Author: Charlie Cochet
Cover Art: Anne Cain
Buy Link: The Auspicious Troubles of Chance
Length: Novella/55,997 words/172 PDF pages
Genre: Historical/M/M Romance
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A guest review by LadyM
Review summary: Well-written story about one man’s journey to love and true family.
Blurb: Chance Irving is a young man with a gift for getting into trouble—not surprising, as trouble is all he’s ever known. After losing everything he held dear one fateful night, he decides to leave New York and his past behind, and joins the French Foreign Legion. But even in Algiers, Chance can’t seem to shake his old ways, and he ends up being transferred to a unit made up of misfits and rabble-rousers like him—a unit he finds just in time to be captured and thrown into a cell with his new commandant, Jacky Valentine.
A highly respected commandant with a soft spot for hard luck cases, Jacky is the kind of guy who would go to war for you, and the three equally troubled youths from his unit he’s more or less adopted feel the same way about him. Suddenly Chance starts to think that his life doesn’t have to be as desolate and barren as the wastelands around him.
But even after their escape, with the promise of a future with Jacky to buoy his spirits, or maybe because of it, Chance can’t stop making mistakes. He disobeys orders, lashes out at the boys in Jacky’s care, and blazes a trail of self-destruction across the desert—until someone makes him realize he’s hurting more than just himself.
A Timeless Dreams title: While reaction to same-sex relationships throughout time and across cultures has not always been positive, these stories celebrate M/M love in a manner that may address, minimize, or ignore historical stigma.
This was my first Charlie Cochet’s book and, after reading The Auspicious Troubles of Chance, I’m planning to quickly change that fact.
When Chauncey Irving – Chance – was seven years old, his parents left him at the orphanage. The boy soon escaped and started living on the streets of New York. The fortune smiled at him when Marie, a young actress in the Cleopatra theater, found him and took him with her. Among the chorus girls and stagehands, Chance found both home and family. He learned how to be a man, how to treat a lady, to work, to sing, to care about others. He found his first lover and first love in young dancer Arthur. But, when he was sixteen, the theater was burned down by mobsters and Marie and Arthur were killed in the fire. This event send Chance on the path of self-destruction. He finds a place in another theater, but uses his looks and voice to coast through life, spending years in a haze of alcohol, drugs and sex. Finally, he joins the French Foreign Legion, but it’s not until he meets Commander Jacky Valentine and his “brats” that he starts changing and believing that, perhaps, there is happiness somewhere in his future.
Let’s start with the things that didn’t work quite so well: the narration at the beginning and, to some extent, at the end of the story and some story elements the author glossed over. At the beginning, Chance is telling the reader his story up to the point when he met Jacky, often addressing the reader directly. The “tell, not show” narration made it a bit difficult to get into the story, because it created distance from the events of Chance’s life, events that shaped him into a man. We have somewhat similar situation at the end, when Chance summarizes the events after the characters returned from Africa. The difference is that, by the end, I was invested in the characters, so this didn’t bother me as much.
Once Chance meets Jacky Valentine and his men, the true strength of this story emerges – the characters. Even when he is at his most obnoxious, Chance’s voice is very appealing and the slang of twenties and thirties works fabulously with it. Chance is aware of his failings and has a real issue with self-worth, which is why he has trouble accepting good things when they come his way. The first meeting between him and Jacky as well as their banter were hilarious. I particularly liked that Jacky was immediately shown as flawed instead of some super capable commander. He is capable though, quick to laugh, slow to anger, strict, but fair to his men and loving father/older brother figure to the “brats” – Johnnie, Bobby and Alexander. He is a genuinely good guy, not afraid of showing his feelings, and the attraction between him and Chance is immediate and scorching. This scares Chance so much that he continues pushing the boundaries of their relationship.
There had to be something wrong with this guy. He had to be pulling one over on me. Guys this damned decent didn’t really exist, and if they did, they surely weren’t interested in a mug like me. Everyone here was escaping from something, and that included Jacky. There had to be something sinister lurking underneath that nice guy routine. Did I really want to hang around long enough to find out?
This was a part of the book where author quickly skipped over some steps in the relationship between the two men – mainly in describing all the ways Chance resisted Jacky’s authority – right to the part when Jacky finally manages to reach the other man with a little help from his young protégés. Faced with the fact that his actions are hurting Jacky and with the young men’s circumstances far worse than his own, Chance has to find the strength in himself to change. I really liked this part of the story, particularly the development of his relationship with the “brats”, especially Johnnie. The initial animosity born more from similarities than anything else turns into a lovely, playful friendship. Both Chance and his world grow and he finds true happiness in sharing it with others.
Ms. Cochet has a clean, fluid writing style, excellent grasp on the language of the time (as much as I as foreign English speaker can say), her characters are distinct and quite likable. For example, throughout the novel we are told that Chance is beautiful (Jacky calls him “pretty boy”), but his personality was so vivid that I kept forgetting that. The sense of humor doesn’t hurt either. I can’t think of another book where endearment snuggle-pup was used. 😀 When I finished reading the book, I immediately wished to revisit the gang and I am happy to report that the “brats” will get their own books. Hopefully, Jacky and Chance will show up as supporting characters. I am also curious about mysterious Shotgun Jake and his lieutenant Hollywood who were mentioned in the story.
If you want to spend a few hours with a well-written story, without too much angst and with a definite happy ending, then The Auspicious Troubles of Chance is a story for you. And, if you like something extra with your reading, I advise you to visit the author’s site and see how she sees Chance, Jacky and her other characters. You won’t be disappointed.