Havoc’s Sword, the eleventh of the Alan Lewrie novels by Dewey Lambdin is set in the Caribbean, and pickes up where Sea of Grey leaves off in the autumn of 1798.
The forces of Revolutionary France based in Guadaloupe are in disarray. A Royalist revolution has only recently been put down by Victor Hugues. France is trying to regain control of Haiti, now in the throes of the L’Ouverture rebellion, and go on the offensive against the British. Lewrie’s longtime foe, Guillaume Choundas, is assigned to the area as commander of French navy forces.
Major spoilers follow.
Meanwhile, Lewrie is in Kingston, Jamaica and is embroiled in a duel between his longtime friend Kit Cashman and the brother of his former love interest Lucy Beauman over the debacle suffered by Beauman’s regiment in Haiti. Beauman attempts to cheat in the duel and wounds Cashman. The duel results in the death of Beauman and his cousin.
Word quickly spreads of Ledyard’s perfidy and the resulting scandal attached to the Beaumans ensures the lasting enmity of that family towards Lewrie. In the aftermath, Cashman decamps for America. In a final slap at the Beauman family, Cashman arranges for about a dozen of their best slaves to enlist as volunteers on Proteus to replace the hands he lost to yellow jack. On a moonless night, Lewrie sends boats ashore and picks up the men. This is a decision that will haunt Lewrie in the future.
Lewrie is brought again under the supervision of Foreign Office agents, a la The King’s Privateer and King’s Commander. Now, however, Zachariah Twigg has retired and been replaced by a considerably less experienced man. He is given the mission of stopping Choundas’s new operation in the Caribbean and assisting in British efforts to become the dominant influence in Haiti.
By way of letters from his father he learns that his home life continues to deteriorate. Since the anonymous letters arrived detailing his infidelities, Sir Hugo has been shut out of local society and has moved back to London. Caroline has concluded, erroneously, that Alan’s ward, Sophie, must have been a mistress of his at some point and forced her to leave their home. Sophie has now taken quarters with Sir Hugo.
By happenstance Lewrie catches a French frigate, a coast guard schooner and a merchantman at a disadvantage and sinks or destroys all three. Choundas, taking this into account with Lewrie’s operations in Sea of Grey and his known affiliation with the British spies concludes there is a spy on Guadaloupe and begins searching for him.
The United States is involved in its Quasi War with France and Lewrie makes common cause with a small American squadron to aid his mission. His move is not looked on with approval by the Foreign Office officials directing him. Lewrie perceives that the man who supplanted Zachariah Twigg is not very competent and he prevails upon the man’s partner, former Army captain James Peel whom he first met in Genoa (King’s Commander) to open his own personal line of communications with Twigg.
Another prize taken by Lewrie gives him the opportunity to prime Choundas with information that they were informed of the movement of his ships by an informer. The machinations of Lewrie bears fruit as Choundas and the governor of Guadeloupe undertake a brutal hunt for the spy.
In the meantime, a prize Lewrie has awaiting disposition by Antigua’s Prize Court disappears and it seems as though one or more of his men have deserted and taken the prize as their mode of transportation. Lewrie is having dinner with a group of American captains when the news reaches them and he departs the meal immediately. They assume he has received secret information on a French convoy, they, like Choundas, suspect that there is more than luck involved in Lewrie and Proteus being at the most advantageous position time and again, and set out in pursuit of Proteus.
Again luck favors Proteus and while in pursuit of his missing prize, Lewrie stumbles upon a valuable French convoy commanded by Choundas. The ships are taken and Choundas is a prisoner of the Americans.