Book Review: Gentleman Captain

I’ll admit I cut my teeth in the British Naval novel world with the Patrick O’Brian series starring Captain Jack Aubrey and Irish/Catalan Surgeon/Natural Philosopher Stephen Maturin, all 22 novels (audio-tapes rock for that 30min commute). The era of the Napoleonic Wars seemed ideal for the sort of swashbuckling adventure, terrors of the seas, and British society drama.

Along comes J. D. Davies with Gentleman Captain and breaks the notion that you need Napoleon to have a rousing British Naval novel. Roll back time to the year 1662. Oliver Cromwell has been defeated and Charles II is king once again. Years of civil war have left a nation of divided loyalties and murky intentions. The Navy, filled with Cromwell’s officers, must be overhauled and Charles II fills the officer corps with “gentleman captains” who have almost a disdain for the working knowledge of the sea, leaving that to the ‘tarpaulins’ or lower-class officers and crew.

Enter Matthew Quinton who infamously allowed his drunken ship’s master to wreck his first command during a storm because he did not know how to save the ship. A Royalist who spent time in Brussels during the exile, he is now the younger brother of the restored Earl of Ravensden, brother-in-law to a powerful Dutch ship’s captain, and husband to the beautiful and strong Cornelia. All Matthew wishes is for a commission in the Horse Guards (Royal Cavalry) but with most of the fleet away, he is the most experienced and loyal gentleman to put in command of a Royal ship on a special mission.

There are rumors of a Scottish rebellion fueled by arms purchased on the continent. Quinton is to command the Jupiter and sail north under the lead of Captain Godsgift Judge, a Cromwell-era hold-over, to root out the truth and thwart any threat to the crown. Quinton’s ship was to be captained by Harker, whom the crew loved and who was murdered leaving the vacancy. Quinton has many challenges to face including his own demons to see if can become a successful Gentleman Captain.

I give the book 4.5 out of 5 stars if you’re a fan of British Naval novels and here’s hoping that the author continues the characters in a series as the book appears to set up.

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