Why Don’t More Readers Read Historical Romance or Fiction? This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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The Devil Lancer cover

Why Don’t More Readers Read Historical Romance or Fiction?

Today, I’m returning to the theme of under-read tropes in  M/M or LGBTQIA novels and stories, romance or otherwise. In case this I’m not just singling out the historical western but the historical genre in general.  Now maybe I’m wrong, and  I’m hoping to hear from you that I am, but again, on the list of tropes people are reading, the list falls out something like: contemporary romance, contemporary  action/adventure, contemporary  western, contemporary mystery, contemporary whatever I’ve left out, supernatural shifters (this could be higher), paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, historical.  Yep.  Historical normally falls in the last couple of slots.

Now that’s not my list personally because fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction are top areas of interest for me.  But I’m talking in general….or do you all think I have it wrong?

Historical fiction, romance or otherwise, has always required more thought, more expectations of the readerI guess to look outside our time frame at ideologies, cultures, and see how  things might actually have been through the words and stories of talented authors.  And we have some  outstanding ones!    Charlie Cochrane leaps to mind with her Cambridge Fellows Mysteries (Orlando and Jonty).  Cochrane makes the Edwardian period of England come alive with every street, dinner, word, and mystery. Elin Gregory (A Taste of Copper, On a Lee Shore) has many time periods and does them all justice in her wonderful stories.  Astrid Amara?  Oh my, The Devil Lancer bring the Crimea war and its tumultuous stomach churning sea crossing vividly to life in a book that I’ve reread several times as have several reviewers here.  I have quite a few more, including Rebecca Cohen of The Crofton Chronicles and Erastes, author of M/M historical fiction and  the moderator of Speak Its Name, a blog dedicated to gay historical fiction which I love.  Check out her blog here.  That’s just for starters.

Then again maybe I’m completely wrong.  The whole lot of you are going, “pshaw, I’ve been reading historical fiction and historical romance all along.  What’s this nutty woman talking about?” Or words to that effect.  I would certainly be happy to hear that.

So what say you all?  Am I wrong, am I right or somewhere in between?  How do your lists of genres shake out?  What historical authors do you read?  I really want to know.

And now onto this week’s schedule.

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 This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Sunday, June 5

  • Why Don’t More Readers Read Historical Romance or Fiction?
  • This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Monday, June 6

  • Riptide Tour and Contest for 24/7 by JA Rock
  • Return to Zero by Isobel Starling Tour and Giveaway
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: 24/7 by JA Rock
  • A BJ Review: The Silvers by J. A. Rock
  • An Ali Review: Hat Trick by Meg Harding

 

Tuesday, June 7:

  • Blog Tour for Breathing Betrayal by Bellora Quinn and Sadie Rose Bermingham.
  • An Ali Review: The Mongrel Trilogy by KZ Snow
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys Ford
  • A Paul B Review: Wooing the Lighthouse Keeper by Charlie Richards
  • A Jeri Review: A Good Enough Reason by CE Lievens

Wednesday, June 8:

  • Acceptance—Cover Reveal and giveaway
  • A BJ Audio Review: Where Nerves End by L.A. Witt
  • A Stella Review: Under a Sky of Ashes by Brandon Witt
  • An Ali Audiobook Review: Resurrecting Elliot by Cate Sherwood

Thursday, June 9:

  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Blueberry Boys by Vanessa North
  • A Jeri Review: Out in the Field by Kate McMurray
  • A Lila Review: Crashing Blue by Della Boynton
  • A BJ Audiobook Review: Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall

Friday, June 10:

  • Always Another Side – Annabelle Jacobs Tour Signal Boost Tours
  • Set Me Free by Kitty Stephens   Excerpt Tour and Giveaway
  • A Jeri Review: Debt by KC Wells
  • An Alisa Review: Dirty Angel by Barbara Elsborg
  • A Paul B Review:  Alexi’s Mouse by A C Katt

 

Saturday, June 11:

A Free Dreamer  YA Review:Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

 

 

Review: Second Helpings by Charlie Cochrane

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Old kitchen table rural cottage morningWhen Stuart Collins’s partner Mark died in a car crash the previous year, he thought his life had ended too.  But life has a funny way of letting you recover and heal, while showing you the path to your future.  Stuart’s mother died five years ago, a wonderful woman whose loss was deeply mourned by husband and son.  Now a new woman, Isabel Franklin, has come into Stuart’s father life, the only one since his mother passed away.

When a still grieving Stuart was called in by his father to meet the new woman his dad has been dating, Stuart finds himself liking her as well.  It turns out she has a gay son Stuart’s age who has just returned from assignment in the States.  So Stuart was not totally surprised to get a call from Paul Franklin who wants to vet the man (and the man’s son) who has turned his mother’s head.

Paul Franklin considers himself taken.  His lover, Ben, has remained back in the States but Ben is curiously unavailable when Paul has tried to contact him.  Unsettled by his lover’s absence and silence, Paul, is startled to find himself attracted to the sad, gentle man who agrees to meet him to discuss their parents.  Paul’s not the only one shocked by their mutual attraction.  Stuart feels like he is betraying Mark’s memory by the emotions meeting Paul has engendered.

Two men tied by their parents relationship , guilt and uncertainty.  Can they move forward together?  Can they trust the emotions each makes the other feel?  When life offers a second chance at love, will they take it or let it pass by?

Second Helpings is a gentle tale of loss and love by Charlie Cochrane, a favorite m/m historical author of mine.  A contemporary tale, Second Helpings, charts the pain of losing your partner and relationship and the struggle to move forward when you have a chance to live and love once more.  Both main characters have a similar love situations and family histories but with an important difference.   Stuart Collins lost his loving partner in a car crash and his adored mother to cancer.  His home life and coming out were supportive and without drama.  The loss of Mark as well as his Mother have cut into him deeply.  Paul’s romance is on hold, a loss of immediacy and of contact.  His lover, Ben, has remained behind in the US and has been out of contact with Paul, not answering emails, phone messages and what have you.  Paul lost his father years prior but without the same sense of loss as his family situation and upbringing were vastly difference from Stuart’s.  That variance in family life has left both men with strikingly different viewpoints about relationships and partners.

I love Charlie Cochrane’s ability to bring forth portraits of real human beings under stressful conditions.  There is no explosive drama to be found here other than that of two men floundering about in their personal lives, each stymied by emotional blockades and miscommunications.  Oh and pride as well.  Cochrane has Stuart and Paul making such tentative steps forward, then one huge tumultuous one that shakes everyone up.  What is so lovely and recognizable about this story and Cochrane’s writing is that all the missed steps and romantic blinders these men have put on seem familiar and true.  And when they make a hash of it in the bargain, whether it be arguments or self delusional shielding, we get that too.  We might not like it, but we certainly can understand  the all too real authenticity of the snaps and cracks at each other.

There are certainly moments here that let you know this is a British author and story.  I had to look up what a secondment actually meant (it’s a transfer).  There is the usual biscuit for cookies and the utterly charming way the British put their phones on Discreet instead of the American blunt term of Mute.  Those touches makes me smile and appreciate our differences as well as our  similarities.

What might throw you off the story?  The oddly formal narrative at the beginning of the story.  It almost feels as though it came from another author and  book as the language and flow is dramatically different from the main body of the story.   Move past that and you are into the narrative and able to enjoy a lovely beginning to a romance between two men in desperate need of a new future for them both.  There is no case of “instant love” thankfully.  That would be a disservice to the emotional back history Cochrane has given to both men.    What the author delivers feels as painful and down to earth as life makes it. She gives them hope and a chance at love and families that adore them in a story that makes for a terrific read.  Who could want for more?

Cover artist:  Amber Shah.  I like the cover.  The blue tone is certainly in keeping with the storyline and characters.

Buy Links:             Riptide Publishing               All Romance eBooks (ARe)            Amazon Second Helpings

Book Details:

ebook, 140 pages
Published July 21st 2014 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626491526
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/second-helpings

The Week Ahead at ScatteredThoughts!

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So Germany won, Argentina lost.  2014 World Cup in Soccer that it.  Marvel Comics is making Thor a women.  And the Millennium Falcon officially got its Historic Tags from the Intergalactic DMV.   Does that about cover it?  So many things going on today.  Sharknado 2: The Second One will be released soon. Can’t wait to hear what Twitterverse will have to say to that.  And the Wil Wheaton Project has become “must see TV” for me.    Yes, there is plenty of other news out there right now far more important, but that’s far too disheartening for me to address at the moment.  So I shall stick to events and announcements that people are passionate about without sobbing buckets of tears over (ok, not you Brazilians, you can sob away).

What’s top on your light hearted list of things to talk about?  The last season of True Blood (ugh).  The return of Teen Wolf (yeay).  What does it for you?  See I’m working myself up to read TJ Klune’s latest release, John & Jackie.  Just the blurb had me blubbering. Plus I still have the third BOATK book in line to read.  Sigh.  I am working my way through Lou Sylvre’s Luki and Sonny series (love it) and Rory Ni Coileain ‘s SoulShare series too. Why have I not heard about these authors before? It also looks to be a Pulp Friction 2014 sort of week here as I am getting caught up in the latest stories in that combined series and now so will you.  Oh, and one of my favorite historical author’s is here with Second Helpings. It’s a light week but still plenty of books for all.

Have a great week.  Let me know what things are making you do a double take or two.  What’s on your calendar to watch or disregard this summer?

 

Winner Announcements:

Winners of RJ Scott’s blog contest are: Cornelia won 1st prize. 2nd Prize winner is Bronwyn Heeley

The Week Ahead in Reviews, Author Interviews and Contests:

Monday, July 21:

  • The Ragged Sword by R. D. Hero
  • Blown Hard by Havan Fellows

Tuesday, July 22:

  • In the Author’s Spotlight:  Mickie B. Ashling and her Forget Me Not Tour/Contest
  • Semper Fae by Angel Martinez

Wednesday, July 23:

  • On Tour with Charlie Cochrane and Second Helping
  • Second Helping by Charlie Cochrane

Thursday, July 24:

  • TB Tour: Picturing Lysander By LM Somerton‏ (contest)
  • Taking Chances by Lee Brazil

Friday, July 25:

  • Tremors by T.A. Webb
  • Flare Up by Laura Harner

Saturday, July 26:

  • Loving Luki Vasquez by Lou Sylvre

 

Scattered Thoughts Best Books of 2013

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ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Presents:

best-books of 2013

Time for Scattered Thoughts to look back at all the wonderful books read and reviewed in 2013 and try to pick those stories that stood out the most among all the many stories I read.  As always it was a hard thing to do because there were so many this year that crowded at the top.  How to choose between Sarah Black’s The General and the Horse-Lord and her sequel, The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazeri?  Or Ariel Tachna’s Outlast the Night and her Conquer the Flames?  It was only by the mm (seems reasonable) that the latter book for each won out.parabook

Some authors did end up with two books in my lists, whether it was because they were in two different categories or because they were in different series or just because they were that good.  I also ended up with more categories this year, including  Best Humor, Best Young Adult, Best New Vampire and Best New Werewolf.  The variety in genres just begged for subcategories so I created them.  Something really new this year was the interconnected series from the Pulp Friction group. Each series and main characters were intimately connected to each other and culminated in a four author four series finale story.  It was outstanding and earned all four a place on my list.

And then there were the marvelous novels like Harper Fox’ Brothers of the Wild North Seas whose review has slid into 2014 but is one of my top novels of any year.  Anyway, here are the books I chose in alphabetical order.  Which authors/stories were on your list this year?

Best Contemporary Novels of 2013:

  • Best Stand Alone Novels:

Illumination by Rowen Speedwell
The Sky is Dead by Sue Brown

Best Action/Suspense Fiction of 2013:

Collusion by Eden Winters (Diversion series)
Corruption by Eden Winters (Diversion series)
Pulp Friction Series of 2013 (4 interconnected series)

Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux
Touch & Geaux  by Abigail Roux (Cut & Run series)
Worlds Collide by R.J. Scott

Humorous Fiction of 2013:
Books with wings in the sky

Shy by John Inman
Hobbled by John Inman
Tell Me It’s Real by TJ Klune

Young Adult/YA Subject Oriented Fiction:

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane
Necromancy and You by Missouri Dalton
Vampirism and You by Missouri Dalton

Best Historical Fiction:

Lessons for Suspicious Minds by Charlie Cochrane
On The Lee Shore by Elin Gregory
Trick of Time by JL Merrow

Best Horror/Fantasy:skeleton-clip-art-15-315x600

Dance Only For Me (Dance With The Devil #6) by Megan Derr
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft
The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin

Best Science Fiction Novel/ Series of 2013:

Aria of the Eclipse by Vivien Dean
One Breath, One Bullet by S.A. McAuley
Dominant Predator by S.A. McAuley  (sequel to the one above)
Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler
Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions #1) by Aleksandr Voinov (fantasy)

Best Supernatural/Paranormal Fiction of 2013:

Close Quarter by Anna Zabo
Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune
Re-entry Burn (Superpowered Love #5) by Katey Hawthorne
Undertow by Andrea Speed (Infected series)

Best New Vampire (a tie):

The Beast Without by Christian Baines
The Family: Liam by K.V. Taylor

Best New Werewolf:

Strength of the Wolf (The Tameness of the Wolf #2) by Kendall McKenna

Happy New Year, everyone!  Happy Reading To All and May 2014 Be Great!

New Year Book

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.