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.

Dreaming of Spring while Singing the Flues Blues and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Maryland seems to have dodged another major “storm of the century” that is still leaving its impact on New England and the NE corridor from Philly to Maine is coated with the white stuff.  While those unfortunate fellows are digging out from under several feet of snow, we had to deal with wind and rain and little else.

Unless you count the flu.   Yes, that’s right, the flu. Or maybe you have the norovirus, that’s going around too.  Either way, like myself, you are probably feeling less than stellar.  I did gather all the right stuff around me as the symptoms hit. Hot tea? Check.  Loads of tissue? Check.  Blankets to huddle under?  Check. Every over the counter cold drug you could buy? Check. Reading material and knitting projects? Check.  So what is missing?  My ability to focus and stay awake.  I have no energy.  Sigh.  So while I have a schedule for this week, it might be touch and go to stay by it.  Let’s see what happens in between doctors appointments, shall we?

Here are the reviews planned:

Monday, Feb. 11:              Lessons in Seduction by Charlie Cochrane

Tuesday, Feb. 12:             Feeling His Steel by Brynn Paulin

Wed,, Feb. 13:                   Brothers in Arms by Kendall McKenna

Thurs., Feb. 14:                 Superpowered Love: Losing Better by Katey Hawthorne

Friday, Feb. 15:                 The God Hunters by Mark Reed

Saturday, Feb. 16:             Reader Questions.  If you could talk to an author, what would you ask them?

Meanwhile here is a vid making the rounds that cheered me up.  Love the reaction of the older sister.  These kids rock.

What Series Am I Reading Now?

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My reading list has always been a convoluted constantly changing creature (alliteration how I love thee), but lately it is full of authors delivering an addictive group of novels revolving around a select cast of characters and the universe they inhabit, in other words a series!  What does surprise me is that most of the series I am currently reading come from authors that were new to me, undiscovered territory as it were. So these series actually represent a double dose of goodness, that of a new author as well as new series.  I will note that the series I am listing here are ones that are either not complete or a recently completed series that I haven’t finished reading.

1. Infected Series by Andrea Speed:

It started with Andrea Speed and her Infected series.  I can’t remember why I picked up Infected: Prey to begin with but I know that from the moment I met Roan  and discovered the story of a cat virus (like AIDS, it is a blood born pathogen) spreading across the States with devastating effects on society, I was hooked.  Andrea Speed was a new author for me (as is most of the authors here) but with her creation of Roan, she has given us wonderful reluctant superhuman hero, complete with a unique voice and style of dialog I would recognize as his anywhere.  Roan would appreciate it if he were a solitary being but he comes with a close knit group of people in various roles that are as multilayered, as personable as tragic and humorous a bunch of beings as you will ever meet.  Roan has esoteric tastes in music so I was not always familiar with his choices of bands (These Arms Are Snakes really?) but Andrea Speed thankfully provides the playlists on her website so I can get up to speed (snort) and so can you.  And Roan’s commentary on society, reality tv, religion, ok anything really often has me in stitches when I am not dissolving in tears.  Do not pass up this series.

Infected Shift is the latest in the series.  Find my review of it here and a list of all the previous books.  The books should be read in the order they are written to get the full measure of the story and the characters.

Infected Series: Prey, Bloodlines, Life After Death, Freefall, Shift.

Andrea Speed’s website In Absentia can be found here.

2. Lost Gods Series by Megan Derr:

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I was asked to review Treasure, the first book in the Lost Gods series. I had a vague notion about it being a fantasy series, mermaids, dragons, that sort of thing.  But from the first page of Treasure, Megan Derr’s characters grabbed me by the shirtfront, gave me a shake for good measure and pulled me into their complex, richly layered saga of the gods returning to their lands 1,000 years after their deaths.  Let’s start with the way Derr has crafted this series.  Each book is the story of one kingdom and their Lost God.  For each kingdom, Derr created a people whose religion, dress, language and beliefs reflects that culture of their land as well as geographical map to help the reader envision the story.  Her world building is dazzling and from novel to novel, the saga changes in scope from a rollicking sea adventure to the sacrifice of innocents, from broad humor to scenes that had me sobbing uncontrollably.  Megan Derr leaves nothing to chance in her books, there is myth building, creation puzzles and themes of forgiveness, sacrifice and rebirth. After Treasure came Burning Bright, a book I was in no way prepared for and still holds a huge place in my heart which is odd considering my mouth tasted of ash after reading it. An astonishing novel in a series of the same measure.

This is a 5 book series and Megan Derr has just submitted the last book to the publisher, Less Than Three Press.  I have just finished the 3rd book, Stone Rose.  Find my review here along with the reviews for the previous books.  My review of the covers will go up on Tuesday.

All the books should be read in order that they were written because of the complex saga and the long list of intertwined characters. Treasure, Burning Bright, Stone Rose, Poison, and Chaos.

3.  Cambridge Fellows Series by Charlie Cochrane:

I remember reading a review by Erastes of one of the Cambridge Fellows series and found myself intrigued by the high rating and Erastes’ regard for the author’s historical authenticity and writing style. Then it popped up again and again on must read lists on various blogs to the point I  found myself ordering Lessons in Love (Cambridge Fellows #1) and got my first introduction to the Drs. Orlando Coppersmith and Jonty Stewart. I will say our first introduction was a little shaky. I loved Cochrane’s descriptions of 1906 Cambridge from the language/terms spoken at that time to the shoppes of the day but it took me some time to warm up to Orlando and Jonty.  I liked them well enough, respected them but felt a little removed from their characters.  Then came Lessons in Desire (Cambridge Fellows #2) and the distance between the characters and myself dissolved never to return.  With each book the relationship between the characters deepened as more of their backstory came into light and I become more engaged, more connected to the characters and their fate.  By Lessons in Discovery (Cambridge Fellows #3), I was seriously in love with Orlando and Jonty, and paid close attention to each case they investigated (oh yes, there are mysteries in each book).

There are some hard subject matter buried in these stories, including one of child abuse and rape.  Charlie Cochrane handles it with sensitivity while never deviating from the emotional devastation it visits upon her characters.  The author’s use of language and location gives her stories such depth and authenticity that I often find myself running to do research on some topic she has brought up long after I have finished the book.  Every part of this series is beautifully done.  I just finished the fifth book of this series, Lessons in Temptation (Cambridge Fellows #5) and thought I saw the end of the series with All Lessons Learned (Cambridge Fellows #8).  Then Charlie Cochrane published Lessons for Survivors (Cambridge Fellows #9) this month with a different publisher and the series continues.  Huzzah!

Find my review of Lessons in Temptation(Cambridge Fellows #5) here and all the reviews for the previous novels.

The list:  Lessons in Love, Lessons in Desire, Lessons in Discovery, Lessons in Power, Lessons in Temptation, Lessons in Seduction, Lessons in Trust, All Lessons Learned and Lessons for Survivors.

Charlie Cochrane’s website is http://charliecochrane.livejournal.com

4.  Dance With The Devil Series by Megan Derr (yes, Derr again):

This was easy.  My co-reviewer Sammy was reading these novels and I picked up the first based on her recommendation and my knowledge of the author.  Right away,  the method Megan Derr used to create her narrative delighted me.  We are introduced to Chris White, supernatural detective,  and his associate detective Doug who happens to be an imp by the means of detective cases. Each chapter is a different case Chris White has been involved in. Here Derr does not follow a strict timeline for the first case ,Case No. 507  The Devil’s Consort, finds Chris already the consort of Sable Brennen, the demon Lord of the city. The next chapter, Case No. 37 finds Chris just starting out in the business.  Here he meets Sable for the first time as well as so many more unusual and delightful characters that reoccur throughout the novel. The next case is Case No. 532, Bad Blood Part 1 which moves the story forward. Then the case immediately after is one from the past bringing with it the backstory of whatever character is now front and center.  If that seems confusing, trust me its not.  And as for Chris himself?  Well, he happens to be part ghost with the ability to walk through solid surfaces, handy when you are a detective facing locked doors!

I have just finished with book four in the series (yeah, I know I didn’t see it before I started writing this all down, I am on or at another book 5), but it seems that Derr is taking us on a tour of the various territories of this world she created.  The first 3 books are very connected together as there lands are adjacent to each other and then with book 4, she starts introducing the dragon lands which are the subject for books 5 and 6 so far. Within these pages we have demon lords, vampires, werewolves, imp, gorgons, warlocks, witches, pixies, brownies, dragons, knights, and almost every supernatural or fantastical being you can think of.  A veritable smorgasbord of fantasy characters, all realistically portrayed (as real as supernatural beings can be), all so personable that you love them, hurt for them, care greatly what happens to them, even if they are the walking dead.

Pick these up, don’t pass go, don’t stop for anything, even a Margarita before getting the first book, Dance with the Devil.  You are going to be my BFF for this one!

The list: Dance With The Devil,Dance In The Dark, Ruffskin,Midnight, The Dragon Pit,The Sword of the King

Read my review of the last book Midnight and you will find a list of the previous books as well.

Megan Derr’s website is http://maderr.com.  Also check out Less Than Three Press!

5. The Sanctuary Series by RJ Scott:

Take one crime family, The Bullens, add in gorgeous sexy, competent operatives working for a secret agency dedicated to keeping witnesses safe and investigating crimes that the other alphabet government agencies are involved in or won’t handle and you have the Sanctuary series by RJ Scott. Guarding Morgan (Sanctuary #1) is our introduction to Sanctuary, their operatives and the Bullen crime family.  Morgan is the eyewitness to the brutal  murder of a young woman, and is the first domino to topple over in the line of events that will eventually bring the Bullen family to  justice.  Each book gives us a new romantic pairing and more leads/clues into how widespread  are the Bullen family’ crimes, extending into the Senate itself.  Scott gives the operatives a realistic feel, they screw up, they bleed, they are stressed out and sometimes overwhelmed.  These are real people who are overextended just by the nature of the job they perform. And while there are at least one HEA, most are HFN which is believable given their jobs and responsibilities.

The Bullens are a despicable bunch and Scott throws us quite a few false leads and surprises here. The investigation gets compromised, there is a FBI mole, and things are not always what they seem.  It is a great ride full of characters I came to care about, there is not one cardboard cutout to be found in these novels.  The Bullen Family saga ended at Full Circle but the Sanctuary novels will continue or so RJ Scott assures me.  What a happy reader than made me.

So here is my review of Full Circle with the complete list of the Sanctuary books to date.  Read them in order.  Guarding Morgan, The Only Easy Day, Face Value, Still Waters,  and Full Circle. You will love them if you like great action adventure and sexy special operatives!

RJ Scott’s website is http://www.rjscott.co.uk

6. Cut & Run Series by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban, now being written by Abigail Roux:

How do I love this series?  Let me count the ways.  I love it to thee to the depths and breadth and height my soul can reach, I love thee purely, I love thee….well I am sure you get my drift.  This series is brilliant.  It all started back in 2008 when Dreamspinner Press published Cut & Run, the first in the series then written by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux.  It was here that Ty Grady met Zane Garrett in the offices of the FBI.  Neither man had a partner, both were coming off undercover assignments, and in Zane’s case, a deep undercover assignment that left him with a drug and alcohol addiction.  As they saw it, they were polar opposites, Zane liked to “crunch the numbers” as it were, and Ty flew by the seat of his pants.  This was not a partnership that had long term or even short to middling term written on it.

Their first assignment has them looking for the murderer of a pair of FBI agents.  They are squabbling, constantly finding fault with each other’s techniques and personalities. Then the murderer turns his attention to them and they must act together as a team to track down the killer before they become his next target.  Cut & Run sets the tone for the series.  A tight, suspenseful storyline that contains a complicated assignment that somehow furthers Ty and Zane’s complex relationship.  This is not a case of instant love or even instant like.  Instead we are given a relationship that is built slowly and with great care over six published books so far and Abigail Roux has stated she plans to go to at least nine in the series.

And what remarkable characters we have in Ty Grady and Zane Garrett.  They have fervent, obsessed fans who have Team Ty and Team Zane t-shirts (Edward and Jacob eat your hearts out).  And all that obsession, all that mania is totally warranted.  These are not your larger than life superheroes. Instead we have two human beings, with all the frailties, faults, and traits that make it easy to identify and empathize with them. Ty comes from a family steeped in military tradition but only now are we finding out why he joined the Marines.  And Zane’s background? We have only gotten hints of it, with a fact thrown in here or there.  Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6), coming out in August 2012, will answer some of our questions, but not all.  That is in keeping with the slow leak of information as each man still has much to learn about the other.

Is there a difference now that Abigail Roux is writing the series alone?  No, absolutely none.  The flow is as seamless between Fish & Chips and Divide & Conquer as Divide & Conquer and Armed & Dangerous. In fact, I found Armed & Dangerous to be the best yet (without taking anything away from the wonderful skills of Madeleine Urban who no longer writes). Abigail Roux is a master of location, character and plot and it shows in these books.  When she writes about Baltimore, you know this person has been to Baltimore, walked the streets there, taking in the flavor unique to the city.  It is the same whether Ty and Zane are in Chicago or on the high seas in a cruise ship, there is nary a false note that is hit. Such authenticity keeps everything so real that at times it is hard for me to come out of the stories.

I cannot recommend this series enough.  If I could, I would run the streets waving a Ty and Zane banner myself.  And no I won’t tell you which shirt I have in my closet!  Now go and get Cut & Run, start there, read them in order (no peaking or reading in advance)!  You will be sending me flowers over this one!

Cut & Run,Sticks & Stones (Cut & Run #2).Fish & Chips (Cut & Run #3),Divide & Conquer (Cut & Run #4),Armed & Dangerous (Cut & Run #5) see my review here, Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6) – coming in August from Riptide Press.

Abigail Roux’s website can be found here.

So, that’s my short list.  What an amazing group of authors to go with some of the best series I have ever read. Are there others?  You betcha. JL Langley’s With/Without Series and her Regency series, Andrew Grey’s Range series, Mary Calmes’ Panther series and so many others.So let’s consider this installment number 1 in my new What Series Am I Reading Now column, shall we?  And check in with me all week. Be sure to leave a comment along with an email address to be entered into the contest for a copy of Primal Red from Nicole Kimberling.

Now tell me what series are you reading now?

Review of Lessons in Temptation, Cambridge Fellows #5 by Charlie Cochrane

Standard

Rating: 4.25

It’s 1907, and Drs. Coppersmith and Stewart find themselves in Bath with two different goals to accomplish. Orlando is to assess the value of several mathematical tomes that the College might wish to purchase and Jonty is trying to finish his treatise on the sonnets.  Once in Bath, they are approached by a man with a 20- year old murder mystery he wants them to solve.   Then Jimmy Harding appears,an old friend of Jonty’s, in Bath to stage a production of MacBeth. He is determined to pull Jonty into the production with the aim of separating him from Orlando and into his arms. With temptation, mystery and stress swirling around them, how will Orlando and Jonty survive their lessons in temptation.

With the fifth book in the series, Orlando and Jonty’s relationship is faced with yet another crisis, this one of faith and self knowledge.  I love that with each book, Charlie Cochrane moves her Cambridge Fellows relationship forward to another level, usually with the impetus of a crisis of either emotional or physical means.  And it is done in the middle of some murder mystery that must be solved, with a clue alluding to some missing component or pointing to some problematic area in their partnership. You always feel hat without some spark, Orlando would happily continue on, thinking all was well with their love.  Jonty usually provides the spark or explosion that sends one of them into the clouds of introspection and rumination and this time it is no different.

Jimmy Harding is the trigger that precipitates an avalanche of attraction and guilt in Jonty Stewart, who up until now has never felt the need to  look at other men, let alone act on a lust laden impulse.  Now he feels both when looking at his old friend and is at a loss as to what to do while keeping Orlando in the dark.  Jimmy on the other hand, is doing everything he can to tilt the odds in his direction, pulling Jonty into his play, popping up wherever Jonty happens to be and letting Orlando know that he intends to take Jonty from him.  Cochrane does a brilliant job of getting us into Jonty’s head, as he bends under his guilt, his confusion over how he can feel tempted to an affair knowing it would cost him everything he holds dear, including his own family who might never forgive him his adultery. Jonty’s temptation is so human, so believable that he is easy to empathize with even as you dread he might actually cheat on Orlando as the consequences of that act are clearly set in front of himself and the reader.  More than once I wanted to give Jimmy a bop on the nose to make him backoff but as Cochrane shows us, it is a moment of crisis that Jonty must overcome himself if his and Orlando’s relationship, strained under Jimmy’s assault, is to regain its footing and move them forward towards a deeper partnership on more equal footing.

Orlando is himself part of the problem.  While he has grown as a person, and here Charlie Cochrane inserts a really nice Galatea/Pygmalion metaphor, he is still seeing things in mostly black and white, including sexual relations.  Orlando can’t understand physical passion without love, and their  lovemaking has been rather one sided, with Orlando being the one to penetrate and Jonty being the one penetrated. This is a state of affairs that Jonty would love to overturn and has met with resistance from Orlando with he has mentioned it. Now with Jimmy making overtures, his dreams are filled with Jimmy and not Orlando, and he is physically sick from it.  Orlando is not as removed as Jonty would think from the stress and upheavel caused by Jimmy’s pursuit.  A depressive state never far off when his mind is in turmoil, Orlando is keenly aware that all is not well with Jonty but doesn’t know what to do, leaving him to investigate the murder on his own at times. Both men are inwardly upset and confused while outwardly behaving at though nothing was wrong.  And their pain is so real that it becomes ours as well. All of this recrimination and insight comes out with beautifully written passages that convey all the turbulence of Jonty’s thoughts  without leaving 1907 in terms of dialog and terminology.

Cochrane has such a talent in describing her historical settings that I feel as though I am walking the cobblestone streets with Jonty and Orlando as companions.  She imparts such knowledge of the times with her mentions of Stark’s pony, the Red Guide or the “threnody of discomfort”, or terms such as palaver, that give her books authenticity without overwhelming the reader with too many unfamiliar terms(although I will admit to running to the computer for illumination a time or two). From her perfect use of the phraseology of the times right down to the buildings and places of renown in the 1900’s, nary a wrong note is sounded.

With every book, my love for these fellows grows and we move forward in time. We are now a year away from the launching of the first dreadnought class of warship in Britain in 1906. There are 9 books in the series, the last taking place after WWI.  While I cannot wait to read the next in the series, I am beginning to dread what the future may hold for our lovely Cambridge Fellows knowing that the war is fast approaching.

Here are the Cambridge Fellows series in the order they were written and should be read to fully grasp the nature of the times, the historical feel of the novels, and the growth of the relationship between Orlando and Jonty.

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 Temptation, Cambridge Fellows #5

Lessons in Seduction, Cambridge Fellows #6 – review coming

Lessons in Trust, Cambridge Fellows #7 – review coming

All Lessons Learned, Cambridge Fellows #8 – review coming

Lessons for Survivors, Cambridge Fellows #9 (book coming out from Cheyenne Publishing)

Cover;  I have loved the covers for this series but the inclusion of that model’s face to the left is a jarring modern touch.  He doesn’t not have the authentic feel of the previous models or art work. What a shame, it ruins the cover for me.