Lessons in Power by Charlie Cochrane
The ghosts of the past will shape your future. Unless you fight them.
After settling in their new home, Cambridge dons Orlando Coppersmith and Jonty Stewart are looking forward to nothing more exciting than teaching their students and playing rugby. Their plans change when a friend asks their help to clear an old flame who stands accused of murder.
Doing the right thing means Jonty and Orlando must leave the sheltering walls of St. Bride’s to enter a labyrinth of suspects and suspicions, lies and anguish.
Their investigation raises ghosts from Jonty’s past when the murder victim turns out to be one of the men who sexually abused him at school. The trauma forces Jonty to withdraw behind a wall of painful memories. And Orlando fears he may forever lose the intimacy of his best friend and lover.
When another one of Jonty’s abusers is found dead, police suspicion falls on the Cambridge fellows themselves. Finding this murderer becomes a race to solve the crime…before it destroys Jonty’s fragile state of mind.
The fourth book in a wonderfully delightful series, this story should not be read without reading the series in order. Although it certainly has the merit to stand on its own, readers will garner more depth and enjoyment from the entire series. Also the emotional and physical journey Orlando and Jonty take from their first meeting to their current relationship is not to be missed. This new offering is as fabulous as the other books and the series has certainly hit its stride with fully developed characters, interesting mystery components, and a witty quick paced dialogue that has readers delighting alongside the characters. All of this great wonderful packed into a historically accurate book seems almost too good to be true, but I have faith in the skill of the author to keep delivering on a great series.
This book takes place mere weeks after the end of the last book and Jonty and Orlando are just settling into their new home together. Unfortunately domestic bliss will have to wait for these two as an old friend comes to ask the amateur sleuths for their help. When more information comes to light showing those dying are in fact the old tormentors of Jonty’s past, both men will have to face their demons to move on in their relationship.
This particular offering is more emotional and in depth than previous offerings. It reverses the roles of the men ever so subtly and slightly. Whereas Jonty is always the calm, confident fellow and Orlando often fussy and in need of reassurance, now Jonty is off balance and must depend on his lover’s strength. This change allows the story to examine a relationship when the basic dynamics alter slightly or even greatly. The emotional upheaval causes Jonty to withdraw from the physical side of their love and thus it is Orlando sweetly woo’ing Jonty. Also the story looks at a relationship based on love and friendship when sex or romantic love is no longer a main consideration. The strong basis of Jonty and Orlando’s love is shown through their kindness, their affection, and bond even when frustration and anger arise.
This heavy emotional aspect is lightened by the almost constant humor and self depreciating dialogue between the two men. Although they clearly love each other, here are two men more than happy to pound each other into the dirt in a rough rugby match and lob witticisms over jellied toast. They rarely have the need for dramatic statements and gestures, their bond the strongest in the height of humor and quiet. Unfortunately the darker overtones continue with the mystery in this particular story since it revolves around Jonty’s past. The mystery and relationship components, which are usually somewhat separate, here combine incredibly well. The deft skill used to keep the story moving and never slip into the potentially oppressively dark themes makes this particular book a real delight.
Making another fabulous appearance is Jonty’s family, who are incredibly supportive and accepting of the relationship. This is perhaps the sole aside to the historically accurate components but without taking away from the story. The scene stealing character of Jonty’s mother rules in all her glory and Orlando’s awe is adorable. The slow emerging details of both men’s past continues with each book, likely to only have a complete picture at the conclusion of the series. This doesn’t mean that the characters are empty or two-dimensional. On the contrary, all the characters in the book have depth, purpose, and interest. There are almost no frivolous or throw away characters.
The only few problems I have with the story are the editing mistakes that still appear even though the series I’ve been reading is the re-printed version from Samhain. Additionally the culprits to the mystery portion confess rather easily and without a lot of motivation. On the one hand, this comes as a very easy solution to the complex who-dun-it that is crafted, but at the same time a more drawn out conclusion may have broken the pace and flow leaving the ending to drag on. So while the easy solution didn’t bother me much, I did notice the ease of the tidy ending.
Overall, another great offering in the series that promises to get better with each new book. Fans of the series should start with the first but be sure to savor each offering, they only get better.
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