Uncommon Valour is an omnibus of two books about a family of colonial naval officers and merchant shippers and a Royal Navy captain and how their lives intertwine during the conflicts of the American struggle for independence. As it is two volumes I shall review each seperately below.
The Frigate Captain
This book follows the life of John Sinclair a senior and well respected captain in the Royal Navy who, with the frigate Sapphire, has been sent to New York, and the lives of the Mason family, part of which in the form of Commander William Mason is heading to England with a captured French Spy. Their ships meet in the North Atlantic and thier lives become inextricably linked with John destined to fall in love with William’s sister.
It is a story of Naval officers, their wives, a family of colonial merchant shippers, espionage and romance. There are good well rounded characters including some strong female ones. It must be said that a large proportion is land based but that did not detract from a well written plot that came together well as the focus switched between the diary entries of various characters.
The style of writing the plot as narrated diary entries was different from the norm but I enjoyed reading it and look forward to the next volume which I suspect from the postscript will spend a bit more time at sea. There are a few minor typos that need editing out but these did not detract.
As American and French raiders continue to take English ships the Admiralty comes up with a new concept to deal with them, a flying squadron of frigates. Sinclair is given command of the Halifax squadron and as he becomes more involved with the Mason family William and some of his brothers serve under him.
There is more naval action in this volume as they deal with the enemy ships but the main emphasis continues to be the day to day lives of the family and their friends.
There are not many series that deal so comprehensively with the lives of all the principal characters family and friends in parallel with their careers which makes this book an interesting read in itself. There are a lot of characters in the books, all of which seem well rounded and I would read more if it were available. Recommended
Source: Review: Uncommon Valour by John Stevens – Historic Naval Fiction | Historic Naval Fiction
John Danielski has just released the first book in a proposed new series about the Royal Marines, Active’s Measure. It is now available in paperback and for kindle download worldwide.
The Royal Navy of Great Britain is all that stands between Napoleon and absolute domination of Europe. Royal Marine Captain Thomas Pennywhistle is assigned to HMS Active, part of a small squadron of frigates in the Adriatic Sea. It’s considered a sideshow theatre of the war, but on those waters, one of the greatest naval battles of the age will be fought.
As a Marine, Pennywhistle fights on land and sea. He leads his handful of men first against a battalion of Napoleon’s Army and finally against the French fleet in all its terrible grandeur, always leading from the front, fighting not only with weapons but by using his wit – cool and analytical where others are blinded by passion.
Pennywhistle’s own passions will be aroused by the beautiful and fiercely independent Carlotta, and he will be tested by conflicts that make him question his deepest principles.
HMS Active will take Pennywhistle’s measure. Will he measure up?
Source: Active’s Measure (PB/K) – Historic Naval Fiction | Historic Naval Fiction
Brewer’s Luck seeks to continue C. S. Forester’s famous series by following the adventures of a protégé, William Brewer. Appointed first lieutenant of HMS Defiant, with orders to join Hornblower in the West Indies, Brewer soon finds himself in command and tasked to deal with the pirate menace. Several of Forester’s characters, including the famous admiral himself, put in an appearance, but there are also some well written characters devised by the author himself. There also seems to be a nod to Jack Aubrey with a broadside delivered from an unseen ship in fog.
Seeking to extend the work of such a famous writer sets expectations rather high which is difficult to achieve, but Brewer’s Luck has a good plot line and some interesting characters that can be developed over time.
There are some well written storm and action sequences and good sub-plots featuring Defiant’s original captain and a young third lieutenant but also some minor typos which should be edited out.
An enjoyable read.
Source: Review: Brewer’s Luck by James Keffer – Historic Naval Fiction
The first book in Michael Aye’s new series, The Pyrate: The Rise of Cooper Cain, is now available for kindle download worldwide. It will also be released in Hardcover shortly.
Young Cooper Cain is driven from his home and his country by a nefarious cousin. Little does he expect the life that awaits him…
On his way to Antigua from his native England, Cooper finds himself captured by pirates and eventually signs on to be a member of their crew.
Follow Coper Cain as he finds his way aboard a real pirate ship, navigating through extreme danger, love, and loss on the high seas, trying to reconcile his ideals with his adopted way of life.
Source: The Pyrate (HC/K) – Historic Naval Fiction
This book covers the final years of the Napoleonic Wars and the 100 days, and as you might expect from the title is mainly set in the Baltic, an area of British Naval activity that is largely unexplored in fiction. It is a story of shifting political alliances and espionage as Bernadotte comes to power in Sweden and Napoleon seeks to stifle trade with the Continental Blockade. The Navy must steer a diplomatic path to continue it’s vital trade and at the same time protect it with force in the narrow seas between Sweden and Denmark. As Napoleon invades Russia enemies become friends and allegiances change.
Into this maelstrom steps Captain Petroc Gray, commander of HMS Kestrel, who makes a powerful and influential friend and contact when he rescues the Freiherr von Dieffenbach and his family. This book has an interesting, well written and nicely paced plot which includes a little of everything – naval action, storms, trade, espionage and romance – as it explores the day to day life of Petroc over several years.
Another narrative from this author which I thoroughly enjoyed. Recommended.
Source: Review: A Baltic Affair by Patrick G. Cox – Historic Naval Fiction
Harry Heron: Midshipman’s Journey is, as the title implies, the story of a voyage. Set during the period from just before to just after the Peace of Amiens the narrative follows Harry as he grows up with his boyhood friend Ferghal in Ireland, as they join the Navy, and then transfer to a ship ordered to escort a convoy to the penal colonies of New South Wales and then travel home via the Far East and India.
During the voyage the boys, Harry as an Officer and Feghal as a ship’s boy, experience all manner of things which you would expect. They were a believable pair which the authors narrative brought to life well in a well paced plot.
This book has been substantially re-written from it’s previous incarnation (which I did not read) and is the first in a trans-generation series which heads off to a science fiction/fantasy adventure. There are not any overt elements of this in the narrative, but towards the end of the book the author includes a few hooks leading to this transition in subsequent volumes which to the HNF purist may seem a little odd, however they did not detract from what was a well written naval fiction novel which I thoroughly enjoyed.Recommended.
Source: Review: Harry Heron: Midshipman’s Journey by Patrick G. Cox – Historic Naval Fiction
Brian Lavery has a new book available for pre-order in Hardcover, Mary Rose Owners’ Workshop Manual: King henry VIII’s Warship 1510-45. It will be released worldwide on 15 December 2015.
Insights into the construction, operation, rescue and restoration of a great Tudor ship and its contents.
From the time that King Henry VIII’s warship Mary Rose was raised from the Solent in 1982 after 437 years on the seabed, to the present day, she has been constantly in the public eye. In 2013 a state-of-the-art new museum opened at Portsmouth to show off the ship in conjunction with the thousands of artefacts in context with their Tudor owners and their locations onboard. The Mary Rose and her fascinating time capsule of life in Tudor times form the centrepiece of this unique Haynes manual.
Source: Mary Rose Owners’ Workshop Manual (HC) – Historic Naval Fiction
The nautical element of this book is based around a secret society, heirs to the Templars, under the control of Henry the Navigator and the voyages of Portuguese mariners known to history. Are they just explorers? Is Christopher Columbus who he seems to be? or are they trying to avoid the Tribulations of the Book of Revelation.
What they were doing is revealed through a parallel modern day plot as history repeats itself and the clues they left must be unravelled by State Department lawyer Jaq Quartermane and a roguish antiquities thief named Elymas.
The modern element is a similar basis, though unique plot, to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and is a page turner as the reader is eager to learn the next twist in the unfolding mystery.
Whilst the nautical element of this book is only minor it was a refreshing and interesting read which wove together a number of alternative history theories and historical locations I was not previously aware of in a very well written narrative which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Source: Review: The Virgin of the Wind Rose by Glen Craney – Historic Naval Fiction
Historic Naval Fiction is pleased to have obtained an Interview with Chris Fasolino whose new novel, Men of Promise, was released in August 2015.
What can you tell us about your book Men of Promise without spoiling the plot for readers?
Men of Promise is about a voyage of exploration to the South China Sea. The idea for the book really came from my realization that voyages of exploration, an exciting part of maritime history, have not received as much attention in fiction as naval warfare has. I think that a novel, and hopefully a series, focused on exploration will bring something new to the seafaring genre while staying true to its swashbuckling spirit. And the South China Sea, with its fabled dangers of pirates, typhoons, and coral reefs– all of which are important in Men of Promise– is an exciting setting for a nautical adventure.
The character of the hero, Captain Bowman West, is also an important part of the novel. As the story begins, West is a Royal Navy captain recovering from nearly fatal wound. He loves the ocean, but is weary of warfare; so, with the help of an old friend in the Admiralty, he determines that his next voyage will be one of discovery. West has a sense of curiousity that makes him appreciative of the exotic places that he visits, and he has the ability to use his wits, as well as his courage, in dealing with the dangers of the journey.
The book is the first in a proposed series. What are your future plans for it?
Read More: An Interview with Chris Fasolino – Historic Naval Fiction
There have been two recent releases in The Merriman Chronicles by Roger Burnage which are now available for kindle download worldwide.
The Threat in the Americas
In the year 1801 and Captain James Merriman aboard his ship Lord Stevenage is despatched to South America along with a small flotilla. A passenger by the name of George Humphries – part of the extensive network of English spies and agents controlled by a department of the Treasury – has orders for Merriman to seek out intelligence about England’s enemies, particularly France and Spain.Merriman and crew are also to try and find one Don Carlos Galiano whom he had narrowly missed capturing in the West Indies several years previously. Galiano is known to be behind smuggling and privateer activities in south Atlantic waters and is rumoured to be in Montevideo.There are battles with a French frigate and a Spanish one with an assortment of privateers – little more than pirates – who prey on shipping of any nation in the south Atlantic.But another secret purpose behind this voyage is to recover important documents and treasure from a wrecked Indiaman in Brazil, the location of which is unknown apart from some very incoherent details from the sole surviving crew member.Can Merriman be successful in all that with the French, Spanish and even the native population is against him?
The Threat in the Adriatic
The year is 1809 – late autumn. Captain Sir James Abel Merriman is despatched to Gibraltar to take command of a seventy four gun third rate ship of the line – HMS Thunder – with orders to escort a convoy through the Mediterranean to Malta and on to the Adriatic to find Captain William Hoste.Once again seconded to the Treasury – an arrangement with which he has become very familiar – Merriman is joined by Mr. Clarke who is to secretly go ashore and report on French activity whilst the squadron does as much damage as possible to French ports, forts and convoys.When given the command, Merriman had felt that he had at last reached the heights of his naval career but he had quickly come down to earth as he realised the greater problems he had to face with command of such a big ship. Dogged by problems with a slow ship in the convoy, a difficult officer and shipboard discipline, there is little time to prepare the crew before they encounter a new French 74 with devastating consequences including severe injury to Merriman himself and the loss of over 150 men.
Source: New Releases in The Merriman Chronicles – Historic Naval Fiction