The novel opens with the capture of the Cutler merchant brig Eagle by Barbary pirates. Young Caleb Cutler and his shipmates are taken as prisoners to Algiers. Richard, his brother, is then sent to North Africa to pay the ransom demanded by the Dey of Algiers to free them. When the dey rejects the offer, Richard must defend his ship and the ransom from attack by Algerian pirates. After repulsing the pirates in a fierce battle at sea , Richard travels to Paris to report to John Paul Jones, his former naval commander, who has been dispatched to serve as America's emissary to the Barbary States.
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This volume is set in the late 1790s during the Quasi-War with France and offers listeners a look at the new American Navy during the Age of Fighting Sail. Following in the wake of his previous novels, A Matter of Honor and For Love of Country, it features the adventures of the seafaring Cutler family of Hingham, Massachusetts, and an ever-expanding cast of characters - some real, some fictional - that includes Lt. Richard Cutler, along with Capt. Thomas Truxtun, Capt. Silas Talbot, and other naval heroes personifying the best of American honor and courage.