This is not a sailing story. As a matter of fact, there are only three scenes that occur aboard sailing ships — all epic, which makes it a worthwhile read for sailors.
From start to finish, Hold Fast by J.H. Gelernter is a spirited rollercoaster-ride, chock-full of mystery, romance, intrigue and action. Think ‘007’ set in the nineteenth century; shaken, not stirred, in plenty of British naval lore.
Our protagonist, Captain Thomas Grey, mourning his beloved wife’s untimely death, finds himself drawn back into service when the Brits declare war at the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars. Grey’s intentions are to sail to Boston to retire from a life spent dutifully serving the Crown when destiny interferes. Through an unstoppable chain of events and the irresistible lure to exact revenge on the man responsible for his wife’s demise, Grey becomes immersed in a network of characters who conceal secrets that could undermine British defenses.
Gelernter is a sensational storyteller. His words paint a rich setting and are just enough to keep his readers turning pages. The historical details in his story are factual and well-researched, with enough nautical terminology to send many sailors Googling for definitions (four-pounder popguns? holystoning?). Hold Fast is an adventure born of heartbreak blown forward by vengeance and love of country.
At the conclusion of Gelernter’s tale, there is a definite ‘to-be-continued’ feeling left with the reader. Could this be the first in a series of future Thomas Gray adventures? Read and decide. Hold Fast will not disappoint.