There are many things that pleasantly surprised me in this book, but once stood upon all the other, the sensuality and the carnality that lacked in the previous book, by the same author, Captain's Surrender. It's not a big fault, I loved that book, and in a way, being it almost asexual allowed more readers to near a genre that sometime it's stigmatized as "erotic" when maybe it's not erotic at all (don't let me go further on the matter, it would be too long). Anyway, for example, I gifted this same book, False Colors, to a friend of mine who is a newbie of the genre without even having read it before since I vouched Alex Beecroft with closed eyes: I said to my friend, you will find a very good historical setting, adventures and beautiful characters, but no worries, there will be few "sex"... and now I'm wondering if my friend will still talk to me! All right, I'm slightly joking, it's not that, all of sudden, Alex Beecroft has written an erotic romance, it's only that this time I "felt" her characters in a more physical way, and at the same time, and maybe for that reason, they are also more exposed to the turmoil of unrequited love, they suffer more for love.
At the beginning of the story there is always the love for the sea, but above all for the Ladies of the Sea, the stunning Royal Navy ship, of a man, an officer of that same Royal Navy. The year is the 1762, and John Cavendish has the luck to receive the command of a ship; he is quite surprised, he is not so well acquainted or wealth, or senior, to have the right to it, but he will not question his luck... at least not until the moment he realizes that he was also given a suicidal mission with the ship, a mission that will bring down him and the ship, and all the man on it. John is the son of a quaker mother and a libertine father... from the mix, John came out as a man with high principle, very pious, but with a tendency to passion that not always is proper for an officer. John has always denied his passionate nature and he is the perfect officer by the book: he will not question his orders, he is willing to the sacrifice, but he pities his men. And so when he is informed that there is a voluntary officer for his mission, he is not quite happy with the news.
"Alfie" Donwell is the typical self-made officer; from a middle class family, he probably chose the sea as the only way to arise himself from a mediocre life. It's not clear if Alfie always preferred men, or if the alluring personality of his first captain (when he was only 13 years old) made him so, we only know that Alfie is careless and almost open to his true nature. He likes man, and you can read it in his eyes when he sees John, that he likes him. And he is not even shy to hide it, he makes it quite clear. But John is not "awaken" to this possibility, in his naivete, he knows that there are sodomites in the "world", but for sure they are not abroad. And so when Alfie approaches him, he banishes those strange feelings he is having to a some sort of comradeship. How candid he is...
But when a man for Alfie's past comes along, Alfie confirms his carelessness and maybe also his unrequited love for John, and finally speaks the words that clearly state what he was trying to prove to John with actions... and obviously John at first rejects him, it's in his nature, it's against all he believes, he can't do anything else. And here come out the real Alfie and John: Alfie feels rejected (and he is) and runs away, without giving time to John to digest the shocking news... Alfie is always ready to flee away, he is so driven by his heart more than his mind, that he never stops to think. He is and he will always be, for all the length of the book, ready to catch only the first meaning of the words he hears, without trying to catch instead the hidden meaning. John instead is a man who is ready to listen and comprehend; even if he is a very religious man, he is not the man who always wants to bring God's justice upon other men. John asks for his own punishment, but his always ready to forgive other mistakes. And when faced with Alfie's revelation, even if shocked, he is willing to comprehend the man, and doing so, to question his own believing. If Alfie was not ready to run away, maybe the evolution of their story would have been different.
But this would have not been an adventure romance if there was not the adventure part, would have been it? And so our heroes take separate ways, and have to face very difficult moment, but all of it serve them to understand what it is really important in life and who they really love. Not all the adventures they have are "romance" like, there is blood and sweat and dirty, actually only when they are together I feel the romance, and it's always a pure and "clean" love, but when they are distant, the real world is right there ready to catch them. Alfie, in his haste to run away from John, will also chase his first love, a man who clearly is not right for him and that will never give him what he needs, since Alfie, with all his carelessness, is only searching someone to age with, same as John. Even if everyone around tells him that for the sodomites like him there is no good in searching love, Alfie still believes in romance, and for doing "certain" things, he has to believe to be in love. John on the other hand, "has not" to believe, he can be with a man ONLY if he is in love, and since he is in love with Alfie, there is not other man for him other than Alfie.
Amazon Kindle: False Colors
Amazon: False Colors: An M/M Romance
Cover Art by Larry Rostant