Dewey Lambdin,
The Naval Adventures of Alan Lewrie #5: The Gun Ketch
(Fawcett, 1993)

It is odd, after several books of rampant womanizing in the Alan Lewrie series, to find The Gun Ketch opening with young Alan's wedding to the lady Caroline Chiswick, one of his many loves and paramours.

The book, set in 1788, finds Lewrie occupied in naval affairs during a time of relative peace. Britain, for a change, is not at war with France or the United States, so much of the navy is idled. Lewrie, however, is serving in the Bahamas squadron, wife in tow, while attempting to deal with the scourge of piracy there aboard the two-masted, 10-gun ketch Alacrity. A lieutenant in rank, Lewrie is captain of the small sloop-grade vessel, with Arthur Ballard -- an unknown quantity, but likely far more restrained and refined than young Alan -- acting as his sole officer.

For those who have read the previous books in the series and have grown accustomed to Lewrie's womanizing ways, never fear -- there is still plenty of sex in these pages. In fact, if you're at all put off by a wayward protagonist who is casually unfaithful to his new bride, you might not want to crack the spine on this one.

Then again, Lewrie's flawed nature is at the heart of this series, and it would defy believability to transform him between one book and the next into an upright paragon of virtue. What matters most, from my point of view, is the naval action and the atmosphere it creates. Author Dewey Lambdin excels here, crafting a story that is credible, thrilling and ultimately realistic as Lewrie tries fruitlessly to enforce the Navigation Act, a collection of restrictive laws that sought to give Britain advantages in international trade. That might sound like dull stuff, put that way, but wrap it up in a story with sailing ships and pirates, and you've got a novel worth reading.

book review by
Tom Knapp

23 January 2016

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