The Duty and Destiny Series, by Andrew Wareham

Beginning with The Friendly Sea, the Duty and Destiny series is the story of Captain Frederick Harris of His Majesty's navy. The (currently) eleven book saga follows Harris' career from his days as a newly made lieutenant in the Caribbean to his days as baronet and commodore at the beginning of the Peninsular Campaign in Spain. In between he travels from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean and back again, with time left over to marry, father children, and build up two grand estates.

The books have their flaws. Harris is faced with a variety of challenges, but seems to take them all in stride; he is the very ideal of the successful naval officer, rich in prize money, rich in the interest that comes from having friends in politics, a fighting captain who is prudent enough to take counsel from others and to invest his winnings wisely, moving from strength to strength with only minor setbacks. As such, the books lack any real suspense: the reader knows that Harris will come through, if not unscathed than at least smelling of roses. On top of that, Harris' attitudes toward certain moral issues arising on the ships of His Majesty's navy seem surprisingly modern for the era in question. Ahem.

The obvious comparison is with Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels, and Wareham's books come off a distinct second. The books have neither the depth nor the immediacy of O'Brian's; when I read about Jack Aubrey on the quarterdeck of the Surprise I can see the sun on the grain of the holystoned decking and the water splashing against the chains as the ship heels in a stiff breeze. More than that, O'Brian's novels are simultaneously romances and novels, the sea story serving as the occasion for much deeper story-telling, whereas in Wareham's tales the sea story is essentially all there is.

But the comparison with O'Brian really isn't fair; playing in O'Brian's sandbox is an endeavor which could lead any author to feelings of gross inadequacy. What I can fairly say is that I've now read all eleven books in the series, and that Wareham has kept me happily turning pages. If you're a fan of sea stories and you're looking for a new fix, Wareham's your man.

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photo credit: Wikimedia Commons