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The French called it La Forteresse Maudite, the Cursed Fortress. Louisbourg stood at the mouth of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, massive and impregnable, a permanent provocation to the British colonies. It was Canada’s first line of defence, guarding the approaches to Quebec, from where all New France lay open to invasion. It had to fall before a British fleet could be sent up the St. Lawrence. Otherwise, there would be no resupply and no line of retreat; Canada would become the graveyard of George II’s navy.
A failed attempt on Louisbourg in 1757 had only stiffened the government’s resolve; the Cursed Fortress must fall in 1758. Captain Carlisle’s frigate joins the blockade of Louisbourg before winter’s icy grip has eased. Battling fog, hail, rain, frost and snow, suffering scurvy and fevers, and with a constant worry about the wife he left behind in Virginia, Carlisle will face his greatest test of leadership and character yet. The Cursed Fortress is the fifth of the Carlisle & Holbrooke naval adventures. The series follows the two men through the Seven Years War and into the period of turbulent relations between Britain and her American colonies in the 1760s.

317 pages, Paperback

Published July 18, 2019

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About the author

Chris Durbin

13 books51 followers
Chris Durbin grew up in the seaside town of Porthcawl in South Wales. His first experience of sailing was as a sea cadet in the treacherous tideway of the Bristol Channel, and at the age of sixteen, he spent a week in a topsail schooner in the Southwest Approaches. He was a crew member on the Porthcawl lifeboat before joining the navy.

Chris spent twenty-four years as a warfare officer in the Royal Navy, serving in all classes of ship from aircraft carriers through destroyers and frigates to the smallest minesweepers. He took part in operational campaigns in the Falkland Islands, the Middle East and the Adriatic. As a personnel exchange officer, he spent two years teaching tactics at a US Navy training centre in San Diego.

On his retirement from the Royal Navy, Chris joined a large American company and spent eighteen years in the aerospace, defence and security industry, including two years on the design team for the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.

Chris is a graduate of the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, the British Army Command and Staff College, the United States Navy War College (where he gained a postgraduate diploma in national security decision-making) and Cambridge University (where he was awarded an MPhil in International Relations).

With a lifelong interest in naval history and a long-standing ambition to write historical fiction, Chris has embarked upon creating the Carlisle & Holbrooke series, in which a colonial Virginian commands a British navy frigate during the middle years of the eighteenth century.

The series will follow its principal characters through the Seven Years War and into the period of turbulent relations between Britain and her American Colonies in the 1760s. They’ll negotiate some thought-provoking loyalty issues when British policy and colonial restlessness lead inexorably to the American Revolution.

Chris now lives on the south coast of England, surrounded by hundreds of years of naval history. His three children are all busy growing their own families and careers while Chris and his wife (US Navy, retired) of thirty-seven years enjoy sailing their classic dayboat.

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5 stars
460 (59%)
4 stars
265 (34%)
3 stars
40 (5%)
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6 (<1%)
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Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews
Profile Image for Jaime Ponseti.
2 reviews
May 23, 2020
Great 18th Century Naval Fiction

I have read many of the various Age of Fighting Sail series in their totality and look forward to the continuing saga of Capts Carlisle and Holbrooke. Mr. Durbin has completely drawn me in to this world. I really appreciate his developing of characters on all decks as well as his delving into the thought processes and calculations of his actors, even some that only pass briefly through the story. The tale doesn't get excessively bogged down in the minutiae
the long passages at sea or en route to a cutting out. The action is brief but exciting and the maneuvoring descriptions and the maps (the maps are a very welcome; I have frequently lamented the lack of maps/charts while trying to imagine the chase and battle tactics.) really help me to follow the action better than my experience with most other series.

Finally, the 7 Years War time period is decades earlier than all the others I have read, and the Royal Navy is here only beginning to develop into the maritime/naval jugernaut it already was during the late 18th and early 19th height of the Age of Fighting Sail, when most of the other series occur. It's been interesting to see the early phases of development of many later traditions and standards of the service which are taken for granted (signalling, for example) or otherwise well established in the later period. Additionally, the building of the series around two different talented Captains will allow for more stories (I hope), and I particularly am appreciative of the calculations and contemplations of both Captains to overcome their usually stigmatized backgrounds and lack of patronage in a system built around 'who you know', with talent and initiative, and while building their own band of loyal followers.

If you enjoy Historical Fiction in the Age of Fighting Sail, come on cruise with Captains Carlisle and Holbrooke!
Profile Image for Steven Toby.
168 reviews
August 18, 2019
This is a worthy successor to Hornblower novels for those who crave an authentic tale of naval action and are willing to go further back than the Napoleonic era where most of the literature is set. Details of ship handling and life on board seem word perfect, and since the author sticks closely to the history the plot is pretty much how it happened so we can’t complain events seem unlikely.
Furthermore, the story unreels at an even pace that allows blow by blow treatment of the battles almost like C S Forester.
This is definitely the best of the series so far. I’m looking forward to volume 6.
August 21, 2019
Good enjoyable historic naval fiction

Almost up to the standard of Forester et all
Have enjoyed the series so far.
,looking forward to book 6
Profile Image for Chaplain Stanley Chapin.
1,847 reviews17 followers
September 4, 2019
A decent sailing ship action

It was an enjoyable read with a lot of personal narrative and normal sailing ship manuscript. There was not much real ship to ship fighting.
Profile Image for Edoardo Albert.
Author 49 books129 followers
April 12, 2021
Sometimes, as a reader, you want to know exactly what you are going to get when you invest the time - a good four to eight hours of your life - into a book. Chris Durbin's Holbrooke and Carlisle naval adventures, set during the Seven Years' War, do exactly that: they provide solid, clear, well-crafted stories of derring-do backed up by the author's own extensive nautical knowledge (he served in the Navy himself for many years). Now into his fifth novel, Durbin's writing has achieved a wonderful clarity, like clear water, while creating characters that are almost as clear and wholesome as his writing. For some, this might seem like an indictment but for me, and I suspect many other readers, it is a welcome relief. Thank you, Mr Durbin. May Holbrooke and Carlisle sail on to further horizons.
90 reviews1 follower
September 14, 2020
Another very fine installment in the Carlisle & Holbrooke Series

To have ordered a ship from the Jamaica Station to Nova Scotia in winter was just cold. It was a neat device to get Carlisle’s wife to Williamsburg though and the action in the Louisbourg campaign was compelling.

As always the story was well researched and well written. Carlisle’s self analysis and level of self awareness is remarkable. The final scene is quite funny.
Profile Image for gerry.
298 reviews2 followers
January 5, 2021
The fight to claim North America begins

History comes alive in Chris Durbin's series of the Carlisle and Holbrooke maritime adventures. One has to respect the complications of war at sea with sails, wind, weather, tides and currents. These heroes are courageous and smart. Learning about the various roll each seaman contributes to the effort has been an education for this reader and the glossary has been extremely helpful.
3 reviews2 followers
December 28, 2020
Ready and waiting for the next book

As a big fan of naval historical fiction, I latch onto any good series and writer and devour the books when I find them Chris Durbin has wonderful credentials for interpreting, fuctionalizing. And writing about seafaring adventures in the age of sail. I'm ready for number 6 (7, 8, etc .) in the Carlisle series.
15 reviews
February 26, 2021
Read it twice (so far!)

Having spent 40 odd years in aviation I have a perverse fascination with sail and Chris Durbin writes so well that I can see the action and it all feels correct. Carlisle and Holbrooke are developing well as characters and I sense a soft spot for young Whittle coming along. Looking forward to the next one Chris.
160 reviews1 follower
September 3, 2022
This is a story of Captain Carlisle’s and his frigate, HMS Medina’s, role in the British successful attack on The Fortress of Louisbourg in 1758. The fort, located in what is today Nova Scotia, was key to the French hold on New France. Before the British could attempt its attack on Quebec, it had to remove the French from the fortress.
237 reviews
May 14, 2020
Good read

Well written and researched novel of birth of Canada, Carlisle and his crew, battle the elements and the French, plenty of action and intregue,onwards to the next in the series.
April 4, 2021
Very Enjoyable

Thoroughly enjoy the blend of history with the protagonist’s story. The interplay within the crew is particularly enlightening. I can see the years on Naval service in the interplay amongst key members of the crew.
Profile Image for Stephen.
276 reviews2 followers
December 28, 2021
Another gripping yarn

Another thrilling page turner from Chris Durbin. Excellent stuff, exciting,dramatic and filled with believable characters. The tie in with the real historical facts at the end he
Ps to put it in perspective.
2 reviews
March 18, 2020
Superb novel well written.

Characters very believable. Holds the attention till the very last page. A great read for any for anyone interested in this genre.
26 reviews2 followers
May 27, 2020
Very good series!

Mr Durbin writes a good story. Recommend series to all who enjoy history and adventure. Now excuse me...time to start book six!
Profile Image for Keith Lender.
22 reviews2 followers
March 27, 2021
Good Writer

I have read the other four books and will continue reading the series. I enjoy historical fiction and this Author does she great job.
16 reviews
June 23, 2021
Great book!

Reading this book puts you right in the action ! You can feel the cold and shiver with the seamen as they go about their duties.
Very enjoyable read!
405 reviews1 follower
November 20, 2021
Carlisle is posted to the squadron attempting to blockage Louisburg near Halifax. The story is as cold as the climate with not much happening. Better days ahead?
September 26, 2022
Another great sea yarn

Well told. Good historical background and good descriptions of the battles. Looking forward to the next in the series. Kudos!
644 reviews10 followers
August 22, 2019
In the third book of his "Carlisle and Holbrooke" series of naval fiction novels, Jamaica Station, Chris Durbin let the junior of the pair, George Holbrooke, make use of the personal and professional growth in which he'd been encouraged by his captain, Edward Carlisle. In the subsequent two volumes, Durbin has events take their course and separate the pair, as he spent book #4 on Holbrooke and now returns to Carlisle in #5, The Cursed Fortress.

Fully recovered from his injuries, Carlisle is sent north from Jamaica to rendezvous with British naval forces fighting the French on the northern end of the 13 colonies and into what will become Canada. The fearsome Louisberg fortress guards the St. Lawrence seaway and prevents seaborne resupply of soldiers fighting along what is in our day the US-Canadian border. French forces, allied with local native tribes, make a successful land-only siege of Louisberg difficult. Only if the Royal Navy can keep French supply and troopships from landing can Louisberg be taken, and the damp foggy cold of late spring will make that a sizable task.

Fortunately, Edward Carlisle is a first-rate strategist as well as fighting sea-captain, so he and the crew of the Medina should be able to handle the job.

Because of his orders and the need for the on-station fleet to to resupply -- as well as return to seaworthiness after surviving the winter -- Medina is the only ship which can both scout the unfamiliar waters, observe the French military positions and harass French shipping. Durbin ably spins out Carlisle's thinking through his different options, highlighting both how he sees many of the obstacles and benefits of different courses of action and how he will react as conditions change. He outlines Carlisle's initial mistrust and eventual embrace of his new first lieutenant and the internal back-and-forth that drives those moves. We can see clear distinction between his heroes: Holbrooke has an intuition that leads him to dare the risky yet correct bold stroke, while Carlisle swiftly plans and calculates before committing himself to the move that has the best chance of succeeding. Although we certainly want some stories with our heroes back together, Durbin gives himself the leeway to use several more battles from the Seven Years War as his backdrop by splitting them up and allows for several more novels set within that shorter time frame.

Some sections of the story need some more showing than telling -- Carlisle's reunion with his estranged father and brother is described more than related, and might have been stronger if we saw it unspool rather than hear Carlisle's post-meeting impressions. But Cursed Fortress puts another strong entry into this series and allows it fair winds as it navigates the crowded field of sail-navy fiction.

Original available here.
115 reviews
October 8, 2019
Thoroughly enjoyable naval yarn

The latest in this series doesn’t disappoint, the author manages to place his character in the known history seamlessly and it makes for a thoroughly enjoyable read. Alongside the gunpowder and smoke you feel sympathy for the personal points of the story
1 review
October 12, 2019
Good ending indeed

What a good ending to a beautiful story. Perhaps there should be more action in terms of losses on the protaganist side to make the story more compelling. Else it feels quite straight forward.
8 reviews1 follower
September 16, 2019
Sea battles could be a little more detailed.

Refreshing read. Time period is right on. Wish there were more writing on clipped ships when the U.S. states our navy.
8 reviews1 follower
October 6, 2019
Excellent writing!

This is an excellent example of Durbin's finely crafted historic naval fiction. A real pleasure to read and I'm looking forward to the next book in this series!
Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews

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