Fraught With Hazard: A Historical Novel
This historic novel recounts the story of the ill-fated 16th-century Spanish Armada, Spain’s aristocratic navy, which sets out with its many galleons for a quick conquest of England—only to find itself soundly defeated by soldier Sir Francis Drake with his lean and mean professional forces, the surviving Spanish ships, and their crew founder off the coast of Ireland. The remaining crew, among them protagonist Francisco de Cuellar, aided by the inherent compassion of the Irish people, eventually convene and make their way to northern Scotland. It is rumored a last galleon remains there, willing to take all Spaniards back home. However, Francisco arrives just in time to see the ship sail. He is sentenced to two more years of wandering before making it back to Spain.
The story is apparently based on an actual event, recounted in Francisco de Cuellar’s personal papers. However, the story takes on epic proportions in Francisco’s heroic attempts to get back home as he overcomes various challenges, including being briefly forced into slavery, and defeats various enemies. The plotline turns episodic as Francisco goes through various other less tragic experiences, such as being nursed back to health by two sisters who also become his enthusiastic sexual partners in a joyful and curative ménage-a-trois. Odysseus and “The Odyssey” are referred to numerous times, implicitly and explicitly, such as in allusions to characters from Greek and Roman myths. For example, Francisco’s young wife back home is “Penelope;” an Irish villager is “Cassandra,” and Francisco calls himself “Odysseus” more than once. The writing style is strong, with lovely and sensual passages of description and details, such as of the Spanish galleons and everyday Irish life. In addition, the story demonstrates a strong understanding and research of the historical and cultural contexts of both Spain and Ireland. Although Francisco’s wife is not patient Penelope waiting for him when he returns, there is peace and happiness for him at the end nonetheless.
Paul Hemenway Altrocchi and Julia Cooley Altrocchi