Buy This Book I thought it might be a mistake reading False Colors right after Transgressions, but despite similarities, they were quite different. However, as in Transgressions, history is shown with all its violence and disease, so the squeamish might want to look away. Also, the heroes spend a lot of time separated, and once they meet again, the real world intervenes in their relationship. They do become friends, and their friendship is tempered by a dangerous rescue and by fierce battles at sea. Each man, in turn, must save the other and help nurse the other back to health. Alfie grows more attracted to John with every day, knowing this is risky because the British Navy hangs men for sodomy.
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Are they always this good? Probably not, darn it. There are gritty period details aplenty, along with a gloomy and deadly pall that hangs over men who dared to love the wrong gender. John Cavendish is the son of a carousing dad and a strict Quaker woman. He goes about restoring his standing in the priggish and upright way he only knows, but with the added irritation of the impulsive and handsome Alfie under his skin.
Alfie has prodded into the light impulses within John that he has striven for years to smother, and John seemed like "the one" to Alfie, who is tired of settling for demeaning substitutes for the love he longs for. In an era when sodomy would get you hanged, these two naval officers have no guarantee of a permanent HEA and there is no indication that either of them wishes to leave their careers behind, because the sea is as much a part of them as their love for each other.
The action rips along at a good clip, the danger comes at all sides from pirates, Corsairs, the French, and the Arctic elements, and the drama aboard ship and on land more than compensates for the daze of terminology. There is no real "villain" of the piece. His defiant and exhibitionist conduct, combined with self-hatred and selfishness, is what propels Alfie through the still and stormy waters of his relationship with Cavendish. This trio of characters display all the murky, damaged and, quite frankly, heartbreaking contortions gay men went through.
Options are limited, so they go through a struggle to settle for what you can get at the cost of your honor and wellbeing, or aspire for the perfect. With such a monolith as an enemy, it would have been easy for the tone to get super-preachy. John and Alfie were characters I could get behind and root for, and every agony they went through made that final scene all the more sweet.
They hurt each other with their attraction, with spite and regret, as they try to hammer out what it is they want, expect, and need. Apart from emotional agony, they both go through some excruciating physical tortures!
This was a whole different setup, with men acting out of pride, honor, and fear over a very dangerous matter. The lack of communication, exacerbated by separations, seemed right in the end.
Taking off his hat, he turned to face his crew, noting the slack, bruised faces of men with scurvy, the nose-less, crusted features of those whom pox was slowly consuming from within. The Master was barely being held up by his mate, his linen drabbed with wine-stains. The single midshipman picked his nose as he slouched by his division, then spat over the side. Only the new lieutenant stood straight and alert, in newly laundered dress uniform, his wig powdered, his buttons gleaming and his pale brows arched a little in amusement as he watched John struggle with hat and paper in the increasing wind. John fumed inwardly at the slackness, the disrespect as well as the waste of lives. Some of his anger wound its way into his voice, making it snap like the cat, and the more alert members of the crew stood straighter by the end of it. Hoping to find at least one other person aboard competent to do their job, John was about to quiz the volunteer, when his thoughts were instantly dashed as the huddle of warrant officers parted to reveal the modest black dress and white lace bonnet of an elderly lady.
Books by Alex Beecroft