1812. Off the coast of Brazil, HMS Java, a proud British 38-gun frigate, is captured in battle by the American USS Constitution - signaling across the world's oceans a challenge to Britain's naval premiership that cannot be ignored.
Back in England Captain Sir Thomas Kydd is enjoying a moment of normal life with his wife and his newborn son. With his Thunderer in dock receiving some well-earned repairs he is, momentarily, without a command. It's a position the Admiralty does not leave him in for long, and he is soon given a mission: engage the young republic in a fair fight, frigate against frigate, and restore the Navy's reputation. And they have just the ship and crew for him . . . Tyger.
But on reaching the US east coast, Kydd and his trusted Tygers realise that the hardest part of their mission will be drawing out one of the Yankee men-o'-war to engage in battle - especially once the Americans get wind of his purpose. It's a tall order, requiring every ounce of the crew's guile and persistence - and when fortune turns against them, Kydd finds not only his career, but his life, hanging in the balance.