The Time of Terror
This novel opens in 1793 with Nathaniel Peake, master and commander of the British brig sloop Nereus, patrolling the sea for smugglers off the coast of France and dreaming of the breasts of the woman he hopes to meet some day. Before long he becomes a secret agent in Paris during the most turbulent period of the French Revolution. Peake accepts a mission so secret that he himself rarely knows which capital offense under Revolutionary law he might be committing. He impersonates an American blockade runner and does business with the shady agent Gilbert Imlay and his lover, the proto-feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. The three work together to save Thomas Paine from the guillotine.
Some of the best-written sequences portray the street violence directed against perceived enemies of the Revolution. Needless to say, the hero falls in love with an endangered beauty. Back at sea, Peake plays a heroic role in a vividly realized battle where the strategy shifts with the wind. Hunter’s hero is the son of the admiral who grew up loving the ocean, and seeing events through Peake’s eyes helps the reader understand what is happening when the cannonballs are flying. In the London salon of Peake’s American mother we get interesting glimpses of French and British political philosophy in the aftermath of the American Revolution, an important event for Europe as well as the United States.
This is the first in what is to be a series of maritime novels by Seth Hunter, the pseudonym of Paul Bryers. The series is off to a promising start with exciting scenes on sea and land, not to mention some adventures in the cellars and sewers of Paris.