The previous book ended with Aubrey & Maturin heading back to England after the successful campaign in Mauritius, and this book opens with yet another attempt by both men at finding domestic bliss on land. Predictably and despite the windfall of cash from the aforementioned campaign, it’s not going great.
Aubrey has upgraded his cottage and hired some servants, most of them former deckhands and sailors. They keep his house, his garden, and his day-to-day affairs in tip-top order, including the kids. The newborn baby George is teething, but otherwise, it’s all hunky-dory.
Aubrey doesn’t really know what to do with his wealth however, and he spends it on horses and cards. He’s not a winner at either, and being cheated at least at the latter, though Sweet Sophie can only bring herself to confide of her disapproval in Maturin. Ah, 19th century.
Fortunately, we soon have a ship and a mission, with Aubrey choosing the HMS Leopard, a retrofitted old double-decker, over the brand spanking new HMS Ajax, which won’t be ready for another six months. Plus, the Leopard is supposed to go to the far side of the world (hey, movie title!) while the Ajax is intended for Mediterranean patrol duty under Admiral Harte, who still hates Aubrey’s guts.
So we’re all good to go, right? Well... not all. While many of Aubrey’s former charges are absolutely raring to get sailing again (Pullings, Babbington, Killick, Bonden, etc), Maturin’s not signing up...
You see, Maturin’s decided to get his heart broken yet again, by Diana, yet again. Having ditched Stephen, again, in the Indian Ocean in the previous book to abscond to America with a Mr. Johnstone, Diana’s now back in London as, it turns out, Mr. Johnstone was still married back in America. Oopsies!
So Stephen and her get to talking, again, but just as things start to heat up, she disappears, once again. She leaves a note to put the proverbial dagger in his heart, yet again, and twists it to explain that she’s gone back to Mr. Johnstone. Oh Stephen...
Meanwhile, Stephen also manages to cross an Admiral in the secret service over some missing intelligence (not Stephen’s, the Admiral’s, but the powerful ain’t gonna admit culpability). Steve’s old friend Sir Joseph smooths things over, but perhaps a nice long vacation at sea is in order.
And so, we’re off once again!
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