This seventeenth century naval adventure is the second in the Matthew Quinton journals series, but I found this on Netgalley, was intrigued and read it without having read Gentleman Captain first. Matthew Quinton is an inexperienced young captain who is also brother of an Earl, and heir to the title. When he captures a galley from under the nose of a Maltese Knight he discovers an Irishman, posing as a barbary pirate, who has tales of a mountain of gold. This tale stays his execution and maps out Matthew's immediate future. King Charles II sends him on a mission to find the mountain. The task is a hard one, without forces conspiring against the Captain and his men. Those who fear a Monarch with absolute power are determined to prevent the King becoming endlessly wealthy, but does the mountain even exist? As if Matthew doesn't have enough to contend with his brother, the Earl, is being pushed into a marriage of convenience with woman suspected of being involved in the deaths of her first two husbands.
While this novel contains some tense action and battles this wasn't the swash-buckling pirate romp I was expecting, but in a good way. It's clear from the information about the author and the notes at the end on the factual elements that this is well researched and grounded in fact. This is set in a different era to a lot of the historical fiction I have read before so I felt like I was learning something, but enjoyed the story and the moments of humour and warmed to Matthew and his colourful wife. In fact the Quinton family is quite a memorable cast and the subplot relating to the Earl's marriage is just as likely to get me reading the rest of the series as any other element.
The high paced action is broken up as the author shows the plotting, scheming and preparations that seem par for the course at the time, creating a nice balance and giving the reader a chance to catch their breath. I did feel slightly cast adrift in places, not being able to follow what was happening very well, but this was down to my ignorance of certain nautical terms rather than any fault with the writing. This book worked perfectly well on its own, and althought there are references to Matthew's previous sea-faring experience not having read the first book didn't seem to affect my appreciation for this novel.
All in all I found this an enjoyable, well written historical fiction action story.
Format: Kindle, ARC
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
My Rating: 3*