Lessons in Desire by Charlie Cochrane
Perfect love casts out fear. If you let it.
Cambridge Fellows Mysteries, Book 2
St. Bride’s English don Jonty Stewart is in desperate need of a break from university life. A holiday on the beautiful Channel Island of Jersey seems ideal, especially if he can coax his lover Orlando to step outside the college’s walls to come along.
Orlando Coppersmith is scared. Within the safe confines of the school it’s easy to hide the fact that they are not just friends, but lovers. In an unknown place, in full view of everyone, how will they keep their illegal affair private—much less dare to make love, even in the security of their suite?
A brutal murder at their hotel forces their personal problems into the background—at first. The race to catch the killer gets complicated when the prime suspect finds Orlando irresistible. Suddenly keeping their affair clandestine isn’t only a matter of legality. It’s a matter of life and death…
The second book in the Cambridge Fellows series is another wonderfully lyrical story that engages the reader with the slow pace of life in the early 1900s. This beautiful writing, clever mystery, touches of humor, and engaging characters create an interesting story that never sacrifices the pace and time for quick action or sex scenes. Although the pace may drag in some places, this is very likely to be reader specific. Be sure to pick up this story when you want an easy, languid journey filled with gentle laughter, love, and a touch of very English mystery. The lovely prose and delightful characters carry the book when the action is light.
Ten months have passed since Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith have been more than friends and Jonty decides it’s a perfect time for a vacation. The reserved and shy Orlando has great trepidation about a vacation away from St. Bride’s but is convinced to travel by his lover and best friend Jonty. Once on the island, Jonty and Orlando settle into the relaxing, enjoyable pace with new friends and childhood antics. Unfortunately their vacation is marred when one of the guests is found murdered and the amateur sleuths can’t help peeking into the investigation.
This story is set with a languid pace where there are no big action sequences, gunfights, dramatic scenes, or hysterical ranting. Every character is far too refined and English for such displays and thus even murder is handled in the most upright and gentlemanly fashion. The gentle flow of the vacation is filled with small delights. The antics remembered and reproduced from Jonty’s happy childhood scare and charm Orlando as he struggles to let go of his own unhappy past. Their relationship is revealed more as Orlando’s past is highlighted with his difficult parents and their affect on his current views. This even extends into Orlando’s fears of ultimate consummation, a fear that greatly frustrates Jonty. As Orlando and Jonty seek more intimacy in their relationship, they are hampered by the untimely murder of another guest in addition to Orlando’s paranoia at being discovered and his fears of change of any kind.
The characters of Jonty and Orlando are once again beautifully drawn and fully realized. The established nature of their relationship is a wonderful addition as their ease with each other layers more texture to the story. Their depth and interaction make the tale come alive from the good-natured teasing to gentle fits. Their conversation is filled with humor amid staid English properness. Even their arguments are easy and without great drama, but the emotion is clearly present. Their love and even unhappiness is deeply felt and expressed in the smaller details and sighs than exaggerated action and statements. This is a story filled with subtle detail and the sum of those details produce a loving relationship with its ups and downs without great drama.
The mystery itself is filled with fun characters from Matthew to Mrs. T and even the return of Investigator Wilson. As with the previous mystery there is perhaps too large a cast so as to keep the ultimate culprit a mystery, although clever clues and hints along the way will allow a savvy reader to discern the true villain. Not all the characters introduced are important or memorable so there is no need to try and keep track of the cast. The gentle pace never overwhelms and it’s easy to follow where the story leads. The immense amount of detail offered about the setting and time period show incredible research and thus builds an impeccable world of that time. From the meals to activities and even thoughts, hopes and fears of the time, the story is immersed in that time period with mastery.
If there are any qualms, it is that the book for me was sometimes slow and difficult to engage. While the writing is evocative and lyrical with often creative and delightful prose, the slow pace and unresolved issues led to some reader frustration. Orlando’s fears of the bedroom were never sufficiently explored, merely dropped. Due to his constant weighted fears of any change, this is clearly a significant and important step that seems glossed over in the scheme of the book. Additionally the details of the murder dragged, as the characters seemed to rehash the same information while rarely offering anything new. The most engaging part of the story was the interactions between Orlando and Jonty alone and their discussions.
Overall, this is another excellent edition of the series and it may please readers more than it did me. Although I greatly enjoyed reading it, those who enjoy a slower pace and glee over the details of the time period will be more riveted, but the gentle romance and so very English setting is fun to read. I’m very curious about future books in the series as the men are often paranoid about discovery yet still have much to learn and grow within their relationship. The side mystery this time didn’t entice me as much as the previous mystery but the writing is incredibly well done. If you’re a fan of the series, definitely continue.
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