At the end of the book HMS Diamond, Sir Sidney Smith was in a French prison - because he wanted to be. For the two years between that installment and this, he operates as a spy, sending reports on French activities and atrocities. Finally, however, it becomes too dangerous to leave him in situ; he may be executed at any moment. Smith is given a golden opportunity to escape, but because he gave his word of honor for parole, he refuses to take it. So a daring plan is hatched to redirect him from the guillotine back to England and her Navy. Friends and companions in adversity, doctor Lucas Walker and Lady Susan Whitney are finally reunited with Sir Sidney, who leaves a little calling card for Napoleon before he goes.
After years of diverting men and money away from her military, England is badly unprepared when the Corsican upstart who gave them such trouble at Toulon is given command of French naval resources. He is to undertake a mission of conquest, that much is clear - but where will Napoleon go? England? India? The disruption of the tea and opium trade would be the severest blow to Britain's economics imaginable. England's darling and naval favorite, Horatio Nelson, is given a fleet to intercept Napoleon; but he disregards the intelligence that Smith risked his life to secure. And so, Napoleon reaches his destination, Egypt, unmolested, and the Napoleonic War is under way.
Because Smith can neither explain nor justify his clandestine activities on behalf of England's Intelligence side, he is branded a failure and given the worst assignment possible: ambassador to Constantinople. But a man of honor, resolve, and intelligence can do more good in the worst of places than a glory hound can do with the best resources.
If only authors could write as fast as we read their books! Even Mozart, however, who could get it right on his first draft as often as not, and Isaac Asimov, one of the most prolific writers ever, kept their fans in suspense. It takes time to research details and historical contexts; "God is in the details," and it is the very devil to get them right. So we have another year to wait, probably, for the next installment of the adventures of Sir Sidney Smith, doctor Lucas Walker, Lady Susan Whitney, Napoleon, and Smith's nemesis, Captain Lord Horatio Nelson. But here are some teasers: a Masonic treasure is slated to appear in the next book, and the author is looking into the possibility of eventually introducing a mistress and the hypothetical offspring of Sir Sidney. Hey, why should Nelson have all the progeny, as well as all the glory?