Beat to quarters (UK title: The happy return) is the first book in the Horatio Hornblower series. Chronologically, it takes place somewhere past the midpoint of the character’s career.* The Hornblower books are the best well-known of the Napoleonic naval novels and were turned into a series of films by A&E. A favorite of Hemingway and Winston Churchill, the series is a classic of the historical adventure genre.
*Yes, I read these in publication order while I read the Vorkosigan saga in internal chronological order. I never said I was consistent.
Brief plot description
Horatio Hornblower is captain of the frigate HMS Lydia tasked with supplying a colonial Spanish governor for a revolt. The situation is complicated by his obligation to take Lady Barbara Wellesley as a passenger.