Rating: 4.5 stars
It is 1908 and Cambridge Dons Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith are attending the Franco English Exhibition in the White City when their vacation is interrupted by two events, one a murder case and the other a personal mystery whose impact is devastating to the couple and their family and friends. A young man they had spied earlier at an exhibition in the White City turns up dead. When the local constabulary rebuffs all their efforts to become involved, to Orlando’s and Jonty’s consternation, they proceed to investigate on their own. Then a letter arrives informing Orlando that his beloved grandmother has died, and her death releases Jonty from the promise he made to her and he tells Orlando the truth about his grandmother, his father and his lineage.
When Orlando finds out that everything he thought he knew about his family and himself was false, including the fact that their name is Coppersmith, he is devastated and falls into a deep depression. His uncertainty about his family background and his own identity is made untenable in Orlando’s mind when placed next to his lover’s noble and long established family. So distraught in fact that without informing either Jonty or the Stewarts, Orlando leaves their home to launch his own investigation into his past on his own.
Now Jonty is frantic to find his lover and still mired in confusion over the mistaken identities of the dead man from the White City. Unable to locate Orlando, Jonty continues to unearth clue after clue on the original murder, further infuriating the police over his involvement in a case he and Orlando were warned off. Orlando, meanwhile, is struggling without Jonty and his depression is making him his own worst enemy. It will take both men, reunited once more to solve both mysteries, one that threatens the very heart of their relationship if exposed and the other Orlando’s sanity if not solved.
With Lessons In Trust, once more Charlie Cochrane plunges the reader into a story that resolves around personal identities and trust and does so from two different perspectives. When Jonty and Orlando see a young man snoozing near an exhibition hall, they have no idea that he is in fact not only dead but has been murdered. The local police, an Inspector Redknapp, not only don’t want their help in investigating this crime but actually makes comments that let Jonty and Orlando know that the Inspector thinks very little of their investigative powers. So they take matters into their own hands for the first time and proceed to find out that no one in the case is as they are presumed to be. Once identity after another is found false, mudding the trail to the murderer. Charlie Cochrane is setting the stage for an even larger case of mistaken identity here, that of Orlando himself.
In the last book, Lessons in Seduction, we learned that Orlando’s grandmother had his father out of wedlock and was disowned by her family, a fact she kept from her son and grandson. Mrs. Coppersmith only told Jonty when she knew she was dying, making him promise to hold off informing Orlando until her death. Orlando’s family history is one of angst, suicide and depression, making him grow up socially isolated, withdrawn and prone to depression himself. One truth he held onto and that was his name. And with one revelation, that is gone as well, his identity in question along with his lineage. The author asks that we remember how important family names were at the time by contrasting Orlando’s family with that of Jonty Stewart’s, a comparison not lost on Orlando or the reader. And we know before it happens, just how badly Orlando will receive this information.
There are so many powerful elements at play here. Not only are Jonty and Orlando facing questions about his identity but the murder case they are still pursuing keeps turning up false identities as well, highlighting how tenuous a hold a name can have on your own identity without you even realizing it. And Orlando’s family history of depression rears its head again as Orlando spirals downward, unable to stop his depressive state from taking over his mind and his heart. There is a blackness to Orlando’s family, his father having slit his throat in front of his son at a young age and much about his actions are finally explained here. Orlando’s depression makes him doubt everything around him, including his trust in Jonty and the Stewarts to understand and continue loving him. Powerful stuff indeed. Complication after complication follows our couple, even as they try to unearth the motive and murderer of the man they found at the beginning.
When Orlando flees the Stewart London home in desperation and panic, he leaves behind a confused and fearful Jonty. Jonty’s own issues of trust and pain start to resurface with the loss of Orlando and everything both men have come to hold dear and worked hard to establish is in danger of being destroyed by their actions and fears. The author brings us into the turmoil of Orlando inner thoughts as pain and anger has him lashing out against his family and even himself in punishing detail. But she also ensures that we feel Jonty’s fear and anquish over the safety of his lover as acutely as our own. And throughout all these events, there is a darker thread that runs subtlety through the narrative, that of continental unrest and spies from abroad appearing on English soil, a precursor of the war looming over the horizon.
As I stated in my previous blog on the Franco-British Exhibition, Charlie Cochrane’s stories are also a thing of personal delight because of the new information she imparts and the manner in which it is done. I found The Flip-Flap ride to be as irresistible as Mr. Stewart does. And I dearly wanted a ride in Jonty’s new Lagonda car, goggles firmly in place, face caked with dirt and full of adventure. I truly understood Orlando’s jealousy and wanted to give it a crank myself.
But the real beauty here is the foundation of this series, the creation of Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith. Cochrane has slowly introduced Jonty and Orlando to each other and the reader and made us all fall madly in love over the course of seven books. We now know these characters intimately as we do our closest friends. And it is because of this connection that the author is able to build such suspense within the reader for Orlando’s safety and their love. The author does provide some lightness to offset the darkness occurring within Orlando by bringing in Jonty’s sister, Lavinia and her husband, Ralph. They have a major problem with their marriage and a resourceful Jonty has just the answer. This is a sweet, funny and endearing section of Lessons In Trust that still manages to address the issue at hand, that of trust within a relationship.
We are almost done, the end of the series close at hand. The next book was the last until the author added one more. So the next up to be reviewed is All Lessons Learned, the penultimate book in the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries and by far the most powerful in the group. War is upon our boys and the impact as devastating as we can imagine. Keep those boxes of tissues nearby, they will be needed. See you back here soon.
My True Love Sent To Me
Lessons in Trust (Cambridge Fellows, #7)
Once We Won Matches (Cambridge Fellows, #7.5)
All Lessons Learned (Cambridge Fellows, #8)
Lessons for Survivors (Cambridge Fellows, #9) released by Cheyenne Publishing, buy link here
Visit Charlie Cochrane’s website for free stories and more information about further works from this author.