This is the third book in the Horatio Hornblower Saga chronologically speaking, but one of the last books written. The action in the book takes place in 1803.
After an unhappy spell ashore on half-pay, Hornblower marries the daughter of his landlady and then goes back to sea again. He is promoted to Commander and given command of the Hotspur, a small sloop of war that is assigned to do blockade duty with the Channel Fleet in the icy North Atlantic. His first mission is to take her in close to Brest and observe the French preparations for war and then report back to Admiral Cornwallis.
Hornblower soon gets himself engaged in battles on sea and shore. Hornblower and the Hotspur have sea chases, broadsides, furious storms, and night actions. H. H. turns out to be a good commander, and his service is always excellent. Even against ships with more firepower than his own; he and his ship do very well. However, Hornblower is privately self-deprecating and convinced of his own cowardice, and his self-confidence often wavers even though he never shows this.
One of the missions he carries out, based on his own idea, is a very daring attack on a semaphore station. Yet, even though he succeeds, he does not earn any prize money. Seeing this, Cornwallis is kind enough to send the young Commander on a mission that is certain to provide him with a huge sum in prize money: Together with a group of frigates, Hornblower and the Hotspur are ordered to seize a Spanish fleet of treasure ship returning from South America with bullion and money!
C. S. Forester again tells a marvelous tale. Captain Hornblower and First Lieutenant Bush are now fully developed characters. Their association finds shape in this novel. Also, Hornblower is starting to gain a reputation as a very competent officer. Hornblower and the Hotspur is one of the best Hornblower novels. It is also a key to the series in many ways. It is a book you cannot afford to miss if you like naval fiction and read the Hornblower saga.
It is very entertaining and exciting, with lots of action.