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By Force of Arms (Isaac Biddlecomb, #1)
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By Force of Arms

(Isaac Biddlecomb #1)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  259 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
The tradition of Patrick O'Brian's epics is carried on gloriously in this first novel of a new historical naval adventure series, set during the time of the War of Independence. Merchant sea captain Isaac Biddlecomb flees the New England coast after engaging a British man-of-war and foiling its bid to seize his illicit cargo. When fate casts him into the hands of a sadisti ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 1st 1996 by Gallery Books
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May 01, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Revolutionary War - historical fiction
Shelves: fiction
Good book in the vein of Patrick O'Brian's sea-faring book. Written by one of the few people in the U.S. certified to pilot square rigged ships. Very authentic nautical writing. His historical accuracy seems right on.
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sea-stories
Great action, great characters, and a story that will pull you right in. Loads of ship detail that will appeal to folks who know sailing vessels--but I didn't feel like that made it hard to read for someone (like me) who is a fancier rather than an expert. A fantastic read for anyone who likes a rollicking sea story and by far the best story set during the American Revolution I've yet read (I'm generally NOT into military historical fiction.)
Christopher Taylor
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the first of Nelson's books I've read and I enjoyed it considerably. The content is fresh: a naval story set in US Revolutionary War era, from the US side, no less. The captain is a smuggler and merchant captain who is loyal to England, but things go badly and by the end of the story he's on his way to becoming a US Naval captain and rebel.

The action is sharp without being too familiar, and from someone who's read dozens of these kind of novels, that is a nice feature. The characters are
McArthur Library Staff Picks
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: staff-picks
Smugglers, ship wrecks, fights, sailing adventure on the high seas, intrigue, evil Royal Navy aristocratic clods, Revolutionary American setting...a great tale of good vs. evil, David vs. Goliath during the run-up to the American Revolution. A satisfying, well-written sea story!!
Mark Mekkes
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adventure
Excellent set up for future adventures.
Binky Bowberg
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic American Revolution Nautical fiction.Great start to the series.
Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the first of James L. Nelson's new series of novels centering on Captain Isaac Biddlecomb. As the novel opens, Biddlecomb is captain of a merchantman, the Judea, returning from the Caribbean to Bristol, R.I. with a contraband cargo of molasses. The date is January 1, 1775. Intercepted by the British frigate, HMS Rose, Biddlecomb is forced to run aground and abandon the Judea and his cargo. Thus, he becomes a wanted man in the eyes of the British Navy.

At this point, Biddlecomb has been a
Jan 08, 2016 rated it liked it
The beginning book in a series of naval adventure novels set in the time of the Revolutionary War. Comparisons with Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series are unavoidable, since his novels are the gold standard of this genre, so I'll dive right in. Although O'Brian generously (although vaguely) blurbed By Force of Arms, it's not nearly at the same level as his own work. Nelson's sailing, seamanship, and action sequences are exciting and imaginative. His mastery of technical sailing and termino ...more
This was a good adventure story, with engaging characters and good writing.

When Isaac looses his smuggling ship avoiding the British he escapes by joining the crew of an outbound ship as a lowly mate. As the war for independence heats up, he must find a way to gain a ship of his own and the girl he loves without being captured by the British.

I don't typically read books about the Revolutionary War as it's not a period of history that interests me particularly and I'm sure this affected my ratin
Tom Batalias
Very entertaining historical fiction depicting the beginnings of the American revolution, with the setting being little known contributions of American merchant smugglers, life aboard 18th century ships, the impressment of American sailors by the British Navy, and 18th century naval combat. I look forward to reading the other 4 books in this series.
Apr 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: no-kindle
Really enjoyed this one. Nice to have Isaac Biddlecomb, a fictional American nautical hero who can stand alongside the usual British heroes (Hornblower, Ramage, et al). Better than the first Thomas Marlowe book by the same author - I think I'll stick with the Isaac Biddlecomb series instead. Very hard to find these books though.
Sep 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Great action and a real feel for the atmosphere of the colonies in 1775. A little melodramatic with the obvious angst of the main character and an unbelievable (sexist?) portrayal of his love interest. Virginia is perfect in every way: gorgeous, smart, loyal, brave, forgiving, ad naseum. But if you can overlook these imperfections it's a fun romp of a read.
Mary Adams
Nov 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. Being a fan of Patrick O'Brian and C.S. Forester, it was great to find a modern writer who could capture the same sense of adventure with a novel set in the early United States. I've got book #2 on order!
May 04, 2012 rated it liked it

A bit slow to start with, but quite fast and exciting toward the end. Nowhere as good as C.S. Forester or Patrick O'Brian, but it's still a fun read if you like the genre.
M Kat
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
couldn't put it down, can't wait to read the rest of the series
Beth A
Jul 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Great historical fiction about navy warfare during the Revolutionary War.
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
After exhausting the British stories, I was quite happy to find a different perspective. Loved it!
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James L. Nelson (1962-) is an American historical nautical novelist. He was born in Lewiston, Maine. In 1980, Nelson graduated from Lewiston High School. Nelson attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst for two years, and then transferred to UCLA, with the ambition of becoming a film director. Nelson, his wife, Lisa, and their daughter Betsy lived for two years in Steubenville, Ohio, while ...more

Other books in the series

Isaac Biddlecomb (5 books)
  • The Maddest Idea (Isaac Biddlecomb, #2)
  • The Continental Risque (Isaac Biddlecomb, #3)
  • Lords of the Ocean (Isaac Biddlecomb #4)
  • All the Brave Fellows (Isaac Biddlecomb, #5)