Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy Link:
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Length: Novel


Peace exists between France and Britain in June of 1802, but it’s a peace balanced on a knife’s edge, fraught with tension and far from stable. For Lieutenant Arthur Courtney, peace is something of a mixed bag. Far from the sea he loves, he has no ship and no chance of further promotion, but being landside means he can spend time with Hiram Nightingale, his dearest friend and lover. Hiram no longer serves, but he understands Courtney’s desperation to be back at sea, even if it means they must be apart. Yet he cherishes what little time they have together.

All too soon the fragile truce is threatened by the disappearance of two diplomats, one French and one English, the latter Hiram’s own father-in law. Thrust once more into a world of spymasters, national secrets, and the burdensome expectations of service, Courtney and Nightingale must find a ship lost at sea and maintain a peace that seems determined to destroy itself.

The Devil to Pay is the sequel to author Katie Daysh’s fantastic debut, Leeward, in the Nightingale and Courtney series. I loved Leeward, so I was eagerly looking forward to The Devil to Pay and Daysh does not disappoint. Like its predecessor, The Devil to Pay is filled with fantastic action sequences, a wonderful historically centered plot, and two characters who continue to be engaging.

Courtney is given center stage in The Devil to Pay and we learn more about his past and see his further growth, both as a man and as a naval officer. His background is far different than Hiram’s, but both have known brutality, loss, and pain. Because of the plot, Hiram is something of a secondary character here, which was a shame. Part of what made Leeward so good was the interactions between Courtney and Hiram, so it was disappointing to lose some of that in The Devil to Pay. But it made me appreciate the natural evolution such a unique relationship must experience if it wishes to endure. This novel also deals in a very real way with the Navy’s brutal response to homosexual activity in the service and how dangerous relationships, or even casual liaisons, could be for sailors. With the threat of a long drop from a short rope forever overshadowing their relationship, Courtney and Nightingale must decide if what they have is actually worth dying for.

The drama here is spot on and, save for a side plot whose resolution felt a little too on the nose and a few excessive moments during the last few chapters, it never tips over into melodrama. Instead, readers are given front row seats to savage storms, a devastating collision between ships, and the violence of battles fought at sea. Its gripping, heart-in-your-throat stuff and gorgeously written.These action-packed sequences are not gratuitous or spurious, but they are intense and immersive in a way that few other books can match.

The Devil to Pay was a wonderful follow up to Leeward and, if I was a little disappointed by Hiram’s lesser character role, then this was balanced by the amazing moments of action and getting to witness Courtney’s journey from his own perspective. If you love historical fiction with engaging characters and brilliant action pieces, then consider The Devil to Pay highly recommended.