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On the Island of Roanoke the green vines of the grape and the wicked brambles twined riotously over the falling dwellings of the First Colony. Bushes grew thick and rank along the broken palisades.

Roanoke Hundred is the first in a fairly lengthy series called the Carolina Chronicles. Story info and series order on these books is rather sparse, and some reader sites (LT isn’t the only one to have them listed this way) have the series order listed by publication date, which isn’t necessarily the chronological order. My copy of Roanoke Hundred clearly says “Book 1”, with books 2-6 being listed on the inside flap as Bennett’s Welcome, Men of Albermarle, Lusty Wind for Carolina, Raleigh’s Eden and Toll of the Brave. The nice folks at Goodreads have this list as the chronological order of the books, but that list has twelve books! It looks like book two takes place about 100 years after the end of Roanoke Island, so I’m not sure yet if there’s any character follow-up from Roanoke Hundred, or if each book stands alone. Are you confused? I am, but I will be tackling these as I can get my hands on them and try to resolve the mystery once and for all.

Anyhoo, this book is about the second expedition to the new world organized by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1585 and led by Sir Richard Grenville. Despite the title, the first third of the book is set in England, as Raleigh gathers support and funds for his expedition, preparing for the voyage, as well as learning more about Sir Richard’s home and family in Cornwall. Several men from Sir Richard’s household will be going, including Colin, a young herd-boy who bears a rather strong resemblance to the Grenville men (wrong side of the blanket, perhaps?). The middle third of the book details the voyage to Roanoke (including run ins with the Spanish), and events when they arrived. Sir Richard eventually takes his fleet home with the promise to return with more supplies the next year, and leaves his hundred men behind, including Colin. Colin is then the focus of the book as we see the difficulties he and his companions face in a new and dangerous land, especially hindered as they were by the man left in charge – Ralph Lane. As Fletcher portrays him, Lane is less interested in storing supplies for the winter and building shelter, and more interested in grabbing what wealth he can get his hands on. He was also pretty darned good at antagonizing the Indians, which didn’t help matters any.

While there is a romantic storyline with young Colin and Grenville’s ward Thomasine, you should know that the book blurb and covers are very misleading – there were no women on that expedition.

I don’t want my squires thinking of women. They must have their minds free to think of nothing but the land of Virginia. Let Virginia be their mistress.

All in all I did enjoy this book, although it is a bit dry and heavy on the details at times, plus I’m not overly fond of battles at sea. I would read a small chunk of it and then put it down for a few days to read other books and then come back to it. Despite those quibbles, I would definitely recommend it to those interested in early American history. 4/5 stars.

Love these older covers, click on any image to enlarge.