Rating: 4 stars out of 5
When Stuart Collins’s partner Mark died in a car crash the previous year, he thought his life had ended too. But life has a funny way of letting you recover and heal, while showing you the path to your future. Stuart’s mother died five years ago, a wonderful woman whose loss was deeply mourned by husband and son. Now a new woman, Isabel Franklin, has come into Stuart’s father life, the only one since his mother passed away.
When a still grieving Stuart was called in by his father to meet the new woman his dad has been dating, Stuart finds himself liking her as well. It turns out she has a gay son Stuart’s age who has just returned from assignment in the States. So Stuart was not totally surprised to get a call from Paul Franklin who wants to vet the man (and the man’s son) who has turned his mother’s head.
Paul Franklin considers himself taken. His lover, Ben, has remained back in the States but Ben is curiously unavailable when Paul has tried to contact him. Unsettled by his lover’s absence and silence, Paul, is startled to find himself attracted to the sad, gentle man who agrees to meet him to discuss their parents. Paul’s not the only one shocked by their mutual attraction. Stuart feels like he is betraying Mark’s memory by the emotions meeting Paul has engendered.
Two men tied by their parents relationship , guilt and uncertainty. Can they move forward together? Can they trust the emotions each makes the other feel? When life offers a second chance at love, will they take it or let it pass by?
Second Helpings is a gentle tale of loss and love by Charlie Cochrane, a favorite m/m historical author of mine. A contemporary tale, Second Helpings, charts the pain of losing your partner and relationship and the struggle to move forward when you have a chance to live and love once more. Both main characters have a similar love situations and family histories but with an important difference. Stuart Collins lost his loving partner in a car crash and his adored mother to cancer. His home life and coming out were supportive and without drama. The loss of Mark as well as his Mother have cut into him deeply. Paul’s romance is on hold, a loss of immediacy and of contact. His lover, Ben, has remained behind in the US and has been out of contact with Paul, not answering emails, phone messages and what have you. Paul lost his father years prior but without the same sense of loss as his family situation and upbringing were vastly difference from Stuart’s. That variance in family life has left both men with strikingly different viewpoints about relationships and partners.
I love Charlie Cochrane’s ability to bring forth portraits of real human beings under stressful conditions. There is no explosive drama to be found here other than that of two men floundering about in their personal lives, each stymied by emotional blockades and miscommunications. Oh and pride as well. Cochrane has Stuart and Paul making such tentative steps forward, then one huge tumultuous one that shakes everyone up. What is so lovely and recognizable about this story and Cochrane’s writing is that all the missed steps and romantic blinders these men have put on seem familiar and true. And when they make a hash of it in the bargain, whether it be arguments or self delusional shielding, we get that too. We might not like it, but we certainly can understand the all too real authenticity of the snaps and cracks at each other.
There are certainly moments here that let you know this is a British author and story. I had to look up what a secondment actually meant (it’s a transfer). There is the usual biscuit for cookies and the utterly charming way the British put their phones on Discreet instead of the American blunt term of Mute. Those touches makes me smile and appreciate our differences as well as our similarities.
What might throw you off the story? The oddly formal narrative at the beginning of the story. It almost feels as though it came from another author and book as the language and flow is dramatically different from the main body of the story. Move past that and you are into the narrative and able to enjoy a lovely beginning to a romance between two men in desperate need of a new future for them both. There is no case of “instant love” thankfully. That would be a disservice to the emotional back history Cochrane has given to both men. What the author delivers feels as painful and down to earth as life makes it. She gives them hope and a chance at love and families that adore them in a story that makes for a terrific read. Who could want for more?
Cover artist: Amber Shah. I like the cover. The blue tone is certainly in keeping with the storyline and characters.
ebook, 140 pages
Published July 21st 2014 by Riptide Publishing