Gerry B's Book Reviews

Captain’s Surrender – Alex Beecroft

Publisher: Linden Bay Romance 

Five Stars

Ambitious and handsome, Joshua Andrews had always valued his life too much to take unnecessary risks. Then he laid eyes on the elegant picture of perfection that is Peter Kenyon. Soon to be promoted to captain, Peter Kenyon is the darling of the Bermuda garrison. With a string of successes behind him and a suitable bride lined up to share his future, Peter seems completely out of reach to Joshua. But when the two men are thrown together to serve during a long voyage under a sadistic commander with a mutinous crew, they discover unexpected friendship. As the tension on board their vessel heats up, the closeness they feel for one another intensifies and both officers find themselves unable to rein in their passion. Let yourself be transported back to a time when love between two men in the British Navy was punishable by death, and to a story about love, about honor, but most of all, about a Captain-s Surrender. 

______________________________

 A superb read, authentic to history, and a touching romance 

Review by Gerry Burnie 

“Captain’s Surrender” by Alex Beecroft (Linden Bay Romance, 2008) is a swashbuckling tale with real meat on its bones. Set in the late eighteenth century, mostly aboard British Royal Navy vessels, this tale bounds over the imaginary mane like an elegant clipper ship in full sail. On the one hand there is the powdered wigs and spit-and-polish of the officers, and on the other the lowly ‘tars’ who carry out their imperious commands; never the twain to meet … except. It is also set at a time when sodomy was considered the vilest crime on the books, and subject to an ignominious death if convicted of it. 

The action is equally fast-paced, including a near mutiny; bloody engagements with privateers; and a skirmish with an imperial, French invasion force on the icy waters of Hudson Bay. There is also a duel to the death for good measure. 

At the same time a touching m/m love story unfolds that is as tender as the non-stop action is rollicking. Joshua Andrews is a young midshipman (apprentice officer) with a dark secret that has indirectly caused the death of a friend and sometimes lover—hanged from the yardarm; therefore, he has developed a complex loathing for what resides within him. Sensing something like this, the Draconian captain has singled him out to be the next “catamite” to swing from the topsail in his crazed, sadistic campaign to restore ‘God’s order to things’—according to the said captain, of course. 

Enter First-Lieutenant (later Captain) Peter Kenyon, a highly principled Adonis whose own order of things begins to falter when he confronts Andrews’ boyish, Irish charms. Still, Kenyon finds an acceptable compromise in lust with Joshua while keeping a weather-eye on Miss Emily Jones, the ward of Mr. Summersgill, comptroller of the Island of Bermuda, and a much safer harbour. 

Albeit, compromises often catch the practitioner uncomfortably in the middle, and Miss Jones turns out to be very much her own gal, not to be taken for granted, while Josh becomes more desirable but elusive. Still, the final resolution is not revealed until the last page of the last chapter. Brava! 

Interestingly, in resolving all this, the biblical assurance that mankind is created in God’s image, and is therefore fundamentally good, is argued. In support of this philosophy the idea of two-spirit culture is introduced; whereby it is believed that mixed-gender individuals (i.e., male-female, female-male) were endowed with special powers, and were considered a blessing from the Great Spirit. 

Two spirits is a theme that is entering into the mainstream of GLBT literature, i.e. “Two Spirits: A life among the Navajo,” (Walter L. Williams), and “The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon” (Tom Spanbauer), but it is also one that is fraught with the complexities of various Native cultures, languages, and geographic territories. 

For example: Andrews is supposedly rescued by “red Indians” somewhere in the vicinity of Hudson Bay, and these Indians undertake to teach him the ways of “agokwa” (meaning “genitaled-women,” or mixed-gender). It is an ingenious way of weaving this message into the fabric of the story, but … the Indians in the Hudson Bay region would have almost certainly been either Inuit, or Cree—not “Anishinabe,” which is not a specific tribe, per se. Moreover, linguistically speaking “agokwa” is an Ojibwa term, not Cree or Inuit. The equivalent Cree term is, “ayekkwe,” “a’yahkwew.” It is a truly brave soul, therefore, who navigates these waters without a reliable map. 

I hasten to add, however, that this purist perspective in no way detracts from a superb read, or the meticulous research that has gone into making this a most convincing look at 18th-century naval practices, and sailing ships in general; thus fulfilling the best in historical fiction—to educate while entertaining.

January 25, 2010 - Posted by | Gay historical fiction, Uncategorized

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