The Dark Secret of Josephine
It is 1794 and Roger Brook is having dinner with Williiam Pitt the younger at Holwood House, near Hayes in Kent.. The Prime minister is requesting that RB should return to France to carry out further surveillance in the troubled country. R B flatly refuses as it is far too soon for him to return there until the situation eases. Mr Pitt reluctantly agrees to give him an alternative role....Governor of the newly-won island of Martinique.
He makes a quick visit to Lymington to visit Grove place and join the double celebration of RB’s appointment and his Fathers appointment as Admiral Sir Christopher Brook.
RB then returns to London to finalise the departure. Accompanying Roger is Amanda (his Wife), Colonel Thursby and Georgina, Dan RB’s right hand man & Amanda’s personal maid, little ‘sloe-eyed’ Nell. Amanda also wanted a young woman who would be able to help her with her social duties and act as her companion. This turned out to be the 18 year old cousin of Amanda, Clarissa Markham.
The entourage proceed to Bristol and ‘put up’ at the ‘Negro’s Head’ until Monday 1st October when the ship ‘Circe’ sets sail for the West Indies.
After two heavy storms they eventually arrive near to Porto Rico where they are chased and attacked by a pirate ship led by Joao de Montego. His second in command was a “strikingly handsome 30 year old mullatto with fine dark eyes and lustrous black hair that fell about her shoulders...DW decided that the the description of her necessitated two paragraph’s. Her name is Lucette.
Georgina’s husband Charles Thursby, is killed following the attack on the Circe. After some time on board there is discord within the crew and fights ensue as to who wants to keep the current Captain in charge and where they should head for next. Joao is overthrown and the crew head for Tortuga.
The head of the Island is Vicompte de Senlac who coincidentally, turns out to be the nephew of the Compte de Caylus( The man who Roger had defeated in a fencing duel in France.) However, de Senlac doesn’t believe that the duel was fair and that Roger killed him. As a result de Senlac sentences him to death....by crocodiles. This is one of the highlights of the book which I will leave you all to discover how he escapes from a very difficult predicament.
A huge fight ensues between de Senlacs men and the crew and passengers who have recently arrived on the ship.
Roger and his team escape and try to take the Circe but are fired upon.
In the skirmish Roger is shot in the leg and he and the others have to locate a smaller boat and head for St. Domingue. Poor weather conditions make the trip extremely difficult.
Meanwhile Clarissa admits to her total love with RB. He ‘unusually’ tries to dissuade her from this infatuation.
The crew & passengers eventually arrive at their destination. They approach the nearest large house and are met by the owner Seigneur de Boucicault. He feeds them and gives them shelter and informs them that war, revolution and civil war is tearing the island apart.They are also informed that one of the boldest and most intelligent of the Generals on the Island is T’oussaint l’Ouverture.
RB and his team would soon find meet him & find out for themselves.
T’oussaint & his men attack the house and De Boucicault is killed. However he has no reason to kill or injure Rogers party as there are several ladies in it. So, they are led to ‘Mole St. Nicholas’ where they are eventually put onboard a vessel which takes them to Kingston harbour.
Georgina decides to head home to England (minus husband) whilst the others sail onto Martinique.
They are met by a man in a Colonel’s uniform who turns out to be none other than his old public school bully, George Gunston!
The two of them have several disagreements with Island politics during Rogers short reign as Governor.
One of the places that he soon discover is ‘Belinda’s Parlour’, a new ‘House of Entertainment’ which is an exclusive brothel and gaming hell of the more exclusive kind. A new owner, ‘Lucette’ has recently taken ownership. Roger intends to charge her the following morning with piracy and murder. Luckily for her, Roger needs to depart for England at the behest of the Prime Minister. The PM wants Roger to go back to France to assist in getting General Pichegru “An honest man who is willing to turn France away from its current situation and bring about a restoration of the Monarchy”
Meanwhile, whilst in France, Roger makes enquiries as to the whereabouts of his old adversary Josef Fouche and then lies in wait for him.
When they meet it appears that Fouche is also keen to organise a ‘Coup d’etat’ and see the re-establishment of the monarchy.
After consultation with Pitt, Roger returns to Martinique as Amanda is expecting another child. When he gets there he is informed that Amanda had died in childbirth. After many days of mourning Roger returns to England and quickly onto France.
He explains to one of the senior Generals (Barras) that if Josephine Beauharnais marries Napoleon, Barras could give her as a dowry the command of the Italian Army for Napoleon.
However, Josephine is already married and is being blackmailed by a mulatto. Fouche was acting as her agent to buy the persons silence and would relinquish his agency if Roger could obtain for him some administerial office. Roger agrees to try and persuade Barras to do this but the immediate problem is that there is diary of Josephine which confirms that he is her husband. Roger knows that unless he finds the diary,
1) Josephine would not marry Bonaparte
2) Barras would not risk entrusting him with the Army of Italy.
3) Unless Bonaparte was given the Italian Army he would insist upon being allowed to carry out his plan for the invasion of England.
Somehow Roger had to get hold of & destroy the diary.
Fouche is arrested and banished from France by Barras as he wasn’t prepared to do deals.
Roger (having managed to obtain the address of the diary owner) goes to the address......the owner is (yes, you’ve guessed it) Lucette, who dies in the skirmish.
The book finishes with Roger and Georgina consoling themselves at ‘Stillwaters’.
This is a very fast moving, action packed Roger Brook story with two major character deaths, Charles Thursby and Amanda Brook; the reappearance of George Gunston together with numerous facts and figures turned into an excellent story line based around three famous factual historical figures, Napoleon, Josephine and T’oussaint l’Ouverture. A quality read.
Arrow paperback Snippets
Page 52 - Customary Justerini mention
Page 88 - An explanation of the term ‘Pieces of eight’ is given “They were not like ordinary coins, but simply an ounce weight of silver which had been poured molten onto an iron bench, then when, it had partially cooled, stamped with the arms of Spain and an 8, signifying its value in Pesetas. It was a common practice for seamen to bore holes in them and carry them in this manner round their necks, as it made their loss by robbery less likely and it was easy to take off one or more in payment for liquor or a woman.”
Page 178 – ..(the rowers) were so worn out that that every few minutes one or other of them ‘Caught a Crab’, and it became obvious that they had become more of a hindrance than a help.’
While rowing, "catching a crab" means to put one's oar in the water at the wrong time which results in the oar flipping parallel to the boat. When an oar goes from perpindicular (good) to parallel (bad) a rower must pull the oar in and over their head.
Page 189 – I always thought that T’oussaint l’Ouverture was a song by Santana however there is more to him than you might think. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toussaint_Louverture
Page 330 – Brigadier Napoleon is making a name for himself and is advising Roger how the French can overthrow the old enemy (England). Roger is naturally trying to talk him out of such a dangerous action!!
Page 403 – Roger remembers that there is a dark secret in Josephines past...... She was married to William de Kay.