Under Enemy Colors
S. Thomas Russell
Putnam, Sep 2007, $25.95
In 1793 the hostilities between France and England leaves some people with divided loyalties. For instance, Royal Navy Lieutenant Charles Saunders Hayden is the offspring of an English father and a French mother although he does his duty with honor in support of England and the crown.
However, being half-French makes his chances for promotions nil and his loyalty questioned; his superior officers distrust him in spite of his proven record. Denied once again a promotion he earned, he is assigned as the first lieutenant to the frigate Themis; commanded by Captain Josiah “Faint” Hart, who got and kept his job due to political connections at the highest level of the Admiralty in spite of being an incompetent and a coward. Hayden is stunned by the Themis being closer to mothball shape rather than in war condition and the crew appears ready to jump ship. As combat with the French is imminent, Hart wants to sail away, but needing a fall guy openly tears into Hayden accusing him of being a French enemy combatant of England.
This late eighteenth century military thriller grips the audience with its insightful look at war at sea. Charles is fantastic protagonist who keeps the exciting story line together as a victim of bias and inferior superior officers who got their position due to connections; even in 1793 political hacks are given technical leadership jobs so that when a crisis occurs they can fail and blame others. Historical readers will cherish this strong naval saga with vivid sea battles, strong characterizations, and a deep sense of time and place with the reminder that those who ignore history repeat the mistakes of the past.