Alexander Kent,
Richard Bolitho #17: Honour This Day
(Highseas, 1987; McBooks, 2000)

Ordered to the Caribbean, Vice-Admiral Richard Bolitho sails with the aging hulk Hyperion -- once his vessel in happier days -- as his flagship. But the officers and crew we've come to know in the series are mostly gone; Bolitho has a new flag caption and new men to command, and they're not all to his liking.

But Antigua proves to be the base for a great deal of adventure in his life -- both professionally, as he seeks to cut out a heavily laden Spanish treasure ship, and personally, as he finds himself again in the company of his lost love Catherine. Let's set aside for the moment that his wife, Belinda, waits for him in England, and that their relationship -- a pale shadow of his previous romance with her identical cousin Cheney -- is largely an unhappy one.

Honour This Day also takes Bolitho, in command of a small but feisty fleet, to the Mediterranean, to England and again to the Mediterranean, where he -- now reunited with some of his former comrades in arms -- must seek out a larger Spanish fleet and prevent them from joining the French fleet that is playing cat-and-mouse with Nelson in the Atlantic.

Like all of the Alexander Kent's novels that I've read to date, it's full of gritty, realistic naval action that will put you in the heart of the ship as the cannons roar. Still, Honour This Day is not as strong as some other books in the series; Kent spends too much ink, in my view, on the admiral's wayward romances and Belinda's evil but understandable plot against Catherine. Bolitho also has become too grim in general, giving an unhealthy amount of attention to friends lost in battle, his injured eye and anything else that might make him wallow in melancholy. Buck up, Richard -- there's a war to win!

I am still enjoying the series -- and I still have a dozen more books to read before its end -- but I hope our hero regains his fighting spirit and cheers up a bit in the next one!

book review by
Tom Knapp

3 December 2016

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