Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Michael Gray returned from World War One injured, but at least he returned. Others were not so fortunate, including his first and greatest love, Thomas Carter-Clemence, with whom Michael had parted bitterly before the conflict began.
Broch, the Carter-Clemence home in Porthkennack, was an integral part of pre-war holidays for the Grays, the two families drawn together in the wake of their sons’ friendship. Returning to the once-beloved Cornish coast for a break with his sister and her family, Michael has to find the courage to face old memories . . . and dare new relationships.
When Thomas’s brother Harry makes an unexpected appearance, Michael is surprised to find himself deeply attracted to Harry for his own sake. But as their relationship heats up, it unearths startling revelations and bitter truths. Michael must decide whether Harry is the answer to his prayers or the last straw to break an old soldier’s back.
In Count the Shells (Porthkennack #6), Charlie Cochrane once again brings her marvelous way of incorporating soft, sometimes unusual romances with her love of history. The author never fails, with her incredible ability , to bring this post WWI historical time frame accurately alive, right down to the songs and events of the era, and then add a poignant and lovely romance as well.
Here in the shadows of WWI, we are looking at a vastly different England. It’s dealing with returned soldiers and the ramifications of war, as well as the memories of those that fell on the battlefields. The wounds for most are still fresh as is the grief for those they buried. Michael Grey is one dealing with both. Injured but alive, he’s still mourning over the loss of the one man he considers his one true love, Thomas Carter-Clemence. Parted on bad terms over a argument, Thomas joined up and then died on the battlefield, their hoped for reconciliation never to be.
We meet up with Michael and his young nephew on a beach, counting shells in different languages. For Michael, each shell represents a different lover he’s had. Thomas is always the first, and the ones that follow? Lost too. It’s a sad refrain that his discerning nephew nevertheless asks him to repeat, and a sweet introduction to the times and characters.
Then the author sweeps us into the lives of the two families, the Greys, and their neighbors, the Carter-Clemences with the appearance of Harry, Thomas’ brother. What starts off as a gentle reintroduction and re-acquaintance of the families as Harry and Michael establish a friendship becomes something quite unexpected when the author starts to deal out revelations that shake up the story just as WWI shook up England at the time. The rest of the story becomes how to reassemble your vision of the things and people you know and move forward. Again, it’s a very shattering yet familiar thing to have to deal with during that time period on a number of levels.
I thought the relationships here were all very moving and the dynamics realistically laid out. Doesn’t matter whether it’s between brother and nephew, brother and sister, sister and husband, brother and brother in law and mostly brother and brother of the man he loved. Count the Shells brings out life’s tapestry in all its interconnections, lets us look at the power when one string is broken and then the ability to mend and make it whole.
I loved this story. It’s thoughtful, moves perfectly for the plots and elements as laid out. It allowed me to glimpse into post WWI England via the mind and heart of Charlie Cochrane and that’s a wonderful thing. Yes, I highly recommend this story and author.
Cover art by L.C. Chase is perfect and in keeping with the character and setting.
ebook, 253 pages
Published October 16th 2017 by Riptide Publishing