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REVIEW: Lessons in Love by Charlie Cochrane

Dear Ms. Cochrane,

Ever since a good friend of mine suggested I read your Cambridge Fellows series, I was interested in your take on the M/M novel.   I was told that the sexual relationship was tame compared to the majority of the market and the book had a fun historical aspect.   Now I trust this friend in M/M recommendations, so when I got the book and started reading it I had fairly high expectations.   She was the same person who introduced me to Whistling in the Dark (which totally blew me away), after all.   I think fans of that same type of book will be pleased with Lessons in Love like I was.   If they’re in for a little mystery with their romance, that is.

Lessons in Love by Charlie CochraneProfessor Jonty Stewart once took was a student in English at Cambridge and now he is a professor of English at Cambridge.   Jonty is ready to deal with a group of rowdy English majors.   That he can handle.   The appearance of Professor Orlando Coppersmith, however, isn’t as easily handled.

Orlando has always been a type of hermit among his colleagues at Cambridge.   Social gatherings are foreign to him.   His best friends are his favorite leather chair, the warm fire place, and a good book.   Coming in one day to find the unruly young academic, Jonty, in his favorite chair makes him feel both frustration and, surprisingly, amusement.   Professor Stewart manages to do what no other professor could accomplish: he has made friends with Orlando Coppersmith.

Slowly, the friendship of these two professors grows into something deeply affectionate.   Orlando has never been sexually attracted before this; yet he can’t help but notice that he thinks of Jonty as more than a regular friend.   In private they even use their Christian names, something they consider very personal.   The budding romance between the two clumsy academics is jarred when a student is murdered.

The two professors quickly get on the scene of death.   When it’s found that the student was murdered for homosexual reasons, Jonty and Orlando get scared.   What if they are targeted next?   What if someone discovers their secret affections?   And, most importantly, what happens if the murderer is left to kill more students in Cambridge.   Set in England, 1905, Lessons in Love is a fun and quick read that adds a well rounded mystery element to a historical gay romance.

M/M is a fairly new genre for me.   I started reading it this year, and I’ve been pretty happy with the few books that I’ve read.   I have found that, more than anything, I appreciate a well-rounded central couple, as in regular romance novels.   Jonty was probably my favorite of the two characters.   His position as the younger of the two educators would normally place him in the position of being the more submissive character.   I enjoyed your reversal of that, instead making him the more experienced of the two in romance and sexual activity.   He had a delightful attitude that was fun without being overboard, and it made his character one that you want to succeed.

Orlando’s dynamic was different, instead relying on his innocence when it comes to romantic attachments and two men having sex.   Since his relationship with Jonty never goes into a full out deal in this first novel, his fears involving the practice are somewhat of an unresolved problem.   At the end of the book a reader could easily just say that things work out based on the relationship, but it’s not something entirely resolved.   As there are subsequent books in the series, it would be assumed that it’s addressed in later novels.   I thought it was an interesting take on things, because Orlando gets these fears personified when he’s asked to dispose of a book of male sensuality a murdered student had at one point.

“You know that I would, so long as you also understand that I don’t want to do those things.”   Orlando shut his eyes and shuddered.   As far as he was concerned Lord Morcar’s books had been filled with filth and he didn’t want anything to do with such stuff.   When he’d been a young man, the total extent of his preparation for matters sexual had been his father teaching him that he should take a cold bath should he become aroused in any way.   He’d never had to obey the instruction.   And while Orlando had no idea what Jonty had been taught, he’d assumed it was something similar.

Jonty took his friend’s hand, speaking slowly and gently.   “I really do think you should tell me exactly what you read in those books.”

Orlando told him, in detail, becoming unhappier with every word.   It all seemed even more disgraceful when spoken aloud.

“Would you be very upset to know that I had done some of those things?”

“Jonty?”   Orlando didn’t know whether he was upset or not, just incredibly shocked.   He knew that Jonty had much more experience of the world in general than he did, but he’d always assumed that his friend was the same as him in this regard.   Still a virgin.   “I had no idea.”

You handled it deftly, and I especially appreciated the subtle but clear establishment that they were friends as well as more than.   Relationships of this regard require that kind of establishment, and it made the conflicts so much more personal because of their friendship and romantic love working in conjunction.

Their relationship makes up a good 50% of the novel, with the other half being the mystery.   I felt it was a nice balance, as you use every word with importance and don’t skimp on either aspect of the book.   I felt the romance had it’s moments more so than the murder aspect.   The mystery wasn’t officially assigned to Jonty and Orlando, and they weren’t extremely passionate about solving it.   The one thing I do think hinders the mystery aspect is that some people will undoubtedly figure it out based on their thought process.   I didn’t, but I overload on the hints for every character and can never really decide on a character to throw my suspicions toward.

On the romantic aspect, the one problem I had was that Jonty and Orlando agreed to halt their affections for the sake of their safety while the killer was on the loose, then they reenacted them and decided they could deal with it.   Then they would repeat.   That happened several times throughout the book, and I felt like people like Orlando and Jonty would have been sensible enough to at least try and stick with either one earlier on and make it as safe as possible, as opposed to changing their routine and never really getting a feel for what would make them safe and still let them do what they needed to do.

I found Lessons in Love to be an enjoyable read and a promising start to the Cambridge Fellows mystery series.   At 130 pages, it wasn’t too long or too short, and I found it to be the perfect length for the story.   Seeing the progression of Jonty and Orlando’s relationship should be amusing and heartwarming.   Skilled mystery readers may guess the criminal before the end of the story, and there are some issues with repetition of a worn idea, but overall I felt the novella was very strong and worthy of a look for those that like historical fiction like I do.   Especially those that are looking for M/M that isn’t so focused on sex. B

All the best,

John

Book Link | Kindle | Amazon | nook | BN | Borders
| Sony| Samhain

Ever since a good friend brought him a copy of Johanna Lindsey's Gentle Rogue, he has been hooked on the romance genre. Though he primarily reads in young-adult, he loves to spend time with paranormal, historical, and contemporary adult titles in-between books. Now, he finds himself juggling book reviews, school band, writing, and finding time to add to his TBR pile.

9 Comments

  1. Mara
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 12:31:46

    This review really resonates with me. I hugely enjoyed this book and each subsequent book in the series was a welcome return to a warm, sweet world. These may be the most purely romantic m/m novels I’ve read. The physical intimacy is tender and romantic, too (which happens to translate to satisfyingly sexy for me) and in perfect balance with the development of the relationship. These books are a definite cuddle-by-the-fire-with-cocoa read.

    I’ve hoped these novels might be reviewed at Dear Author sometime, and I’m so pleased to see this review. Thank you, John.

  2. LG
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 12:34:20

    The review intrigued me, but the passage you quoted totally sold me on this book. I think I’ll add this to my list of things to buy next time I go on an online shopping spree.

  3. Charlie Cochrane
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 15:05:38

    Dear John

    Thank you for such a positive review. I’m glad you enjoyed the book – it’s the one in the series I’m least satisfied with (oh to be able to go back and rewrite it!)

    Charlie

  4. RachelT
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 15:15:34

    Great review, John.

    Despite what Charlie says about it being the book she is least satisfied with, I think the story is probably my favourite – it describes such a lovely gentle courtship.

    I love this series. I live only 15 miles from Cambridge and think the book reflects a winter’s afternoon walking around the academic part of the city (the ‘gown’ part as opposed to the ‘town)beautifully .

    Do read on in the series. Jonty and Orlando’s relationship develops with joy. The phrase they use to describe the most intimate part of their relationship is delightful, and reflects the great humour found in all of the books.

  5. Estara
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 15:28:59

    Oh nifty, a historical m/m romance novella of category romance length. If you liked it, too, I just have to try the first one. After all, I enjoy the Eve Dallas series, too.

    Incidentally have you read Ann Sommerville’s Darshian Tales fantasy series starting with Kei’s Gift? You might like it because it mostly has well-rounded and deeply explored characters of hetero- and homosexual orientation, with the main couple being homosexual.

  6. orannia
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 22:59:40

    Thank you John. I had a friend recommend this series to me, and I never actioned the suggestion. But after reading your review this book is going straight on my wish list :) I love the quote…and the slow development of Jonty and Orlandos relationship has me sold!

  7. Gwen Hayes
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 02:21:20

    And it’s only $178!

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/1602021481/ref=dp_olp_new?ie=UTF8&condition=new

    I went looking for a Kindle sample and found that. Wowzer.
    (I did find a Kindle version for $3 and change, so I’m relieved.)

  8. Charlei Cochrane
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 04:34:50

    @Gwen Hayes:
    That’s the first edition, which crops up for stupid prices. The Samhain edition’s in print here: http://www.amazon.com/Lessons-Love-Cambridge-Fellows-Mysteries/dp/1605047422/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_1 or, as you say, in Kindle.

  9. erastes
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 13:20:00

    Excellent review, and I’m so glad to see this series – or at least this book – reviewed here. What Cochrane does so well, in my opinion, as the series continues is to continue the relationship without letting it just become the background–as well as having a different type of mystery to solve each time. Gay historical cozy mysteries. Cochrane–the Queen of.(although, sometimes they aren’t quite as cozy as they seem…)

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