The Continental Risque

James L. Nelson, Author
James L. Nelson, Author Pocket Books $24.95 (388p) ISBN 978-0-671-01381-3
Reviewed on: 08/03/1998
Release date: 08/01/1998
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At the outset, the final installment in Nelson's Revolution at Sea trilogy (after The Maddest Idea) seems to chart a steady course through the standard formulaic historical romance, with dashing swashbucklers, satin-skinned ingenues, crusty old sea dogs and a heinous villain belowdecks. Once on the open seas, however, Nelson proves again to be an able novelist who handles deftly the conventions of the O'Brien-dominated maritime genre and writes characters who burst out of their stereotypes. Isaac Biddlecomb, now captain of the converted merchantman Charlemagne, a newly commissioned brig-of-war in the Continental Navy of 1776, is being pursued by his archenemy, HMS Glasgow. Through a series of clever yachting maneuvers, Biddlecomb eludes the larger enemy ship, impresses the love of his life, Virginia Stanton, daughter of his old mentor, and makes himself a hero. After a brief and somewhat tedious stay on shore, though, during which the reader is treated to cameos of Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers, the captain and his ship join the fledgling Continental fleet and the salt breeze invigorates Nelson's tale as his hero sails through various adventures in the Bahamas. Nelson's capacious knowledge of sailing and period maritime practices informs the book on every page and very nearly clutters the story with too much seamanship. But his rounded characters, tense action and battle sequences will certainly please fans of historical fiction. Editor, Tris Coburn; agent, Nat Sobel. (Aug.)
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