Alexander Kent,
Richard Bolitho #15: Success to the Brave
(Hutchinson, 1971; McBooks, 2000)

It's 1802, and the war with France is over, and many men of the British navy -- sailors and officers alike -- are on the beach. Richard Bolitho, now a vice admiral, is among the fortunate few still employed, although he's less than thrilled with the mission that sends him and the crew of the 64-gun ship Achates across the Atlantic, first to the fledgling United States and then the British-held island of San Felipe.

Politicians still debating the shaky Treaty of Amiens are still wrangling over various colonial possessions taken and retaken during the lengthy war. Now, the British government has decided to return San Felipe to the French, despite its strategic importance if hostilities resume.

Bolitho isn't alone in thinking the French shouldn't have the island. The Americans want it, preferring one less foreign foothold so close to their southern border, and the Spanish will try to take it. Meanwhile, the British governor who currently rules the island -- and has profited a great deal there -- isn't going to give it up easily.

And there's a mysterious ship that is menacing Bolitho's command, as well as a face from his past. Despite these pressing concerns, his mind is focused on his new wife back home -- and their baby, who's due during his absence.

One might worry that a novel set during peacetime might be dull stuff on a war ship. Not so. Alexander Kent keeps the action exciting, with some of the most dramatic sea battles yet seen in this series.

Of course, historians will know the peace with France is not destined to survive. One expects the next book in the series -- Colours Aloft! -- will offer plenty more conflict.

book review by
Tom Knapp

10 January 2015

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