Swingeing review of False Colors

I feel like a real author now 🙂  I was looking on Amazon for the cover of Ursula LeGuin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness” and thought I would just check how False Colors was doing.  Not so bad, thankfully.  However, I did find that since I looked at it last I’d received my first ever 1 star review.


First off, I have to say that I’ve never read anything in this genre before. And by “this” genre I mean age-of-sail historical fiction. It’s possible that this title isn’t something that a novitiate to the genre should read, however, it’s where I started.

Just to get the facts straight though, this isn’t romance. There are romantic elements throughout the story but if you’re looking for some hot sexy men getting it on, then look elsewhere. Tacking on “An M/M Romance” to the front cover is pure marketing at its best.

I feel strangely gleeful about this.  Partly because I cannot in any way deny that if you’re just looking for some hot sexy men getting it on, this may not be the book for you. Whether that means it isn’t romance is a different matter.  Does romance necessarily have to mean that you don’t also acknowledge that life can be grim?  Surely it’s more hopeful and romantic to know that love can exist in the same world as torture and illness and injustice than it is to relegate it to a fantasy world where those things don’t happen?  (Which isn’t to say that I don’t think John and Alfie are each pretty hot in his own way, though 😉 )

I’d also like to say “damn it!  The Titanic was not the only ship in the world to ever strike an iceberg!”  If I was to point out all the myriad of ways in which the Albion driving herself onto a berg in the dark and then NOT SINKING IN ANY WAY was not at all like the Titanic, I’d be here a very long time.

And then the part when they were visiting the people with the plague in the hospital (yellow fever, I think) and the officers kept getting puked on. It would be interesting to count how many times human excrement, urine, and other bodily fluids are mentioned, because I’m sure the results are staggering.

And then there was the sexual encounter with the man with the rotting tooth … ::shudders::

So I have to say that I didn’t enjoy this book all that much. If I could, I’d give it 1-1/2 stars because it wasn’t the absolute worst thing I’ve ever read. Maybe it was too “real” for me and it didn’t have enough fluff in it, but if a book has the word Romance on the cover, I’m expecting at least some romance before I get to the last chapter.

I suspect that I’m gleeful about this review because it is a very good review and it makes a number of good points eloquently and passionately.  There’s no doubt she read the book and it affected her the way it was meant to.  I didn’t write it as fluff, and I wanted to reflect something of the 18th Century, which was an unsanitary age of illness, abscesses and early death (and personally I am very fond of Sweet Bess, despite his dentistry).  It was also an age of massive gusto and enthusiasm and excitement, with the strange deadly delicacy of the officers and gentlemen coexisting with vulgarity and squalor.

But that’s not for everyone, and it’s certainly not for those people who are looking for a simple combination of porn plus schmoop.  I deliberately didn’t provide a happy ever after.  (Perhaps they were “found out and hanged the next week.”  Exactly, that’s the point.  They are now together, but their future is still dependent on their own good luck, good judgment and cunning.  Personally I think they have enough of all of those things, and they’ll be OK, but YMMV.)  I  was aiming to be real, so I’m kind of glad it works that way.

So I really enjoyed the review.  It confirmed for me that the book is essentially being the kind of book I hoped it would be.  My only real complaint is that I wish the single star hadn’t visibly lowered my average away from 5 🙁

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Elle Parker
14 years ago

That really IS a good review, and for those of us who love Age of Sail, it gives a great overview of the book. Congrats!!

I have a review like this too, where the reviewer panned the book, and then listed all the reasons why…only in such a way that if you LIKE my kind of book, was actually quite a good representation.

Elle Parker

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