Home Fires Burning, by Charlie Cochrane
You can always be assured of a good read with Charlie Cochrane’s name on the cover.
This Ground Which Was Secured At Great Expense: It is 1914 and The Great War is underway. When the call to arms comes, Nicholas Southwell won’t be found hanging back. It’s a pity he can’t be so decisive when it comes to letting his estate manager Paul Haskell know what he feels before he has to leave for the front line. In the trenches Nicholas meets a fellow officer, Phillip Taylor, who takes him into the unclaimed territory of physical love. Which one will he choose, if he’s allowed the choice?
The Case of the Overprotective Ass: Stars of the silver screen Alasdair Hamilton and Toby Bowe are wowing the post WWII audiences with their depictions of Holmes and Watson. When they are asked by a friend to investigate a mysterious disappearance, they jump at the chance—surely detection can’t be that hard? But a series of threatening letters—and an unwanted suitor—make real life very different from the movies.
Charlie Cochrane, author of the delightful Cambridge Fellows series, brings her familiar romantic, roguish style to the two novellas that together are “Home Fires Burning.”
Review by Gerry Burnie
You can always be assured of a good read when it has Charlie Cochrane’s name on the cover, and her latest work, Home Fires Burning [Cheyenne Press, August 2011] is no exception. Mind you, I must admit a weakness for vintage British style, and also the sentimentality of love during wartime. Even the title evokes this, being taken (I think) from a patriotic ditty composed by Ivor Novello with lyrics by Lena Gilbert Ford in 1914, i.e.
“Keep the Home Fires Burning,
While your hearts are yearning.
Though your lads are far away
They dream of home.
There’s a silver lining
Through the dark clouds shining,
Turn the dark cloud inside out
‘Til the boys come home.”
This Ground Which Was Secured At Great Expense:
The blurb captures the gist of the story fairly well, and so I will limit my remarks to those aspects that I found particularly appealing.
I believe you can recognize a master writer within the first two dozen pages by the way the story develops, i.e. not too fast nor too slow in the same way that life or fate unfolds. Surprisingly it is easier said than done, for it requires an almost innate sense of timing to get the pace just right and maintain it. This is particularly true of a period novella like this one, for life in the early twentieth century—particularly for the upper classes—moved at a much more leisurely pace than we in the “fast food” era know it. Having said that, Ms Cochrane did a very fine job of capturing this civilized pace indeed.
Another aspect that registered with me was her depiction of the naïveté leading up to WWI. As part of one’s manhood it was very much expected that you would go off and fight whether you wanted to or not. There was also a measure of arrogance in the belief that Britain was invincible, and so, like Nicholas, many went “to get it over” by Christmas. Like Nicholas, however, they soon discovered that trench warfare was a very different war from anything they had experienced. The gruesomeness of it almost defies description, but I think the author has captured enough of it to give the reader the idea without emphasizing the macabre.
I also like how Nicholas, Phillip and Paul all maintain their masculine identity throughout, which would have almost certainly been the case in 1914. The unhurried pace at which Nicholas and Phillip entered into a sexual liaison is also credible, as is the uncertainty that existed between Paul and Nicholas. All pluses.
My only quibble comes with the sex scene that seems to be tacked on late in the story, but to discuss it further would risk spoiling the ending. Five stars.
The Case of the Overprotective Ass
This story is a light hearted tale, once again written with a real sense of style. The protagonists, Alistair and Toby, are two quick-witted cinema personalities of the 1940s. They are also lovers. Having just finished a portrayal of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, they are asked by a theatre friend to find his missing male secretary. This sets them off on a adventure around London, conducting interviews and collecting clues—all the while indulging in witty banter.
In reading this story I couldn’t help but see Jonty and Orlando in disguise, and some parallels with the Cambridge Fellows Series. Or maybe it is because Charlie Cochrane is the author of both. Regardless, it was a delightful read and highly recommended. Five Stars.
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