In 1969 the ex-Royal Navy officer, Douglas Reeman, set his course to write a novel about a daring English captain during the Napoleonic Wars. Reeman chose to write the novel under the pseudonym Alexander Kent, a friend of his who had been killed in World War II. In Form Line of Battle, Richard Bolitho was launched.
Over the next 27 years there would be 26 more Bolitho novels, filling the entire period from the American Revolution to the final demise of Napoleon. Bolitho himself, like Horatio Hornblower who slightly preceded him and Jack Aubrey who is his contemporary in literature, has his basis in history with many real historical events being fictionalized into the books. The captains (earlier midshipmen and later admirals) are all an amalgam of the best in the Royal Navy during this tumultuous half century.
I have read a lot of these seafaring naval novels and prefer the Bolitho ones if for no other reason than the entire panoply of the crew of a sailing man-o-war is captured with each of the characters having depth and a place to play in the plot. With all three I never did read the latter (in historical chronology) novels; after all the stories of personal command and risk I just could not adjust to the admiral worrying over strategy.
The sailing is real - Reeman actually taught sailing and was intimately familiar with the needs to sail a large square-rigged vessel. The battle sequences are full and throaty. The situations are complex and the scenes painted thoroughly.
From the back of the early paperback edition: "The year is 1793, and England is once again at war. For Richard Bolitho, the renewal of hostilities with France means a fresh command and the chance for action after months of inactivity."
Form Line of Battle can be had for as little as $3.94 on Biblio. Recommended!
Me as a critic (be careful! the harshness will be well concealed!)