REVIEW: Seaworthy – K.L. Noone

Seaworthy - K.L. Noone - Character Bleed

Genre: Contemporary Romance

LGBTQ+ Category: MM Gay

Reviewer: Ulysses, Paranormal Romance Guild

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About The Book

An epic motion picture! A gay Napoleonic War love story! Ballrooms and battles at sea! Romantic happy endings on the silver screen! And a film that’ll change everything for its stars …

Jason Mirelli can’t play adrenaline-fueled action heroes forever. He’s getting older, plus the action star parts have grown a little thinner since he came out as bisexual. This role could finally let him be seen as a serious dramatic actor, and he needs it to go well — for his career, and because he’s fallen in love with the story and the chance to tell it.

The first problem? He’ll be playing a ship’s captain … and he hasn’t exactly mentioned his fear of water. The second problem? His co-star: award-winning, overly talkative, annoyingly adorable — and openly gay – box office idol Colby Kent.

Colby’s always loved the novel this film’s based on, and he leapt at the chance to adapt it, now that he has the money and reputation to make it happen. But scars and secrets from his past make filming a love story difficult … until Jason takes his hand and wakes up all his buried desires. Jason could be everything Colby’s ever wanted: generous and kind, a fantastic partner on set, not to mention those heroic muscles. But Colby just can’t take that chance … or can he?

As their characters fall in love and fight a war, Colby and Jason find themselves falling, too … and facing the return of their own past demons. But together they just might win … and write their own love story.

The Review

I’ve already pre-ordered Stalwart, the sequel to this. Partly, I did it out of frustration, since this long book did not in fact end with the completion of its story (nor, strictly, did it end on a cliffhanger). I had to find out what happens next, because the characters of Colby Kent and Jason Merillo were, for me, irresistible. 

Aargh. (And that’s not pirate-speak.)

The premise of this book is adorable and laughable, rather like its central romantic hero, Colby Kent. Imagine Hollywood, through the sheer force of personality of a youngish award-nominated director and her even younger A-list celebrity best friend, green-lighting an English historical romance about the love between a Regency-era ship’s captain and a consumptive titled polymath. (I’ll pause here if you have to google any words…)

Imagine also if Georgette Heyer had written one of her famed Regency-era historical novels featuring two men as the central romantic duo. The fictional film in this book is based on a fictional novel (that’s not redundant) published in 1949—a book that was a scandal at the time. It happens to be a novel that both Colby Kent and Jason Merillo have loved since they were young. 

Imagine then, if you will, that this handsome, English-born movie star—who is openly gay, and beloved by all—chooses as his co-star a big bruiser of a stunt man known best for his franchise of B-movie explosion films under the brand of John Kill. 

I’m John Kill. That’s what I do. 

The actual book by Ms. Noone starts with Jason Mirelli’s audition for the role of Captain Stephen Lanyon with Colby Kent playing William, Viscount Easterly. It is broad to the point of slapstick, fast-paced, sharply written, and surprisingly poignant. In a relatively short space of time, you also meet several of the key secondary characters, especially Jillian Poe, the director, who love and protect Colby Kent. Colby Kent, for his part, seems too good to be true, which leads to all sort of awkwardness. 

But Jason sees something in Kent that convinces him that the actor is not a fake, and also that he’s profoundly damaged somehow, in a way he manages to hide from a worshipful general public. This, then, is the story of the filming of Seaworthy, and about Jason Mirelli getting to really know the nicest man in the world. As improbable as it sounds, it works—at least it worked for me. 

The narrative is entirely from Jason and Colby’s points of view, with a great deal of internal dithering that brings to mind TJ Klune’s obsessive, repetitive prose style. If you can deal with it, it is a very intense, emotionally exhausting, but ultimately fulfilling kind of writing. 

The context for the plot—the various locations where the film is being shot—is nicely constructed, once more in that reiterative style, like repeat camera shots, so that you begin to see the fake deck of the Stalwart, the real Georgian townhouse in London, even the hotel lounge in Los Angeles where the crew hangs out after a day’s filming. The repetitive visuals are important because they drag the reader into Colby and Jason’s minds’ eye. The series title “Character Bleed” refers to the phenomenon of an actor’s actual feelings bleeding into his performance of a role, or vice-versa. That is at the crux of Ms. Noone’s writing.

I frequently fantasize about a favorite gay romance being made into a movie, knowing that it will never happen; not in the Hollywood I know. Seaworthy is just that sort of fantasy, and I am hungry to see how it plays out. 

Five stars.

The Reviewer

Ulysses Grant Dietz grew up in Syracuse, New York, where his Leave It to Beaver life was enlivened by his fascination with vampires, from Bela Lugosi to Barnabas Collins. He studied French at Yale, and was trained to be a museum curator at the University of Delaware. A curator since 1980, Ulysses has never stopped writing fiction for the sheer pleasure of it. He created the character of Desmond Beckwith in 1988 as his personal response to Anne Rice’s landmark novels. Alyson Books released his first novel, Desmond, in 1998. Vampire in Suburbia, the sequel to Desmond, is his second novel.

Ulysses lives in suburban New Jersey with his husband of over 41 years and their two almost-grown children.

By the way, the name Ulysses was not his parents’ idea of a joke: he is a great-great grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, and his mother was the President’s last living great-grandchild. Every year on April 27 he gives a speech at Grant’s Tomb in New York City.

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