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 – 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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