Matter of Honor, A
Author: William C Hammond
Publisher: Cumberland House Publishing (2007)
Binding: Hardcover, 416 pages
The first volume in a series of maritime novels set in the early years of the United States, A Matter of Honor is a dramatic account of a young man's coming of age during the American Revolution. Introducing Richard Cutler, a Massachusetts teenager with strong family ties to England, the novel tells his story as he ships out with John Paul Jones to avenge the death of his beloved brother Will, impressed by the Royal Navy and flogged to death for striking an officer. On the high seas, in Enland and in France, on the sugar islands of the Caribbean, and on the battlefield of Yorktown, Cutler proves his mettle and wins the love-and allegiance to the infant republic-of a beautiful English aristocrat from the arms of Horatio Nelson himself.
This is an excellent historical novel of the crucial days of the Revolutionary War, when our very freedom was at stake. They were dark days indeed for our fledgling country, before France became a crucial ally, and before Spain and France put England at risk at home because of the naval war in and around America.
The protagonist of the book, Richard Cutler of Massachusetts, has family ties to England, but is drawn to the American cause to avenge the death of his brother, Will. Will, who had been taken by force into the Royal Navy, was flogged to death after striking a British officer. Richard then sails as a midshipman aboard the Ranger, commanded by none other than the intriguing John Paul Jones. Bill Hammond does an excellent job of portraying the contradictions, faults, and greatness of the legendary ship, then fleet commander.
A Matter of Honor will require a bit of suspension of disbelief by the reader, as Richard Cutler manages to be at pivotal points in the Revolutionary War, and in fact provides the coup de grace in the gunwale to gunwale struggle to the death between the HMS Serapis and the Bonhomme Richard in the North Sea. However, Bill Hammond skillfully weaves historic events with the adventures of his hero, Richard Cutler, placing Richard with John Paul Jones at the sea battle with HMS Drake off the coast of Ireland; with Ben Franklin as an alliance with France is negotiated; on to the West Indies with Richard's new bride, the beautiful Katherine; and finally as Richard joins the French fleet under Admiral de Grasse and sails to Yorktown to participate in that pivotal battle.
Bill Hammond's characters are memorable and he has his history and life aboard a ship in the age of sail exactly right. In Hammond's capable hands these times and characters come to life. You will feel the desperate fighting as ships fire broadsides at each other that bring down masts and cause a living hell of smoke and flying wood shards, then the desperation of hand to hand fighting. The reader will also gain further appreciation for the few who fought the age's superpower for the freedoms we hold so dear.
This is the first in a planned series of six books centered in those historic times. This book is highly recommended as a start on Bill Hammond's planned journey through our earliest days as a fledgling republic.
Reviewed by: Weymouth Symmes (2011)