Anglophiles and fans of Patrick O'Brian's Capt. Jack Aubrey novels might consider "Gentleman Captain," by J.D. Davies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010, $25) as a comforting winter read.
Davies, chairman of the Naval Dockyards Society and vice president of the Navy Records Society in his British homeland, is an authority on the 17th century British navy and author of "Pepy's Navy: Ships, Men and Warfare, 1649-1689." Critics praised his ear for the language of the era.
Appropriately, Davies has placed his novel in 1662 during the post-Cromwell restoration period of the British royalty. It is a time of divided allegiances and a brewing rebellion against the empire in Scotland. The new king, Charles II, has directed Capt. Matthew Quinton, all of 21 years old and a greenhorn at the helm, to sail north and defuse the threat. The novel is written in the first person so the reader is privy to all of the overwhelmed captain's evolution into a leader.
On board his ship, the Jupiter, Quinton, a loyalist with a nobleman's lineage, must win over a resentful crew whose previous captain might have been murdered while allying himself with crew such as Kit Farrell, an illiterate commoner with vast seafaring experience. "Gentleman Captain" is a salt-sprayed mystery adventure set in a time of duty and honor. www.hmhco.com
This article originally appeared in Home Waters Sections of the March 2011 issue.