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
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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.

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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
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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.

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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
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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.

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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
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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!

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Review – Rites of Passage by William Golding

Rites of PassageTitle: Rites of Passage
Series: To the Ends of the Earth, #1
Author: William Golding
Publisher: various
Our rating: 5 stars

Publication date: 1980
Genre: Literary fiction, historical with LGBT interest
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Rites of Passage Review Summary: Stunning and sad historical prizewinning novel set on a ship bound for Australia in the early 19th century. The arrogant upper class narrator is unintentionally hilarious, but it’s really the story of the young parson Mr Colley and his catastrophic wish to please.

Plot Summary/Blurb

In a makeshift cabin on a stinking former warship bound for the new colony of Australia, an educated young man writes a journal to entertain his godfather back in England. With a mixture of wit and arrogance he records mounting tensions on board, as an obsequious clergyman attracts the dangerous animosity of the tyrannical captain and surly crew.

Rites of Passage Review

Young Edmund Talbot is on his way to Australia to take up a post in the government there. He’s well-connected but not rich, and has been sponsored by his godfather, to whom he addresses the diary that he writes on board.

We get a strong sense of the snobbish young aristocrat who clearly thinks he’s the most important person on the ship. Both he and a newly-ordained young parson, Mr Colley, offend the captain with their different demands: Edmund’s focused on his status and comfort, Mr Colley’s on his wish to provide religious services for the passengers and crew.

Poor Mr Colley is desperate to be liked and accepted, especially by Edmund, since he agrees with Edmund’s own view of his status, and by a certain handsome young crew member. But it’s his mistakes in approaching the captain that ultimately bring about the tragic ending.

The ship was formerly a warship; the captain is hostile to passengers. What starts as an unpleasant situation becomes dangerous. In that respect it’s like Golding’s Lord of the Flies – a group of people isolated by circumstances move closer and closer to savagery – although the tone and style are completely different.

This is the first in a series of three novels about Edmund Talbot and his trip to Australia. The character of Edmund is well developed with him becoming older, wiser and humbled by the events of the book. It’s a very convincing sea-going historical read with an LGBT theme in a subplot (but don’t expect a happy ending).

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