There are things to be loved in this book, but far more numerous are those to be blamed. Some other reviewers have pointed them out, infact.
The plot is the same old, but this does not irk me: it is 1779 in the Caribes (and the east coast of the soon to be United States). The setting is the usual British ship where noble gay men struggle with the requirements of a harsh life in a homophobic milieu.
One reviewer has mentioned the fact that the naval details are inaccurate but I am unable to confirm or deny this charge (which would be quite serious, were it true).
First, while I am sure life onboard at the time was very hard, I suspect there might have been far more tolerance towards homosexual behaviours among members of the crew. Of course this would have detracted from the angst and I understand that Ms. Beecroft chose to ignore this possibility.
The general plotting is sound and there are scenes of cleverly built and highly emotional pathos.
Problem is this generally good plotting is not enriched and fleshed out but stands there like a mechanical skeleton of a narration that takes place only occasionally (the already mentioned emotional scenes) and for the rest of the time remains there, hurried, unfinished.
Characterization does not help.
To begin with, while it is always very good (and welcome) to have strong side characters, here they enjoy nearly as many pages as the main ones. It looks as if whole chapters with more storyline for the two main ones were completely missing. Moreover the side character of Emily (who is the most important one) nearly never confronts the two main ones as if she lead a narrative life totally indipendent from them. The only link between her and -only one of- the mains was that her father wished her to marry him.
Josh, one of the two lovers, is brave, clever and disciplined. He is also unbelievably torn by guilt because he thinks he is an abomination, deserving all the punishment and contempt God and people are willing to bestow on him. Usually I dislike this kind of character but I have met too many self hating gay men in real life to dismiss him. After an emotional journey which is supposed to take place in the book and of which we are not allowed to catch a single glimpse, Josh lands in the hands of a loving native american couple (man and woman) who wish for him to become a member of their family, as in their culture gay men are not only acceptable but also cherished. This encounter is an epiphany for Josh who finally realises that there is nothing wrong in being who he is and that his existence belongs to God's plan.
Peter is the other lover. At first he is the aloof, detached, aristocratic second (or third) son of a nobleman, pursuing his own path in the navy. He not only accepts Josh for what he is with equanimity but, for reasons only hinted at, is curious about sex with another man and takes Josh as a lover (and of course the two are neatly split into active and passive roles, according to the most respected sexual tradition among lady authors). This detachment could have nicely cracked along the way to show the real essence of the man inside, but Ms. Beecroft apparently did not like this possibility. On the contrary Peter not only remains aloof and detached and uncomprehending of his lover's needs, he also acquires the same self loathing that Josh feels. This definitely kills any interest I might have had for this character. One thing is for a man who has always considered himself straight to debate the opportunity of renouncing the reassuring life of a married and esteemed navy officer, another is to become an homophobe when he never was.
At the end of the novel, confronted by his newly self accepting lover, he has his own epiphany (alone at night in a church), finally understanding how selfish, uncomprehending and ungenerous he has been. This epiphany is quite thorough and leads to the required happy ending, but it left me cold.
In the end I found myself remembering a couple of intense pages, mostly at the beginning of the book, and utterly indifferent to the rest of the story, to the characters, to their happily ever after.
Other reviewers have suggested that this is an early work and that there might be better ones by the same author. I am not so sure I am willing to give them a try.