REVIEW: His Heart’s Obsession by Alex Beecroft
“Kingston, Jamaica, 1752
Robert Hughes, a lieutenant–and rogue–in the British Royal Navy, is in love with his gorgeous fellow officer, Hal Morgan. Hal only has eyes for their captain–a man who’ll never share their inclinations. Night after night aboard the Swiftsure, it kills Robert to listen to Hal’s erotic dreams of a man he can’t possibly have. Determined to protect his friend, Robert stages a seduction.
But Hal demands proof of love before he will submit to the rakish Robert.
Mission accepted. After all, how hard could it be to show what’s inside his heart? Yet Robert’s move to claim Hal’s love leads to the threat of exposure, and mortal danger from the French. Will a heart obsessed ever accept defeat?”
Dear Ms. Beecroft,
My goodness it’s been a while since I read one of your novels. When I saw this novella listed as an upcoming Carina release, it seemed the perfect thing to break my Beecroft drought. It’s short enough that I sailed through it – pun intended – fairly quickly yet I finished it feeling mildly annoyed with Hal and that Robert might have his work cut out for him if he wants to hear more of Hal’s laughter.
What could be worse than an unrequited love triangle? For two of the three involved to be “inverts” – dreaded sodomites – in His Majesty’s Navy in 1752 – that’s what. Hal Morgan has nursed a pure and completely unreturned love for his captain for years. The pain of it finally threatens to unman him when the Captain seeks his Lieutenant’s advice on wooing a pretty young woman. In Hal’s despair Robert sees a chance to declare himself and attempt to win the love of a man he’s longed for ever since joining the crew of the HMS Swiftsure.
Hal’s rejection of Robert’s initial advances – which is understandable since Robert has a long earned reputation as a practical joker – is expected. But Hal’s continued woe-is-me little martyr act started to grate shortly after it began and got no better as the story progressed. Were I in Robert’s place and if it would not have caused me to be exposed to the full might of the Articles of War, I would have smacked Hal with a truncheon and yelled (like Cher) “Snap out of it!” Robert truly must be in love to persevere in the face of this determined pity party.
Once Hal had finally – finally! – snapped out of it and decided that yes, he could excise his fruitless love for the Captain and after that, accept the devotion of a happy-go-lucky man who, in spite of all Hal’s sulks, never wavered, things looked up and got better but it was a long trip to the HFN in His Majesty’s Navy. C-
I’m in awe of Beecroft’s prose style. I don’t really read Age of Sail, but I’d like to plug her earlier release this year—The Under the Hill series—which was an ambitious, awesome urban fantasy m/m romance. One of the MCs is South Asian, and the treatment of race and ethnicity and how it related to the fantastic really impressed me. Although I know her core following is Age of Sail, I’d like to thank her for writing MC/IR. The Under the Hill books made me very, very happy.
Sold, Violetta! I just downloaded Bomber Moon. Thanks for the rec, because I hadn’t heard anything about that series.
As for this one, I’m not sure–but I adored False Colors, and I have the feeling that even a so-so Beecroft book is worth a read.
I liked it a lot more than Jayne did (gave it a B+), but mostly because of the historical detail and the lyrical writing. Robert was really likeable, but Jayne’s right that Hal’s martyr-ific mooning over the untouchable captain makes you want to smack him upside the head.
I thought it was really interesting how Hal was able to use his unrequited love as a shield – he could admit to himself that he was gay without having to act on it, and that made it all the more traumatic when Robert forced him to confront it.
@Violetta Vane: And if urban fantasy was a genre I liked, I would have tried those books too.
We are agreed on her prose style though.
And does anyone besides me think the model on the cover looks like Tobey Maguire?
@Evie: Arrgh, I need to go back and read “False Colors. I’ve only had it sitting near my computer for 3 years now…
I have read and enjoyed “Captain’s Surrender” and her entry into the “I Do” anthology.
@Kelly: Maybe someone can help me some with a bit of the historical detail. When the captain appears on his quarterdeck in shirt sleeves or asks the advice of a junior officer about how to proceed with his (the captain’s) love life, I was a little stunned. Somehow I had a vision of more formality (despite the Caribbean heat) in the Royal Navy.
The back cover copy on her books does not provoke me to read them. Just popped over to check out Bomber’s Moon, since I love UF, but the description is just dreadful. Held my nose and clicked for the free sample.
@Jayne: You should definitely dust off False Colors and give it a read. I remember it reading like a classic novel, in that it is sort of sprawling and episodic and unpredictable and utterly absorbing.
And as to your naval questions: If Patrick O’Brian counts as a naval authority, I’d say it would not be unusual for a captain to appear in less formal dress than the full rig– depending on circumstances. O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey often appears naked on deck! (Because he likes to swim–not because he’s an exhibitionist.) But as to the other–O’Brian is always hammering home the isolation of the captain. To maintain authority he must be remote from his crew, like a demi-god. Aubrey would never ask for relationship advice from his officers. That’s why his friendship with Mautrin was so important–it kept him human. Can you tell I’m a bit of a fan girl?
Well, why in the HELL wasn’t that in the movie??? :-)
I have zero knowledge of naval history (unless Carla Kelly’s Channel Fleet series counts). I’d have to go back and read those passages again – like Evie said, for the shirtsleeves it would probably depend on the circumstances. For the romantic advice, maybe it would be plausible if Hal was a higher social rank than the captain, or if he had insider info on the woman in question? I remember that scene, but I can’t recall the exact circumstances.
What did you think of the female friend (whose name I can’t recall)?
I’m with @Kelly:
That’s exactly it. THAT was what worked so well for me about this short. He was a bit of a prat, but I think Beecroft did a great job of saying WHY he was being a prat and using it in the story. But then, her prose style gets me every single time. I’d read anything she wrote (although…still have to read UtH b/c I’m not big on historical urban fantasy either).
@Evie: I wasn’t sure if my thinking there was greater formality was a case of imposing the standards of later behavior on a more loose and easy 18th century the way we sometimes think Victorian stuffiness was always the rule in English society.
Exactly! Going to a junior officer – even if he might be your equal in social rank in regular society – just seems like it would violate that to too great an extent.
@Jayne: Even today in the modern American or British Navy I have a hard time seeing a captain going to one of his subordinates for advice about his love life. Unless, maybe, they had been friends at some point when they both junior officers or something.
@Sarah Frantz: ::waves to Sarah:: Okay, this helps me understand his pratness a bit better.
@Kelly: Yeah, I want that scene added to the DVD bonus stuff too. Even if they have to go back and film it now.
I remember Hal does have the image of being smothered in the interest of the young ladies so it’s plausible that someone who was his equal might seek out his advice but I still have a hard time seeing the captain do that.
And I’d love to have got some throw away line about the young woman (blanking on her name) finding a romance. I got the impression that she understood about Hal and Robert’s true interests and was encouraging of it. She seems a very insightful person and lovely friend to have.
@Jayne: I keep doing a double take due to the resemblance.