Title: (The Auspicious Troubles of Love 2)
Author: Charlie Cochet
Cover Art: Anne Cain
Buy Link: n/a
Length: Novel/204 PDF pages
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
A review by LadyM
Review summary: Lovely sequel to The Auspicious Troubles of Chance.
Blurb: Eight years after leaving the deserts of Africa and the French Foreign Legion behind, Jonathan Wolfe has settled into life at Hawthorne Manor in the English countryside. Johnnie helps his adopted family run the manor and provide a safe, loving home for a new generation of “brats”: boys mistreated and discarded for their homosexuality—something all too familiar to Johnnie.
Although no longer an unruly youngster, Johnnie is as stubborn, foul-mouthed, and troublesome as ever. His recent rash behavior becomes a concern for those closest to him, especially Dr. Henry Young, the only man ever to capture Johnnie’s heart. Instead of soothing him, their closeness brings Johnnie’s insecurities from an unsettling past to the surface, and leads to an explosive situation that threatens to tear them apart. Then Henry’s past catches up to them…
If you have read The Auspicious Troubles of Chance (reviewed here), then you remember Johnnie, one of the “brats” – protégés of Jacky Valentine and friends of Chance Irving. Eight years after the events in the first book, Jacky and Chance, Johnnie, Alexander and Bobby and Henry, a young doctor who saved Jacky’s life, live at Hawthorne Manor, where they provide home to the boys and young men who have been discarded for their sexuality – the new “brats”. The story is told in first person by Johnnie.
Let’s get out the way the things that should have driven me crazy (and might other readers) or made the story less than believable but, miraculously, didn’t. Every character with any significant page time is gay or presumed gay, even a six year old boy. Also, although the story takes place in 1934, the boys get quite a modern treatment at Hawthorne Manor: wide education including music, theater, etiquette and sports as well as medical services including therapy. And, the group is incredibly free about their sexuality though that can be explained by the Manor’s isolation and other factors. Finally, the ‘he is too good for me’ trope was used in abundance.
And, well, I didn’t much care. The truth is only the first of these story elements bothered me a little. I know that some people come to understand their sexuality early in life, but Johnnie was certain that Elliot, a six-year-old found on the street, was gay based on his fascination with a handsome man who came to visit their house. I can think of many reasons why a kid could be fascinated by a stranger.
In the heart of this story isn’t a romance (though it is certainly a big part of it) but family. The men have settled on helping abandoned and abused boys and young men by providing them with care, education and, most importantly, love. They are offering them something they, themselves, had to fight tooth and nail for – the future. But, not all of them have come to grips with their past.
Johnnie might be grown up, but he is still temperamental, brash and impulsive. He might care deeply for the boys and help them to overcome their troubles, but that doesn’t mean he is ready to deal with his own. He has an on and off relationship with a man who is obviously trouble, because it is easy and he doesn’t need to give much aside from occasional gift or wild car ride. But, from page one it is clear that he is in love with Henry, the group’s doctor, and vice versa. In fact, everyone is aware of this fact including the two men. But, Johnnie isn’t ready to commit because he doesn’t believe he deserves Henry; he believes he is happy with their friendship and flirting alone. Henry, however, is not prepared to wait any longer. When they get together, the relationship triggers every one of Johnnie’s insecurities. It’s easy to dismiss his fears from the point of well-adjusted person, but Johnnie’s trauma is deep and it takes a near-miss with a predator for a reader to realize just how deep. He feels soiled and damaged and his low self-esteem and guilt are destructive – for both Johnnie and others.
Gentle Henry is a great foil for Johnnie’s temperament, but he also isn’t someone who would be a doormat for him. The man has quiet strength and great integrity. He is a nurturer and protector and it’s no wonder that he is a great father to Elliot. And, while I liked the two of them together, it was relationship between Johnnie and Chance that was the most fascinating for me. I pointed out their similarities in the review for the first book, so I was interested to see how they played out in this one. While they both have difficult pasts, Chance has found an anchor and strength in Jacky and their family. The two men complement each other – they are true partners. Unlike Johnnie, Chance is willing to lean on others when he needs help and he knows what he means to them. Johnnie is almost paralyzed by his fears and Chance seems to be the only one willing to literally and figuratively kick his butt.
“You know what the difference is between you and me? I wanted to climb out of that godforsaken hole I’d dug for myself. I wanted out, and yeah, maybe I had to be dragged out kicking and screaming, but I wanted it more than anything. You think I’m not angry? You think all the shit I went through has just up and vanished? Well here’s a news flash for you. The pain never goes away. You find someone or something good to help you through it one day at a time, and sometimes you’ll have a great day, and sometimes you’ll wish you’d never been born, but no matter what kind of day it is, you fucking try.”
The “brats” – old and new – are interesting. I was especially intrigued by Aubrey, a kid who went through such a devastating trauma that he doesn’t speak and hardly gets out of the house. The author managed to convey his personality beautifully. I hope we will get his story soon.
If you have read Cochet’s stories before, you know she has a really lovely, fluid writing style. Though the language remains true to the era, it’s also dynamic and makes the story easy to read (for those interested, “snuggle-pup” makes reappearance). The author’s affection for her characters comes clearly through the pages. The middle of the story could have used some trimming, but, overall, it was a lovely, gentle read. I enjoyed Johnnie and Henry’s story, I loved revisiting Chance and Jacky and I really, really want to read more about “brats” and, I think, that is the best recommendation I can give to any story.