Age of Sail anyone?
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It depends on what you consider "good." Take, for instance, Patrick O'Brian. A lot of readers think he's the best AoS writer ever, while others hate him with a passion.
Do you prefer the fighting/battles and action? Or do you prefer more general history and the cultural/social side of the AoS?
If you want something that has similiar language/content to the works of the time (Frederick Marryat, James Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville, etc.), then go with Patrick O'Brian.
The books by Marryat, Cooper and Melville are worth looking into as well, especially since they are writing from first hand knowledge.
Aren't there any good historical novels in which Horatio Nelson is a major character? I've never come across one.
Anyway, I don't know that they get any "better." If you feel so strongly about it, perhaps it's better not to waste your time? Maybe give another author a chance instead?
I just keep getting lost in a lot of the technical terms that he uses for parts of the boat; I can't picture most of the actions he describes. The characters are somewhat flat too and the scenes feel choppy to me, like he sat down to write one, stopped for a few weeks, and then wrote another.
But, again, I'm a picky reader :-).
I started reading the Aubrey series but wasn't prepared for the character difference between him and H.H. Horatio is very altruistic and honorable and actually unbelievably perfect. Aubrey isn't...he's too human for me. I kinda like being disillusioned. :)
If you can find it, you must absolutely try Nevil Shute's Trustee from the Toolroom Actually this has been reprinted so you shouldn't have trouble. I don't think that The Breaking Wave or The Seafarers are as good, but all great adventure with mid-20th century nautical settings. Great sea works, but NOT 18th-19th Century.
However, Joan Druett has done some very good intensive nautical history works (non-fiction) Her new mystery series Wiki Coffin is not yet as good as Forester or O'Brien imho.
101 Crackerjack Sea Books
Alexander Kent (aka Douglas Reeman) Bolithos series is great and I like these a little better than Horblower. I like the charactor of Richard Bolitho a little more than Horatio Hornblower. His modern naval stories are excellent too, A Prayer for the Ship, A Ship Must Die and about 7 or 8 more.
Julian Stockwins Kydd series I read the first two but could not get into any more of them.
Dudley Pope I have enjoyed his histories for years Decision At Trafalgar: The Story of the Greatest British Naval Battle of the Age of Nelson is a must for anyone interested in this time period. I have just started his Lord Ramage books
If you like a good old fashion sea story with a hearty laugh try Doctor Dogbody's Leg by James N. Hall the coauthor for Mutiny on the Bounty. Doctor Dogbody is a retired Naval Surgen living in an Inn with several other retired of 1/2 pay Officers. The Inn also a palce where starey eyed Midshipmen with dreams of glory leave for their first cruises.
The Doctor is missing one leg an is always willing to tell any who will listen
on how and where he last it. The Doctor must have had 7 or 8 legs to start with as he lost that many to save King and Country.
In Order from Forester, I would read Bolitho by Alexander Kent next, followed by Dudley Pope's Ramage, then Julian Stockwin's Kydd, and Richard Woodman's Drinkwater, fit in some of Lambdin and don't forget to get some of Cyril Northcote Parkinson and with Richard Delancey and his Guernsey saga in here. Last i would venture to Patrick O'Brien. This should keep someone busy for a year. I have a couple hundred Age of Sail listed in my library with just this tag. Please feel free to browse for ideas.
Recently there has also been Jay Worral with his Charles Edgemont in Sails on the Horizon and Any Approaching Enemy
Nathaniel Drinkwater is an understated hero. He is not a womanizer, though the novels have no lack of romantic tension. The stories are solid with an emphasis on sea action and relationships. I highly recommend them.