The Lord Ramage series by Dudley Pope is one of my personal favorites among the many good nautical fiction series. It’s clever, funny, and full of action.
Ramage’s Devil starts in 1803, during the short-lived Peace of Amiens, which lasted from March 1802 to May 1803. Ramage is now a newly married man. We find him at a chateau in France, where he is on honeymoon, but also studies the rebuilding of the French fleet. Then France once again declares war, and Ramage and his wife find themselves suddenly being searched for by Napoleon’s secret police.
Their French host – a nobleman – is captured and deported, but Lord Ramage and his wife are able to escape the police, find their way to the nearest harbor, cut out a ship and find English Men-of-War (the story is somewhat similar to Hornblower’s escape in Flying Colours). After some complications, Ramage sends his wife home to England on a ship and regains his command of the Calypso. He sets out to the notorious French penal colony Devil’s Island, where his host and other French Royalists are being taken.
But given the Island’s impregnable reputation, can he pull off a rescue? Ramage will need one of his famous ruse de guerre this time, not only to shorten the butcher’s bill but to be able to liberate the Royalists.
The plot in Ramage’s Devil is interesting, but some of the things happening seem a little farfetched. There is also less naval action in this book than in most of the other books in the Ramage series. As well, the author is a little long-winded in his descriptions, both of the lovemaking and of the scenery. Thus I think Ramage’s Devil is a book some readers will enjoy, while others may not like it is much. It is, however, quite well written and I found I liked it a lot.
“Not even Forester knows more about the routine and battle procedures of the British Navy in the days of Nelson.” — The New York Times