As an old man reflects on his life, this richly detailed historical novel goes back before his birth to the flight of the royal court from Naples to Palermo in December 1798 on the ships of Admiral Lord Nelson’s depleted squadron. The Wayward Son: A story of Nelson and Emma Hamilton’s secret son tells a side story about the relationship of Thomas Spencer, the admiral’s steward, with Mary Hever, then a servant in the household of Sir John Acton. In time and setting this relationship parallels that of Lord Nelson and Emma Lady Hamilton, but in no other respect. For while the titled lovers can only indulge their relationship by concealment and subterfuge that fails to fool too many, Thomas pursues Mary with a view toward marriage. At the same time, Nelson and Emma plan to conceal the pregnancy that Emma failed to abort. Mary transfers into the joint household of Lord Nelson and Sir William and Lady Hamilton in Palermo shortly before Mary’s marriage to Thomas in 1799. At the same time, Nelson’s fleet is attempting to recover southern Italy’s mainland without the French and Spanish navies interfering. Lord Nelson arranges for Lady Hamilton to give birth on a transport ship as she tries to hide the true parentage of her child. And in the background, there lurks an old French enemy by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte.
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