At the onset of the War of 1812, the British control the most powerful navy on earth and, to keep up their numbers, they are forcing helpless American traders into service against their own flag. In the midst of public outrage and competing voices in the U.S. Navy, President Madison and his cabinet members are divided on a course of action. Bliven Putnam, late of the Battle of Tripoli, is dispatched to Washington, D.C., to serve as a decisive voice--or perhaps a scapegoat--and finds himself drawn into a new kind of warfare: politics. Bliven's diplomatic responsibilities are soon exchanged for command of a new twenty-gun brig, the U.S.S. Tempest. But the journey to captain will prove to be more physically and psychologically taxing than Bliven expects. Especially when an old nemesis from a disastrous Naples encounter, Lord Arthur Kington, is prowling the sea. Aboard the H.M.S. Java, Kington is taking prizes and disrupting American merchant shipping, and he's pressed Bliven's oldest friend, Sam Bandy, into service. Overhauled, overmatched, and unprepared, both Bliven Putnam and his young nation are heading into a battle more personal than anyone could know.