Jonty and Orlando are Back In Lessons for Survivors!
Charlie Cochrane’s Cambridge Fellows Mysteries are a favorite of mine! Each book is a treasure, waiting for the reader to discover what mysteries are in store for two utterly captivating characters, Jonty and Orlando.
About Lessons for Survivors
A more than professional interest . . . a more than personal intrigue.
Orlando Coppersmith should be happy. WWI is almost a year in the past, he’s back at St. Bride’s College in Cambridge, his lover and best friend Jonty Stewart is at his side again, and—to top it all—he’s about to be made Forster Professor of Applied Mathematics. And although he and Jonty have precious little time for an investigative commission, they can’t resist a suspected murder case that must be solved in a month so a clergyman can claim his rightful inheritance.
But the courses of scholarship, true love, and amateur detecting never did run smooth. Orlando’s inaugural lecture proves almost impossible to write. A plagiarism case he’s adjudicating on turns nasty with a threat of blackmail against him and Jonty. And the murder investigation turns up too many leads and too little hard evidence.
Orlando and Jonty may be facing their first failure as amateur detectives, and the ruin of their professional and private reputations. Brains, brawn, the pleasures of the double bed—they’ll need them all to lay their problems to rest.
About Charlie Cochrane
As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes, with titles published by Carina, Samhain, Bold Strokes, MLR and Cheyenne.
Charlie’s Cambridge Fellows Series of Edwardian romantic mysteries was instrumental in her being named Author of the Year 2009 by the review site Speak Its Name. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, International Thriller Writers Inc and is on the organising team for UK Meet for readers/writers of GLBT fiction. She regularly appears with The Deadly Dames.
Connect with Charlie:
Facebook profile page: facebook.com/charlie.cochrane.18
Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for an e-book from Charlie Cochrane’s backlist (excepting Lessons For Survivors). Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on January 31. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.
Lessons for Survivors is Book 9 in the Cambridge Fellows Mystery. Reviews for all the stories can be found at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.
The Adventures of Johnny Stewart Part 1
Johnny Stewart is the great nephew of Jonty Stewart. His four part story will be related by Mrs Cochrane, official biographer to the Stewart family, over the course of this year’s Cambridge Fellows series blog tour.
Roger Bradley looked out at the Thames, from his mother’s hotel suite. This was going to be a wearing evening and they hadn’t even got round to the dinner guests arriving, let alone sitting down. His godmother had burst her appendix, so a last minute replacement had to be found—probably in the form of cousin Mary—but worse still, Sophia was going to be here.
He’d be the one who’d have to take Sophia in on his arm, have to put up with her flirting all evening and, worse still, also have to contend with his mother’s insinuations about what a nice couple they’d make. She’d got brother Henry engaged to be married within a few months and therefore the possibility of grandchildren pretty well sewn up, so why make such a palaver with him?
And Johnny Stewart would be there. The evening had the potential to be disastrous.
“Are you even listening, Roger?” His mother’s voice cut into his thoughts.
“Of course,” he lied.
“And do you agree?” She fixed him with a gimlet gaze. What would he be letting himself in for if he just said “Yes”? It wasn’t worth the risk.
“Sorry, mother, you were right. I wasn’t paying attention.” He needed to defuse the potential explosion. “There was a rather pretty girl out on the embankment and I got a bit distracted.”
“Ah.” His mother’s tone softened. “All I said was that I suspect that in regard to your reference to your godmother’s medical condition, the word is appendices and not appendixes but we’ll let that go. Was she as pretty as Sophia?”
Roger narrowly avoided asking, “who?”, but he’d always been good at thinking on his feet and managed, “How can I answer that without getting myself into trouble with one or other of you? Would ‘equally pretty’ do?”
“A diplomatic answer, dear.” She sighed. “If only your cousin Mary were as pretty.”
I span round to answer her, then decided I preferred the view of the Thames to the view of a condescending maternal face.
“I hope Mary meets a duke one day, one who falls head over heels in love so she then makes a more brilliant marriage for herself than any other female in the family.”
“Since when have you appointed yourself as Mary’s knight in armour?” Roger’s mother’s voice was cool and languid, the one she adopted when she wanted to let his temper blow itself out.
“Since I was old enough to realise how rotten the family is to her. God preserve all spinsters and save them from the machinations of their married relatives.” Roger span on his heels. “This tie needs straightening.”
He ran into his maternal aunt on the way to finding a mirror, which was blessing in that she sorted it for him and kept him out of his mother’s way until he could calm down.
“I hear Johnny Stewart will be here tonight. I’ll enjoy sitting next to him. There.” Aunt Jacinta added the finishing touch to the bow.
“Better you than me. Johnny’s the most insufferable person it’s ever been my misfortune to come across.” Roger ran his hands through his hair.
“You must dislike him intensely,” his aunt said, drily, “to employ that particular gesture. You always used to do it as a lad when you came to stay and we presented you with something you didn’t want to eat. Or asked you a question you didn’t want to answer.”
He felt a bloody embarrassing flush rising up his neck; why did Aunt Jacinta always see straight through him? Did she know exactly what was going on inside his mind to make him so defensive?
Johnny bloody Stewart. Why had he got to keep coming back and making life so difficult?
Roger tried to rally. “Anyone would run their hands through their hair—or tear great clumps of it out—if they had to deal with him for any length of time. He was bad enough at school and hasn’t improved with maturity.”
“That sounds like you then, dear. Peas in a pod.” Aunt Jacinta fixed him with a smile like an auger. She might look one hundred and forty in her bombazine and lace, but that look, and the machinations of the mind behind it, could strike fear in any man.
“Just don’t vex him, would you, dear? If he’s hardly your favourite person, at least be polite.”
“I will do my utmost.” He swallowed hard. Normally, medical students would be beneath his mother’s notice, but this one being the great-grandson of a lord made a difference and she’d been delighted to invite him in the absences of Roger’s godfather, who was at his now hopefully appendix-less wife’s bedside.
How could Roger ever explain about Johnny? There were two insurmountable obstacles—finding the right words to make anyone else understand the feelings he’d had for Johnny since he first caught sight of him as a spotty youth of sixteen and having to deal with her inevitably negative reaction if he did get his point across. He supposed he was too old—and the matter too serious—to just get away with being taken over her knee, whacked, sent to his room and then allowed to come down half an hour later if he showed the right amount of contrition.
Not even Aunt Jacinta could be as understanding about things as to allow that.
Disgrace, disorder, his mother’s tears, his father’s horsewhip? Not that his father would actually resort to the whip, no matter how often he talked about using it on miscreants, although the outcome would be just about the same. Cut off without a penny and none of the Bradleys ever talking to him again. And while that idea might be an attractive one in the case of Uncle Frederick, the general aspect didn’t appeal.
Try as he might, Roger couldn’t think of any way to sweeten the pill, whatever words he could use to describe how he felt.
There was this chap at school, Stewart, J.O. Year below me; came to the school when I was seventeen. I liked the look of him from the start; he had an air about him, power restrained and all that. He matured and filled out a bit faster than more of the spotty oiks of his age. Lost most of the spots, too. Cocky little sod, though. Opinionated.
“Yes, aunt?” His mind came back from school days to the present, and two females, his mother having appeared, trying to usher him out of the suite.
“Daydreaming again. His worst fault,” she said, bundling him through the door.
Roger reminded himself that if that remained her opinion of what was his worst fault, then all in the garden was still rosy.
Johnny was already in the foyer, chatting to Sophia. His dark blond hair was under control, for once, while his blue eyes seemed to dance with pleasure at the arrival of his hostess. Roger thought his heart was going to lunge straight through his rib cage.
“Mrs. Bradley!” He bowed over her hand. “Thank you so much for inviting me as locum tenens.”
“Thank you for stepping in.” Mrs. Bradley was clearly delighted. “Cousin Mary will be delighted to meet you.”
Johnny looked at Roger, one eyebrow raised. “I didn’t know you had a cousin, Roger. Where have you been hiding her?”
“Away from rogues like you. Sophia,” Roger said, heading off any comment Johnny was going to make, “you look lovely.”
“Thank you. It’s just an old thing.” She smoothed her dress, one which was clearly anything but old.
“Johnny,” Mrs. Bradley waved her hands airily, “would you be a sweetheart and take in Aunt Jacinta when we progress to dinner?”
“It would be my pleasure.” It sounded like it would be the highlight of Johnny’s evening. Roger wasn’t sure if his discomfort was irritation at his oiliness or simple jealousy. Why couldn’t he be on Johnny’s arm?
“I was sorry to hear about Mr. Bradley’s accident,” he continued. “He’s quite right to rest that leg up for a while. Sorry he’s missing all the fun, though. Was the matinee good?”
“Excellent thank you,” Mrs. Bradley purred, blossoming under the attention. Roger noted that every woman in the party had slowly drifted into Johnny’s vicinity, like bees after honey. Or wasps after jam. “Malcolm won’t be sorry he missed that part. He’s never one for the theatre, or for coming up to town in general.”
“Do you think he hurt his leg deliberately to get out of it? Shall I horsewhip him for you?” Maybe only Johnny could have said that and got away with it. Roger had met his great uncle, Jonty—when he was up at Cambridge—and the man was the same. Able to charm the birds from the trees.
“Only if he doesn’t enjoy the birthday dinner I have planned when we get home. And this is for me, of course. My friends. Old and new.” Mother looked graciously around her guests then took Detective Superintendent Matthew Firestone—her godfather’s—arm.
“I’m so pleased you could all come. Shall we go through? They’ve laid on some cocktails for us.”
“Oh, lovely,” Sophia said, slipping her arm through Roger’s. Johnny smirked at him, the swine, and they processed towards the private dining room.
The table looked lovely, but the cocktails looked even lovelier, if they’d help Roger cope with the twin trials of Sophia’s doe eyes and Johnny’s…everything. Roger had given up any hope of the bloke fancying him, but the chap could at least be civil.
Mary had arrived and Mrs. Bradley was asking how her journey from Loughton had been, with none of the gratitude on display she’d shown to Johnny.
“My mother pushes that poor girl from pillar to post.” Roger hissed at Matthew, wondering how many cocktails he could consume and still manage to get all his sibilants out. He managed to detach himself temporarily from Sophia on the pretext of circulating and was half way through his perambulations when the manager slipped into the room, making a beeline for Matthew. He appeared to be delivering some sort of intriguing message, given the expression on Matthew’s but before Roger could manoeuvre himself into hearing range, his mother nabbed him.
“Roger. Why did I never meet this delightful young man when you were at school together?”
“I didn’t realise it was de rigeur for me to bring everyone back for tea” Roger didn’t want to talk about Johnny Stewart, not when the half heard words being spoken over his shoulder were so much more interesting.
“I wish he had invited me. Did you have apple cake?” Johnny directed the questions at Roger’s mother, which at least saved him trying not to say, “I couldn’t trust myself enough to invite you.”
“I wish Roger had. It would have made a change from some of the spotty specimens he dragged along.”
Roger bridled. How ridiculous, his own mother flirting with a man young enough to be her son! He rolled his eyes, but the protest he wanted to make got cut off, as Matthew cuffed him on the shoulder.
“Sorry to interrupt. Got a question for you. Did Ivor Gregg seem quite himself at the matinee?”
Roger frowned. “Quite himself? I think so. In good voice, as ever.”
“He was marvellous,” Mrs. Bradley said, girlishly.
“Why do you ask?” And why had Matthew adopted his professional, rather than avuncular, tones?
“Because he’s disappeared. Not turned up for the evening performance, and can’t be found in any of his usual haunts. Totally out of character.”
“Perhaps he’s had an accident?” Mrs. Bradley flapped her hands.
“Perhaps, although the management say they’ve rung round all the likely hospitals where he’d be if he had.” Matthew shrugged.
Aunt Jacinta had joined the group. “That doesn’t strike me as being the sort of case you’d be called in on, Matthew.”
“It wouldn’t be, normally. But he’s had threats made to him.” Matthew bowed over his goddaughter’s hand. “I’m afraid I have to take my leave, my dear.”
“Phew.” Johnny whistled. “The thick plottens.”