After returning from years at sea, in the East Indies, Botany Bay, the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands, the Peruvian coast and Cape Horn--during which Aubrey freed an old servant of Dr. Maturin from imprisonment and unwittingly took on a stowaway from Botany Bay, frustrated an attempt by a prototypical communist to set up an "ideal" government which would have been inimical to British interests in the Sandwich Islands, and a failed attempt by Dr. Maturin (a British intelligence agent) to free Peru from the Spanish influence--as well as encountering terminal storms, volcanic eruptions, encounters with icebergs, pirates and other enemy ships, in the last book (The Wine Dark Sea); our heroes, Dr, Stephen Maturin and Captain Jack Aubrey finally arrive back in England in this, the 17th book of the 20 book Aubrey/Maturin series.
However, all is not well. Aubrey's wife, Sophie, suspects him of having an affair with the stowaway, Mrs. Oakes, although he is innocent. He, in turn, suspects her of having an affair with the local parson, who pursued her before their marriage. Stephen finds his wife, Diana, gone to parts unknown, and his girl child whom he has never seen, is suspected of being an idiot.
Jack is given a new command, promoted to Commodore, and embarks on an effort to stop the slave trade out of Africa, as well as to frustrate a French squadron from interfering in Ireland.
No one knows square-rigged ships as well as the late Patrick O'Brian, the author. His 19th century sea battles are often taken directly from British Admiralty records, but more than that his dialogues are replete with period expressions and turns of phrase that add greatly to his stories. What magnificent stories!
The newcomer to the series should start with the first book, Master and Commander, and take them in order. I envy you the hours of pleasure that await you.
Joseph H. Pierre
Author of The Road to Damascus: Our Journey Through Eternity