There are a very few books on my list of “essential reads” for anyone interested in Gay Historical Fiction. The Charioteer, At Swim Two Boys, As Meat Loves Salt and now False Colors.
Yes, it’s that good. If you are interested in the genre at all, or are planning to write the genre in future I hold up False Colors and say “this is how it should be done.”
To say that FC isn’t a romance would be doing it an injustice because it is—in the modern and the old-fashioned sense of the word. But Beecroft takes that mixes it up with adventure to die for (literally) moral dilemmas popping up like mushrooms, earthy realistic 18th century figures and heart stopping action—and of course romance.
At the core it’s about two young men who struggle with their places in life and have to weigh up those places, and their reputations– and ruin thereof–against their duty. Many authors would take a book about gay sailors and have most of it having the protagonists either shagging like bunnies or leaning attractively on the quarter-deck pining for the colour of his love’s eyes but Beecroft knows the navy and the men within. She knows despite how much tumescence is going on in the fine linen of a sailor’s drawers sailors need to work the ship, take watches, men need to be fed, watered, entertained, repel boarders, fight the enemy. If they tend to forget their lover’s fine eyes while they are fighting for their lives, one has to forgive them. This is after all a historical novel and quite aside from the wonderful story of John and Alfie, it is a a book that reeks of the sea – and one that would grace any naval enthusiast’s shelves.
Ms Beecroft, as anyone who has read Captain’s Surrender will know, does not shy from the realism of her chosen era. The bodycount in this book could rival any Hollywood blockbuster and she doesn’t spare the reader the details of the horrors that life in His Majesty’s navy can bring, not in sight or sound or taste or smell. Scurvy and yellowjack, torture and shipwreck, the details are always crisp, and convincing. This is what raises her work above the heads of her peers and what makes this great gay romantic fiction.
If I have any quibbles with this very fine piece of work—quite the best Ms Beecroft has produced—it’s perhaps that the first sixty pages are so crammed with action (making it utterly unputdownable) that it’s the tiniest bit jumpy. This doesn’t do any detriment to the story though, other than perhaps to take the shine off one of the big fat shiny five stars this book very deservedly gets from me.