In the Spotlight: Charlie Cochrane Interviews Jonty, Lessions for Suspicious Minds and More!

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Charlie Cochrane’s Cambridge Fellows Mysteries always rank high on my Rec Lists.  Cochrane’s writing is delightful and concise, her narrative perfect for the times along with their conversations and her characters, all of them, including Jonty, Orlando, and so many others are so well rounded and endearing that you mark every minute you are with them as time well spent.  The author can make you laugh, pull you into history and make you weep with despair.  But don’t take my word for it, pick up the series and make your acquaintance with Orlando and Jonty!

STRW Author Bio and Contacts

Charlie Cochrane Interviews Jonty with Memorable Results!

Do you have a nickname?
Not a nickname as such but Orlando seems to find no end of names to call me. “Idiot” is one of his more affectionate ones.

What do you wear when you go to bed?
Silk pyjamas, of course. Doesn’t everybody?

Where do you live?
Orlando and I share an updated Tudor cottage on the Madingley Road, in Edwardian Cambridge. It’s tidy without being austere and homely without being over fussy. He says my study is a mess, but I’d say his resembles a monk’s cell!

What is your most prized everyday possession?
It’s a little toffee tin I keep doodahs in. It was one of the first presents Orlando bought me and, while the toffees are long gone, the tin is there to remind me of our early days together.

What’s your date of birth?
Must a gentleman reveal that? Let’s say Queen Victoria was still on the throne.

What’s your first memory?
My sister Lavinia taking me for a walk and collecting horse chestnuts. Then Papa teaching me how to play conkers.

What did you like best at school?
Rugby. Beating the living daylights out of each other in the cause of sport.

What is your favourite memory from teenage days?
Discovering Shakespeare and realising I’d found my metier in life, learning about him and his plays.

What’s your profession?
I’m a college don, at St. Bride’s in Cambridge, specialising in Tudor Literature. I have to admit I have a reasonable private income, inherited from my maternal grandmother, so I don’t need to work, but I’d go dotty if I didn’t! Have to exercise the brain cells somehow. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I enjoy sleuthing so much, as well.

What are the rest of the people at St Bride’s like?
My fellow “fellows” at St. Bride’s are fairly typical of their breed. Red hot on their subjects but maybe a bit out of touch with reality. (Much as Orlando was before I came along, accidentally sat in his chair and turned his world upside down.) Dr. Panesar is my favourite of the rest. Completely loopy, totally brilliant and has a heart of gold.

What’s your favourite play?
“Twelfth Night”. What was going on in Shakespeare’s mind when he wrote that? And “As You Like It”, of course, especially with a hero called Orlando.

What would be the perfect gift for you?
Oh, I have no idea. Something I didn’t realise I wanted or needed until I was given it?
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What kind of weather do you most enjoy?
The sort of clear, sunny day you only get in an English spring or autumn, when the sky is a perfect blue.

What is your favourite drink?
White wine. Or a really good cup of tea.

What’s your favourite animal? Why?
It’s a glyptodont. More specifically the one in the Natural History Museum. My parents used to take me there as a child and I was fascinated by him. I told him all my problems. (Now I have my very own fossilised, crabby, armoured animal to listen to my worries. Orlando.)

Do you have any pets? Do you want any pets?
No and no. Orlando’s jealous enough of the car. If I lavished attention on a dog or cat he’d be unbearable.

What habit that others have annoys you most?
Orlando when he’s over thinking things. Especially when he’s thinking madly about something during a moment of high passion. In the dunderheads (by which I mean students) it’s when they’ve not completed their work on time or to the best of their ability.

What kind of things embarrass you?
People spouting off about things they don’t understand, especially people who spout Old Testament law and pretend that’s Christianity. Hypocrisy in general.

If you could change the way you looked, how would you be then?
No different to how I am now. Although I wouldn’t mind being a couple of inches taller.

Who was the first person you had sex with?
A fellow student called Richard Marsters, when I was nineteen. It was nice, although I don’t think he loved me as I loved him. I suspect I was just another of his good causes he’d taken pity on.

What is your deepest, most well-hidden sexual fantasy?
A gentleman would never reveal that. And anyway, Mama might read this and she’d be appalled.

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About Lessons for Suspicious Minds

Buy It Here at Riptide Publishing…

1909

In the innocent pre-war days, an invitation to stay at the stately country home of a family friend means a new case for amateur sleuths Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith. In fact, with two apparently unrelated suicides to investigate there, a double chase is on.

But things never run smoothly for the Cambridge fellows. In an era when their love dare not speak its name, the risk of discovery and disgrace is ever present. How, for example, does one explain oneself when discovered by a servant during a midnight run along the corridor?

Things get even rougher for Orlando when the case brings back memories of his father’s suicide and the search for the identity of his grandfather. Worse, when they work out who the murderer is, they are confronted with one of the most difficult moral decisions they’ve ever had to make.

STRW Author Bio and Contacts

About the Author

As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes, with titles published by Carina, Samhain, Bold Strokes, MLR and Cheyenne.

Charlie’s Cambridge Fellows Series of Edwardian romantic mysteries was instrumental in her being named Author of the Year 2009 by the review site Speak Its Name. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, International Thriller Writers Inc and is on the organising team for UK Meet for readers/writers of GLBT fiction. She regularly appears with The Deadly Dames.

Connect with Charlie:
Website:http://www.charliecochrane.co.uk/
Blog: charliecochrane.livejournal.com/
Twitter: @charliecochrane
Facebook profile page: facebook.com/charlie.cochrane.18
Goodreads: goodreads.com/goodreadscomcharlie_cochrane

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Giveaway

Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for a title from Charlie Cochrane’s backlist (excluding Lessons for Survivors.) Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on April 25. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Don’t forget to add your email so we can contact you if you win!  Must be 18  years of age or older.  Prizes provided by the author and Riptide Publishing.

Back to Cambridge with Charlie Cochrane and Lessons for Survivors! (contest)

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Jonty and Orlando are Back In Lessons for Survivors!

Charlie Cochrane’s Cambridge Fellows Mysteries are a favorite of mine!  Each book is a treasure, waiting for the reader to  discover what mysteries are in store for two utterly captivating characters, Jonty and Orlando.

About Lessons for Survivors

A more than professional interest . . . a more than personal intrigue.

Orlando Coppersmith should be happy. WWI is almost a year in the past, he’s back at St. Bride’s College in Cambridge, his lover and best friend Jonty Stewart is at his side again, and—to top it all—he’s about to be made Forster Professor of Applied Mathematics. And although he and Jonty have precious little time for an investigative commission, they can’t resist a suspected murder case that must be solved in a month so a clergyman can claim his rightful inheritance.

But the courses of scholarship, true love, and amateur detecting never did run smooth. Orlando’s inaugural lecture proves almost impossible to write. A plagiarism case he’s adjudicating on turns nasty with a threat of blackmail against him and Jonty. And the murder investigation turns up too many leads and too little hard evidence.

Orlando and Jonty may be facing their first failure as amateur detectives, and the ruin of their professional and private reputations. Brains, brawn, the pleasures of the double bed—they’ll need them all to lay their problems to rest.

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About Charlie Cochrane

As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes, with titles published by Carina, Samhain, Bold Strokes, MLR and Cheyenne.

Charlie’s Cambridge Fellows Series of Edwardian romantic mysteries was instrumental in her being named Author of the Year 2009 by the review site Speak Its Name. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, International Thriller Writers Inc and is on the organising team for UK Meet for readers/writers of GLBT fiction. She regularly appears with The Deadly Dames.

Connect with Charlie:
Website:charliecochrane.co.uk/
Blog: charliecochrane.livejournal.com/
Twitter: @charliecochrane
Facebook profile page: facebook.com/charlie.cochrane.18
Goodreads: goodreads.com/goodreadscomcharlie_cochrane

Giveaway

Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for an e-book from Charlie Cochrane’s backlist (excepting Lessons For Survivors). Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on January 31. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.

Lessons for Survivors is Book 9 in the Cambridge Fellows Mystery.  Reviews for all the stories can be found at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.

 

The Adventures of Johnny Stewart Part 1

Johnny Stewart is the great nephew of Jonty Stewart. His four part story will be related by Mrs Cochrane, official biographer to the Stewart family, over the course of this year’s Cambridge Fellows series blog tour.

Roger Bradley looked out at the Thames, from his mother’s hotel suite. This was going to be a wearing evening and they hadn’t even got round to the dinner guests arriving, let alone sitting down. His godmother had burst her appendix, so a last minute replacement had to be found—probably in the form of cousin Mary—but worse still, Sophia was going to be here.

He’d be the one who’d have to take Sophia in on his arm, have to put up with her flirting all evening and, worse still, also have to contend with his mother’s insinuations about what a nice couple they’d make. She’d got brother Henry engaged to be married within a few months and therefore the possibility of grandchildren pretty well sewn up, so why make such a palaver with him?

And Johnny Stewart would be there. The evening had the potential to be disastrous.

“Are you even listening, Roger?” His mother’s voice cut into his thoughts.

“Of course,” he lied.

“And do you agree?” She fixed him with a gimlet gaze. What would he be letting himself in for if he just said “Yes”? It wasn’t worth the risk.

“Sorry, mother, you were right. I wasn’t paying attention.” He needed to defuse the potential explosion. “There was a rather pretty girl out on the embankment and I got a bit distracted.”

“Ah.” His mother’s tone softened. “All I said was that I suspect that in regard to your reference to your godmother’s medical condition, the word is appendices and not appendixes but we’ll let that go. Was she as pretty as Sophia?”

Roger narrowly avoided asking, “who?”, but he’d always been good at thinking on his feet and managed, “How can I answer that without getting myself into trouble with one or other of you? Would ‘equally pretty’ do?”

“A diplomatic answer, dear.” She sighed. “If only your cousin Mary were as pretty.”

I span round to answer her, then decided I preferred the view of the Thames to the view of a condescending maternal face.

“I hope Mary meets a duke one day, one who falls head over heels in love so she then makes a more brilliant marriage for herself than any other female in the family.”

“Since when have you appointed yourself as Mary’s knight in armour?” Roger’s mother’s voice was cool and languid, the one she adopted when she wanted to let his temper blow itself out.

“Since I was old enough to realise how rotten the family is to her. God preserve all spinsters and save them from the machinations of their married relatives.” Roger span on his heels. “This tie needs straightening.”

He ran into his maternal aunt on the way to finding a mirror, which was blessing in that she sorted it for him and kept him out of his mother’s way until he could calm down.

“I hear Johnny Stewart will be here tonight. I’ll enjoy sitting next to him. There.” Aunt Jacinta added the finishing touch to the bow.

“Better you than me. Johnny’s the most insufferable person it’s ever been my misfortune to come across.” Roger ran his hands through his hair.

“You must dislike him intensely,” his aunt said, drily, “to employ that particular gesture. You always used to do it as a lad when you came to stay and we presented you with something you didn’t want to eat. Or asked you a question you didn’t want to answer.”

He felt a bloody embarrassing flush rising up his neck; why did Aunt Jacinta always see straight through him? Did she know exactly what was going on inside his mind to make him so defensive?

Johnny bloody Stewart. Why had he got to keep coming back and making life so difficult?

Roger tried to rally. “Anyone would run their hands through their hair—or tear great clumps of it out—if they had to deal with him for any length of time. He was bad enough at school and hasn’t improved with maturity.”

“That sounds like you then, dear. Peas in a pod.” Aunt Jacinta fixed him with a smile like an auger. She might look one hundred and forty in her bombazine and lace, but that look, and the machinations of the mind behind it, could strike fear in any man.

“Just don’t vex him, would you, dear? If he’s hardly your favourite person, at least be polite.”

“I will do my utmost.” He swallowed hard. Normally, medical students would be beneath his mother’s notice, but this one being the great-grandson of a lord made a difference and she’d been delighted to invite him in the absences of Roger’s godfather, who was at his now hopefully appendix-less wife’s bedside.

How could Roger ever explain about Johnny? There were two insurmountable obstacles—finding the right words to make anyone else understand the feelings he’d had for Johnny since he first caught sight of him as a spotty youth of sixteen and having to deal with her inevitably negative reaction if he did get his point across. He supposed he was too old—and the matter too serious—to just get away with being taken over her knee, whacked, sent to his room and then allowed to come down half an hour later if he showed the right amount of contrition.

Not even Aunt Jacinta could be as understanding about things as to allow that.

Disgrace, disorder, his mother’s tears, his father’s horsewhip? Not that his father would actually resort to the whip, no matter how often he talked about using it on miscreants, although the outcome would be just about the same. Cut off without a penny and none of the Bradleys ever talking to him again. And while that idea might be an attractive one in the case of Uncle Frederick, the general aspect didn’t appeal.

Try as he might, Roger couldn’t think of any way to sweeten the pill, whatever words he could use to describe how he felt.
There was this chap at school, Stewart, J.O. Year below me; came to the school when I was seventeen. I liked the look of him from the start; he had an air about him, power restrained and all that. He matured and filled out a bit faster than more of the spotty oiks of his age. Lost most of the spots, too. Cocky little sod, though. Opinionated.

“Roger!”

“Yes, aunt?” His mind came back from school days to the present, and two females, his mother having appeared, trying to usher him out of the suite.

“Daydreaming again. His worst fault,” she said, bundling him through the door.

Roger reminded himself that if that remained her opinion of what was his worst fault, then all in the garden was still rosy.
***
Johnny was already in the foyer, chatting to Sophia. His dark blond hair was under control, for once, while his blue eyes seemed to dance with pleasure at the arrival of his hostess. Roger thought his heart was going to lunge straight through his rib cage.

“Mrs. Bradley!” He bowed over her hand. “Thank you so much for inviting me as locum tenens.”

“Thank you for stepping in.” Mrs. Bradley was clearly delighted. “Cousin Mary will be delighted to meet you.”

Johnny looked at Roger, one eyebrow raised. “I didn’t know you had a cousin, Roger. Where have you been hiding her?”

“Away from rogues like you. Sophia,” Roger said, heading off any comment Johnny was going to make, “you look lovely.”

“Thank you. It’s just an old thing.” She smoothed her dress, one which was clearly anything but old.

“Johnny,” Mrs. Bradley waved her hands airily, “would you be a sweetheart and take in Aunt Jacinta when we progress to dinner?”

“It would be my pleasure.” It sounded like it would be the highlight of Johnny’s evening. Roger wasn’t sure if his discomfort was irritation at his oiliness or simple jealousy. Why couldn’t he be on Johnny’s arm?

“I was sorry to hear about Mr. Bradley’s accident,” he continued. “He’s quite right to rest that leg up for a while. Sorry he’s missing all the fun, though. Was the matinee good?”

“Excellent thank you,” Mrs. Bradley purred, blossoming under the attention. Roger noted that every woman in the party had slowly drifted into Johnny’s vicinity, like bees after honey. Or wasps after jam. “Malcolm won’t be sorry he missed that part. He’s never one for the theatre, or for coming up to town in general.”

“Do you think he hurt his leg deliberately to get out of it? Shall I horsewhip him for you?” Maybe only Johnny could have said that and got away with it. Roger had met his great uncle, Jonty—when he was up at Cambridge—and the man was the same. Able to charm the birds from the trees.

“Only if he doesn’t enjoy the birthday dinner I have planned when we get home. And this is for me, of course. My friends. Old and new.” Mother looked graciously around her guests then took Detective Superintendent Matthew Firestone—her godfather’s—arm.

“I’m so pleased you could all come. Shall we go through? They’ve laid on some cocktails for us.”

“Oh, lovely,” Sophia said, slipping her arm through Roger’s. Johnny smirked at him, the swine, and they processed towards the private dining room.

The table looked lovely, but the cocktails looked even lovelier, if they’d help Roger cope with the twin trials of Sophia’s doe eyes and Johnny’s…everything. Roger had given up any hope of the bloke fancying him, but the chap could at least be civil.

Mary had arrived and Mrs. Bradley was asking how her journey from Loughton had been, with none of the gratitude on display she’d shown to Johnny.

“My mother pushes that poor girl from pillar to post.” Roger hissed at Matthew, wondering how many cocktails he could consume and still manage to get all his sibilants out. He managed to detach himself temporarily from Sophia on the pretext of circulating and was half way through his perambulations when the manager slipped into the room, making a beeline for Matthew. He appeared to be delivering some sort of intriguing message, given the expression on Matthew’s but before Roger could manoeuvre himself into hearing range, his mother nabbed him.

“Roger. Why did I never meet this delightful young man when you were at school together?”

“I didn’t realise it was de rigeur for me to bring everyone back for tea” Roger didn’t want to talk about Johnny Stewart, not when the half heard words being spoken over his shoulder were so much more interesting.

“I wish he had invited me. Did you have apple cake?” Johnny directed the questions at Roger’s mother, which at least saved him trying not to say, “I couldn’t trust myself enough to invite you.”

“I wish Roger had. It would have made a change from some of the spotty specimens he dragged along.”

Roger bridled. How ridiculous, his own mother flirting with a man young enough to be her son! He rolled his eyes, but the protest he wanted to make got cut off, as Matthew cuffed him on the shoulder.

“Sorry to interrupt. Got a question for you. Did Ivor Gregg seem quite himself at the matinee?”

Roger frowned. “Quite himself? I think so. In good voice, as ever.”

“He was marvellous,” Mrs. Bradley said, girlishly.

“Why do you ask?” And why had Matthew adopted his professional, rather than avuncular, tones?

“Because he’s disappeared. Not turned up for the evening performance, and can’t be found in any of his usual haunts. Totally out of character.”

“Perhaps he’s had an accident?” Mrs. Bradley flapped her hands.

“Perhaps, although the management say they’ve rung round all the likely hospitals where he’d be if he had.” Matthew shrugged.

Aunt Jacinta had joined the group. “That doesn’t strike me as being the sort of case you’d be called in on, Matthew.”

“It wouldn’t be, normally. But he’s had threats made to him.” Matthew bowed over his goddaughter’s hand. “I’m afraid I have to take my leave, my dear.”

“Phew.” Johnny whistled. “The thick plottens.”

ScatteredThoughts Summary of Reviews for November 2013

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November really was such an extraordinary month for books.  It almost makes me giddy with joy. I can’t remember when I last had more 5 and 4 star  rated books as I have had this month.  And their genres and plots ran the spectrum, from contemporary fiction to what I might best describe as fantasy horror, making this truly a rainbow month of great books by outstanding authors.

There are quite a few books that are a part of a series and should best be read in order, while others are stand alone pieces of fiction, with one or two in between in that they are a part of a series but could be read by themselves. It’s all in the reviews which I have linked to each title.

The holidays are upon us and ebook gift cards are a wonderful way of sharing books with those we love.  Make a list, check it twice to make sure you have the titles listed below on yours:dried flowers for november
November 2013 Review Summary

*part of a series

5 Star Rating:

Corruption by Eden Winters*, contemporary
Encore by Shira Anthony*, contemporary
Lessons for Suspicious Minds by Charlie Cochrane*,historical
Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux*, contemporary
Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara, contemporary
The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin*, horror, fantasy
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft, fantasy

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

After The Fall by L.A. Witt* (4 stars), contemporary
Bar None Anthology (4.5 stars) mix of contemporary, scifi
Close Quarter by Anna Zabo*(4.75 stars), supernatural
Family Texas by R.J. Scott*, (4.5 stars), contemporary
Good Boy by Anne Tenino*, (4.5 stars),contemporary
How I Met Your Father by LB Gregg (4.25 stars), contemporary
Illumination by Rowan Speedwell (4.5 stars), contemporary
Long the Mile by Ally Blue (4.25 stars), contemporary
The Retreat by BA Tortuga*, (4 stars), contemporary
The Stars that Tremble by Kate McMurray, (4 stars), contemporary

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Captive Magic by Angela Benedetti* (3.75 stars), paranormal
Hat Trick by Chelle Dugan (3 stars), contemporary
The Blight by Missouri Dalton (3.75 stars), fantasy

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:
N/A

Review: Lessons for Suspicious Minds (Cambridge Fellows #10) by Charlie Cochrane

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Lessons for Suspicious MindsJonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith have just returned home when they are sent a summons by Mrs. Stewart, Jonty’s mother.   Her old friend and Jonty’s godmother requires their assistance and immediate travel to her stately home in the country.  Although lacking details, Jonty and Orlando know this can only mean one thing…..a mystery to solve.  But this could not come at a worse time,, Orlando is still preoccupied over the revelation of his true family name and Jonty had made plans to help Orlando in his personal investigation.

But Mrs. Stewart is not to be denied and soon the two are traveling with the Stewarts to the Berkshires and Fyfield, home of Alexandra Temple.  Midway on their journey, a stop at Monkey Island sees the Cambridge Fellows with an unexpected request to look into a recent death there.  Orlando and Jonty keep that mystery to themselves but are surprised when asked to investigate a suicide at Fyfield, their destination.  That’s two recent suicides suspected to be murder, a circumstance that neither Jonty or Orlando believe to be coincidence.

For Orlando and Jonty, the deaths remind them of a recent dark time for Orlando and memories of Orlando’s father’s suicide.  There will be many mysteries to solve and personal obstacles to overcome before the Cambridge Fellows can return home to Forsythia Cottage and a life they love.

With Lessons for Suspicious Minds, Charlie Cochrane takes us back to England, 1909, a time period prior to the last two novels in this series. WWI is still years away although change is in the air and troubling events are occurring aboard.  Orlando is still reeling over the fact that he is not really a Coppersmith but a relation of the Italian Artigiano del Rame family and Jonty is making plans to help his lover investigate his grandfather’s identity.  But of course, even the simplest of plans go awry for our Cambridge Fellows as Cochrane builds some of her most sophisticated and convoluted set of mysteries to date for them to solve.

There is just so much to love and admire about this book. And l especially appreciate that, as the tenth book in the series, Charlie Cochrane takes us back prior to WWI and the events of All Lessons Learned (#8) and Lessons for Survivors (#9).  Once again we get to revel in the closeness and joy that is the Stewart family, from Richard, Jonty’s father always ready to join in as a spry co-investigator and the ever formidable Helena Stewart, Jonty’s mother, whose post pulls Orlando and Jonty into one of their most personal and perplexing cases  yet.  Lavinia, Jonty’s sister, nephew and brother in law are also present and enjoyably accounted for.  The Stewart family aspect of this series has always been a powerful emotional anchor for Jonty and Orlando’s relationship and sometimes even their mental and emotional stability.  That will come into play here as well.

A constant thread throughout this series has been Orlando’s predilection towards depression, an event usually brought on by thoughts of his dysfunctional family and his father’s suicide.  When Lessons for Suspicious Minds starts, we find Orlando in an unsettled state of mind.  He has just found out that his family name is not Coppersmith but an Italian one from his maternal grandmother as their true family name, Artigiano del Rame, is italian for Coppersmith.  Now the mystery before Orlando is that of the identity of his grandfather, a man never identified by his grandmother.  As always Jonty is trying to find a way to help Orlando but unsure of how to assist him.  This is such a marvelous way to start a story that will have further ramifications for both Orlando and Jonty, especially as they get involved in investigating two deaths categorized as suicides.

This is an emotionally fraught subject and Cochrane treads delicately but resoundingly here.  She brings back past events where depression almost pulled Orlando under and has the entire Stewart family just as unsettled as Orlando, unsure of how to tackle their concerns about his state of mind when dealing so directly with these recent deaths.  Then the author balances the tricky state of hiding the nature of Orlando and Jonty’s relationship from everyone at Fyfield, including the servants, just at the moment when Orlando is needing the love and support of Jonty the most.   It’s almost painful for them to part in the evening when all Orlando (and Jonty) wants is to curl up with his lover, feeling safe and loved.

Through ten stories readers have been there as Orlando and Jonty meet, romanced and finally settled into a deep loving relationship.  It has been a wonderful journey, filled with angst and joy. So we understand how far Orlando has come from those early stages to this point where he needs that physicality, that touch from Jonty to shore him up emotionally and mentally. And when they finally are able to sneak away and indulge in their need for one another, the reader feels as content and emotionally satisfied as they do.

A tenth book is always a milestone in any series and Charlie Cochrane does justice to this remarkable series by including all the elements that her readers have come to expect and enjoy and elevating them here in Lessons for Suspicious Minds.  There is the marvelous parlance of the time period that Cochrance includes in her dialog which demonstrates an ease and familiarity of language in use then.   Whether it is Jonty calling Orlando “a big jessie”, with total affection of course, Richard remonstrating “Helena, he’s built like a bull of Bashan.” after Jonty’s mother says he is “looking a touch on the thin side.” Or even Jonty asking “What have you planned in the way of a nosebag?”, it natural, instead of strained or unusual.  It just adds that note of relevance and accuracy necessary for a historical novel, albeit accomplished in a lovely and subtle manner.

Her locales ring as true as her dialog.  I would love to punt my way to Monkey Island and spread a cloth under the trees to nap away a hour or two in the afternoon. Cochrane’s descriptions are both informative and a calling card for that geographical area. Their pull is hard to resist and sent me googling Monkey Island, punts and gardens Cochrane so vividly brought to life.

And then there are her mysteries, two of them in fact.  To use the lingo common in fiction, there is a dastardly aspect to these cases that I was not prepared for. Its complex and it takes time for Jonty and Orlando to pull all the facts together before they can solve the crimes.  The clues are myriad and include such marvelous things as servants bells and mariner journals. Just outstanding, I think this is the best mystery yet.  I loved that I did not guess at the solution, didn’t even come close!

But the true heart of this story and the series is the love between Orlando Coppersmith and Jonty Stewart.  It has survived Orlando’s innocence, Jonty’s childhood sexual abuse, and all the events of their past investigations, including death threats , threats to the romance, and the threat of discovery. I was slow warming up to their romance but as the stories flew by and their relationship progressed, I fell for them as deeply as they fell for each other.  Now I number this series and couple among my all time favorites.

Lessons for Suspicious Minds (Cambridge Fellows #10) is one of the best of the series, a marvelous thing to report at book ten.  This series and their romance is alive and getting resoundingly better with each new story.  How many series can say that at book ten?  If you are new to the Cambridge Fellows series and Jonty and Orlando, then rush back to the beginning and the start of their romance.  But if you are a long-time fan as I am, then you will surely be as in love with this story as Jonty and Orlando remain with each other, exchanging gentle slaps and retorts to go along with the double entendres and hidden caresses we love and expect.  I consider this one of the best of 2013.

Cover art by Alex Beecroft is perfect for this story in every way.

Book Details:

Paperback, 200 pages
Published September 30th 2013 by Cheyenne Publishing (first published September 19th 2013)
ISBN 1937692272 (ISBN13: 9781937692278)
edition language English

For those of you for whom this review is your first introduction, please start from the beginning. Take your time getting to know these remarkable men, delve into life and times of England in the 1900′s. It starts out with all the joys of a slow promenade and then picks up the pace with each succeeding book.

It is an extraordinary journey. Dont miss a page of it. Here are the order the stories were written and should be read to fully understand the relationships and events that occur:

Lessons in Love (Cambridge Fellows, #1)
Lessons in Desire (Cambridge Fellows, #2)
Lessons in Discovery (Cambridge Fellows, #3)
Lessons in Power (Cambridge Fellows, #4)
My True Love Sent To Me
Lessons in Temptation (Cambridge Fellows, #5)
Lessons in Seduction (Cambridge Fellows, #6)
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.
Lessons for Suspicious Minds (Cambridge Fellows #10)

For free stories in the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries universe and more about the author, visit the author’s website.

A Cambridge Fellows Q & A with Charlie Cochrane

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When I finished All Lessons Learned I found question after question popping into my mind for the author of this remarkable series. Primarily, All Lessons Learnedwhat happens next?  Or is there a next for our beloved Jonty and Orlando?  Over the course of the series, I feel like I have walked the paths of Cambridge, gone punting on the river, watched honey buzzards in the sky and ridden the marvelous Flip-Flap ride during the Franc0-British Exhibition in the White City.  All that was all due to Charlie Cochrane’s ability to bring us right into her story as though we were physically there ourselves.

So I scribbled off some questions about the series and here are her replies.  One more thing mentioned in a comment previously is that she is thinking about writing a 10th book to finish the series off completely.  So here we go:

Scattered Thoughts:  What pushed you forward to right one more book after All Lessons Learned (not that I am complaining)? After the epilogue which I found to be bittersweet for the couple, what prompted more in the series?

Charlie Cochrane:  “Two things. Fans asking when another book would come out and Jonty and Orlando whisering in my ear saying “write me, write me”. It always feels like coming home when I’m back with them. (If that makes any sense.)

Scattered Thoughts: And I say bittersweet because of the time frame. They had stayed hidden for so long and change is in the air just not soon enough.###

Charlie Cochrane: “I know. Ironic, isn’t it? Mind you, Orlando wouldn’t like the modern day so maybe it’s as well. Can you imagine Jonty dragging him to Provincetown?”

Scattered Thoughts: Do you have a favorite book of the series? And if so, why?###

Charlie Cochrane:  “Maybe Lessons in Trust because of the White City. I had books about it and an original programme from the Anglo French exhibition which was constantly at my side when I wrote it. Also Lessons in Power because it deals with poor Jonty’s past. And has rugby in it.”

Scattered Thoughts: And do you have a prompt, either a historic artifact or location that you build your books around when you are getting started?###

Charlie Cochrane: “Usually a location, so Jersey, or Pegwell Bay or Bath or – in the case of the one I’m writing at present – a thinly disguised Cliveden house.”

Scattered Thoughts: I have to ask because I know I am thinking it so others are too. Any chance of “lost cases from the Cambridge Fellows mysteries” popping up? Stories out of sequence from the books already published. You know we just hate to let Jonty and Orlando go.

Charlie Cochrane: ” I think it’s entirely possible that lost cases will pop up. I have one buzzing at the back of my mind. Also lost scenes/snippets. I want to post something for Mothering Sunday, maybe a letter from Mrs. Stewart to Jonty when he was young. Still getting my thoughts together on that.”

Scattered Thoughts: And do you have any new series in mind for the future?

Charlie Cochrane: “New series? Maybe. I’ve just completed a contemporary cosy mystery (think Midsomer Murders but with a gay detective) and will be trying to find the right home for it. If it succeeds, I could see me writing more.”

Scattered Thoughts:  I love a good cosy and can’t wait for this one.  Thank you so much for such a wonderful series and taking time to answer my questions.

To learn more about Charlie Cochrane, her books and stories, visit her website and blog listed below.

You can find many free stories by Charlie Cochrane at Charlie’s Free Fiction group.  Or visit her website

Her last release, Promises Made Under Fire, Carina Press February 2013, is also available from Amazon and All Romance.

Promises Made Under Fire

Review: Lessons for Survivors (Cambridge Fellows #9) by Charlie Cochrane

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Rating: 4.75 stars for the book, 5 stars for the series

Lessons for SurvivorsCambridge, 1919.  It has been  a year since Orlando Coppersmith and Jonty Stewart emerged from the Great War and reunited.  Now back at St. Bride’s College, Orlando prepares to be inducted as Forsterian Professor of Applied Mathematics and needs to have a lecture prepared for the honor, a lecture he is having problems writing.  Jonty Stewart is by his side as normal.  Jonty recognizes that Orlando needs a distraction,  and along it comes in the guise of a murder mystery.  This murder  mystery also comes with a time constraint.  It must be solved in a month’s time or the suspected murderer will inherit a fortune and no one will be able to stop it.

Then with a lecture to write and a murder mystery to solve, on top of it all Orlando is made head of a committee to investigate a crime of plagiarism that involves their collegiate nemesis Dr. Owens from the college next door.  Dr. Owens has never forgiven them for solving the  Woodville Ward case and has threatened to out the couple if the case against his protege continues.  But the  biggest fight for the couple is against Orlando’s predilection for depression and his uncertainly about his ability to not only finish the lecture but solve the mystery as well.  Jonty knows that this case is just what they need to shore up Orlando’s confidence in himself and to spice up the routine they have gotten into since their return.  But the closer they get to the mystery, the larger the mystery gets until even Jonty starts to doubt their ability to solve it.  They have survived the war, now they have to survive their return and find the peace they are searching for.

In Lessons for Survivors, Charlie Cochrance brings us into the lives of our favorite couple one year after the events of All Lessons Learned.  On first appearances, things seem delightfully back to normal.  Jonty and Orlando are back home at Forsythia Cottage with their needs being taken care of by Mrs. Ward and her grandaughter. Jonty has resumed teaching Romantic Literature and Orlando is being made Professor of Applied Mathematics at St. Brides.  Ariadne “Peters” Sheridan is back at the college too, her new husband taking the place of Lemuel Peters, her brother, as head of the college.  But just as the battles of WWI has left its scars across the landscape of Europe, so too has it left its marks upon Orlando and Jonty. Both men bear physical scars from their time on the front but they also brought home internal scarring as well.  Cochrane does not dwell on this any more than Jonty and Orlando do but with subtly and discretion so appropriate to this pair we learn that Jonty is prone to flashbacks of the fighting and Orlando has nightmares and wakes up crying in remembrance.  Orlando has also lost his confidence, both in himself and his abilities due to his experiences in WWI and the fact that he is prone to depression is never far from Jonty’s thoughts and ours as well.

And it is just that sort of details in Charlie Cochrane books that I find so compelling and right.  After nine books and several independent stories, we know these men intimately due to her extraordinary characterizations. Jonty and Orlando are not the type to give in to  over sharing of any trauma,  or complaining about their time on the front or their experiences in the trenches, instead they would internalize them, speaking of them only when necessary, and then probably only to each other.  And these brief glimpses of how they are haunted by WWI are exactly what we would expect from them.

While some things are back to normal at St. Brides, there are several gaping holes in Jonty and Orlando’s lives now as Mr. and Mrs. Stewart have passed away from influenza and it is their absence that is so greatly missed, not only by Jonty and Orlando but the reader as well.  They were remarkable personalities and they are often in our couples thoughts.  Cochrane ties their deaths together with the awful events of WWI forever in our minds as well as Jonty and Orlando’s, bringing the enormity of loss that occurred down to a personal and definable level.  And while we recognize just what we have lost by the Stewarts passing, Cochrane delivers a older, wiser and quite funny Lavinia Broad and her family to take their place in Jonty and Orlando’s lives and our hearts.  It follows just as it would in real life and further illustrates the care and art that Charlie Cochrane brings to her writing and this series.

And let’s not forget that wonderful, light hearted and ebullient banter that is a hallmark of Jonty and Orlando’s relationship.  It is as quick witted, warmhearted and as lively as ever.  How I love listening to them love each other through snort and snark. They are equally at home in a Noel Coward play or a Sherlock Holmes and Watson mystery, although Orlando would hate to hear it.  The author gives us a wonderful mystery here too, one of the best of the series.  It comes complete with dead triplets, a happy widow, missing jewels, and a tragic family history to undercover.  It will take everything Jonty and Orlando have at hand and more to solve this one and its resolution at the end with leave the reader as well as Jonty and Orlando with a cat’s cream face to show for it.

The angst of the last two books is missing here and that’s just as well.  Its time for the painful events of the past to subside and happiness and contentment to take their place, though the memories will always be there.  If I have a small quibble with this story, it is that it ends a little too abruptly.  I would have wished for one last scene in Forsythia Cottage or in their garden, perhaps having tea or maybe some sherry.  Ariadne and Dr. Panesar would be expected shortly.  Ariadne to discuss her beloved planarian worms and Dr. Panesar his latest thoughts on time travel. And in the meantime, Lavinia has phoned to discuss the exploits of her son, George with his favorite uncles and ask their opinion.  That is how I leave them in my heart and mind, happy, together, surrounded by friends and family in the life they built together , pain and traumatic pasts not withstanding, to arrive at their happy every after, including the occasional eye rolling, snort and kicked shin to prove it.

I do hear the rumors of a 10th book might be planned.  If so, I will be “over the moon” in joy but if this is to be the last book in the series, well, I am happy here too.  Thanks for a most wondrous series, Charlie Cochrane.   Like the Flip-Flap, it has been a most excellent ride.

The new cover design by Alex Beecroft underscores the fact that this book was published by Cheyenne Publishing and not Samhain Press as the others were.  It is still as much a delight as the others, just lovely.

For those of you for whom this review is your first introduction, please start from the beginning. Take your time getting to know these remarkable men, delve into life and times of England in the 1900′s. It starts out with all the joys of a slow promenade and then picks up the pace with each succeeding book.

It is an extraordinary journey. Dont miss a page of it. Here are the order the stories were written and should be read to fully understand the relationships and events that occur:
Lessons in Love (Cambridge Fellows, #1)

Lessons in Desire (Cambridge Fellows, #2)

Lessons in Discovery (Cambridge Fellows, #3)

Lessons in Power (Cambridge Fellows, #4)

My True Love Sent To Me

Lessons in Temptation (Cambridge Fellows, #5)

Lessons in Seduction (Cambridge Fellows, #6)

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.

For free stories in the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries universe and more about the author, visit the author’s website.

March Came Roaring In Like a Lion and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Remember last March in Maryland?  The sun was shining over plants newly emerged from the ground,  our temperatures hovered in the high 70’s after experiencing absolutely no winter at all.  Birds were nesting, the butterflies were flying, and thoughts of picnics and outdoor barbecue dinners molded our grocery lists.  Even now I can bask in the memories….

Now switch to present day and the snow flurries I saw swirling around in clear defiance that it was March.  It was cold and dark clouds made sure the sun never made an appearance.  I stopped to look at the pansies with their smiling faces at Good Earth and thought “not in a million years am I hanging around outside to plant you so bugger off”,  channeling some Brits I know.  Those of you in the middle of huge snowstorms or still in recovery from the same are probably wanting to smack me over such piddling weather.  Me too.  I do realize it could be so much worse but this dang climate change has upped our expectations for March beyond all reasonability, hence the whining.

On the other hand, it does give me time to spend with plant catalogs, and go to a whine oops wine and cooking demonstration like I did  yesterday.  Had the weather been gorgeous, I would have been outside and missed a Mahi Mahi cooked in a buirre blanc sauce to die for, a lovely Coq au vin and a porc du rose, just a lovely 3 hours spent with nice people, great wines and food and a very funny Chef Read.  So highs and lows, cold and hot, one friend moves away and I get the chance to meet others. Life, the weather and changing climate keeps springing changes upon us whether (ha!) we are ready or not, usually mostly not.   Hmmmm,..rambling here again.

So where were we? Ah yes, the week ahead.  Hopefully that will see the Caps win, the Nats all heathly and happy in Florida, honestly don’t care what’s going on with the “Skins, and new recipes to try out.  I will be finishing up the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries series this week and it will be sad to say goodbye to Jonty and Orlando.  Look for a post full of Q & A with Charlie Cochrane to post the day following.  She was wonderful in answering all the questions that kept popping into my brain as I finished All Lessons Learned.  We have a mixed bag of new and familiar authors here, something for everyone I believe.  So here is the way it is scheduled so far:

Monday, March 4:                     Spot Me by Andrew Grey

Tuesday, March 5:                     Wake Me Up Inside by Cardeno C

Wed., March 6:                           Velocity by Amelia C. Gormley

Thursday, March 7:                    Lessons for Survivors by Charlie Cochrane

Friday, March 8:                         A Cambridge Fellows Q & A with Charlie Cochrane

Saturday, March 9:                     His Best Man by Treva Harte

So there it is, a really good week ahead.  Now if just those blasted snow clouds would go away I might just think about planting some pansies….

Review: All Lessons Learned (Cambridge Fellows Mysteries #8) by Charlie Cochrane

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Rating: 5 stars

“He’s at the end of his rope…until fate casts a lifeline.”

All Lessons LearnedWWI has ended and Dr. Orlando Coppersmith is back at St. Bride’s College, after being freed from a German prisoner of war camp.  The cost of the war is all around him but the deepest, most traumatic blow is the loss of his lover and companion of more than a decade, Dr. Jonty Stewart, killed in action in the Somme.  Orlando is consumed by his loss and going through the motions of his previous life when unexpectedly a case arises to take his mind off his desolation.  A mother is sure her son did not die in battle and wants Orlando to find him or the truth whatever it may be so her mind can be at ease. The pursuit of that truth will take Orlando back to places he wished he could forget and times of untold horror and pain.

But on the French seafront at Cabourg, Lavinia Stewart Broad and her family are taking a walk on the sands when she comes across the last person she ever expected to see, giving her hope and joy for the first time in ages.  The impact of the war that has been left behind on those who fought cannot be lessoned in a day or even month.  And not all the pain and scarring left is visible on the outside.  Nothing in Orlando’s intellectual framework has prepared him for what comes next and it will take everything he has to grasp on to this new hope and hold on through to a future he thought was gone.

From the opening sentence we are audience to a sorrow so profound that you will be weeping within minutes.  I don’t think there is a more powerful symbol of love that can grip you except its absence after having found it and that is Orlando Coppersmith at the beginning of All Lessons Learned.

This is how we find him:

“The twelfth day of the eleventh month, 1918.  Orlando Coppersmith stood outside the prisoner of war camp and listened, almost unbelieving. No distant guns. No shouts or cries. No whinnying of frightened horses. Somewhere a bird was singing—two birds—and a distant dog barked. It felt unreal, as if this were a dream and the memory of the last few years the reality to which they would wake.”

The first world war has ended and its impact is hitting home as the men who survived WWI return back to their lives. Those that don’t return lie dead on foreign soil or have fled, marked as cowards, some because of what we know is PTSD, a concept so foreign that is was mocked as an excuse of cowards instead as the very real condition we know today.  Charlie Cochrane brings the reader the horrors that WWI visited on all involved by making it personal with its impact on characters we have met and come to love in the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries. In the opening pages, we find out that Dr. Peters, the Master of St. Bride’s College has died.  Also gone are Mr. and Mrs. Stewart, Jonty’s parents who also became the same to Orlando over the course of their relationship.  Jonty has been killed during fighting on the Somme and with them everything central to Orlando’s happiness and contentment , the core that made his life worth living is shattered, leaving Orlando adrift, tethered to life by a promise, Mrs. Sheridan nee Peters, and Lavinia Stewart Broad and her family.

I can think of no better way to visit the horrors that war can impart than through the eyes of a beloved character and Cochrane pulls us into Orlando’s memories with a gritty harshness not found elsewhere in the series.  This is a much changed Orlando since last we saw him.  No longer does this vaunted mathematician see the world in black and white.  Time, loss and his experiences on the front and in a prisoner of war camp have changed him forever with one exception.  His love for Jonty is as strong and final as it ever was, and now he is trying to continue living as he promised and falling short.  That changed man, more than anything else Cochrane could have done, tells us how much the world has altered in order for that to happen.  Have the tissues at hand, because this is going to hurt and hurt deeply.

Another fine element of this novel is the subject of what today we know as PTSD and veterans.  Then it had different names, shell shock for one, neurasthenia for another, the last being an ill-defined mental illness that encapsulated everything from fatigue to irritability and mental instability.  That is when it was believed in, for some doctors and the public, it was just an excuse for cowardice under fire. Here is another passage when Orlando is interviewing someone about MacNeil the man he is trying to locate:

“Orlando wouldn’t use the word “desert”. He’d heard too much rubbish spouted about men who’d lost their nerve, especially from people who’d been no nearer the front than the promenade at Dover.”

Those words might just have easily come out of the 60’s, or 80’s or even now.  While the weapons and locations may change, the impact of war upon people’s minds and bodies does not and here we see the results in Orlando and many others he comes across during his investigation.  Through recounted memories or more accurately nightmares, we hear the constant pounding of exploding munitions and the whistling of the shells overhead, the empty sleeves and missing legs of the remnants of the men who made it back, and the holes in the lives left behind of those that didn’t.  This is a grim and necessary element of All Lessons Learned and its impact upon the reader tells you exactly how well Charlie Cochrane did her job in making it real to us too.

There are also some wondrous moments in this story that will make all the pain and tears worthwhile.  They will come not with great shouts of joy and fireworks but quietly, with subtly and that’s as it should be given the nature of the couple at the heart of this series. One of the elements that made Orlando’s grief worse was that he could not mourn the loss of his lover the same as any other “widower” for that was indeed what he was.  Orlando’s grief had to remain hidden from all but a few who knew the couple and their true relationship.  And that isolation of his grief made a deeper cut than if he might have been able to mourn with the countless others at the time.  Orlando Coppersmith is a complex man and brings those same complexities of nature to everything that happens to him, good, bad or miraculous.  So the events that occur later on the story won’t surprise anyone who has become familiar with his character.  Somethings are truly fundamental and that is reassuring too.

This is not the end of the series, although I suspect at the time Charlie Cochrane intended it to be from the epilogue here.  One more book was written.  And that prompted a number of questions I had for the author.  I hope to have my review and the answers to those questions  posted for you sometime soon.  But in a way this does provide a sort of ending because the world and these men were never the same after WWI.  Changes start to happen rapidly throughout the world and the gentler time of the first seven books is forever vanished.   This series has become dear to my heart and we have one more visit to go.  I hope you will stay with me to the end.  For those of you for whom this review is your first introduction, please start from the beginning.  Take your time getting to know these remarkable men, delve into life and times of England in the 1900’s.  It starts out with all the joys of a slow promenade and then picks up the pace with each succeeding book.

It is an extraordinary journey. Dont miss a page of it.  Here are the order the stories were written and should be read to fully understand the relationships and events that occur:
Lessons in Love (Cambridge Fellows, #1)

Lessons in Desire (Cambridge Fellows, #2)

Lessons in Discovery (Cambridge Fellows, #3)

Lessons in Power (Cambridge Fellows, #4)

My True Love Sent To Me

Lessons in Temptation (Cambridge Fellows, #5)

Lessons in Seduction (Cambridge Fellows, #6)

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.

For free stories in the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries universe and more about the author, visit the author’s website.

 

The Week Ahead in Reviews

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Well, I hate to throw this out there but this coming week is full of things I don’t like to talk about, mostly doctors appointments.  I would much rather dwell on things like the arrival of Spring, plants I want to establish in the gardens, the latest antics of my terrors three, and what knitting projects are in the pipeline. But sometimes I just have to face up to the fact my health takes priority, even over the Caps and the Nats. So if things don’t exactly arrive as scheduled, this is the reason.  Just saying.

I want to finish out Charlie Cochrane’s Cambridge Fellows series over this week and the next, so grab onto that box of tissues and be prepared. I also have the latest Josh Lanyon book he self published after his year off.  This week I am also posting books from favorite authors like B.A. Tortuga and K. A. Mitchell that were reviewed for Joyfully Jay’s Jock Week.  I know you will enjoy them as well. So here is the schedule as planned.

Monday, Feb. 25:              Lessons In Trust by Charlie Cochrane

Tuesday, Feb 26:                Blood Red Butterfly by Josh Lanyon

Wed, Feb. 27:                     Life, Over Easy by K. A. Mitchell

Thursday, Feb. 28:           Adding To The Collection by B. A Tortuga

Friday, Feb. 29:                 All Lessons Learned by Charlie Cochrane

Saturday, Feb. 30:             Scattered Thoughts On Authors, Conventions and Hurt Feelings

 

In the meantime I have become familiar with the music of Kaija Saariaho,  In “Lonh”, a work for soprano and electronics, Saariaho combined a medieval love poem with bells and bird song to arrive a composition both memorable and eerie.  What do you think?