This is one of the oddest books I've read in the Royal Navy genre. Pope must have been out to lunch when he wrote this one. There are three things that make this such a weak book. First, Pope keeps repeating himself. We're told something, and a few pages later, we get exactly the same thing. Did Pope just forget what he had written? Although this series really needs to be read in order, Pope does give enough review in each book for each to be read by itself. But within the same book?
Secondly, the premise of the story is just not very interesting; Ramage is sent out to rescue some admirals, generals, and lords who were vacationing in France during the peace and are captured and interned in Italy. He rescues the men through a ruse, but their wives are kept somewhere else (more about this later). The battle is good, but too short. And ya gotta read a LOT to get to the short battle. All in all, it's just not very interesting. Finally, execution of the story is absolutely ridiculous. Ramage has orders from on high to rescue the officials--no mention of their wives. After the initial rescue, he has followed his orders to the letter of the law and can return to England. The question remains whether he'll rescue the wives as well. The silly part is that none, not one, of the men try to take over or even convince him to do so! Even the admiral sits by and watches Ramage mull everything over in his mind. Either these guys are fools or don't care much about their wives. I don't know many men who would just let their wives rot in jail--wouldn't every guy pull rank (orders be damned!), take over the ship and rescue his wife? Of course! The whole thing is just plain silly.
Repetition, dullness, and silliness make this a weak, very weak, book.