Lessons in Love, by Charlie Cochrane

>> Friday, November 15, 2013

TITLE: Lessons in Love
AUTHOR: Charlie Cochrane

PAGES: 186

SETTING: 1905 England
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: Starts the Cambridge Fellows series

Jonty Stewart is handsome and outgoing, with blood as blue as his eyes. When he takes up a teaching post at the college where he studied, his dynamic style acts as an agent for change within the archaic institution. He also has a catalytic effect on Orlando Coppersmith.

Orlando is a brilliant, introverted mathematician with very little experience of life outside the university walls. He strikes up an alliance with Jonty and soon finds himself heart-deep in feelings he’s never experienced. Before long their friendship blossoms into more than either man had hoped.

Then a student is murdered within St. Bride’s. Then another…and another. All the victims have one thing in common: a penchant for men. Asked by the police to serve as their eyes and ears within the college, Jonty and Orlando risk exposing a love affair that could make them the killer’s next target.

This series came highly recommended, and I loved the sound of it. It's set in a Cambridge College in the early 1900s, and features what was described to me as a sweet romance between two young dons.

Jonty Stewart is new to the college, and his first encounter with mathematician Orlando Coppersmith doesn't go great. Jonty has taken what the very structured, introverted Orlando sees as his chair, and he demands it back. Things get better from there, though, and the two men become friends, spending more and more time together. In time, their feelings become about more than friendship, but although Jonty is experienced in that area, Orlando isn't, and he's a bit skittish about it.

It doesn't help that about the time when they start acknowledging their feelings, the murders start. Students are being killed, and it quickly becomes clear to Jonty and Orlando that the victims were all gay, and that the murderer was motivated by this knowledge. This adds another layer of danger to their relationship: being together now makes them risk not only dismissal from their jobs, but their lives.

There's a lot to like here. I particularly appreciated having a romance based on liking and respect, both gradually developed, rather than one based on insta-lust. I liked the time period and the feel of the setting, and I do like mystery series with a developing romance.

The thing is, I liked the idea of it all much more than the execution. The romance is probably amongst the strongest elements, but there are still issues with it. There's way too much back and forth: oh, no we can't be together because it's too dangerous right now - actually, maybe we can - no, we can't - yes, we can. It got to be too much.

I also had a lot of trouble with the dialogue, which often felt stilted and unnatural. For starters, Jonty and Orlando used each other's names much too frequently. "Hello, Orlando" "Oh, hello, Jonty" "Where are you heading, Orlando?" "I'm going to the pub, Jonty". Argh!!

Additionally, the mystery was very weak. The initial idea of it is intriguing, but then it's poorly developed and the resolution was predictable and boring.

With all this, though, I think I might continue with the series, hoping this was just a weak start.



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