This book (which I first read in August of 2001, and again in November of 2006) is the third book in the Aubrey-Maturin series about the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. I found this to be a good book, quite full of incidents and derring-do.
Jack Aubrey is still acting-captain of the Lively, whose nominal captain is sitting in Parliament. Stephen Maturin, doctor, surgeon, and international spy, through no fault of his own falls into the hands of the enemy, and upon his rescue his person (and his cover) are pretty well in tatters. He asks to be sent to a warm climate; fortunately, the envoy to the Sultan of Kampong on the Malay Peninsula needs to be sent halfway around the world, and so Aubrey, upon quitting the Lively, is given command of Surprise, with Maturin as the ship’s doctor. Aubrey hopes to find the squadron of French Admiral Charles-Alexandre Léon Durand Linois in the Indian Ocean; he has met the Admiral personally, and knows that he is a worthy opponent.
In their personal lives, Aubrey and Miss Sophie Williams are engaged to be married, but Sophie’s mother refuses to allow them to be married until Aubrey is more than a penniless captain. Sophie’s cousin Diana Villiers (with whom Stephen is rather hopelessly in love) has meanwhile become the mistress of Richard Canning, an immensely rich married Jewish merchant, and has gone with Canning to Bombay. Her reputation in society is thus ruined, which makes not a lot of difference to her and none at all to Stephen.
This is a marvelous book (again, it helps to read the books in order), and I am very much enjoying re-reading the series.