V.A. Stuart,
Phillip Hazard #5: Hazard in Circassia
(Robert Hale, 1973; McBooks, 2004)

It's 1855, and the Crimean War is at a stalemate, in part because France -- a British ally -- is hesitant to proceed with any bold strategies that could bring the Russian army to heel.

Stymied once again by a change of heart by the French commander, the British navy looks for new allies. Phillip Hazard, commander of the Huntress, is sent with a handful of crewmen to persuade Serfir Pasha, leader of a guerrilla army of Circassians, to join an attack by British and Turkish forces on various coastal cities.

This of course means taking Hazard away from his natural element -- the sea. He spends most of this book in the Caucasus Mountains -- on foot, on horseback and in caves. During his adventures ashore, he participates in a daring raid on a Russian supply caravan, takes a bullet to the leg and falls for the feisty daughter of a Polish expatriate.

As usual, author V.A. Stuart -- born Violet Vivian Finlay, she wrote military and historical novels as V.A. Stuart and William Stuart Long, and romances as Alex Stuart, Barbara Allen, Fiona Finlay and Robyn Stuart -- has done impeccable research on the time period and the people involved. With the exception of Hazard and his crew, most of the characters in this book are real, and Stuart has painted them in a true light.

Although the book lacks the usual sea adventures I was expecting, Hazard remains an intriguing and likable protagonist, and his exploits make for good reading.

book review by
Tom Knapp

6 December 2014

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