This section contains reviews of books by David Hayes and members of the forum

Review: Peregrine by Michael Aye

PeregrineThis latest episode of the Fighting Anthony's story is again set in Caribbean and American waters during the period when the French first appear on the station after entering the American War of Independence. It sees the family having to deal with a relative of an old nemesis bent on revenge.

As usual the book is fast paced with plenty of action sequences without detailed descriptions of ship handling. Over the series quite a long list of characters has been built up, many of which make an appearance so it was useful to have a character list at the start to refresh the memory.

Whilst set in the historical timeline the books do not seek to insert the principal characters into true events and this gives the author more scope to produce a good yarn with a fresh feel. I continue to enjoy the series which is recommended.

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Review: A Matter of Honor by William C. Hammond

A Matter of HonorIf you want to write a novel about an American officer in the Continental Navy based around the facts of the War of Independence you probably have to place him with John Paul Jones on Ranger and Bonhomme Richard. However the major sea battle which decided the war at the Virginia Capes only involved the French Navy. The skill therefore is to bring these two elements together in a believable narrative. Hammond does at excellent job of this whilst at the same time exploring the difficulties of personal relationships when close friends and family, as well as the public at large, find themselves on opposite sides of a conflict with divided loyalties.

The principal character is Richard Cutler whose branch of the family live near Boston and handle the shipping side of the family business whilst other relations are based in England and the Caribbean. When his brother Will is pressed into the Royal Navy and flogged to death the War takes on a new dimension for the young Richard and he joins Ranger as a Midshipman with the aim of avenging his brother's death.

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Review: Bring it Close by Helen Hollick

Bring it CloseBook 3 in the Sea Witch series, Bring it Close continues to reveal the lives of the pirate Jesamiah Acorne and the witch Tiola.

When you are an ex pirate trying to stay on the right side of the law and after your fiance finds you have been with another woman she has headed of to the town where an old enemy, the notorious pirate Blackbeard, is based life is bound to get complicated. Couple that with the fact that his fiance is a witch and the 'other woman' is the widow of the brother he murdered and then weave it all into the true story of Blackbeard's final weeks and you have the makings of an excellent story.

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Review: The Blast That Tears the Skies by J. D. Davies

The Blast That Tears the SkiesI was pleased when The Blast That Tears the Skies arrived as it meant I would soon know a lot more about the history of Restoration England through the continuing 'Journals of Matthew Quinton'.

When you are used to a diet of fiction about the navies of the Napoleonic wars getting a view of a different period when their foundations were being laid is always refreshing. The navies of the 1660's were very different with courtiers rather than professional sailors making command decisions and as the second Anglo-Dutch war starts the heir to the throne himself is at sea in command and old suspicions between cavaliers and parliamentarians are still rife. Davies weaves all this skillfully into a book which climaxes with the Battle of Lowestoft where over 200 English and Dutch ships engaged in what was the largest naval battle ever fought at the time. This is the first fleet action depicted by the author and it was very well done.

The naval action is woven into a second plot thread which covers both political and court intrigues at a time when the King rather than parliament exercised power and uncovers more of the history of the Quinton family. Protestant England is now going to War with the Protestant Dutch, who are riven with internal tensions between the constituent provinces, and all the while Catholic France is plotting for its own interests. This is all complicated by friendships and marriages from the period when the court was in exile and all takes place while the population of London is being decimated by the Great Plague.

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Julian Mackrell Review: This Wonderful Year by Mark E. Benno

This Wonderful YearGeorgian HNF with a difference: This Wonderful Year's principal subject is not a sailor and is never likely to be. Indeed, that Edward Pamprill begins the book as a pampered rich kid and ends it taking his place in the House of Lords, did not fill me with much enthusiasm for reading of his exploits, nor sympathy for his plight. And yet ...

... and yet, this is one of the most charming HNF novels I have had the pleasure to read. Benno writes with a fine feel for period detail, concentrating on characterisation while allowing his plot to evolve steadily at a relatively sedate pace, a virtually day-by-day approach that will likely resonate with lovers of Patrick O'Brian. Much of the action takes place ashore, and Pamprill is a landsman, so This Wonderful Year has few naval technicalities; some of his "landsman's howlers" [eg "the big pole in the middle"] are refreshing and mildly humorous.

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Julian Mackrell Review: The Prodigal by S. K. Keogh

The ProdigalWith solid plot lines and multi-dimensional characterizations, S K Keogh's first novel is a definite winner. Set mostly afloat in the Caribbean during the 'age of sail' it weaves several threads into an engrossing story that will be satisfying to lovers of historic sail fiction without being unduly technical for a casual reader. The author has created a believable world inhabited by a fascinating, disparate bunch of lead characters who command the reader's sympathy despite their darker sides.

No real surprises plot-wise perhaps, but it is a good story well told. You can't have a pirate novel without at least some swash-buckling, but most of the plot is concerned with situation and character development leading to a climactic showdown with a sting in its tail! In my opinion, Keogh has the balance just right and I was so enthralled that I was unprepared for the end, but it has clearly been set up for a sequel. Can't wait!

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