I should just quit trying. I'm never going to enjoy a nautical historical fiction series as much as I do C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series so I should just quit looking. The latest attempt is the story of Union sloop captain Peter Wake knocking around Key West during the Civil War. it is the first book in a series that sees him in the world of naval intelligence all the way through the Spanish-American war and after.
Forester aficionados have to get over our assumption that every naval officer is an angst-ridden genius, and I promise that is not the reason I didn't love this book. The guy has his problems, but near – paralyzing self-doubt is not one of them. I actually moderately enjoyed the book, and if some of the favorable outcomes of his various stratagems were a little forced, and the deus ex machina at the end creaked atrociously, I actually had nothing bad to say about the book until the ending – where clearly the author held up a sign telling the characters to wrap things up. Obediently, they did, but it was terribly clumsy.
I am still on the fence about whether to get the next book in the series. What I should actually do is get out the first Patrick O'Brien Aubrey novel and read it again and see if I like it compared to Hornblower. I didn't when I first read it, but that's on me – there's no way the book should come off unfavorably against anything. That I thought it did is probably a good indication that I am officially a terrible judge of nautical historical fiction.
But I can't help it. Commiserating with Horatio about his feelings for Lady Barbara is one of my favorite pastimes. You can keep your Jack Aubreys and Peter Wakes.