and hygiene, transportation, education, leisure activities, religion, superstitions -- and death.

Impeccably researched and eminently readable, Eavesdropping on Jane Austen is a book to read from cover to cover -- or to be browsed at random. Highly recommended, along with the book, Jack Tar: Life in Nelson's Navy 

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Richard Spilman Review: Judas Island by Joan Druett

Judas IslandOriginally published on the The Old Salt Blog

Joan Druett's Judas Island, the first book of her Promise of Gold trilogy, is a delightful mix of nautical adventure, romance and droll comedy.

In the novel, Harriet Gray, an eighteen year old British actress, finds herself abandoned on the deck of the brig Gosling, a ship whose ownership is unclear and which is under the command of Jake Dexter, a captain who technically may be a pirate, even if he does not think of himself as such. The crew is a motley band of treasure seekers, now highly distracted by the lovely young actress who stands before them. The Gosling is anchored off the brooding Judas Island. Captain Dexter and his crew are trying to unravel the island's mysteries and find the treasure that is rumored to be be hidden somewhere on its shores, although to no avail. Harriet impetuously buys her way into the band of adventurers and induces them to sail to Valparaiso in search of her brother, who is rounding up a herd of alpaca, which she promises the crew will bring them all riches.

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Review: Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's England by Roy Adkins & Lesley Adkins

Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's EnglandIn their book Jack Tar: Life in Nelson's Navy Roy & Lesley Adkins explored the life of the ordinary sailor in the ships of the Napoleonic wars, but what was life like when they were ashore and for their families left behind? Naval fiction books will often depict the shore life of officers and their servants but the life of the ordinary seaman is usually restricted to visiting inns and brothels. In their new book, Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's England: How Our Ancestors Lived Two Centuries Ago Roy & Lesley explore what life ashore was really like for all sections of society.

The book makes extensive use of personal letters, diaries and manuscripts of the time, Jane Austen's being the most famous, to provide a detailed view of the everyday existence and experiences of the population. To explore the differences between the classes the book is divided into sections which explore each aspect such as "Wedding Bells", "Sermons and Superstitions" and "Leisure and Pleasure". The world of young people is also covered in "Toddler to Teenager"

This is an authoritative work which gave me a real insight into the day to day lives that produced and supported our seamen or the vast industries that provided the ships and supplies. It will become required reading for anyone interested in Georgian life and for prospective authors of novels set in the period. Recommended

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Review: Hornblower and the Island by James Keffer

Hornblower and the IslandThis latest attempt to continue the Hornblower series of the late great C. S. Forester, Hornblower and the Island by James Keffer, sees the famous sailor tasked with controlling Napoleon during his exile on St. Helena.

Forester's Hornblower is arguably one of the most famous characters in nautical literature so in seeking to take up this batten the author sets himself a difficult task. The strength of the Hornblower series for me was his character and the way Forester wrote about him thinking through his problems whilst pacing the deck and I think Keffer managed to capture this well. The book also needs to be placed in the timeline correctly with accurate references to the back story and supporting characters and again this was achieved with one surprising and enjoyable inclusion. I won't spoil the surprise by revealing it, you will just have to buy the book and find out.

The bulk of the plot takes place on the island and is essentially about the interaction of the two main characters Hornblower and Napoleon. If what you seek in a Hornblower novel is strong nautical sequences such as survival of the hurricane in Hornblower in the West Indies or naval action such as the Lydia's epic battle with Natividad you wont find it here with 'at sea' time being limited to the journey to the island. That said the plot was well written and I found it hard to put down. 

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