Hi peeps, we have Charlie Cochrane visiting today with her newest release Lessons for Suspicious Minds, we have a great ficlit piece of Jonty and Orlando, a brilliant excerpt, a fantastic giveaway and Tams review. So check out the post and leave a comment (with a way to contact you) to take part in the giveaway!
Lessons for Suspicious Minds
In the innocent pre-war days, an invitation to stay at the stately country home of a family friend means a new case for amateur sleuths Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith. In fact, with two apparently unrelated suicides to investigate there, a double chase is on.
But things never run smoothly for the Cambridge fellows. In an era when their love dare not speak its name, the risk of discovery and disgrace is ever present. How, for example, does one explain oneself when discovered by a servant during a midnight run along the corridor?
Things get even rougher for Orlando when the case brings back memories of his father’s suicide and the search for the identity of his grandfather. Worse, when they work out who the murderer is, they are confronted with one of the most difficult moral decisions they’ve ever had to make.
Jonty and Orlando ficlet
Orlando Coppersmith sighed happily as he hung up his hat and coat.
“Isn’t it nice to be home?” Jonty Stewart, just a step behind him as they came through their own front door, fought with his own coat buttons. “Half the pleasure with travelling must be the way it makes you yearn for your own hearth.”
“Hm.” Orlando enjoyed travelling now that he had somebody to go with. Even time travel was an attractive prospect now that Dr. Panesar’s machine had become more reliable and less likely to blow up.
“I do like the twenty first century.”
“It has its moments.” Orlando would have preferred to go back in time, to seminal moments such as when Newton was formulating his laws, but the only time they’d gone back was in search of William Shakespeare. Maybe he would have more chance if he dared admit to Jonty that he didn’t quite understand how to set the machine’s destination.
“Come and have a glass of port and tell me what you thought of the ballet. You’ve had your thinking time you asked for.”
Once ensconced by the fire with glass in hand, Orlando could put it off no longer. “It was very daring.”
“You’ve said that already, and it’s stating the obvious. I’m not even sure Mama would be broad minded enough to cope with an all-male pas de deux.”
“I enjoyed that part.” The chap playing the swan had borne a resemblance to Jonty and the prince had his colouring, so—apart from the matter of relative heights—it could have been them dancing together. Sort of. If you squinted a bit.
“It was one of the best things I’ve seen in years. Very stimulating.” Jonty grinned, as lascivious as the chap on stage in the leather had been.
“I didn’t like the mother, though. Disgraceful how she treated that poor prince.” No wonder the chap had gone mad.
Jonty, suddenly ashen, put down his port and came to perch on the side of Orlando’s chair, putting an arm round his shoulder. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realise it could have such a personal resonance for you. I just assumed it would be Swan Lake with male swans.”
“You weren’t to know. And it was good, in a way. Cathartic. Made me realise, yet again, how lucky I am to have my own prince. Or swan. I haven’t quite decided which you are.”
“I don’t fancy being either, but I appreciate the sentiment.” Jonty rested his head against Orlando’s. “The other thing about travelling, especially to see something like those male dancers, is that it makes you yearn for your own bed as well as your own hearth.”
Orlando rubbed his lover’s thigh. “Everything seems to make you yearn for your bed.”
“Of course. Especially when you’re in it.” Jonty kissed him, tenderly. “We should try a horizontal pas-de-deux.”
“You’re on. So long as neither of us has to wear feathers.”
By the time July arrived on the calendar and Jonty and Orlando arrived at the Stewarts’ magnificent Georgian house in London, life in the Coppersmith and Stewart universe was rosy. They’d got all their university business up-to-date and everything concerning the new term had been put on a very low, almost imperceptible, flame. They staggered out of the Lagonda and into the waiting arms of Mrs. Stewart, with Jonty getting volubly overexcited about seeing Alexandra Temple again, and Orlando voicing doubts about whether he’d live up to the lady’s expectations.
At least the rapturous welcome he got from Jonty’s mother should have allayed any remaining fears—surely they could be no bigger than an electron?—that he wasn’t worthy to associate with England’s great and good.
“You’re looking well, dear.” Mrs. Stewart favoured Orlando with a dazzling smile, then turned to hug her son, coming out of the embrace to eye him up and down, and say, “And you’re looking a touch on the thin side.”
“Helena, he’s built like a bull of Bashan.” Mr. Stewart’s voice came booming from the path down to the mews.
“Papa!” Jonty gave his father’s hand an impassioned pumping-up-and-down shake, which was followed by Orlando doing the same, if not quite so energetically.
“Has Barrow put the car away?” Mr. Stewart looked wistful.
“Not yet. Still got to get all the baggage out.” Jonty patted his father’s shoulder. “We can go for a spin if you fancy.” Jonty registered that his mother’s outfit seemed to hint at motoring rather than afternoon tea. “You too, Mama.”
“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble . . .?” Mr. Stewart seemed to be holding back the urge to leap into the automobile right now.
“Not at all. Although might we have a cup of tea first? I’m parched, as I’m sure Orlando is.” Orlando also had his I’ve been cooped up long enough in the metal monster face on. Maybe Mr. Stewart could find him a nice book of bridge problems to get his nose into while they took a tootle out to Hampstead Heath.
“Of course. And some apple cake too, I think,” Mrs. Stewart added, with one eye on her son’s waistline.
“Is Lavinia coming to Fyfield too?” Jonty felt eager to get the subject away from his eating habits.
Mr. Stewart smiled an unusually mushy smile. “I’m afraid she’s too busy with young George.”
George had been the hit of 1909, Jonty’s third nephew and his sister’s first child. The eldest of the Stewart offspring, Sheridan, had already sealed the lineage by producing young Thomas; Clarence had provided a spare heir in case of emergencies, so the latest arrival was an extravagance. Not that the Stewarts were bothered about the title—Jonty’s father had claimed it but never used it, saying he’d never stoop so low as to attend the House of Lords.
George was now a bouncing two-month-old who was doted upon by all concerned. Especially Orlando because the baby had, the last time they’d seen him, possessed the good sense to throw up all over Jonty’s jacket and then fall asleep, cherublike, in Orlando’s arms. If George had been able to speak, and had asked any of those present to jump in the river, they’d have done it without hesitation.
“How is young Georgie?” Jonty beamed with avuncular pride. “Is he ready to take the entrance exam for St. Bride’s?”
“They’re naturally proud of him.” His father nodded. “He’s a little corker.”
Orlando snorted. “He must be, the number of times your son conjured up the excuse to wet his head. Several of them before he was actually born.”
“We had to have a practice run so we didn’t make a mess of things when the real thing rolled up. Maybe we can wangle doing it again with the duke and the rest of the Temple family?” Jonty bounced on his toes.
“You can wet his head again now, with tea.” Mrs. Stewart took Orlando’s arm and led him into the house.
The tea was drunk, the cake consumed, the book of bridge problems found, Orlando’s nose got into it, the trip in the Lagonda made, all in plenty of time to change for dinner.
Jonty barged through the interconnecting door into Orlando’s room without knocking. “I told them we know they’re up to something. And can you help me with this stud? It refuses to obey me.
“Turn round.” Orlando quickly slipped the offending item into its rightful place at the back of Jonty’s collar. “What did they say?”
“Thank you.” Jonty twitched his collar straight. “Denied everything, at first, then came clean when I threatened to drop them off in the Old Brompton Road and make them walk home. There’s been a suspicious death at Fyfield. They said they’d explain more when they had your ear as well as mine. After dinner.”
Orlando frowned. “Couldn’t we persuade them to do it now? Then we won’t spoil the beef or salmon or whatever it is by fretting.”
“That’s an excellent point. So excellent I’d kiss you right now, but I wouldn’t want to risk spoiling that perfect bow tie of yours.” Jonty smiled. “Right. Once more into the breach . . .”
In imitation of the direct style of his hero Henry V, Jonty had barely taken a sip of sherry before he launched his first volley. “Papa, you’ve never been the best of dissemblers and you’re losing what knack you had.” He didn’t add, with age. “So can we have all this Fyfield business out in the open now?”
Mrs. Stewart waved her hand regally. “I did warn we’d never be able to keep anything secret once they were here, Richard. We’d better reveal all now.”
Orlando nodded. “If there’s mystery in the offing, we’re your men.”
“Splendid!” Mr. Stewart applied an expertly weighted slap to Orlando’s shoulder. Enough to show affection, insufficient to spill even a drop of sherry.
Mrs. Stewart, not to be outdone, gestured for Orlando to sit beside her on the sofa. “You see, there was an unfortunate death there earlier in the year, and it’s rather thrown everyone into a bit of a turmoil.”
Jonty turned to his father. “Was it in the papers?”
“I doubt it, at least apart from the local press. Everything kept very quiet. Derek—he’s the present duke, Orlando—would have pulled some strings to ensure it didn’t make the national papers I expect. Eh, Helena?”
“If he didn’t, I’ll eat my best hat.” Mrs. Stewart knocked back her sherry; this was clearly serious stuff. “You don’t feel you’ve been brought here under false pretences?”
Jonty wagged his finger, something he’d have never done when younger for fear of having his leg slapped. “Only if you don’t give us the facts right now.”
Mr. Stewart assumed his best storytelling voice, the one he’d be using with George. “I ran across Alexandra Temple at Easter, and we had a lot of catching up to do. I might just have been waxing lyrical about your prowess at solving mysteries, some of which no one else had been able to solve. It wasn’t boastfulness—she’d read the account of the Woodville Ward case in the Times. Extraordinary to think they get that in America, although I suppose it arrives on the late side.”
“Did she ask you there and then to get us to help? Has this been brewing for months?” If so, then Jonty had to give them credit for keeping it hidden so long.
“No. She wrote at the end of May, inviting us down to Fyfield. It was only as the proposal expanded to include you two, with especial consideration for when you’d be available for an extended visit, that I smelled a rat.”
Mrs. Stewart fixed her husband with a gimlet gaze. “Richard! Must you be quite so crude around the boys? Rats, indeed.”
Jonty came to his father’s defence. “Don’t worry, Mama. He’s using it in the investigational sense, which is acceptable. Did you flush your rat out, Papa?”
“I did. She soon confessed she wanted to offer a commission.” The last few words were spoken with an almost evangelical light in his eye. Mr. Stewart had often said—usually when tired and emotional—that the previous occasions when he’d been allowed to play at detectives had been some of the most rewarding experiences of a long and fruitful life.
“And how could we deny her under such circumstances? My own godmother?” Mrs. Stewart had clearly decided to try to look helpless and appealing, something that wouldn’t convince anyone, let alone her youngest child, who knew full well she was about as helpless as a battleship at full steam.
Jonty drew himself up to his full five feet, eight and a half inches—that half inch being very important, especially when Orlando topped six foot. “Why didn’t you tell us right away this visit would involve sleuthing? You know Orlando would hardly be likely to say no.”
“We were, um . . .” Mr. Stewart looked to his wife for support.
“What your father means, but seems unable to say, is that after the events of last year we weren’t sure how keen Orlando would be to take on another case. I had a horrible feeling he’d be put right off detecting.” The year 1908 had seen Orlando unable to cope with the revelation of his grandmother’s expulsion from the family home as a girl, and his own father’s bastardy. A bastardy that had probably driven him to take his own life. Orlando had gone on a crusade to find his true roots, and the Stewarts had gone on a crusade to find him.
Mrs. Stewart squeezed Orlando’s hand. “We wouldn’t want to do anything to upset you.” Orlando had a special place in Mrs. Stewart’s heart, not least because he’d brought Jonty a level of joy and peace he’d not had since his school days. Funny how both he and Orlando had been blighted with dark times and had eased each other into the light.
“You never could.” Orlando returned the squeeze and looked to his partner for support.
Jonty, smiling, came and sat on the other side of his mother, taking one of her hands in his. “You made the same mistaken assumptions that I did. You know, I did wonder why you spent Christmas so clearly avoiding all talk of murder and mayhem. We’d even come to the conclusion that it was you who didn’t want to talk about mysterious murders or the like, for some reason best known to yourselves.”
“Really?” Mr. Stewart managed to look both puzzled and horrified. “How stupid of us all. It seems like one of those horribly contrived comedies one goes to see and can’t believe how the people involved could ever let the events happen. People talking rot and inveigling each other into doing the most ridiculous things.” He studied his shoes, a sure sign that he was about to say something highly important and highly personal. “You’re certain it will be all right, old chap? You would say if it wasn’t?”
“Of course I would.” Orlando, in an unprecedented move, leaned over and kissed Mrs. Stewart’s cheek. “Thank you for being so concerned. But I—we—are happy to take on this case. Aren’t we, Jonty?”
“Of course,” Jonty just about managed to get out, before the arrival of Hopkins the butler to announce that dinner was served. His immaculate timing ensured that nobody disgraced themselves with an outburst of tears.
Find more excerpt here: http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/lessons-for-suspicious-minds (Just click the excerpt tab)
As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes, with titles published by Carina, Samhain, Bold Strokes, MLR and Cheyenne.
Charlie’s Cambridge Fellows Series of Edwardian romantic mysteries was instrumental in her being named Author of the Year 2009 by the review site Speak Its Name. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, International Thriller Writers Inc and is on the organising team for UK Meet for readers/writers of GLBT fiction. She regularly appears with The Deadly Dames.
Connect with Charlie:
- Blog: charliecochrane.livejournal.com/
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- Goodreads: goodreads.com/goodreadscomcharlie_cochrane
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Title: Lessons for Suspicious Minds
Series: Cambridge Fellows Mysteries 10
Author: Charlie Cochrane
Genre: Historical Gay Romance
Length: Novel (255 pages)
Publisher: Riptide Publishing (April 20th 2015)
Heat Level: Mild
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥ 3 Hearts
An invitation to stay at a friend of the Stewart family’s stately home can only mean one thing for Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith—a new case for the amateur sleuths! With two apparently unrelated suicides, a double chase is on.
But things never run smoothly for the Cambridge fellows. In an era when their love dare not speak its name, the chance of discovery (and disgrace) is ever present—how do you explain yourself when a servant discovers you doing the midnight run along the corridor?
The chase stops being a game for Orlando when the case brings back memories of his father’s suicide and the search for the identity of his grandfather. And the solution presents them with one of the most difficult moral decisions they’ve had to make…
Review: Apparently Jonty and Orlando can’t even go on Holiday without bodies starting to pile up. While staying with a family friend, two people commit suicide, or do they? The case not only piques their interest, but brings back long buried emotions in relation to Orlando’s own father’s suicide. While Jonty and Orlando investigate the deaths they also try to find some alone time together and deal with their individual personal demons.
When you live in an era where your sexuality could leave you disgraced, or worse, institutionalized or even put to death, secrecy is of the utmost importance. But as someone once said, the maids know everything!
There was a little bit of a requirement to suspend your belief in reality in this story and that threw me, as there hasn’t been anything like that in previous books. There was this repetitiveness as well that I hadn’t notice before, the term ‘his lover’ was definitely worn out about midway through. And the story drug in a few places for me, but picked back up right about the time I was ready to set the book down.
I do continue to love the character development between Jonty and Orlando. I can’t even imagine having to hide your true nature to the extent they have to go to. Their interactions and constant growth really made reading the book worthwhile. And didn’t you just love Jonty’s parents? Oh, the wording is very accurate to the era and class of people, the phrasing used and tone of voice you can associate with the writing.
Overall, this was just an okay read for me. Fans of Jonty and Orlando will definitely want to see what shenanigans these two are up to now. If you like historical romance, I think this is a safe bet.