Rating: 5 stars
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Captain Hiram Nightingale has spent the last two years recovering from the physical wounds he sustained at the Battle of the Nile. He knows the mental wounds will never heal and he isn’t sure he wants to go back to sea or if he’s even able. Under pressure from his father and father-in-law, Nightingale agrees to travel to Trinidad to take over a naval support position. But at the last moment, his orders are changed and he is tasked with hunting down a mutinous crew whose whereabouts are unknown. Nightingale’s given charge of the Scylla, whose men have barely recovered from the yellow fever and the loss of their own, well-loved captain. With his crew more fit for the grave than for service and a belly full of self doubt, Nightingale must fulfill his duty or risk ruination.
Willful and initially belligerent, Scylla’s first lieutenant, Arthur Courtney, causes more than a few headaches for his new captain. But as they come to understand and respect one another, both men realize that lies and treachery stalk Scylla. Someone on the crew is working for a powerful enemy and doing so might get them all killed. Murder, mutiny, and hidden agendas threaten everything Nightingale hopes to achieve. But with Courtney at his side and the stout-hearted crew of the Scylla, Nightingale is determined to succeed or die trying.
I’m currently pursuing a Masters degree in Maritime and Naval Studies, so when I saw Leeward pop up for review, I grabbed it without hesitation. And I’m glad I did, because Leeward was hands down one of the best pieces of nautical-themed historical fiction I’ve read in a very long time. Leeward is in the tradition of Horatio Hornblower and Aubrey-Maturin, and is the debut novel by Katie Daysh and the first in an anticipated series involving Hiram Nightingale and Arthur Courtney. The writing was crisp and clean, while the pacing was spot on. With its taut action sequences and exceptionally engaging characters, Leeward was everything I wanted and so much more.
Nightingale is at the core of this book and his fragility and strength make him utterly compelling. With survivor’s guilt and PTSD threatening to unravel him, he somehow finds the inner strength to tackle rebuilding the crew of the Scylla and pursue a mutinous ship in a vast ocean bent upon destroying him. He is stern but fair, and leadership is a cloak that Nightingale wears naturally, if reluctantly; the bedraggled crew under his command respond to his forthright, unflinching manner. He and Courtney clash initially, but as respect turns to friendship and perhaps something deeper, both men balance and support one another as only comrades in arms can. The romance here is minimal and really doesn’t reveal itself until the end of the book, but it sets up the potential of something more for Nightingale and Courtney, both of whom deserve a little happiness by the time the book comes to a close.
Leeward was brilliantly written and its story is captivating and well crafted. Nightingale and his tenacious crew are the kind of characters that tug at your heart without seeming sappy or excessive. Leeward is a classic adventure tale with enough depth and detail to satisfy any historical fiction fan. Sufficed to say, I cannot recommend this one more highly and I eagerly await the next installment in the series.
Sue, thanks for sharing your enthusiasm; I’ve downloaded a sample to see what I think.
Best wishes with your masters studies!