James Nelson,
Revolution at Sea #4: Lords of the Ocean
(Pocket, 1999)

U.S. naval commander Isaac Biddlecomb has been fully won over to the cause of American independence and, as a commissioned captain in the fledgling Colonial navy, has sallied successfully against the mighty British fleet.

But now Biddlecomb is again torn from his new bride's side, first to aid General George Washington in fleeing superior British forces on Long Island, and then to ferry Benjamin Franklin across the Atlantic Ocean to France, where the elder statesman will argue the American cause and seek allies. Biddlecomb has only to avoid the British frigates that patrol the North American coast as well as the massive British fleet that awaits him on the other side of the ocean.

Once there, however, and his mission for Franklin is complete, Biddlecomb is free to seek and seize prizes among the many British merchant ships that sail those waters. And he sets to his mission with a taste for profit -- but this time, his avarice might just be his undoing.

Lords of the Ocean, like the preceding three volumes in the thrilling Revolution at Sea series by James Nelson, is packed with blood-pounding adventure and fantastic characters from the days of infancy for the United States. The naval side of the American Revolution has long been overlooked in favor of land-based campaigns like those at Trenton, Valley Forge and Yorktown. Nelson ensures that the first American navy has its day in the sun, and Isaac Biddlecomb -- whose adventures in this book are based loosely on those of real-life Capt. Lambert Wickes -- is an excellent centerpiece for the tale. Bold, cunning and a natural-born seaman, Biddlecomb has enough flaws -- including overconfidence and greed -- to keep his character grounded.

A long-time fan of the British naval adventures of author Patrick O'Brian, I am happy these very readable and well-researched books give America its much-deserved slice of glory back in the days of grapeshot and gunwales on those tall wooden ships. I am sad, however, to see there is only one volume remaining in this fine series.

[ visit the author's website ]

review by
Tom Knapp

30 May 2009

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