Review – Count The Shells by Charlie Cochrane

Count The Shells review book coverCount The Shells
Series: Porthkennack, #5
Author: Charlie Cochrane
Publisher: Riptide
Our rating: 3 stars

Publication date: October 16, 2017
Genre: Historical Romance (M/M)
Length: 253 pages
Click to see price at Amazon

Review Summary: A story of secrets and past loves, that had the potential to be a lot stronger than it was, but finished well.

Plot Summary/Description

It’s 1919. Michael Gray has lost most of his friends in the Great War, including his best friend and former lover, Thomas Carter-Clemence – though they’d already broken up, some years before the war started, after a stupid fight. Now, with his sister’s family, he’s come to Porthkennack where they always spent summers, and where Thomas’s younger brother still lives. But meeting Harry will stir up the past in a way that sends ripples through more lives than just Michael’s.

Count The Shells Review

I had high expectations of this book, which weren’t met right away. But I know I’m picky over certain things. Others may enjoy it a lot more. And really it was the first half where I had issues with it. I found the second half much stronger.

I liked the characters (although I wanted to know more about Harry) and I think the main relationship might have worked better for me if their first sex scenes hadn’t happened and the two men had worked through all their emotional stuff and secrets – which could have made a very powerful story – while they were attracted but before they got together. The resemblance of the younger brother to the older could have been deeply disturbing for our hero, but I felt it was all smoothed over too easily.

As a reading experience, it didn’t start well for me. I found the first few chapters especially slow and frustrating, as I kept getting annoyed over little things that threw me out of the story.

This is supposed to be 1919, but it felt like 1999. In 1919, a nursery maid wouldn’t socialize with the family. Her status was very different from a governess. She ate with other servants, if not eating separately with the children. A 9-year-old boy wouldn’t call a newly-introduced grown man ‘Harry’ – no freaking way. Not without getting severely punished for his impertinence. And people in Britain didn’t say things like “I guess so” and “I’m sorry for your loss.” Those are phrases of American origin that have crept into British English in the last 10-20 years.

I know Charlie Cochrane is British, and I know she writes a lot of fiction set in the early 20th century, so I can’t understand what happened here. A major edit fail?

I like this series and I enjoyed the way the caves etc were brought in. I’d certainly read more by this author. I guess I like more angst in my stories, and this one was frustrating because the potential was there but the angst was avoided. However, the ending was well done, with satisfying tie-ups to the family side of things. HFN rather than HEA, however.

Click to see price at Amazon

Review – An Unseen Attraction by K.J. Charles

An Unseen Attraction coverTitle: An Unseen Attraction
Author: K.J. Charles
Publisher: Loveswept from Random House
Our rating: 4 stars

Publication date: February 21, 2017
Genre: M/M romance/Historical/Mystery
Length: 209 pages
Click to see price at Amazon

Review Summary: A strong historical gay romance/mystery, with a convincing Dickensian feel.

Plot Summary/Description

Clem Talleyfer is the keeper of a lodging house in Victorian London. He doesn’t own the house but works as a kind of glorified janitor for his wealthy half-brother He runs it well, and it’s much appreciated by the lodgers including the attractive taxidermist Rowley Green, who gradually becomes a closer and closer friend.

But the house has its oddities, too, including an abusive alcoholic tenant whom Clem isn’t allowed to kick out. Then the alcoholic is murdered. Could Clem and Rowley’s lives be in danger, as well as their livelihoods and their budding relationship?

An Unseen Attraction Review

This has a lovely Dickensian London feel to it. I loved the descriptions of rainy streets, bizarre characters, and smoggy nights. The characters are well-rounded and feel real.

Clem needs everything spelled out, and it takes him forever to figure out that Rowley is interested in him. Add that to the prevailing Victorian morality and you get a slow-burning romance rather than high heat levels. I liked that, I found it realistic and I don’t mind waiting for characters to be sure of each other.

So why not 5 stars? I don’t like the cover, but I wouldn’t mark it down for that. (When you read, you do find out that his suit isn’t meant to fit well, but that doesn’t explain why his head is so small, or why he looks to me more like the “neat, precise” Rowley Green than my idea of Clem Talleyfer.)

It’s more that somehow the story didn’t stick with me. I loved Clem and liked Rowley, and I was rooting for them as a couple. But the reader is always several steps ahead of the characters in figuring out that something odd is going on, and wondering why Clem is allowing himself to be exploited to the extent he is. Plus I think stuffed animals are gross…

There’s a local gay pub from which I imagine future couples will be drawn, since this is a first in series. I’m pleased about that and I’ll be looking forward to the rest of the series.

Click here to see price at Amazon

Review – Wanted, A Gentleman by K.J. Charles

Wanted A Gentleman coverTitle: Wanted, A Gentleman
Author: K.J. Charles
Publisher: Riptide
Our rating: 4.5 stars

Publication date: January 9, 2017
Genre: M/M romance/Historical
Length: 131 pages
Click to see price at Amazon

Review Summary: An unusual historical gay romance bringing together a shady publisher and a stalwart merchant and former slave, from the reliably brilliant pen of K.J. Charles.

Plot Summary/Description

Londoner Theo Swann is scraping a dodgy living as the publisher of a “matrimonial advertiser” or lonely hearts ad sheet. Among the ads are cryptic messages between lovers, setting up secret assignations.

Martin St. Vincent is a former slave, now a free man and a prosperous merchant. His former owner’s daughter has been putting messages in Theo’s paper, and now she’s about to elope with a golddigger. Can Martin stop her before her fortune is lost and/or her virtue is compromised?

He enlists Theo’s help on a mad dash (at the stunning speed of 14 miles per hour) to the Scottish borders where underage young people can marry without their parents’ permission, hoping to overtake the fleeing couple before it’s too late.

A standalone Regency period gay historical romance from K.J. Charles.

Wanted, A Gentleman Review

There was a lot about this story that I loved. Theo is a funny guy and an entertaining character – slippery, and a little bit rat-like. Fun to read about. Martin is interesting and I loved the way that his background was brought out, along with his conflicting feelings about having been brought up kindly, as if adopted, by an English family, while in fact being their owned slave.

I also enjoyed all the period touches, which K. J. Charles is so good at. The personal ads, the staging post inns, the livestock market in a country town, the detail of journeys, furnishings and attitudes – all these were superbly done.

If I have a criticism, I wasn’t totally convinced by the romance, I guess. It was hard to imagine these two very different men having more than a physical connection. Theo’s moral turnaround didn’t totally win me over to him. I thought he would want somebody more exciting in personality, while Martin would be better with somebody more trustworthy, who shared his values. Still, it definitely works as a Happy For Now, and it gets a strong 4.5 stars.

I love K.J. Charles’s writing, and this was no exception.

Click here to see price at Amazon

Review – A Gentleman’s Position by K.J. Charles

A gentleman's position review ebook coverTitle: A Gentleman’s Position
Series: Society of Gentlemen, #3
Author: K.J. Charles
Publisher: Loveswept (a Random House imprint)
Our rating: 5 stars

Publication date: April 5, 2016
Genre: M/M romance/Historical/Regency UK
Length: 246 pages
Click to see price at Amazon

Review Summary: A Lord used to getting his own way – and his valet, who won’t allow *any* of his services to be taken for granted. A hot romance where tempers are high, and stakes too.

Plot Summary/Description

Lord Richard Vane is the go-to person when anyone in his circle has a problem – and most of those problems, he passes right on to his valet, David Cyprian. The tension between them is hot, and rife with misunderstandings. Can Richard see past class barriers to the man who wants him so badly? Can David lose the chip on his shoulder that keeps him in the subordinate zone?

When the situation becomes too painful, David leaves to save his sanity. But then a letter falls into the wrong hands, and Richard needs him more than ever. Will he be able to convince David that the need runs deeper than wanting his fixer back?

A Gentleman’s Position Review

K.J. Charles is rapidly becoming one of my auto-buy male/male romance authors. I’ve inhaled the Magpie Lord series, and now I have another one to bask in.

This is book #3 in the series but it was my first introduction to the gentlemen who make up the Society. It stands alone fine, and made me rush out and grab the others. Definitely wanting more of these guys.

What I loved about this was that they didn’t get together too easily. This relationship would have been a huge deal. Even without the class barrier, Richard has been treating David a certain way for a long time and they’re both used to that. What happens to David’s job if they get together on a more equal basis? Richard wants to fix the issue in a certain way, but he’s forgotten to consult David – because he’s used to telling David what to do. And yet that’s the problem…

All of this is handled sensitively, and step by step. Richard would do anything to get back his hot red-headed Mr. Fox – but at first his efforts only make things worse. He has to become humble, and learn to listen.

At the same time there’s blackmail, and a real threat hanging over the whole way of life of this group of friends, who could be punished with death if they’re caught. The danger mounts along with the sexual tension, and the whole thing makes for a thrilling read.

I loved the whole thing with David’s hair, and Richard having him powder it. When the reason for that comes out, it’s the sweetest thing 🙂 I only wish he could have been more red-headed on the cover.

Unlike the Magpie Lord series, these are historical without the paranormal element. Regency rakes – but with men in their sights. It’s published by an imprint of Random House – so good to see the mainstream publishers taking gay romance seriously. Bring it on!

This book is swoon material – grab it!

Click here to see price at Amazon

Review – Rag and Bone by K.J. Charles

Rag and Bone review cover
Title: Rag and Bone
Series: Rag and Bone #1,
in universe of A Charm of Magpies
Author: K.J. Charles
Publisher: Samhain
Our rating: 5 stars

Publication date: March 1, 2016
Genre: M/M romance/Historical/Paranormal (Magic)
Length: 146 pages
Click here to see price at Amazon
.

Review Summary: A very sweet couple crossing class and race boundaries, in Victorian London, with magic thrown in – and all presented in a stellar writing style. Totally lost my heart.

Plot Summary/Description

Crispin Tredarloe has been blindsided by the death of his warlock master and the discovery that the style of magic he was learning was not only illegal but downright murderous. He’s trying to be good and learn magic in the acceptable style, but he can’t seem to succeed without falling back on his deathly blood-and-bone pen.

Ned Hall is a waste paper dealer who’s left the docks area where his dark skin and African looks wouldn’t be so unusual, because of his family’s reaction to his preference for men. Crispin’s out of his class, but Ned doesn’t let that stop him. What’s more of a threat is the malevolent being on the loose, that’s attacking the owners of rag and bone shops like the one where Ned’s business is based.

Ned and Crispin’s lives are in danger, but can Crispin battle the evil without resorting to illegal means that will cost him his freedom and perhaps his life?

Rag and Bone Review

I adored Ned and Crispin. They’d have carried the book for me by themselves, but on top of that, you have magic, historical London and the most wonderful crisp and evocative writing style. The story is set in the world of the author’s ‘A Charm of Magpies’ series which I haven’t read, but that was no bar to enjoying it, and the series is going on my TBR list right now.

The romance feels very real. Crispin is from Cornwall, and although he’s been in London a few years, he’s not totally assimilated but remains something of an outsider with a special accent. He’s also an outsider in the magical world, because of his skill as a graphomancer or writer of magic, which is associated with evil warlockery. Ned is a man of colour, and while he fits into Victorian London more easily than Crispin in some ways, his working class upbringing sets him apart from the kind of people Crispin is training with. So although very different, they are a good match.

When Crispin meets Dr Sweet, who seems to be the only one to recognize his potential but offers further training away in Oxford, it causes conflict betweeen Ned and Crispin. But that’s only the start of their troubles.

Crispin and Ned first appeared in A Queer Trade (link to Amazon), a long short story/short novella that appeared in an anthology and has been published separately since. I don’t know if it was readers or the characters themselves who clamored loudly enough for the author to write them their own series, but it’s very welcome. Ned and Crispin are the sweetest couple and anyone who’s read the short will fall on this with glee.

If you haven’t read the short, it’s fine, because the author spends just enough time summarizing how they met at the beginning of this book, without annoying those who’ve read both. I reread the short right before starting Rag and Bone, but I wouldn’t have needed to.

Recommended for anyone who likes male/male romance with a touch of magic, especially when set in Victorian London.

Click here to see price at Amazon