Home Fires Burning

Title: Home Fires Burning
Author: Charlie Cochrane
Cover Artist: Alex Beecroft
Publisher: Lethe Press
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: M/M historical romance
Length: 196 pages
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

A guest review by Jenre

Summary Review:
Two delightful novellas which showcase the talent of this author.

THE BLURB

Two stories, two couples, two eras, timeless emotions.

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.

THE REVIEW

This book is made up of two novellas both of which are very different in tone. The first novella, This Ground Which Was Secured At Great Expense:, is a sombre, bittersweet yet romantic story set in the first world war, and the second The Case of the Overprotective Ass:, is a lighthearted, almost comic, mystery story. On one hand this is a positive feature because it shows what a varied and talented author Charlie Cochrane is, but it’s also a slight negative. I tried to read the novellas one after the other but gave up on that idea about two pages into the second. The lighthearted tone jarred with me after the very emotional, quieter tone of the first novella and I had to put it down. However, after a break of a couple of days I was ready to pick it up again and enjoyed the second novella a great deal.

As the two stories are so distinct, I shall take each one in turn:

This Ground Which Was Secured At Great Expense:
This story begins in 1914 at the outbreak of war. Country gentleman Nicholas feels compelled to sign up at the start of the war and leaves for France, leaving his estate in the hands of his slightly crippled estate manager, Paul. Nicholas has loved Paul for a while now and is glad that his bad leg means he won’t be drafted. Whilst in France, Nicholas meets Phillip and they become close friends, close enough that they confess that they are gay. On a trip home, Nicholas is determined to tell Paul of his feelings but things don’t go to plan and he ends up in Phillip’s arms, more confused than ever about his feelings for both men.

I said earlier that this is a quiet and sombre story which fits entirely with a WW1 setting. As well as this it’s also achingly beautiful in the way that Nicholas’ feelings are described. The whole story is from his third person point of view which allows the reader to see the changes in Nicholas as the story progresses. He’s not a very young man at the beginning – he’s just shy of 30 – but he’s got a naive innocence about him that endeared him to me right from the start. The things that he experiences during his time in the trenches hardens him emotionally so that he becomes almost closed off on the surface but underneath he’s still as confused as ever. The sheer complexity of Nicholas and his emotional development kept me reading as I longed for all to work out well for him.

The setting of WW1 is always difficult for a romance, after all it was a time of great tragedy and loss of life, but I felt the author had got the balance right in this story between showing the harsh realities of war in trenches and providing a story which was not too bleak or unromantic. Having said that, those readers looking for a story without sadness may not find this to your taste. I cried and even the HEA was tinged with a little melancholy.

This was definitely my favourite out of the two stories and one which stayed with me for sometime. I highly recommend it and I consider it a 5 star read.

The Case of the Overprotective Ass:
Alistair and Toby are darlings of the British silver screen. Their films with actress Fiona sends many women’s hearts into a flutter and they’ve had great success with a Holmes and Watson pairing. Whilst waiting for their next film to start filming they get called into helping out a friend find his missing secretary. This leads them on a merry chase about London as they search for clues and avoid the newspaper cameras.

As I said earlier this had a completely different tone to the previous story. It’s lighthearted with two leads who playfully banter with each other all the way through the book. Alistair and Toby are charming characters, obviously in love and frustrated at having to keep things firmly behind closed doors. They have a fun sense of adventure and you can tell that they really enjoy their foray into detecting as they go about London interviewing people and finding clues. The story is set just after WW2 and just occasionally the events of the time break through the comedy, as we are reminded of the bombing and the austerity of food rationing. This was never focused on for long but gave enough in terms of setting so that the feel was realistic. The mystery itself was cleverly done with enough in terms of twists and red herrings that I was kept from working things out before the end.

Although I enjoyed the story and liked the characters, there wasn’t the depth of emotion that was found in the previous story. It was amusing and had a mad-cap comedy feel to it similar to many films of that era, especially in the fond way the two men verbally sparred with each other and I particularly liked all the humourous references to Sherlock Holmes. In the end it was an entertaining piece of frivolity which I would give 4.5 stars.

Overall, I would highly recommend this anthology of two novellas. For those readers who are already fans of this author’s Cambridge Fellows series, then this book is an absolute must. For those who’ve never read anything by this author before, then this would be a great opportunity to see what you’ve been missing!

4 comments

  • Jen
    This is a great review and I like the “opposite ends of the spectrum” feel to the book. I understand what you mean about not reading them back to back because they are so different, but two books like the first one might have been too sombre for me even though it’s the one with great characterisation and Nicholas sounds wonderful.

    I always enjoy Charlie’s books and this one will be no exception I’m sure.

    Reply
    • Yes, you’re probably right, Wave, that two sombre stories may have been too much. The contrast worked as long as I left a short gap between reading.

      I’m sure you will like this book :).

      Reply

Please comment! We'd love to hear from you.

%d bloggers like this: