Sea of Grey is the tenth of the Alan Lewrie novels by Dewey Lambdin.
A Sea of Grey picks up at the conclusion of King’s Captain. Regaining control of his ship in the aftermath of the mutiny at The Nore, Lewrie joins the squadron of Admiral Adam Duncan blockading the Dutch port of Texel.
Major spoilers follow.
He participates in the Battle of Camperdown and nearly loses his arm after being shot, but his frigate, Proteus, takes a Dutch frigate.
Back home his marriage has deteriorated to the point of estrangement. Caroline has received more of the anonymous letters detailing his extramarital affairs and has presented him with financial demands. He finds himself spending an increasing amount of time in his father’s company.
While enroute to a ball celebrating the British victory at Camperdown, the Lewries encounter Theoni Connor and her infant son. Theoni is the wealthy Greek widow of a British merchant whom Lewrie rescued from pirates in Jester’s Fortune and who was briefly his lover. A very ugly and very public spectacle ensues which is witnessed by Earl Spencer, First Lord of the Admiralty, and Evan Nepean, the secretary to the Admiralty. Lewrie fears his career is over.
He receives orders for the West Indies and while outfitting Proteus he and Theoni live together. The orders have an urgency which Lewrie interprets as the Admiralty’s way of getting him out of sight before his marital rupture becomes a public scandal.
His mission in the West Indies is to act against French forces, foster cooperation with the infant American navy, and to prevent the slave rebellion in Haiti from spreading.
En route has a chance meeting with US revenue cutter which reinforces his low opinion of American seamanship. He receives a cold welcome in Kingston and manages to unintentionally antagonize an officer who will be his commander in future operations.
Lewrie accidentally renews acquaintance with an old friend of his, Kit Cashman (The French Admiral), now a lieutenant colonel in the local regiment. The regiment is commanded by a prominent local planter, Ledyard Beauman (The King’s Commission), the brother of a woman Lewrie had planned to marry nearly a decade ago.
He is assigned to support the British military expedition against Haiti under General Maitland. While carousing ashore with Cashman in Port au Prince and he sees the same rot setting in that he saw in the siege of Toulon and fears the expedition is doomed.
Back at sea, Proteus rescues an American merchantman from a French privateer. In the process he meets a 44-gun US frigate, the USS Hancock, engaged in the Quasi War waged between the US and France. In his visit aboard he develops a new appreciation for the ships and men of the US navy.
Proteus intercepts a fleet of four luggers filled with Haitians heading towards Spanish Santo Domingo. They manage sink them all but in the process they become acquainted with the fanatical hatred feeding the race war in Haiti.
By happenstance, Proteus passes by the Haitian port of Môle Saint-Nicolas. They observe semaphore signaling ordering evacuation of the port. Proteus goes in to lend aid and becomes involved in providing gunfire support to the British garrison as it evacuates. It again brings him into conflict with his squadron commander. The land campaign against the Haitian rebels of Toussaint L’Ouverture goes poorly. Because of the incompetence of Beauman, the regiment is nearly annihilated by L’Ouverture’s army and he sets about to blame Cashman for the disaster. Cashman swears he will duel and kill the man over the slurs against his honor.
In Port au Prince he finds the prize he sent in has been ordered to Kingston, Jamaica. This combined with the two midshipmen he lost at Môle Saint-Nicolas leaves him shorthanded. Before he can leave yellow fever strikes his ship. Proteus makes its way to Kingston despite the losses, though only barely.
In the waiting mail there is a letter from his father which reveals his domestic life has not improved with age. Caroline has received more letters concerning Lewrie’s philandering and his brother-in-law is threatening to challenge him to a duel if he returns home. A letter from Caroline, arriving at the same time, tells him he is not welcome home and he is not to communicate with his children.
Even though the army was very appreciative of Lewrie’s fire support, he finds his superiors in Kingston less so. He is denied replacements for his casualties and has poor quality officers fobbed off on him to replace his lost lieutenants and midshipmen.
Cashman arrives back in Kingston. His regiment is being broken up over its performance and he’s finding Beauman has been actively blaming him for the defeat. Cashman was tired of Jamaica before going to Haiti and had planned to sell his substantial holdings and go to India. Now he finds he will be unable to get a fair price for his plantation and is facing financial ruin.
Together they concoct a scheme to enlist eleven of Beauman’s slaves into Proteus and make it look like they had absconded to join the Maroons in Jamaica’s rugged mountains.
While on patrol, Proteus runs across a French privateer accompanying an American merchantman. Assuming this is another American taken prize they give chase. After a brief fight they take both ships and discover the American was actually working in concert with the French ship smuggling arms to L’Ouverture’s army. They also press three members of the American’s crew, one of which turns out to be a wanted mutineer.
In going through the papers salvaged from the French privateer they learn that a new and ruthless French officer has taken command of all privateers in the area, Lewrie’s old adversary (King’s Privateer, A King’s Commander) Guillaume Choundas.