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…
The fifth book of the Cambridge Fellows continues the series with a solid plot, mostly interesting mystery and a real test to the relationship. The writing and prose are very classic for the series and fans will feel right at home with the characters and setting. Although the mystery portion of the book is interesting, it’s one of the weaker who-dun-its in the series. Part of this is due to the wonderfully executed test to the relationship in the form of temptation. This particular element almost takes over the book but towards the end the mystery portion comes on stronger and ends the story on a balanced and solid note. Although this particular offering isn’t my favorite, it still offers a great look at some beloved characters and a good tale.
Familiar intellectuals Orlando and Jonty are on a trip to Bath to mix a little work and play. Orlando has some business for the university to handle while Jonty is trying to finish his Shakespearian manuscript. However neither man would be satisfied if they didn’t find additional pursuits and Orlando is thrilled there is a murder mystery offered to them while Jonty can’t help getting involved in a local play. When the play’s director turns out to be an attractive man from Jonty’s past, Jonty’s fidelity is put to the test.
The story once again uses a mixture of mystery and character driven relationship issues to please romance fans while offering an interesting who-dun-it. The mystery portion of this offering is not as strong or as interesting as past books in the series, but the clues do pick up steam towards the end of the book. For some reason I guessed the culprit very early on, but that’s not due to any predictability or problems with the mystery. There are enough clues and misdirection that the answer could be any of a number of people and the various interviews and guesswork involved is well crafted. The mystery centers around a prostitute that died 25 years ago and a majority of the detective work are interviews and supposition. There is a distinct lack of action that perhaps plays into the less interesting parts of the mystery.
Part of that is due to the real mastery in which Jonty’s temptation is played out. While the mystery struggles for most of the book, the fidelity threat is very real and honestly portrayed. Jonty loves Orlando but can’t help being attracted to the other man. Although Jonty has no real intention on acting on this unwelcome attraction, he can’t quite ignore it either. This dichotomy of what the head/heart and body want is incredibly well written and moving at points. Fidelity is a hot button in the romance genre and I was particularly glad to see the author acknowledge that even between a couple deeply in love, all other attractive people don’t magically disappear. Instead a couple has to work at the relationship, both individually and together. Although there is no question that Orlando and Jonty will be together at the end of the book, the temptation for Jonty is very real and the question of would he or wouldn’t he remained for most of the story.
Beyond the mystery and relationships aspects, Lessons in Temptation returns with a dry wit and delightful sense of humor. From the small details of Orlando’s various nicknames for others such as “Bard-pants” or “Mr. Smarmy Pants” to the small hits and kicks as displays of affection. Rarely does the reader see these happen but merely hear their effects in dialogue, which has a charm of its own. The prose has numerous affectations and nods to the time period with the great touch of Jonty as a tree in the play. If anything, the scenery and descriptions of the city of Bath were too indiscriminate from Cambridge and thus didn’t set much of a different atmosphere. However, this didn’t decrease the enjoyment any.
This particular offering can be read on its own as there is less background and development than in previous books. So for fans that haven’t been involved in the series, this is a good starting point but as always the series is best when read in order from the beginning. Fans of the authors will not want to miss this holiday gift.
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Previous reviews of the series HERE.