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Harbor of Spies


A captivating thriller-at-sea set in Spanish colonial Havana in the 1860s.
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Discuss Harbor of Spies by Robin Lloyd:
General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

Created: 05/19/18

Replies: 25

Posted May. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
AmberH

Join Date: 05/09/18

Posts: 15

General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

I'm curious what others thought about this book in general. I was excited by the description, but found the book to be just average. I wish the story was better developed, it felt like there was little detail about a lot of different subjects.
What do others think?


Posted May. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
peggyt

Join Date: 08/10/17

Posts: 48

RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

I enjoyed this book for the historical aspects relating to the slave trade in Cuba and the blockade. I am a big fan of the Master and Commander series and this book did not compare to those but I still found it interesting and liked the adventures at sea. It was definitely not a character driven story.


Posted May. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Cynthia

Join Date: 06/07/17

Posts: 36

RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

I liked the book a lot. It enlightened me about a period in U.S. history I never thought much about: Cuba's role in the Civil War, its support and role in aiding the South, its pervasiveness and cruelty in slavery, and the complicated nature and agendas of Spanish, Brits, Americans, and military factions all "hovering" in the same harbor put me on edge at times. I agree there were a lot of story lines, and that it wasn't character-based, but I did grow to like some of them, including Townsend and his crew. It lost me during all the maneuvering at sea.


Posted May. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
laurief

Join Date: 09/08/12

Posts: 41

RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

A great historical novel. It was engaging and exposed me to a part of Civil War history I knew nothing about. Characters were diverse and well developed as their paths continued to cross throughout the story. I have already lent the book to a friend and another is waiting.


Posted May. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
rebeccar

Join Date: 03/13/12

Posts: 363

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RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

I enjoyed the book, and having traveled to Cuba, I thought about some of the old crumbling mansions I saw. I took a lot of history classes in college, and yet I don't really remember ever reading about Cuba.


Posted May. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
renem

Join Date: 12/01/16

Posts: 185

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RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

Ok, I'll admit I took a few naps during the first couple of chapters, but after that the story line became more interesting. I thought a lot of the sentences were short and choppy which made reading jerky. I also wished there would have been diagrams of the ships discussed labeled with all the parts. Overall, I did end up liking the book and will probably pass it on to history buff friends.


Posted May. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ruthiea

Join Date: 02/03/14

Posts: 114

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RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

I am a huge historical fiction fan, I love when the author does tons of research and I learn how people lived in a certain period and/or place. In this novel I felt that the research took over and the author was trying to cram every interesting tidbit in amongst the larger historical facts. This made the story feel like a lecture and, for me prevented the story from flowing and the characters from being fully developed. The writing felt a bit stiff and more like reporting than storytelling. I learnt a lot about Cuba during this period, also way too much about cigars and ship sailing. I felt more engaged when Townsend met his Grandmother, but her character was poorly developed and I quickly lost interest.


Posted May. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
rebajane

Join Date: 04/21/11

Posts: 211

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RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

Historical fiction is my genre but I agree with some other assessments here. Sometimes too much history which is odd coming from me and too much story that dragged. Parts of it were interesting but I agree the author tried to do too much. At times I was frustrated with the writing as well; lots of tired similes. But it was interesting to learn about Cuba’s role in the Civil War


Posted May. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
monicap

Join Date: 05/17/16

Posts: 7

RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

I liked this book much more than I expected. Harbor of Spies was definitely not my favorite genre, but I found myself really enjoying reading it, especially the historical background. I was quite pleasantly surprised.


Posted May. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Maggie

Join Date: 01/01/16

Posts: 120

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RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

I did not think I would like this book but I did. It kept my interest and was a quick read. I did not know about Cuba’s role in the Civil War, this surprised me. I like historical novels and it was an intriguing mystery.


Posted May. 20, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lesleyf

Join Date: 05/14/11

Posts: 66

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RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

I liked this story more than I expected to. Historical fiction is fun when it is well researched and the detail in the sailing info was well done. I was especially grateful that the book didn't lapse into a dreadful romance novel like a few I have had to read. The love story reads as it should - like any love story from the 19th century would! I read history books every month with a history reading group - all non-fiction, all the time. This one was such an interesting foray into a part of the American Civil War I knew little about that I have recommended it to all the members of the history group as a great read outside of the books we are currently reading.


Posted May. 20, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lynnw

Join Date: 09/01/11

Posts: 154

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RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

I am a history fan and particularly enjoyed this because it was about events I was not that familiar with.


Posted May. 21, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
RuthEh

Join Date: 07/31/17

Posts: 18

RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

I really enjoyed this book. I was excited about the setting but kept an open mind about the story. Townsend was a great character, he reminded me of the kind of guy who thought he knew what he was doing but learned a lot about life the hard way. Never trusted Don Pedro, disliked the arrogant Van Cortland, Abbott was a ghost( to me), Emma the dingy young girl and deceptive Dona Cecilia whom later on became a special grandmother. As for the sailing information, spot on! About Havana, very informative. So, when does the sequel come out?


Posted May. 22, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
vivianh

Join Date: 11/14/11

Posts: 56

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RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

It took a couple of chapters before I felt engaged with the story; however, I ended up really appreciating the book, which is in part based on historical figures. My husband & I are Civil War living historians and practice mid 19th Century wet plate photography. I’ve also been intrigued by Civil War Naval history....ironclads, CSS Hunley, and the blockades. I loved the detail of the blockade running and maritime issues such as the currents and coral shoals that needed to be avoided. The reference to the 6 toed cat was a wonderful tie in to Hemingway.

Part of me felt some compassion for Dona Cecilia. We 21st Century people rightly abhor the evils of slavery in the American past. However, I’ve given a great deal of thought to the necessity of humankind to put history into the context of the time, place, experience, upbringing of the people that lived at the time. Few women in particular were well educated. Many were sheltered from the real world. Indoctrination begins from childhood.
Dona Cecilia thought she was doing the right thing for her survival and what she thought was appropriate for Esperanza. That doesn’t make it right; but it does explain her actions.

Alternatively, I have nothing but antipathy for the Cubans & Spaniards that illegally perpetrated the buying & selling of people as chattel. These men knew the horrific conditions, knew they were breaking the law, and were willing to kill, lie, conspire, and act complicity for financial gain. I do believe these actions were based upon fact as explained in the notes at the conclusion of the book.


Posted May. 23, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
bobbie7

Join Date: 09/19/13

Posts: 56

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RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

I agreed with the consensus that the historical aspect , civil war connection with Cuba, blockade running, slavery, etc were interesting and well researched. I thought the story line was a little to contrived, and the characters slipped out of slippery situations too easily. The drama and tension of a good book was missing. Emma was not a believable character (heroine?), and the ending too wrapped up and pat. That said, I did enjoy the book, and would recommend it to my history loving friends.


Posted May. 23, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
clapshot

Join Date: 11/05/16

Posts: 16

RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

I enjoyed reading the book because the writer was meticulous in describing Cuba and describing the conflicts of some of the characters. However, I do think that he got a little carried away with details about ships and sailing. I'm sure he had done lots of research, but in my opinion writers need to forget or delete some of their detailed research in order to keep the plot going.


Posted May. 23, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
cathyoc

Join Date: 04/26/17

Posts: 30

RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

Harbor of Spies introduced me to an aspect of the Civil War that I had never read about. I thought the involvement of Cuba in the War was interesting and well researched. I applaud the author's attempt to weave so many story lines and moral dilemma's together. The end was a bit slow as he tried to tie up all the loose ends.


Posted May. 26, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kathryns

Join Date: 08/18/15

Posts: 9

RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

The book was very well researched. Geographical, historical, military and nautical details were meticulously reported. However, at times I felt that I was reading a thesis rather than a novel! Although the author carefully describes the physical appearance and mannerisms of each character and reports their thoughts and actions, the characters do not "come to life". I like suspense, and even though the author drops periodic clues to keep the plot going, those clues were not tantalizing - not enough to keep me reading through the night! I did finish the book, but I am not tempted to follow this author.


Posted May. 27, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
pennyp

Join Date: 03/22/12

Posts: 330

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RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

I thought the book was okay, not great. Historical fiction is not usually my genre but his was of interest to me because it was set in Cuba. We traveled there a few years ago and i wanted to see if i could connect in tat way. The book, to me, felt stilted and while i had a good visual on places and people, I failed to connect on an emotional level. When the book was over, i wasnt sad.


Posted May. 28, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lynne z

Join Date: 01/06/18

Posts: 8

RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

Having recently been to Cuba it was so exciting for me to "revisit" Cuba in the 1860s. I referred to photos I had taken in 2016 of Ft. Morro in Havana Bay, Old Havana with it's plazas and churches, and the former sugar plantations with their reminders of slavery. Cuba has a fascinating history and this book certainly captured the Civil War period. I can't say if I would enjoyed it quite so much if I hadn't been there. Who knows? I thought Robin Lloyd did an excellent job of bringing the history, geography, politics, and class distinctions of the times (especially the brutality of slavery) to life. I also liked his ability to describe in detail the world of ships and sailing. I liked the intrigue and romance, but didn't feel the character development was strong. Everett Townsend was the most fully developed character and I thought his moral dilemma was expressed well by the author. Emma was not appealing to me - a little too moralistic for my liking. I liked her mother much more and wondered why Everett and Emma did not seem to be concerned about her safety in Havana after they left. I would have also liked to have known more about Don Pedro after he was left unconscious, especially since slavery did not end in Cuba until 1886.


Posted May. 30, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
andreab

Join Date: 07/29/14

Posts: 101

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RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

This book is fantastic and so well-written. I enjoy historical fiction and this is one of the best I've read. I had no idea of the role Cuba played in the Civil War.


Posted May. 31, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Mary Beth K

Join Date: 05/31/18

Posts: 3

RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

I was really pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book. You can tell the author researched it well. I found when I was doing other things, I secretly wanted to get back to the book. I actually think the author could have written more. I would recommend this book to others.


Posted Jun. 02, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
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Nae

Join Date: 07/17/12

Posts: 29

RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

I enjoyed the book, but agree with some that the story line needed more fleshing out in many spots. It was interesting to learn of Cuba's role in the slave trade and how that impacted the United States. I also enjoyed learning a little bit about colonial (so speak) Cuba and the underlying nuances of the social strata that made up the island at that time.


Posted Jun. 03, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
PinkLady

Join Date: 01/22/18

Posts: 40

RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

My husband and I recently spent time in Cuba which made learning more of the history of the county. We wish we had read it first to understand more of what we were experiencing. We could definitely picture some of the sights and sounds. I also did not know a lot of detail about blockade running and was glad to learn more. I didn't feel the book was great literature, but the knowledge imparted made the book a very worthwhile read.


Posted Jun. 04, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
elizabethl

Join Date: 06/19/13

Posts: 13

RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

I enjoyed learning about the role of Cuba during the US Civil War. And although I'm not a fan of nautical novels, I didn't think the explanation of sails, tacking, etc. was too much for me. I did find the book a very slow read as the characters were not developed and some of the plot points were illogical/unnecessary. For example, how did Townsend's masked ball hookup advance the story? The cruelty of slavery could have been shown through some other way that a throwaway grandmother. The Michael Abbott story line didn't pay off either.


Posted Jun. 07, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Elizabeth Marie

Join Date: 05/26/18

Posts: 17

RE: General overview / impression of Harbor of Spies

I found this book to be very interesting primarily because I knew so little about this part of the Civil War. However, I also agree with those who found weak points in the narrative. The character of Emma was poorly developed and Don Pedro was almost cartoonish in his evil behavior. The description of old Havana was rich and detailed. On balance, I would recommend the book to anyone interested in historical fiction.


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