Smashing review for Pack Up Your Troubles

“Author Charlie Cochrane’s name is synonymous with bona fide Historical Romance and, true to form, the three stories that make up Pack Up Your Troubles are not only indicative of Cochrane’s deft hand at creating the perfect tone and atmosphere of the time but also in creating appealing characters who tell their stories in an ideal balance of dialogue and narrative.”

Read more at The Novel Approach.

Rainbow snippet – The Best Corpse for the Job

I’m presently editing book four in the Lindenshaw mysteries series so it seemed right to post an excerpt from book 1, The Best Corpse for the Job.

Matthews hesitated for a moment, looked as though he was going to say something, then just took the card. He set off down the corridor, being pounced on by Mrs. Shepherd as he passed the office door, which can’t have made his day any better.

Robin watched him. Nice bloke. Nice backside in those chinos. In the frame for murder? Well, that was the question.

Times didn’t seem to work out, but he couldn’t have been under constant view when he’d been out on the field, so he could have sneaked through the shrubbery and done the deed. There were plenty of hiding places and secret paths in the St. Crispin’s grounds, or there had been twenty years before.

And that caveat could apply to everyone he’d spoken to.

Motive? Nobody seemed to have one of those, either. Not yet. But Matthews was edgy about something, and he hadn’t told all that he knew, Robin was certain. He’d let the bloke stew.

Note to self, one: Don’t let those green eyes blind you. You’ve got no idea yet whether he could have killed Youngs.

Note to self, two: Even if you decide he has nothing to do with it, don’t be tempted to ask Adam Matthews to be your eyes and ears at St. Crispin’s. Makes him a Judas. A Judas with his life at risk if the killer’s based here.

Note to self, three: Don’t even think about falling for him. Too complicated.

Mrs. Shepherd had clearly done whatever was needed, and Adam—flea in ear or patted on back—set off again, neat little backside wiggling.

Note to self, four: do not ignore note three.

Loads more really good excerpts at the wonderful Rainbow snippets group.

Charlie’s latest newsletter

Just like last time I will begin with an apology to my mates in the US, Sorry, pals, but the European golfers gave your lads a right hammering. Now my sporting attention turns to rugby again with the European cup beginning this weekend. Come on you Sarries!
Just had all the info for the Southsea book fair drop into my e-mail inbox – always exciting to do live events. If you find yourself in the vicinity of Southsea library in Hampshire (old, not New) on Thursday November 15th between 2pm and 6.30 pm, do drop in and say hello. I’ll have books to sell, plus hugs and smiles for free.
Reminder that Wild Bells  will be on special offer at Kindle for a week from 16th October. It’s comprised of two Regency era stories:
The Shade on a Fine Day:
Curate William Church may set the hearts of the parish’s young ladies
aflame, but he doesn’t want their affection or presents, no matter how much
they want to give them to him. He has his sights set elsewhere, for a love
he’s not allowed to indulge. One night, eight for dinner at the Canon’s
table means the potential arrival of a ghost. But what message will the
spirit bring and which of the young men around the table is it for?
The Angel in the Window:
Two officers, one ship, one common enemy.
Alexander Porterfield may be one of the rising stars of the British navy,
but his relationship with his first lieutenant, Tom Anderson, makes him
vulnerable. To blackmail, to anxieties about exposure—and to losing Tom,
either in battle or to another ship. When danger comes more from the
English than the French, where should a man turn?
Also next week Lessons for Survivors gets relaunched from Endeavour, as they roll out Cambridge Fellows books 8 to 12. Got to be an excerpt from that, this week:
“Stand still.”
“I am standing still.”
“You aren’t. You’re jiggling about like a cat after a pigeon.” Jonty Stewart made a final adjustment to Orlando Coppersmith’s tie, then stood back to admire his efforts. “I think that’s passable.”
“You should wear your glasses, then you wouldn’t have to go back so far. You can’t use that old excuse about your arms getting shorter so you have to hold the paper farther away.” Orlando turned to the mirror, the better to appreciate the perfectly tied knot. “Faultless. Thank you.”
The hallway of Forsythia Cottage benefited from the full strength of the morning sun through the windows and fanlight, enough for even the vainest creatures to check every inch of their appearance in the mirror before they sauntered out onto Madingley Road. Still, what would the inhabitants of Cambridge say to see either Jonty or Orlando less than immaculate, especially on a day such as this?
“It’s as well you had me here to help, or else you’d have disgraced yourself and St. Bride’s with it.” Jonty smiled, picking at his friend’s jacket. If there were any specks on it, Orlando had to know they were far too small for Jonty to see without his glasses. “I’m so proud of you. Professor Coppersmith. It will have a lovely ring to it.”
Orlando nodded enthusiastically, sending a dark curl springing rebelliously up, a curl that needed to be immediately flattened, although even the Brilliantine he employed recognised it was fighting a losing battle.
His hair might have been distinctly salt and pepper, but he was still handsome, lean but not angular, nor running to fat like some of his contemporaries. He’d turned forty when the Great War still had a year to run, so there was a while yet before he hit the half century. Jonty was a year closer to that milestone and never allowed to forget it. “I won’t believe it until I see the first letter addressed to me by that title.”
“Conceit, thy name is Coppersmith.” Jonty nudged his friend aside and attended to his own tie. Silver threads lay among his own ruddy-gold hair now, and the blue eyes were framed with fine lines. He knew he could still turn a few heads and young women told him he was handsome. If the young women concerned were his nieces . . . well, that didn’t invalidate their opinions.
Orlando snorted. “Conceit? That’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black.” He slicked back his hair again, frowning.
“You seem unusually pensive, even for the new Forster Professor of Mathematics.” Jonty stopped his grooming, turned, and drew his hand down Orlando’s face, remapping familiar territory. Coppersmith and Stewart. Stewart and Coppersmith. They went together like Holmes and Watson, Hero and Leander, or strawberries and cream. Colleagues, friends, lovers, and amateur detectives, they were partners in every aspect of their lives, and neither of them entirely sure whether the detection or the intimacy was the most dangerous part.
“I was just thinking how sad it is that neither your parents nor my grandmother are here today.” Orlando fiddled with his tiepin, at which Jonty slapped his hand away and straightened the offending object once more.
“Leave that alone. I’d only just got it right.” Jonty stuffed a hat into Orlando’s hands—not the one he was going to wear today, but one he could twist nervously to his heart’s content, with no damage done. “Perhaps it’s as well they’re not here for your inaugural lecture. They might have had to put on a magnificent act to cover their boredom. Computable numbers? Hardly the stuff of gripping entertainment.” Jonty smiled, trying to keep his lover’s spirits up. He knew how deeply Orlando still felt the horrible series of losses he’d suffered during the years of the Great War.
So many people he’d been close to, now gone; it had left a gap in his life that Jonty knew even he couldn’t entirely fill. Not that, as Orlando swore, he loved Jonty any the less—nor, as Orlando frequently said, was there any less of him to love. The reports of the college veterans’ rugby matches still referred to him as a little ball of muscle, and Orlando said he was beautiful beyond the power of words or numbers—even imaginary ones—to describe. Both of which were nice, if perhaps biased, compliments.
And finally the strangest place I’ve been to this year, the village of Imber, in the middle of an army exercise area. It was cleared in WWII, and the villagers never returned. No close ups of the buildings allowed – visitors have to keep to the roads or risk getting blown up!


World war one commemoration – Henry V

Now, before anyone points out that I’m only 500 years too early with Agincourt as opposed to the Great War, I’ll say that I’m aware of the fact. Although geographically we’re in a similar region. I only found out when I read Juliet Barker’s excellent book about Henry’s campaign in France that Crecy and Agincourt are both within the general area of the Somme so three significant conflicts have happened there.

As mentioned yesterday, we went to see Antic Disposition’s ‘play within a play’ version of Henry V, the basic set up of which is a group of injured English and French soldiers at a field hospital taking part in a production of the Shakespeare play in order to raise spirits. It was a stunning production all round, with much to think about.

It was easy to forget that the play was within a play, so fittingly to the 1915 costumes and sets did some of the verse and scenes come across. Pistol and crew arsing about, the ‘little touch of Harry in the night’ scene and the great ‘Once more into the breach’ and ‘St Crispin’s day’ speeches worked perfectly. But the really clever bit was the way that the war outside never went away. When Bardolph is to be executed for looting, the soldier playing him has an attack of shell shock brought on by the situation he’s acting. Distant gunfire and shells bursting bring the final scene to an end. And all the production – start, end and middle – was interwoven with music, using the poems of AE Housman. Such a contrast of these sad lyrics and the stirring words used by King Harry.

The Antic Disposition tour has only just started. If you get the chance to see this play, grab it with both hands!

Rainbow snippet – Lessons in Trust

People sometimes ask me what’s my fave Cambridge Fellows book.  I usually say Lessons in Trust, because it features the first London Olympics, has a sweet hurt/comfort sort of storyline – and there’s the ongoing love/hate relationship between Orlando and Jonty’s car…

“Well, what did we think of it?” Richard Stewart must have been watching from the window, given the speed with which he’d opened the front door. Perhaps he’d even barged Hopkins the butler out of the way en route. The man was bouncing on his toes like a big schoolboy, just like Jonty did when excitement overcame him.

“Wonderful, Papa. Everything you said it would be and more.” Jonty took off his gloves and goggles, laying them on the little lacquered table where they might send out a siren call to his father. If Mr. Stewart wanted to convert his son to the glories of the Anglo-French exhibition, then his son wanted to reciprocate by getting him interested in motoring.

“You went on the Flip Flap?” Mr. Stewart’s eyes were aglow.

“Richard!” Mrs. Stewart’s voice cut through the air like a sabre through butter. “What are we not to mention in this house?”

“Tell me later,” Mr. Stewart whispered as his wife swept into the hall and scooped up her favourite boys.

Mrs. Stewart must have been stunning in her youth—the portraits on the stairs were evidence of it—and even in late middle age she was striking, silvery gold hair and blue eyes mirroring her son’s colouration. She and her husband still turned plenty of heads, not all of them mature.

Supper was excellent, as it always was when Jonty’s parents entertained: smoked salmon, lightly scrambled eggs, tiny tomatoes sweeter than honey, all washed down with champagne. As they ate, Orlando waxed lyrical about the sights they’d seen, allowed much more leeway to praise the exhibition than his almost-father-in-law was clearly allowed. But then he avoided all mention of a certain ride which took you up in the air and left your stomach on terra firma.

“And you’ll go back tomorrow?” Mrs. Stewart scooped up the last bit of her egg onto a piece of toast.

“Certainly. We’ve not covered the half of it, not properly, anyway.” Jonty wiped his mouth on the thick damask napkin. “Will you come with us?”

“I would love to, my dear, but there’s a meeting I must attend. My fund for unfortunate girls. Maybe another time?”

“Helena!” Mr. Stewart smote the table. “I’ve offered on four occasions to take you to the White City and every one of them you’ve refused to even consider.”

“That’s because you’re not Orlando, Papa. Mama wants him to squire her around the site so that all the other women will look and be jealous.” Jonty cast a sidelong glance at his mother, who was wearing an unusually demure expression. “Or is it the lure of the car?”

“It might be nice to be taken for a little drive…” Mrs. Stewart’s ears turned a delicate shade of pink. “It’s such a fine machine—very comfortable-looking and with such beautiful upholstery.”

“Oh, Mrs. Stewart, not you too.” Orlando would have put his head in his hands if such a gesture wouldn’t risk being told off for having his elbows on the table. “Is there no one in the world who isn’t smitten by these awful contraptions? Has everyone—” he was about to say lost their sanity but the vision of being strung up by his bootstraps from the Stewarts’ lintel forestalled him. “Has everyone got to be besotted with them?”

More excerpts at the Rainbow Snippets group.