James Burke is an agent with British Intelligence.
The time period is the late 1700's through early 1800's, a time when England was going through a tremendous growth period, even though it had recently lost the American colonies, and a time when her historical rivals, France and Spain, were undergoing tremendous change themselves.
When we first meet Burke, he is a lieutenant in His Majesty King Louis of France's Army, leading a company of infantry on the steaming island of Haiti. He had wanted to be something quite different for he had had dreams of serving in the British Army long enough to achieve some semblance of "gentleman" status to make a better life for himself. Life had not worked out that way.
"He had abandoned Ireland to find a place in Society. He had joined the Regiment of Dillon because there he could take his place in the officers’ mess without the fortune needed to buy a commission in a British regiment. In time, he hoped to progress to the point where he might number an earl amongst his acquaintances. Perhaps even a duke. But he was never going to be a person of that much consequence himself."
When France and Britain went to way some time thereafter, the British forces that overtook most of the Caribbean fought the several hundred in the Regiment and won. Burke and his few survivors were "ordered to lay down its arms". And then came the miracle. "The British offered the regiment ... the opportunity to fight under the flag of King George ... Now the fortunes of war had made him what he always wanted to be: an officer in His Britannic Majesty's army."
But as he, and we, soon find out, that life is going to change even more when it is found that someone of his grit and his impressive skills is needed for a secret mission elsewhere. Suddenly, his career gets a huge change in direction.
The tagline for this series is "James Bond in breeches" and it really, truly fits. The man comes across very much like 007 in his demeanor with the same brashness and daring and wonderful confidence in his ability to handle any problem eventually.
Also, as we are told at the beginning, "James Burke was a real person, as were many of the other characters in this novel". Further, "his name really was James Burke and he really was a spy". These three adventures are an historical trilogy regaling just some of the many adventures that Burke took part in - fictionalized but with the basis of actual events to stand as the foundation.