Goodwill To All Men

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Welcome to The Advent Calendar 2011!

The posts will go up around 14:00 hrs GMT daily – so no peeking in advance! And we will know if you try! Come back daily to check for new posts, and every day there will be a prize up for grabs for at least one person.

There will also be a BIG FESTIVE MYSTERY PRIZE (ok, not that big) so there will be a question posted every day. Save them up, email them in to me on Christmas eve on erastes at erastes dot com and be in the running for a bag of goodies.

   


       
         
   
     
Double day!

   

Double Day!

 

Review: Lessons in Seduction by Charlie Cochrane

This time, one touch could destroy everything…

The suspected murder of the king’s ex-mistress is Cambridge dons Orlando Coppersmith and Jonty Stewart’s most prestigious case yet. And the most challenging, since clues are as hard to come by as the killer’s possible motive.

At the hotel where the body was found, Orlando goes undercover as a professional dancing partner while Jonty checks in as a guest. It helps the investigation, but it also means limiting their communication to glances across the dance floor. It’s sheer agony.

A series of anonymous letters warns the sleuths they’ll be sorry if they don’t drop the investigation. When another murder follows, Jonty is convinced their involvement might have caused the victim’s death. Yet they can’t stop, for this second killing brings to light a wealth of hidden secrets.

For Orlando, the letters pose a more personal threat. He worries that someone will blow his cover and discover their own deepest secret… The intimate relationship he enjoys with Jonty could not only get them thrown out of Cambridge, but arrested for indecency.

Review by Leslie H. Nicoll

Lessons in Seduction is the sixth entry in the Cambridge Fellows series, and for me, it was the least satisfying, to date. That’s not to say it was a bad book—it wasn’t—and certainly fans of the series will want to add this to their collection. If you are new to the series, I would recommend starting with the first book, Lessons in Love and working your way through the prior five (Love, Desire, Discovery, Power and Temptation) before tackling this one. Although they can be read as standalones, I think there is enough character development between the lead protagonists, Jonathan Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith, that the series is more enjoyable read in order.

So, for this book. As noted above, a murder has occurred at the Regal Hotel. Jonty and Orlando, because of their growing renown as amateur sleuths, are asked to help with the investigation. Jonty’s father, Richard Stewart, also gets involved. Jonty and Richard are able to be themselves, but Orlando must go undercover as Oliver Carberry, posing as a dancing instructor and regular “fourth for bridge.”

Because Jonty and Orlando are forced to be apart for much of the story, the murder mystery takes center stage and that, for me, was one of the biggest problems of the book. One of the things that has really attracted me to this series is the interaction between Jonty and Orlando and because of their separation, much of that was absent. They few times they did manage to get together, they were so desperate for each other, they didn’t have as much of their usual funny banter. Jonty tried to poke fun at himself and their situation in one scene by pretending to be a caveman, but the humor felt forced and didn’t work—for me at least.

The murder investigation seemed overly complicated. Because they were at a hotel, there were dozens of guests who were all potential suspects and I’ll be honest, by about the halfway point, I had given up keeping them straight. Lady This and Sir That and ladies’ maids and sons and jilted lovers all paraded across the pages. Worse, this was a fairly cerebral investigation, in which clues were gathered during breakfast, lunch and dinner; while people were dancing; while people were playing golf; while people were playing cards; and once in a while, when folks took a stroll on the beach. After many repetitious scenes of characters chatting over tea, the entire narrative started to wear thin for me. Jonty and his father kept receiving notes warning them off the case, but I never really felt that their lives were truly in danger. If there could have been at least one late night chase across the golf course, or a few shots ringing out in the dark, it would have livened up things considerably.

That said, the writing is classic Cochrane, with funny little turns of phrase and wonderful descriptions of the various people, their clothes, and the locale. For her fans, this alone will be enough to draw them in and keep them reading and most likely ignore the problems I had with the story.

I think writing a series of books and keeping them fresh and interesting is a formidable challenge for any author. Cochrane set a very high standard for herself with the first five books, and I want to make it clear that this one, even though she’s fallen off the mark a little bit, in my opinion, is still very good. I am looking forward to seeing how she wraps this up in book seven, Lessons in Trust. I feel like the series is working itself to its natural conclusion and I look forward to reading the last installment.

Samhain Publishing Buy from All Romance Buy from Amazon (Kindle)

Author Interview: Charlie Cochrane

February’s Interview is Charlie Cochrane, interviewed by Chris Smith. Enjoy!

Chris Smith: So, today I’m interviewing the inestimable (take that as you will) Charlie Cochrane. Charlie, back in the mists of time, when you were once a young Cochrane, did you ever expect to be writing gay romance, let alone one of the most loved series out there?

Charlie Cochrane: No.  Or perhaps maybe. Like many teenagers I wrote bad slash (mine was vaguely Lord of the Rings influenced)  that got put away until I was grown up enough to be able to make a reasonable attempt at it.

Chris Smith: I’m feeling rather a late developer — only got into slash in my 20s. So, when did you decide you were “grown up enough” to attack writing again?

Charlie Cochrane: When I’d read all the Archie/Horatio (Hornblower) fanfic that was available that was good enough to read, and decided to try my hand at producing my own. So I started with fanfic (still dabble sometimes) and then began to play around with my own characters

Chris Smith: And from thence Jonty and Orlando sprang fully formed like whatsit and thingammy from the head of Zeus?

Charlie Cochrane: Absolutely.  Artemis.  No. Athene.  Her. They did. Like they’d always lived in my head and wanted to emerge.

Chris Smith: Was it messy? Who cleaned up afterwards?

Charlie Cochrane:  Not as messy as childbirth,  and I have cleaners who come in fortnightly so I left it for them.

Chris Smith: I’ll keep that in mind (crosses childbirth off of list of things to do). So, suddenly you have two blokes living in your head, and pretty disparate blokes at that. What on earth made you think that not only should they get it on like Viagra based bunnies (note to people who have not read Charlie’s work — Viagra is anachronistic and bunnies hardly feature) but solve mysteries on the side?

Charlie Cochrane: Ah well.  Wish fulfilment of what I wanted to read, maybe?  I’m a great fan of classic mysteries — Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Ngaio Marsh —  and I’d have loved to see a duo like Wimsey and Vane or Alleyn and Troy but gay, so I had to invent them myself. And I love Cambridge so that seemed to be the right location.

Chris Smith: Oh I’m glad you explained that — I’ve always loved how Jonty and Orlando are not a horrible pastiche of Holmes and Watson. They are so very much their own characters. So, where did your love of Cambridge spring from?

Charlie Cochrane: Ah,  well.  Back in 1976 New Hall college decided they’d be mad enough to allow me to come and take my degree there. New Hall is modern but I spent a lot of time in the older parts of the University and the older colleges.  These became the models for St Bride’s.

Chris Smith: Somehow a young Cochrane stalking the talent in the other colleges is not entirely beyond imagining. But how does someone go from studying (mathematics?) at New Hall to being both one of the busiest real life people and most prolific M/M authors out there? It seems like you’ve a new ebook coming out every month or so!

Charlie Cochrane: Not beyond imagining and entirely accurate –  you weren’t stalking me were you? You weren’t born I guess. I studied science, not maths. Not clever enough for maths. LOL About the business,  yes, I sort of had this mad idea that life might get slower at 50 but it just expanded in all directions. Don’t forget I did a lot of writing before I was ever published. A lot of these stories were half finished in my files, waiting to be taken out and used at the right time.

Chris Smith: I was born in 1981 — so you figure! And I’m pretty sure you’re damn clever enough. Am pleased you did not turn out to be a mathematician. They scare Chris Smith. And I’ve seen a photo of you. YOU LIE about the expansion in all directions. Widthways I am most definitely envious! You mean there is a TROVE OF COCHRANE LURKING ON YOUR HARD DRIVE?

Charlie Cochrane: It’s the expansion of activities that keeps me so thin.  And the hummingbird metabolism. You should see the middle Cochrane; eats like an elephant, built like a racing snake. There’s a fair amount in my hard drive – half written things and little ideas mainly. Less than there was – a lot of it has already escaped. Nothing too worrying though.

Chris Smith: I’m now imagining these files fleeing into the air, screaming FREE! FREE! I’m not going to ask if you’ve the denouement to the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries on there, because I’d be damn sad knowing THAT it was going end, let alone how you’d got there, so let’s wander along to your other short stories. How do you make these so brilliant? It’s most unfair.

Charlie Cochrane: I think that’s starting off in fanfic, you have to make a short piece interesting. Like me. I’m a short piece. LOL. Vertically challenged. I love writing short stories, so easy to make them flow. More than 25000 words is hard work.

Chris Smith: The grounding of fanfic is great isn’t it? But what would you say is the biggest difference between professional fiction (by which I mean you’re contracted to a publisher with external editors) and fan-fiction?

Charlie Cochrane: For a lot of people it’s quality of finished product.  Not for everyone – some people write fanfic that’s as well presented and checked, etc as pro fic.

Chris Smith: As in, because of publishers there is a built in filter in pro-fic that prevents one from having to go through fanfiction.net in search of gems. There are gems there, but they’re not always easily visible.

Charlie Cochrane: The main difference for an author is that you can’t use ‘shorthand’. By which I mean you could start a story saying ‘Hi Ianto. Where’s the rest of them?’ Jack looked around the hub. ‘Gwen’s gone off with Owen somewhere and I’ve no idea where Tosh has got to’. Everyone reading the fanfic would know who you meant.  No need to set up character etc. If you started a story ‘Hi John. Where’s the rest of them?’ Freddie looked around the Strom. ‘Clare’s gone off with Terry somewhere and I’ve no idea where Lola has got to’ everyone would have lost interest by then.

Chris Smith: Well said! So, what’s next on Cochrane’s calendar?

Charlie Cochrane: Depends when you post this interview. LOL.  Feb 14th I Do Two is due out. 16th Feb Lessons in Seduction comes out.  Cambridge books out in print this summer. I’ve  got a couple of WWI things I’m working on which don’t have a home yet.

Chris Smith: And I’m sure you can teach us a bit or two about seduction! And I’m so pleased to hear about print — I’ve got a few books in e-books and print, and I have to say I much prefer the real feel of a book in my hands!

Charlie Cochrane: I prefer real books too.  I’m a great ‘bath-time reader’.

Chris Smith: Me too. There is something quite horrible about the thought of a kindle in the water. Horrible, slightly tingly, and very expensive.

Charlie Cochrane: And very predictable given my innate clumsiness.

Chris Smith: So, oh great Cochrane, I have one last, horrible, and completely unpredictable question to ask. Who is your favourite referee?

Charlie Cochrane: Is this a trick question? The one and only Nigel Owens, whose boots I am not fit to lick.

Chris Smith: Would you, if given the opportunity?

Charlie Cochrane: Lick his boots? Maybe. Clean them — definitely.

Chris Smith: Anything else you want to proclaim to the world before I leave you in peace to watch 30 men in short shorts grope each other in the name of sport?

Charlie Cochrane: I don’t think so. Except to say thank you for being such a good interviewer

Chris Smith: No, thank you for being such a good interviewee. The cookie is in the post!

———————

Charlie’s website http://charliecochrane.co.uk/

Review: Lessons in Temptation by Charlie Cochrane

He thinks he has everything. Until someone tries to steal it.

Cambridge Fellows Mysteries, Book 5

For friends and lovers Orlando Coppersmith and Jonty Stewart, a visit to Bath starts out full of promise. While Orlando assesses the value of some old manuscripts, Jonty plans to finish his book of sonnets. Nothing exciting…until they are asked to investigate the mysterious death of a prostitute.

Then Orlando discovers that the famous curse of Macbeth extends far beyond the stage. It’s bad enough that Jonty gets drawn into a local theatre’s rehearsals of the play. The producer is none other than Jimmy Harding, a friend from Jonty’s university days who clearly finds his old pal irresistible. Worse, Jimmy makes sure Orlando knows it, posing the greatest threat so far to their happiness.

With Jonty involved in the play, Orlando must do his sleuthing alone. Meanwhile, Jonty finds himself sorely tempted by Jimmy’s undeniable allure. Even if Orlando solves the murder, his only reward could be burying his and Jonty’s love in an early grave…

Review by Erastes

I think I’m going to have to either go round to Charlie Cochrane’s house and stop her from writing anything else, or stop reviewing her books on the site because it’s becoming embarrassing as to how much we all like them.  I even get different reviewers to review them, but it makes no difference.  We all love ’em, and that’s no exception with this book.

First of all, let me advise you that, as the blurb hints, these books are part of a series.  (I’ve even made a category now, to make them easier to find.) However, they are so skilfully written that they can easily be read as a standalone, and Cochrane manages this (somehow) without any infodumping and pages of “this is what happened in previous books.”  There is enough information, woven in with a deft hand, to tell you who these guys are, what they do, a touch of their previous adventures and that’s it.  And that’s excellent, because they are only 100 pages or so, so the last thing you need is 20 pages of info thrown at you.

That being said, despite the fact that they can be read as standalones, you’ll be depriving yourself if you read them out of turn, or only read one in the series.  There’s an over-reaching arc to the series, and with a romance, that’s a difficult thing to achieve.  After the happy ending of the first book you’d think that there would be nothing else to tell about the characters. Well, you’d be wrong. So wrong.

Cochrane must have had the same grandmother as mine, (“keep some mystery, dear!”) or be related to Gypsy Rose Lee or something because she knows just how to string her readers along, and each book–like the best burlesque dancer–reveals a little more about these characters, a little more of their backstory–sometimes to their own detriment.  What’s great about Jonty and Orlando is that, despite being deliciously affectionate with each other and really and truly soul-mates, something you never doubt–they are both rather flawed young men.  Part of this comes from their pasts, both have a little darkness they are fighting with, and part of this comes from the necessary unworldliness (Orlando more so than Jonty, but all academics have a particular oddness) that living in a secluded community like a Cambridge College will bring.

The books could easily be a mish mash of schmoop and sentiment, as the men are delightfully sweet with each other (when all is going well and they are in private) but there’s always a tinge of that dark hiding behind them.  Orlando is racked with guilt that he hasn’t been able to help Jonty deal with the terrors of his school years, and Jonty’s incandescent temper often threatens the subtle thread between them. And they never let their guard down, always aware of what discovery of their love would mean.

Ok – so on with this book specifically.  Straight away we are led into Jonty and Orlando’s world. This time they are working away on location in Bath. What I love about Cochrane’s work is that she uses locations that she knows and loves. Places she’s been regularly–like Jersey in Lessons in Desire–and can describe in all weathers and moods.   Bath is a Regency staple, of course, but it was nice to see it 100 years later, and see the differences.

As the title implies, there’s temptation on the menu in the form of the deliciously handsome bundle of gorgeousness, Jimmy Harding.  An American who has an earlier friendship with Jonty.  Orlando hates him at first sight, which causes friction, but then Jimmy makes it more than clear to Orlando that he’s going to make a direct play for Jonty and the sparks begin to fly.  You don’t come to the Cambridge Fellow’s books for the sex, by the way, the love scenes are veiled and shrouded in imagery, but none the less emotive for that.  The themes of love vs sex and loyalty vs temptation are well explored too; there were times I wanted to kill Jonty, I have to say.

This alone would be more than enough plot for most people, particularly in a novella of this size, but Cochrane isn’t that complacent.  Her guys are detectives and so not only do they have to cope with the danger of Jimmy Harding, but to solve the 25 year old murder of a prostitue that seemingly no-one or everyone about.   The mystery is a good “cold case” with no-one being entirely truthful or complete in their information with the two detectives, red herrings and blind alleys galore, which should satisfy the lovers of the genre.  If I have one niggle in this respect it’s simply my doubt that any prostitute would turn down any offer of marriage to a wealthy and respectable man on the chance that she might land another.

Cochrane’s writing style is subtly omniscient at times, which I happen to like a lot, but it may not appeal to those who prefer a tight third person point of view which never veers from one person at a time.  I think it suits the tone and the setting of the books, however.

Highly recommended and I look forward to the next book enormously.  I just need to find another reviewer–however if the standard continues this high, I’m sure they’ll love number six in the series as much as I loved one to five.

This being published by Samhain, the ebook is available now, with a wait of around a year for the print edition.

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A Christmas miscellany for jaded palates

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