But what I'd most like to do are my own books.
The Uncommon Valour series
Uncommon Valour: The Frigate Captain
February 1779 - The story begins as Captain John Sinclair readies his ship, the frigate HMS Sapphire, for sea. Also aboard is his surgeon, and life-long friend, Doctor Alfred Bassingford. While crossing the Atlantic he encounters Commander William Mason returning to England in his sloop-of-war, HMS Paladin, with a key French spy, Leveque, as his prisoner, the same man who had murdered Sinclair’s wife sixteen years earlier. The two men strike up a friendship and Sinclair offers Mason the run of his estate while he recovers from a wound suffered while capturing Leveque.
Upon reaching Portsmouth, Mason is surprised to find his younger brother Stephen, who had run away from home on a merchant vessel, and takes him under his wing. They travel to White Oaks, the Sinclair family estate in Thornbury, and settle in. While there Mason becomes involved in the hunt for Benjamin Willis, his wife’s cousin and heir to the Willis Woolen Mills, who had embezzled money, bankrupting the firm and fled with his mistress. Mason aids his friend and brother-in-law, Captain Michael Gilmore, in saving the mills.
In America Will’s wife, Jennifer Mason, has established an identity in New York as the widow of a young naval officer and from this position she acts as an agent for Admiral Lord St. John’s intelligence network, aided by her friend Mary Stewart, the wife of Mason’s cox’n Nicholas Stewart and under the supervision of her brother-in-law Dick Mason. When Dick receives word that his wife, also an agent, has been killed Jennifer leaves the spy business and starts doing charity work with the wives of the soldiers stationed in New York. Soon after, her sister-in-law, Tara Mason, worn down by caring for her father who had lost touch with reality following his wife’s death two months earlier, comes to stay with them. Mary and Jennifer slowly begin nursing her back health while Dick sets sail for England in search of answers to his wife’s murder.
While en route to New York, Sinclair captures the French frigate Enchante captained by Henri-Albere Montaigne. Upon his arrival in the city he calls on Jennifer Mason and meets Tara, sparks fly between the two almost immediately despite a 24-year age difference. When Sinclair is attacked by three ruffians and seriously wounded Tara nurses him back to health and a deep abiding love blossoms between the two.
Back in England Will Mason has been promoted to Junior Post Captain and appointed to command the frigate Vanessa as a reward for his part in Leveque’s capture. While he and Stephen are in London, Dick Mason meets up with them and then returns to Thornbury with them. There he learns that his wife Lucy survived the attack in February but was severely injured and has been in hiding since on the White Oaks estate. Investigations reveal that her attacker was none other than Benjamin Willis who was paid to kill her. The Mason brothers and their allies track Willis down in London; he is killed while attempting to escape but not before revealing that the man behind the attack on Lucy was her trusted bodyguard Lloyd, who was in fact a Spanish double agent. Dick swears to track the man down and someday bring him to justice.
In America, Sinclair, his wounds largely healed, returns to his ship but continues his romance with Tara. Shortly thereafter Montaigne escapes and with the aid of two hired confederates captures Tara and takes her to the Yankee prison on Pollepel Island at West Point where he intends to have her executed as a traitor and spy. Sinclair and a small force of picked men, including Bassingford and Ian MacGregor, his mountainous Scottish cox’n, ride after them and arrive barely in time to save Tara from rape at the hands of the prison guards. They manage to occupy the prison but they are cut-off within its walls, awaiting relief from two regiments that were following them north.
Dr. Bassingford and Sinclair tend to Tara’s wounds, primarily a dislocated shoulder, badly abused feet and psychological trauma. Once she seems more her old self Sinclair proposes to Tara and she accepts, but all is not sunshine for the northbound soldiers are being harried by skirmishers and slowed to a crawl while supplies within the prison are running out. Montaigne has convinced the Americans that they are all English spies and taunts them with threats of what he intends for Tara in French which none of the Yankees speak. But he is found out when George Washington and one of his aides arrives on the island. Incensed at such dishonorable behavior Washington sends the vile Frenchman home in disgrace and he and Sinclair, whom he had met years earlier, negotiate the release of the prisoners. They arrive in New York to find Tara’s father, Richard Mason Jr., recovered and awaiting them, he gives his consent to their engagement as the story ends and it is clear that the two men are well on their way to being fast friends.
Uncommon Valour: Broad Pendant
May 1779 - Picking up exactly where, The Frigate Captain, left off with Will Mason at the Sinclair family estate of White Oaks following the death of his wife’s treacherous cousin, Benjamin Willis, and John Sinclair in New York following the action at Pollepel Island. Mason meets Captain Patrick Franklin of HMS Predator, and learns that he and Vanessa will be part of the escort for a convoy that will actually be carrying General Lord Cornwallis back to America, where he will take up a new command, aboard his brother Dick’s Indiaman Resolute Star.
The convoy assembles in Ireland and sets sail in early June. Along the way trouble ensues aboard Vanessa. Will has taken his lay about brother, Robert, a naval lieutenant, into his company but only as a Master’s Mate, and has rated his younger brother, Stephen, a Midshipman. Stephen has been working hard and is fitting in well, but Robert is sullen, resentful, insubordinate, sneering toward his juniors and at times even violent – particularly to Stephen. His insolence to the newly commissioned third lieutenant earns him a sharp reprimand, but when he appears on deck both naked and roaring drunk, Will has no choice but to have him flogged, much as he hates it, and cuts off his grog ration for the remainder of the voyage. Cut off from the rum Rob shows all the signs of being addicted to alcohol. Will and his devoutly religious Sailing Master, Elijah Boyd, work to cure him of his dependence on rum but it is slow going.
In New York rumors have begun that Sinclair and the others at Pollepel Island escaped by bartering secrets to General Washington. The first rumors suggest that he gave away shipping timetables but the stories rapidly escalate to passwords, signals and finally that the whole affair at Pollepel was nothing but a smokescreen for a clandestine meeting between Sinclair and Washington where the captain was paid £20,000 for betraying his country. After investigating, Sinclair becomes convinced that the man behind it all is Colonel the Honorable Charles Courtenay whom he had, had a disagreement with when the later had taken passage to America aboard Sapphire several months earlier. Together with Major Collins of the Provost Marshal’s office, they lay a trap to tempt Courtenay into revealing himself. The desperate gamble works, thinking Sinclair on his deathbed from a poisoning attempt, Courtenay brags about having hired the three ruffians that attacked Sinclair when he first arrived in New York, slipping Capitaine Montaigne the knife that he used to escape in June, precipitating the affair at Pollepel Island, and having started the rumors and passed the secrets on to rebel agents; then, done with his gloating, Courtenay attempts to smother Sinclair to death. But the poisoning story is a sham and Sinclair gives Courtenay the severe thrashing that he has earned. Major Collins, who had heard every word from the next room, arrests Courtenay for High Treason and Sinclair and his fiancée Tara are re-united.
At sea the convoy is nearing the American coast when the rebel privateer Lexington, formerly the Mason Line Indiamen Brave Star, under Mason’s rebel cousin Geoff Quinn, attempts to slip into the convoy but is recognized and chased off by Vanessa and the sloop-of-war Sandfly. Shortly after the convoy drops anchor in New York and Mason boards Sapphire with sealed orders from Admiral Lord St. John: Captain Sinclair has been appointed Commodore over a squadron consisting of Sapphire, Predator, Vanessa, Sandfly and the former French frigate Enchante which Sinclair had captured in April and was now re-named HMS Enchanted; the squadron is to seek out and destroy a combined American/French frigate squadron that has been wrecking havoc among loyalist shipping for months. Sinclair posts his first lieutenant, Bartholomew Jones, to command Enchanted and he immediately begins working up his crew.
At a party given in honor of Sinclair’s hoisting his broad pendant, Robert Mason shows up drunk and proceeds to insult everyone there. He is confronted in succession by Tara, Will, his father, and finally Sinclair before being confined to Vanessa. The next day Sinclair comes aboard and delivers both a painful thrashing and an acid-tongued dressing down that leaves Rob battered and both ashamed and repentant. With Mr. Boyd beside him he begins the long road back from the brink of damnation where he had teetered and reconciles with his family.
When news reaches New York of the enemy whereabouts the squadron sets sail for the long overdue confrontation while at the same time escorting the Mason ships Resolute Star and Star of Honour much of the way to the safety of the Mason home at Halifax. The squadron reaches the rebel base at Machias Bay but finds only two of the expected five enemy ships at anchor. Braving the fire of several shore batteries Sinclair attacks, laying a bombardment from offshore with his large ships while the smaller ones sweep inshore and engage the enemy directly. The French frigate Magicien is captured but not before battering Predator into a hulk, while the American brigantine Diamondback is sunk. Sinclair orders Franklin to transfer to the captured Magicien, soon renamed HMS Jaguar, scuttle Predator at the harbor mouth, and, with Sandfly in company, to sail for Halifax with the prisoners as soon as possible, while he takes the rest of the squadron and searches for the other enemy vessels. Robert, who has acquitted himself with honor, is raised back up to lieutenant to fill a vacancy the action has left aboard Enchanted.
The next day the squadron’s lookouts sight Resolute Star and Star of Honour being pursued by the remaining ships of the enemy squadron. Ordering the Mason ships to break off to the south, Sinclair engages immediately. Enchanted faces off against the Yankee frigate Queen of France and manages to send her to the bottom with the aid of a well-timed rake from Sinclair. Mason and Vanessa engage Lexington and manage to board and capture her with Enchanted’s aid. Mason and his cousin square off in a duel when Quinn refuses to surrender with Mason emerging triumphant, but in the melee Robert is badly wounded saving Stephen’s life. The big French frigate Arronbourge is battered badly in action with Sapphire but manages to slip away in the gun-smoke and fog when Sinclair breaks off to answer Mason’s request for Dr. Bassingford’s aid. Despite his best efforts he is forced to amputate Robert’s right hand and some of the forearm, shattered by a Yankee pistol ball, thus ending the naval career that he had only just reclaimed.
Once the squadron arrives at Halifax the dockyard puts their damages to rights while the officers and crew make the rounds of several parties in their honor. Franklin undergoes a court martial for the loss of Predator but is speedily acquitted of any wrongdoing. The Masons prepare to leave Canada behind, relocating to England, and soon the squadron accompanied by Resolute Star and Brave Star, now back in Mason hands after Sinclair buys her himself and presents her to Richard Mason, are sailing eastward for the British Isles.
But there is yet a final obstacle in their way. There have been rumblings of war with Spain for months and now it has come. The squadron encounters three big Spanish frigates escorting three troopships in the St. George Channel bound for Ireland. Recognizing that the Spanish must be intending to ferment a rebellion in a land that was already sympathetic to the American cause, Sinclair orders the Mason ships to sail south and engages at once. In a fierce battle two Spanish frigates are taken and the last one is sunk although Captain Jones is seriously wounded and Sandfly’s Commander Boothroyd is killed. Once their escorts have been defeated the troopships lower their colors.
Arriving in Bristol, Sinclair is knighted by His Highness Prince Edward Henry, Duke of Gloucester. The film ends with the wedding of Sir John Sinclair and Tara Mason on the grounds of White Oaks two weeks later.
Uncommon Valour: A Show of Confidence
November 1779 – Only a month after the wedding of Sir John and Lady Tara Sinclair the squadron is still repairing and recruiting when it is strengthened by the addition a new ship, the frigate Persephone, under Captain Andrew Colby; an old friend of Sinclair’s. Will and Jennifer Mason befriend Mrs. Elvira Carlyle, and elderly widow who lives in Cirencester.
Soon after the squadron is at sea again, assigned to the fleet of Admiral George Rodney and ordered to Gibraltar. They fight a major battle against the Spanish fleet blockading The Rock. Rodney engages the ships of the line while Sinclair defeats the supporting frigates. But Rodney is not impressed with Sinclair’s initiative and daring and orders him to obey his commands to the letter, while Will Mason faces persecution from a fellow captain over his American origins, and young Stephen Mason goes through a crisis of confidence caused by the death of his friend Tom Kennedy at the Battle of St. George Channel in September.
Soon, Will’s older brother Dick, a key British agent, completes a dangerous mission in France and gets word to Sinclair that the French have sent a major fleet to the Caribbean. Sinclair and Fred Bassingford concoct a plan that uses Sinclair’s wealth and connections to circumvent Rodney by buying his outstanding debts and threatening debtor’s prison. This forces Rodney to listen to Sinclair’s advice and giving him nominal command of the fleet. Sinclair orders them to sail for the West Indies to intercept the French.
In neutral Holland, Lieutenant Reginald Trent, meets with the disgraced Capitaine Montaigne. Montaigne offers Trent 2,000 pounds to see that Tara Sinclair is killed. Trent bargains him up to 5,000 and they strike a deal that includes a Captaincy in the French Navy if Trent is forced to flee England.
In England, Jennifer suffers a miscarriage, shortly after Dick’s Lucy gives birth to Richard Mason IV. Mrs. Carlyle passes away, leaving Will and Jen her estate. Days later, Trent kidnaps a pregnant Lady Tara intending to rape and murder her at his patron’s orders. However, before he can actually penetrate her, she manages to get hold of her stiletto and plunges it into him, pinning him to the mattress by his manhood as he lets out a shriek of pain. To keep his men from entering she impersonates his voice, a trick she learnt from Lucy, and tells him “Shut up B****!” and cold cocks him. Then she gathers her clothes and his pistols and sword and shoots her way out, killing two men with the pistols and pinning the third to the wall with Trent’s sword. Trent dies four days later from the infection of his severed organ.
When the fleet reaches the Indies it engages the French in a major action off Dominica. As confusion reigns it is up to Sinclair’s squadron to stave off defeat but at a terrible cost. Sapphire, Jaguar, and Persephone are badly damaged; Persephone in particular is rendered a virtual hulk after having been hit by broadsides from three 74-gun ships of the line. Sinclair is publicly praised by Rodney for his decisive actions; in private Rodney thanks Sinclair for showing him that subordinates ideas should be listened to and not dismissed out of hand. Sinclair tears up Rodney’s debts and the two part as friends.
While temporary repairs are made on the squadron’s ships, Sinclair and Mason lead a raid on Martinique that puts several French ships damaged in the battle to the torch. In this battle Stephen conquers his fear, saving Will’s life, although at the cost of suffering a wound himself.
The squadron sails for England where major repairs can be made to Sapphire and Jaguar; Antigua’s facilities are needed to repair Rodney’s ships of the line. They arrive in time for the birth of Thomas Sinclair in June.
Uncommon Valour: Only the Valiant
November 1782 – Rear Admiral Sir John Sinclair is sent to the East Indies with a reinforced squadron of three 64-gun ships of the line (Fearless, Lion, and Avon), four frigates (Sapphire, Athena, Angelique, and Vanessa) of 36, 32, 28 and 26 guns respectively, two sloops (Firefly and Foxhound) of 18 guns and a brig (Dart) of 14. Lord St John has learned that the French have sent a similar squadron into the area on a mission to the key islands that control the waters that the East Indiamen must travel with their rich cargoes of silk, tea and spices. Although the peace talks are ongoing in Paris, with every indication of a treaty being signed within a few months, St. John fears that French control of those waters will be disastrous for Britain. Sinclair’s job is to stop them.
As the squadron prepares to sail Will Mason, now Captain of the 32-gun Athena, and his Jennifer share a sweet farewell and a last passionate night. He also bids goodbye to Stewart his former cox’n, who had helped raise him almost as a second father. Having been badly wounded at Dogger Bank last year, Stewart has been forced to retire from the sea and now runs Will’s estate of Birch Grove. Elijah Boyd’s nephew, Abraham, is now his new cox’n.
From the quarterdeck of HMS Fearless, Sinclair orders the squadron to sea, leaving his family behind. Ashore, Lady Tara watches as her husband’s ships slowly fade from sight on their voyage to the far side of the world. Until his return, the responsibility for the extended Sinclair and Mason families will rest upon her shoulders. Trouble soon rears its head as the MacKenzie family, now allied with the villainous Montaigne, begin a campaign to dishonor the family name by spreading rumors of treason and adultery by both John and Will. The later charge designed to ruin them socially, even if no criminal charges are brought.
But Lady Tara is no longer the innocent Miss she was four years earlier. Like a chess grand-master she sends out pawns and agents alike to seek out and uncover the plot against them. Meanwhile Jennifer is more than a bit worried to find herself pregnant once more. Her first two pregnancies ended in miscarriage, the last one nearly killing her, as such she and Will have tried to avoid being intimate when she was most fertile. But it seems that nature had other plans. The news of the pregnancy crimps the adultery rumors, and as Tara continues to investigate, an uneasy stalemate settles in.
At sea, the French have taken advantage of a break in the monsoon season to once more lay siege to the key port of Madras in India, defended only by Commodore Bickerton’s squadron of four ships of the line and a single regiment while Admiral Sir Edward Hughes and the bulk of the British forces in India have been lured away by Admiral Suffren. The squadron arrives in time to tilt the balance and break the back of the siege, saving the vital port. As the monsoons once again rage, Sinclair is forced to remain at anchor until the weather moderates.
In England matters have come to a head as the relentless campaign of whispers continues to taint the family, turning public opinion against them. But like a bolt from the heavens the news of Sinclair’s victory at Madras stops the campaign in its tracks. At the same time Lady Tara’s agents have finally managed to ferret out the connections proving the involvement of Montaigne, well known as a French agent and enemy of the Sinclairs, and the MacKenzie family, who are also known to have an axe to grind, in the dastardly campaign against the Sinclairs. With the public having turned against them the MacKenzies are exposed as French agents and disgraced. In order to prevent their escape, Tara, with Lord St. John’s aid, is able to have their assets frozen.
That night at White Oaks, Tara is confronted by the son, Chauncey MacKenzie. He intends to kill her and then flee the country with the famous diamond and sapphire necklace that John had given her four years earlier, to finance a new life in France. Although he succeeds in landing the first blow, he is no match for Tara’s superb swordplay and soon lies bleeding to death on the ground. When she hears the news of his death Gertrude MacKenzie goes insane, when her husband, Frederick, tries to settle her down, she pushes him down a flight of stairs, breaking his neck. Seeing her father lying dead, Amelia, their daughter, begins to scream. Gertrude snaps at her to shut up, and when she doesn’t starts beating her with a fire poker, all the while yelling at her to shut up over and over. Gertrude finally stops when she realizes that Amelia too is dead, the girl’s head beaten into a barely recognizable mass of bloody tissue. In shock, Mrs MacKenzie lets the bloody poker fall from her hand, then walks calmly into her husband’s study, draws a pistol from his desk, puts it to her head and pulls the trigger.
In India, after more than a month of forced inactivity, the squadron ups anchor and sets sail for their final destination – Pahrak Baruh in Malaya, where the French have established a base of operations. Attacking the base with a force of seamen and the squadron’s marines, Sinclair manages to destroy it. But in the commander’s office he discovers a dispatch from Admiral Suffren indicating that a large garrison of soldiers is on its way escorted by a equally large naval garrison of warships under Contre-Amiral Jean-Baptiste de Lavuer, a favorite of Suffren for his skill and professionalism.
Guessing that the French will pass through the Sombrero Channel, Sinclair sails to intercept them there. He has guessed correctly but the French force is far stronger than he had expected; five 74-gun ships of the line and an equal number of frigates, two of them 38-gunners and the rest 36s. Although heavily outgunned Sinclair, who has sailed in these waters before, uses the surrounding reefs to his benefit, luring one 74 onto the rocks and beaching two other ships on sand bars. Having temporarily separated the French force, he engages first one half and then the other, defeating them in a ferocious battle. But his own ships have been badly damaged as well. After making temporary repairs the squadron and its four prizes sail for Madras where they learn that the preliminary articles of the expected peace treaty had been signed in Paris since shortly after they left England. The war has been effectively over for six months.
The squadron returns home on 27 August where Will meets his daughter, little Susanne Mason, now one month old, for the first time. For his action saving Madras and the battle in the Sombrero Channel, Sinclair is created Viscount Thornbury. But as he looks down upon his niece he remarks that Will has gotten the far greater reward.
In Paris, Henri-Albere Montaigne broods over his second failure to destroy Sinclair. His superior, the Marquis de Vendee, tells him that it means nothing. They have lost nothing but a few disposable pawns that are easily replaced. Montaigne grudgingly admits that this is true, but he does not like to lose, especially to Sinclair. The Marquis tells him that he will get over it, and leaves. Alone, Montaigne makes himself a promise:
“This is the third time Sinclair has bested me, but I swear before God and the Devil, that it will not happen again! Soon enough, I will have my revenge.”