A portrait of Spanish colonial Havana at a time when the city was flush with sugar wealth and filled with signs of the American Civil War. It is a realistic look at Cuba’s role in the war, and the importance of the scores of blockade running ships- both sail and steam- that ran the gauntlet of the Union blockade from Havana into the Gulf of Mexico.
Rich and convincing ... Lloyd’s research complements his own experiences growing up on the Caribbean island of St. Croix and sailing extensively in that region. Together, they enrich his storytelling and enable him to convincingly transport the reader to a Caribbean Island more than 200 years ago. In so doing, he achieves his goal of providing 'a reasonably accurate depiction of Havana as it was in 1863 at the height of the U.S. Civil War' ... Neither Lloyd nor his protagonist Townsend shy away from the awful reality of slavery that was the backbone of the Cuban sugar plantation economy and the central issue in the Civil War. Lloyd, through Townsend, provides vivid images of slavery’s horrors, aptly referring to the institution as something 'from the devil' ... has plenty of adrenaline-fueled naval action as well as romance, espionage and moral dilemmas. Combined, these construct a fast-paced yet nuanced work of historical fiction based on a rock-solid foundation of exemplary research.
This enjoyable read offers suspense, fast-paced action, and an engaging protagonist placed in a historical setting. The author paints a rich and colorful picture of Havana during the 1860s. It’s a real pleasure to read as tension builds to an exciting climax. I learned more about Cuba and its relationship with the governments of both the Confederacy and the United States. Caught between both worlds, the Cuban merchants tried to trade and make their fortune with both governments. I wasn’t aware of the harsh conditions experienced by the slaves of Cuba, treated as bad as or worse than their American counterparts in the South. Civil War enthusiasts will enjoy this book, as well as readers who like historical nautical fiction.
Exciting ... he shipboard action is exhilarating, and intrigue beckons on land, too, with intertwining subplots about a British diplomat’s unresolved murder, a mystery involving Townsend’s late Cuban mother, and his growing affections for an innkeeper’s daughter. The story eventually leads him straight into the dark, cruel heart of the Cuban economy. This is an involving reading experience for maritime fans and landlubbers alike. One hopes Townsend’s adventures will continue in future books.