A Guest Review by Cryselle
Review Summary: A love story to go with a sea yarn in best Hornblower tradition.
Alexander Porterfield may be one of the rising stars of Nelson’s navy, but his relationship with his first lieutenant, Tom Anderson, makes him vulnerable. To blackmail, to the exposure of their relationship—and to losing Tom, either in battle or to another ship.
When sudden danger strikes—from the English rather than the French—where should a man turn?
There feels to be substantial back-story here, meaning that should Charlie Cochrane decide to write it, I will be jostling for first in line. According to her blog, this is her first foray into Age of Sail, and begins with an established couple.
The story has two major sections, the first at Alexander’s family home at holiday time, sometime after the Peace of Amiens, and the two men are very much a couple. They always have an eye out for someone who doesn’t wish them well and must be very discreet, because the Articles of War prescribe death for men in a relationship such as theirs, and the social suicide in the land-based society would be scarcely better. They have more freedom at the family estate than they do on board ship, but a country Christmas means houseguests, some with sharp eyes and secrets of their own.
Back aboard ship, Tom and Alexander have war to deal with and are yet more circumspect, which means that they dare not be together, nor exchange so much as a fond glance on deck. Even the hint of scandal is enough to cause an able sailing master, one who sailed with the legendary Captain Cochrane, to be lacking a berth. (Knowledgeable sources tell me Cochrane was the source for many exploits that ended up in Ramage, Hornblower, and Aubrey stories.)
I loved the language, which was slightly formal for modern day, but gave it a period feel. The men would occasionally tease each other in ship’s terms, but the playfulness kept the nautical language from being dry or overdone. The sex scenes have a similar restraint, which was kind of cute and kept from introducing coarser terms into the story that would have spoiled the effect. (See what kind of effect the story is having on me? The mores are catching!) The naval jargon is present just enough to place the story, but isn’t overwhelming and doesn’t require specialist’s knowledge.
Tom and Alexander clearly love one another and are protective of each other, but problems that an able first officer should solve without troubling the captain might not be the same as what one lover should keep from another. The battle sequences are exciting and fraught with danger, and winning brings problems of its own.
The love story and the nautical story wrap together very nicely, and tie in with an external danger worse than the French. My one quibble is that the solution to this problem had something of a deus ex machina feel to it, although it certainly solved the issue.
I enjoyed this story, and would recommend it not only for aficionados of Hornblower and the like, but for anyone who’d appreciate an m/m historical that doesn’t bend the reality of then to allow a more present day liberty. Charlie Cochrane deserves her legions of fans, and this story is a great addition to her work. 4.5 stars