Fans of Napoleonic naval action will certainly enjoy sailing with Lieutenant Thomas Kydd, RN in Stockwin’s sixth book in his Kydd Sea Adventure series. Set in the Mediterranean during the French expeditions against Egypt and Syria, Kydd’s service on H.M.S. Tenacious takes him to Toulon, Minorca, the Battle of the Nile, and the siege of Acre. Along the way, he encounters the always intriguing Lady Hamilton, the equally fascinating Admiral Nelson, and the largely forgotten but indefatigable defender of Acre, Sir Sydney Smith.
The historical events occupy center stage, but Stockwin fleshes out the story by continually reminding us that Kydd is designed to portray a living being and not simply a stereotypical hero. The treatment of one of Kydd’s fellow officers, a nobleman named Renzi, who rejects his life of privilege in favor of a man-of-war in wartime, is an unexpected highlight. I may be overstating the case when I say that secondary characters in novels such as this are rarely given the breadth and depth routinely accorded the hero or heroine. Renzi’s noble background is only hinted at in opening chapters, but the tension between this officer determined to make his way in the Royal Navy and his equally stubborn father, who wants him to resume his duties as the eldest son, provide the reader with a well-drawn glimpse into English upper-class life of the time. There were times when I wished the novel had followed Renzi’s life and career rather than Kydd’s.