When I first started the book, I thought it was going to be similar to False Colors. Lieutenant Peter Thorton is in love with his fellow lieutenant, Roger Perry. This reminded me of John and Alfie. But oh my goodness, how off the mark was I!
First of all, Peter knows he's gay. And Roger isn't. So there is some unrequited feelings going on here on Peter's behalf. After a while at sea together, sharing a cabin no less, Peter finally makes a move but is rejected. Not too soon after, their ship, the Ajax, comes across a Spanish ship sinking and Peter and a few other crew members jump aboard to help where they can. The Spanish officers abandon ship and jump onto the Ajax. Meanwhile, they have almost 200 slaves chained to the ship who are going to die unless Peter and his men can help. It's the Christian thing to do, even if it is disobeying a direct order. And then Peter is stuck on a sinking ship! While he's in the midst of freeing the slaves! Can we say chaos?
But there is one slave who commands everyone's attention and gets them into some semblance of order and they work together to prevent the ship sinking. So now Peter is on a ship taken over by slaves, commandeered by a Sallee privateer. (Sallee is a fictional country, btw.) Peter knows he can't take command, but he could be court martialed for taking part in any of the privateer's activities, and oh yeah, he's getting into some stuff! He's a dashing, daring character that eventually captures 4 other ships! And Peter's attention...
Peter is torn. Duty to country or remain with the Sallee pirate who has his loyalty?
Ok, I'm glossing over sooo much. A lot happens to Peter in this tale. He goes from a junior lieutenant in the British Navy to a captain in the Sallee ranks. This whole book portrays that journey. And Peter is very much the central character although all the secondary characters are well drawn too. Peter was originally going to be a minister. So although he knows he's gay, he kind of struggles with the "sin" aspect of his nature and also the expectations of the Navy. If he's found out, he could be punished pretty harshly. So he keeps that part of himself tied up pretty tight.
Another very interesting character was Captain Tangle. He was the slave that rallied everyone on the sinking ship. He's tall, brash, married, but very into Peter. And at first Peter holds him off...he is in love with Roger, remember. At one point, Captain Tangle meets Roger Perry and afterwards he asks Peter if that's his rival. I liked that scene.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Sallee Rovers. Although the romance wasn't the main focus, I was really interested in all the nautical stuff. Think of the movie Master and Commander, but with two guys who sleep together. And I LOVED Master and Commander. Lots of detail. My only beef was that the ending was a bit abrupt. But I guess that just means I will have to check out the second book one day!