It’s 1907, and Drs. Coppersmith and Stewart find themselves in Bath with two different goals to accomplish. Orlando is to assess the value of several mathematical tomes that the College might wish to purchase and Jonty is trying to finish his treatise on the sonnets. Once in Bath, they are approached by a man with a 20- year old murder mystery he wants them to solve. Then Jimmy Harding appears,an old friend of Jonty’s, in Bath to stage a production of MacBeth. He is determined to pull Jonty into the production with the aim of separating him from Orlando and into his arms. With temptation, mystery and stress swirling around them, how will Orlando and Jonty survive their lessons in temptation.
With the fifth book in the series, Orlando and Jonty’s relationship is faced with yet another crisis, this one of faith and self knowledge. I love that with each book, Charlie Cochrane moves her Cambridge Fellows relationship forward to another level, usually with the impetus of a crisis of either emotional or physical means. And it is done in the middle of some murder mystery that must be solved, with a clue alluding to some missing component or pointing to some problematic area in their partnership. You always feel hat without some spark, Orlando would happily continue on, thinking all was well with their love. Jonty usually provides the spark or explosion that sends one of them into the clouds of introspection and rumination and this time it is no different.
Jimmy Harding is the trigger that precipitates an avalanche of attraction and guilt in Jonty Stewart, who up until now has never felt the need to look at other men, let alone act on a lust laden impulse. Now he feels both when looking at his old friend and is at a loss as to what to do while keeping Orlando in the dark. Jimmy on the other hand, is doing everything he can to tilt the odds in his direction, pulling Jonty into his play, popping up wherever Jonty happens to be and letting Orlando know that he intends to take Jonty from him. Cochrane does a brilliant job of getting us into Jonty’s head, as he bends under his guilt, his confusion over how he can feel tempted to an affair knowing it would cost him everything he holds dear, including his own family who might never forgive him his adultery. Jonty’s temptation is so human, so believable that he is easy to empathize with even as you dread he might actually cheat on Orlando as the consequences of that act are clearly set in front of himself and the reader. More than once I wanted to give Jimmy a bop on the nose to make him backoff but as Cochrane shows us, it is a moment of crisis that Jonty must overcome himself if his and Orlando’s relationship, strained under Jimmy’s assault, is to regain its footing and move them forward towards a deeper partnership on more equal footing.
Orlando is himself part of the problem. While he has grown as a person, and here Charlie Cochrane inserts a really nice Galatea/Pygmalion metaphor, he is still seeing things in mostly black and white, including sexual relations. Orlando can’t understand physical passion without love, and their lovemaking has been rather one sided, with Orlando being the one to penetrate and Jonty being the one penetrated. This is a state of affairs that Jonty would love to overturn and has met with resistance from Orlando with he has mentioned it. Now with Jimmy making overtures, his dreams are filled with Jimmy and not Orlando, and he is physically sick from it. Orlando is not as removed as Jonty would think from the stress and upheavel caused by Jimmy’s pursuit. A depressive state never far off when his mind is in turmoil, Orlando is keenly aware that all is not well with Jonty but doesn’t know what to do, leaving him to investigate the murder on his own at times. Both men are inwardly upset and confused while outwardly behaving at though nothing was wrong. And their pain is so real that it becomes ours as well. All of this recrimination and insight comes out with beautifully written passages that convey all the turbulence of Jonty’s thoughts without leaving 1907 in terms of dialog and terminology.
Cochrane has such a talent in describing her historical settings that I feel as though I am walking the cobblestone streets with Jonty and Orlando as companions. She imparts such knowledge of the times with her mentions of Stark’s pony, the Red Guide or the “threnody of discomfort”, or terms such as palaver, that give her books authenticity without overwhelming the reader with too many unfamiliar terms(although I will admit to running to the computer for illumination a time or two). From her perfect use of the phraseology of the times right down to the buildings and places of renown in the 1900’s, nary a wrong note is sounded.
With every book, my love for these fellows grows and we move forward in time. We are now a year away from the launching of the first dreadnought class of warship in Britain in 1906. There are 9 books in the series, the last taking place after WWI. While I cannot wait to read the next in the series, I am beginning to dread what the future may hold for our lovely Cambridge Fellows knowing that the war is fast approaching.
Here are the Cambridge Fellows series in the order they were written and should be read to fully grasp the nature of the times, the historical feel of the novels, and the growth of the relationship between Orlando and Jonty.
Lessons in Love, Cambridge Fellows #1 my review here.
Lessons in Desire, Cambridge Fellows #2 – read my review here
Lessons in Discovery, Cambridge Fellows #3 – read my review here
Lessons in Power, Cambridge Fellows #4 – read my review here
Lessons in Temptation, Cambridge Fellows #5
Lessons in Seduction, Cambridge Fellows #6 – review coming
Lessons in Trust, Cambridge Fellows #7 – review coming
All Lessons Learned, Cambridge Fellows #8 – review coming
Lessons for Survivors, Cambridge Fellows #9 (book coming out from Cheyenne Publishing)
Cover; I have loved the covers for this series but the inclusion of that model’s face to the left is a jarring modern touch. He doesn’t not have the authentic feel of the previous models or art work. What a shame, it ruins the cover for me.