Starting Over: COUNT THE SHELLS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m wrapping up the spotlight on historical reads with a review for a recently published M/M historical romance from Charlie Cochrane. COUNT THE SHELLS is a bittersweet story of a WWI veteran coming to terms with his losses, and finding new love unexpectedly.

About the book:
Michael Gray returned from World War One injured, but at least he returned. Others were not so fortunate, including his first and greatest love, Thomas Carter-Clemence, with whom Michael had parted bitterly before the conflict began.

Broch, the Carter-Clemence home in Porthkennack, was an integral part of pre-war holidays for the Grays, the two families drawn together in the wake of their sons’ friendship. Returning to the once-beloved Cornish coast for a break with his sister and her family, Michael has to find the courage to face old memories . . . and dare new relationships.

When Thomas’s brother Harry makes an unexpected appearance, Michael is surprised to find himself deeply attracted to Harry for his own sake. But as their relationship heats up, it unearths startling revelations and bitter truths. Michael must decide whether Harry is the answer to his prayers or the last straw to break an old soldier’s back.

My Review:
Michael Gray has had precisely five lovers in his short life, and he’s outlived them all. This is the time just after the Great War, and Michael is still plagued by memories of combat in Flanders and France. He’s come to holiday on the Cornish coast, with his sister’s family. There he relishes long days by the seaside with his young nephew, Richard, and pondering why he survived when all his lovers perished in the war times. His most dear memories are of Thomas Carter-Clemence, his first and only true love, and he’s anguished that they parted on bad terms, never having made up the fight that caused their rift.

While out walking with Richard when motorbike nearly hits them. Michale’s rocked to his core when he confronts the driver and feels as if he’s seeing Thomas’ ghost. Not far from the mark, Thoma’s younger brother, Harry, has taken possession of the family estate, Broch, and is happy to establish their previous friendship; their families were close, and Harry, four years younger, always wanted to tag along with Thomas and Michael on their adventures. As Thomas and Michael were spending their alone time in fast and furious sex, the annoying little brother was often brushed aside, but now he’s eager to establish an acquaintance.

Invitations are made for luncheons and visits, and Michael struggles to reconcile the guilt he feels over losing Thomas to the attraction he feels for Harry–and attraction that seems more than returned. As the days pass, Harry reveals his secret crush on Michael, from their childhood days, and more…secrets. And, Michael reveals his own secret surrounding his “friendship” with Thomas. Both men are astounded and hurt by the new information, and it causes a great deal of tension in their lives, not just their budding relationship.

I really loved the setting and characters in this one. I could see the old world charm, and feel Michael and Harry’s pain regarding their service, because Harry was in the naval service during the war, too. The issues that drive them apart aren’t discussed in malice, neither man expects the other didn’t already know. And that’s a pickle, indeed. It turns out the deepest secrets of their families aren’t actual secrets after all–that the main players already have the information they need, but aren’t sharing it with others openly. Still, it’s awkward, and tense. Michael and Harry seem to make the best of the difficult situation, recognizing that the past cann’t be changed and life is fleeting. If nothing else, Michael’s sixth lover may be his last. At least, if Harry has his way. Expect maudlin moments, and steamy encounters. Michael has a wry sense of humor and he and Harry engage in some rather fun banter laced with cricket innuendoes that made me smirk. The resolution is as good as one could expect, given the family skeletons that get aired out, but I’d expect that Harry and Michael find their new lives very much more satisfying than before.

Interested? You can find COUNT THE SHELLS on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I read a review copy through NetGalley.

About the Author:
Because Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her mystery novels include the Edwardian era Cambridge Fellows series, series, and the contemporary Best Corpse for the Job. Multi-published, she has titles with Carina, Samhain, Riptide and Bold Strokes, among others.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at literary festivals and at reader and author conferences with The Deadly Dames.

Catch up with Charlie on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

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