As if the title of this book by Julian Stockwin needed to be more for purchase - it is based on Sir William Hoste's Adriatic campaign during the Napoleonic wars.
Stockwin's hero is Sir Thomas Kydd, a rags-to-riches story of a sailor at the mast to the commodore of a frigate squadron. Somewhat unlikely, given the class structure of Napoleonic Britain, but this is fiction, and everyone loves a boy-made-good story.
In this tale, Kydd is appointed to command a frigate squadron assembling in the Sicilian capital Palermo, the semi-exiled abode of the hapless King of Naples and his barmy Queen. He avoids subordination to the egotistic Sydney Smith and drops his wife off. I don't know what the Admiralty would have thought of this, but it provides an entertaining subplot.
The squadron enters the Adriatic and, much like his historical counterpart, plays havoc with French supply lines, gaining the personal attention of Napoleon himself. A French squadron is readied to deal with him, which climaxes at the Battle of Lissa.
Much of the story will be familiar if you have read anything about this campaign. The author does introduce a subplot in which Kydd's sister and her ducal husband are on an intelligence mission in Vienna, testing out Metternich. This results in his sister dashing for the coast and Kydd's squadron. This is where the author somewhat overstretched the history. He wheels out the idea that Napoleon wanted to advance the Grand Armee down the Adriatic, through the Ottoman Empire and Persia, to threaten India. This was instead of invading Russia.
There are some hints in Napoleon's writing that he considered this, but common sense indicates that it was a non-starter, even with naval control of the Meditteranean, which he had little hope of achieving. Disappearing from central Europe down ridiculously long supply lines would have been just as disastrous as the Russian campaign. In his author's note, he says, 'The convergence of all these historical threads into a single contest at sea might seem a step too far but...' I would have stopped before the 'but' and accepted that this is fantasy, but it made a better read.
What I really liked about this story was the focus on the action. Too many Napoleonic naval authors feel the need to bore us with their detailed knowledge of how a ship sailed in the period. Stockwin gives us just about enough of that sort of detail without sending us to sleep. An excellent read.
Timely also because I am building an Adriatic harbour for the GDWS participation game at Carronade. Still, a bit to do, but I'm happy with the progress so far. The bottom photo is appearing in an urban design magazine shortly on small spaces.