Rating: 4.25 stars
1907 England. Lady Jennifer Johnson, former mistress to the King of England, had been found dead in a fashionable hotel and already the whispers have started as to the cause of death. The King wants answers and who better to investigate than the increasingly famous sleuths, Drs. Coppersmith and Stewart. The need to proceed with utmost care for protocol and subtlety, Jonty and Orlando decide that some undercover work is required. The hotel where Lady Johnson died has a group of professional dancers on call to dance with the hotel’s guests and give dance lessons. Given Jonty’s famous family and his easy access to many of the people they will need to question, it is decided that Orlando will go undercover as a dance partner, while Jonty and his father check into the hotel under their real names to pursue the investigation with assistance from the local constabulary.
The clues as to her death are hard to find, and as the investigation drags on, Jonty and Orlando are finding it hard to be apart. But then anonymous letters are slipped under Jonty’s door, warning them away from the case or suffer the consequences. When a second body is found, Jonty and Orlando must face the idea that their investigation has caused a second murder and hasten to find the person responsible before more people die and their relationship exposed.
With Lessons in Seduction, Cochrane gives our boys from Cambridge a little bit of a breather from the angst of the last book. Here she sets them down with a puzzling mystery to solve – the case of the King’s mistress, or one of them at least. The Lady Jennfier Johnson was an agreeable, lovely woman, far different from his other more well known mistress Lily Langtry *, and the King was very fond of her as is mostly everyone Jonty and Orlando talk to. I love all the little minutiae Charlie Cochrane adds to her stories. It’s that additional bit of depth and layering that brings the era her stories vividly to life. We see society going about its business at every level, from dowager duchess to paid companion and it is just a delight to be able to settle down and watch Jonty and Orlando prove their mettle as sleuths even as we eavesdrop in on their relationship.
Charlie Cochrane’s dialog is just amazing. It flows so naturally from character to character, rippling from frothy conversations to confessions of the heart with such ease that it is just astounding. Sometimes as Jonty and Orlando banter back and forth, I hear the echoes of The Thin Man most lighthearted couple, Nick and Nora Charles (yes, yes, I know, different eras). The conversation is witty, lighthearted, downright frivolous and yet still the love and affection each man feels for the other is inescapable.
Here is an example:
He turned Orlando’s face towards his own. “This face, the Jonty Stewart fizzog, it’s a case of once seen never forgotten, isn’t it?
Orlando looked at his lover’s fine profile as if seeing it for the first time. The bright blue eyes were as stunning and unnerving as when they’d first met, the nose perfectly formed and the mouth full of promise. He snorted. “It’s a face getting too big for its own flannel if you ask me.”
It’s all captured in just a few sentences. The terminology gives us the era and the words each man speaks tells us volumes about their relationship. We can tell how easy they are with each other, their affection and love flowing out even as Orlando covers his emotions behind a small cut. You know Jonty never believes it for a minute nor does Orlando expect him to. Just lovely pin-sized portrait of their relationship and Charlie Cochrane makes it look so easy to achieve. Trust me, its not.
it’s not just colloquialisms and historical facts that make a story sing, its their mixture along with characterizations of people who seem as large as life. That is here as well. Miss Peters from St. Bride’s is back and her story moves forward in a startling manner I was not expecting but it is the people you meet during the investigation that stick with you as well, with their human dramas that capture you attention as much as the main mystery does. I loved the character of Mrs. Coppersmith, Orlando’s grandmother and her revelations about Orlando’s family that explain so much about the character. Much like the rest of this story, the revelations come gently as with the tide, rolling out over the course of an evening.
As I said earlier, the author gives Jonty and Orlando a break from any major angst producing events such as occurred in the last story. Think of this mystery as certainly more of the relaxed armchair variety. Even with the reported deaths, it plays out almost gently, lacking the high drama points of previous cases. It’s as though Cochrane decided her boys needed a breather and gave them one. Enjoy this book for what it is, a lovely mid level case and mini vacation for our Cambridge dons. We visit a lovely vacation spot, see Orlando glide about a ballroom exquisitely clothed, while Jonty fumes and his father enjoys the picture. It’s a wonderful moment before they return to Hyacinth Cottage and more heart wrenching times to come.
I love this series and have certainly dragged my feet as the end of the series got closer. That’s my only excuse for not finishing this series in 2012. I just didn’t want it to end. We have 3 more books to go. Start piling away the tissues now for perilous times are almost upon Jonty and Orlando. Next up is Lessons in Trust (Cambridge Fellows Mysteries #7). Stay with me and let’s finish this up together. If this is your first introduction to our couple, go back to the beginning and see how it all starts. You won’t be sorry either way. Jonty and Orlando are a couple to be reckoned with, so it their creator. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us all next.
*Lillie Langtry, usually spelled Lily Langtry when she was in the U.S
Here are the books in the series in the order they were written and should be read:
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 Seduction, Cambridge Fellows #6
Lessons in Trust, Cambridge Fellows #7 – review coming
All Lessons Learned, Cambridge Fellows #8 – review coming
Lessons for Survivors, Cambridge Fellows #9 (book released from Cheyenne Publishing)
Cover: Lovely cover by Scott Carpenter, works perfectly for the book and the series.