France roils in revolution, its armies are opposed to most of Europe, and on the seas the Royal Navy is hunting its prey. A large French fleet is out and about — doing what, no one is sure. But they’re French, so it’s probably nothing good. A severe storm has scattered Admiral Nelson’s fleet hither and yon, and three of his frigates are in search of both their admiral and their quarry. The Louisa, under the command of Captain Charles Edgemont, is dispatched to Toulon in hopes of finding the admiral. Lord Nelson isn’t there, but he was — and so were the French. Following tips from Neapolitan fisher-folk, Edgement sails across the Med, in defiance of orders and in pursuit of answers. He will find them, and by his daring push the Royal Navy into one of its most astonishing naval victories ever.
As a longtime fan of Horatio Hornblower, I was delighted to discover another scribbler of Napoleonic tales — and largely won over by this story of adventure at sea, although it has some social peculiarities. The good captain is married to a Quaker, who somehow tracks him down and joins him at sea. This has the happy effect of allowing him to explain sea terminology to us through his conversations with his wife, although her arrival is implausible, to say the least. The bulk of the story follows Edgemont’s attempts to find either the French or his admiral, while at the same time dodging pirates and trying to keep his useless ex-first lieutenant from doing something foolish like challenging his replacement to a duel. Edgemont is a thoroughly likable character, and I appreciated the consistent humor that Worrall worked into the story. There were plot oddities — the improbable arrival of Mrs. Edgemont, and a few equally strange changes in the command structures of various ships — but on the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed this and will be trying another of Worrall’s novels.