Title: Lessons in Discovery (Cambridge Fellows #3)
Author: Charlie Cochrane
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Historical (early 1900s) Mystery
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
On the very day Jonty Stewart proposes that he and Orlando Coppersmith move in together, Fate trips them up. Rather, it trips Orlando, sending him down a flight of stairs and leaving him with an injury that erases his memory. Instead of taking the next step in their relationship, they’re back to square one. It’s bad enough that Orlando doesn’t remember being intimate with Jonty—he doesn’t remember Jonty at all.
Back inside the introverted, sexually innocent shell he inhabited before he met Jonty, Orlando is faced with two puzzles. Not only does he need to recover the lost pieces of his past, he’s also been tasked by the Master to solve a four-hundred-year-old murder before the end of term. The college’s reputation is riding on it.
Crushed that his lover doesn’t remember him, Jonty puts aside his grief to help decode old documents for clues to the murder. But a greater mystery remains—one involving the human heart.
To solve it, Orlando must hear the truth about himself—even if it means he may not fall in love with Jonty the second time around…
Cambridge Fellows Mysteries
Lessons in Discovery is book three of Charlie Cochrane’s fabulous Cambridge Fellows Mystery series, following behind Lessons In Love (reviewed by Wave here) and Lessons in Desire (reviewed by Christian here). Although some series books can be read as standalones, I would say that is not advisable here as there is a lot of emotion and experience built upon and referenced. Plus, you get a real feel for these two wonderful, fully-fleshed protags in the other books and that, along with Charlie’s lovely prose, should not be missed.
I loves me an amnesia story done right and here it is absolutely done right. Set beginning in November 1906, about three months after the close of LIDesire — and one year exactly from when they first met — Jonty and Orlando are celebrating their first anniversary together, Jonty even bringing up the shocking suggestion that they buy a house and live off campus. Before any plans can be made, Orlando takes a fall down a flight of stairs and hits his head hard enough for him to lose memory — not all of it, just that of the last year, which means he has no recollection of Jonty at all. Surprised doesn’t even cover the mere fact that he has made a friend, but further surprises are in store once he finds out that they were “closer than just friends.” There are two concurrent plots in the story; first is Orlando’s amnesia and Jonty’s wooing of his lover all over again, and the second is the mystery of the “Woodville Ward.” Since he is temporarily relieved of teaching duties to recover for the rest of the term he — and Jonty — are given a famous St. Bride’s mystery to solve. Unlike their two previous involvements with sleuthing, this time it is a riddle of a disappearance and murder on campus from the late 1400s which must make use of Orlando’s decryption and code-breaking skills of letters and correspondences to crack the case. But before they can even really dive into it, Jonty falls ill himself, causing much worry for Orlando as he nurses him.
These two are quickly becoming one of my most beloved couples, the extrovert and introvert making for a charming pair and a good working team. Jonty is truly the “great shaft of sunshine on the very darkest day” that Orlando thinks he is, drawing virginal Orlando out of his shell and winning him over for a second time anew. Interestingly, Orlando is not entirely the Orlando pre-year ago; he is less introverted and shy, quite a bit bolder, more confident and emotionally mature, and in better humor than his old self. He’s attracted to Jonty, thinks he’s beautiful, without knowing why or if it was normal, and though that’s a shock — especially after he finds out the true nature of the relationship of the last year — it’s not entirely catastrophic to him. I loved watching his logical mathematician mind at work as he tries to decipher what he has learned:
/We are great friends. He lights up my life like no other. I have no inclination towards women. I think Jonty attractive. I must be the sort of man who finds his own sex desirable. We were lovers./
A thesis about the last twelve months, about his whole life up to this point, had begun to form…For the first time he could recall, Orlando counted his blessings. He had a friend, he’d had a lover, and maybe one day he’d be brave enough to try kissing Jonty. His life was once again—as it must have been this last year if he could only damn well remember—full of possibilities.
As with the other two books, there is a large, colorful, three-dimensional secondary cast, lead by my favorite supporting character perhaps of all time, Helena Stewart. I love, love, LOVE Jonty’s outgoing, overbearing, perfumed, powdered and coiffed, linebacker-built mother with “a voice that seemed to have been designed to penetrate concrete at two hundred yards.” Take this passage from when Helena is describing her “night of a thousand proposals:”
Mrs. Stewart sailed on undaunted. “Then blow me down if three dances later a similar thing didn’t happen, though I remember the chap’s name this time. Samuel Parker, and he was a toerag. We were walking through the portrait gallery at the back of the house en route to get an ice when he plighted his troth. I gave him the old ‘thank you but no thank you’ and he pulled me behind the arras—I can see you sniggering, Jonty and it doesn’t become you—and started to take the grossest liberties. All he got was a black eye—it was a real shiner, I was rather proud of myself—and he departed. Then I had to go and find Richard again and explain why I’d been late for our next dance. Had the suspicion that he thought your dear mama was a bit of a flibbertigibbet, but he held my hand once more and called me his ‘dear little peach’. I can see you smirking again, Jonty, and if it happens a third time I will have no hesitation in taking you across my knee and spanking you. Anyway, I was furious, furious beyond all measure. So when poor George Le Tissier came up all beaming with excitement and asked for my hand, I forgot myself entirely. It was pent-up anger, and I am not proud of myself. Now, are you ever going to make me that cup of tea or will you watch your poor mother sit here, wasting away parched and drained?”
“Mother, I won’t even put the kettle on until you tell me what you did that was so bad.”
“Laid him out, dear. One great big punch and goodnight sweetheart. Now that ends that trifling matter and you need to address the greater one of my desiccated throat.”
Charlie is a talented and skillful writer, and the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries have become one of my favorite series. I gobbled up all three books in a few days recently. The stories are well-written and -plotted, liberally laced with smart humor. I found LIDiscovery understandably slightly darker, heavier, more emotional than the other two books, and though there were moments when I thought my heart would break along with Jonty’s, the angst never gets out of control. I suspected the reveal of the interesting mystery early on, however, it did not spoil it for me as I really read the series for our two heroes and their relationship. The smexxin scenes are often alluded to and barely descriptive with lovely, sensual prose in its place.
If you’re looking for an interesting mystery, are a fan of the series or this author, or are looking for a sweet romance, I highly recommend Lessons in Discovery. Now I eagerly await the next installment, Lessons in Power, due out next month.*
- Note that books one through three were originally published (and still available) via Linden Bay, but note that the entire series and further installments will be re-published and -released by Samhain in succession starting August 14. Lessons in Discovery will be available from Samhain September 4, 2009.