Title: Home is the Sailor (Royal Navy #3)
Author: Lee Rowan
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Historical Mystery
Length: Novel (73k words)
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: Will and Davy are back in a great end to a great series.
The fourth book in the Royal Navy series, Home Is the Sailor is set immediately following Eye of the Storm. After an unprovoked attack during peacetime—was it revenge for their abduction of one of Bonaparte‘s top military scientists?—Commander William Marshall and his lover, David Archer, are sent into hiding at David‘s ancestral home in Devon.
But this is no peaceful shore leave. With the best intentions in the world, Will has discovered that his fear of losing Davy is still stronger than his desire to keep Davy beside him on the quarterdeck. And Lieutenant Archer is having problems of his own—the family that seemed so rock-solid, if distant, is staggering under the loss of its eldest son and heir. Was it an accident… or murder? And if the latter, how will he ever prove it to an autocratic father who still sees him as the inept youngest son? Out of their element, Davy and Will are thrust into the role of sleuths while trying to determine what sort of future, if any, they may have together.
Royal Navy Series
It’s no secret that I love Lee Rowan’s writing and this is just another reason why. Home Is the Sailor is the latest (and final) installment in Rowan’s wonderful Royal Navy (formerly the Articles of War) series that began with Ransom. Although each book — and especially this one — could conceivably be read as a standalone, I highly recommend that new readers consume and enjoy the series in order, especially as you get further in as references are made to previous events and built-upon emotions.
The story is set pretty much immediately after the end of the previous installment and opens in January 1803 with the Mermaid being attacked on its way home from a mission. The same fear as always rears its head: Will is so concerned for Davy’s safety onboard that he feels he cannot captain his ship properly, and both of them realize that the only way to fix it is for them to be apart while Will works. Making their way out of the danger and to shore, they soon learn that their previous mission (that took place in the last book) has earned them a price on their heads. It is highly recommended that they make themselves scarce for a while, so taking advantage of the unexpected time off together, they head to Davy’s family estate in Devon. When they arrive, they are shocked to find Davy’s eldest brother, Mark, recently deceased in a hunting accident, leaving the second oldest son, Ronald, as the very unwelcome heir apparent. After hearing of the circumstances surrounding Mark’s death and being on-hand for new happenings, they begin to suspect that it wasn’t an accident after all, but conceivably murder, the ramifications of which could change the course of all of their lives forever. Taking it upon themselves to investigate, the real challenge becomes finding a way to convince Davy’s father — as local magistrate and someone who always felt Davy was incompetent — that there was foul play.
HITS has a very different flavor and feel for me than the others, with the story setting moving away from the water and onto land, and the shifting of the plot focus from maritime action/adventure and war to mystery and family drama. This was fine for me, and even though I suspected very early on what happened — it’s really not much of a secret (along with the alternating third-person POVs of Will and Davy we get to see some of the thoughts of the evil-doer, so we have an idea of what his reactions are to some things and plans for others) — the mystery elements worked and I enjoyed watching Davy and Will (and some other family members) work it out from suspicion to proof to convincing those who matter. Like EOTS, the previous book to this, part of the focus is also on Will and Davy’s relationship issues (how Will feels he can’t do his job with Davy around, the fear of something bad happening again almost crippling him) and the question of “how do we make this work.” Another thing I noticed is, where in the previous books much of the story has our two heroes spending quite a bit of time alone, here they share the stage with many other characters, which felt a little less intimate to me.
I love these two men! Will and Davy continue to be two of my favorite characters, wonderful, sympathetic betas in love coming from different stations in life and personalities. Poor Will, he’s very much like a fish out of water when on land of any length of time (Marshall felt adrift, without ship or purpose), and as an only child raised by a single parent, his discomfort is plentiful as he spends his days and nights at Davy’s parents’ busy estate (“I feel like a visitor in a different country”) complete with female persons, with whom he spends very little time in life. He also has to deal with the apparent wealth that is part of Davy’s world, but not his, and his feelings of uselessness, inadequacies and self-esteem issues in social rank.
And Davy…I think I love him most. The youngest son who is a disappointment, thought of as a child and oft forgotten by his highly critical father, for him homecoming means mixed feelings: longing for “home” and seeing his mother and sisters, but unhappy with the way he is treated by his father and how he and Will cannot be together as easily (if it is ever easy). I thought he stood up nicely to his father and brother, showing maturity and growth since the first book. And really all he wants is a way for him and Will to be together in some capacity, with as little home responsibility as possible.
Even the characters with the least amount of screentime had fleshed personalities, with Davy’s immediate family having standout roles. I found his sister, Amelia, to be a wonderful, strong, likeable female character and one who has a large part in this book. And Ronald — Davy’s first thought after learning of Mark’s demise: “Ronald is heir, now. Oh, holy Jesus,” which speaks volumes about the second son — is a world-class bullying, arrogant, selfish prick. I loved to hate him.
One thing that struck me here, perhaps more than any other installment, is how young our heroes really are, but how mature they act. In this book they are twenty-three, but they seem at least ten years older. Perhaps that is a function of the time? Or what they’ve seen in their young lives?
Were this in a contemporary setting, the ending would have felt contrived and perhaps an eye-rolling disappointment, but considering the time, it makes sense to me and I was able to be okay with it. And although I understand that there may be a short story or two that could come along in the future, this is the last novel-length installment, and that works for me.
Another fabulous book by Lee Rowan, and a good end to the series. Fans of the author and of this series, as well as those who love historicals (just remember to start with Ransom!), should not miss this.