Title: Count the Shells (Porthkennack #6)
Author: Charlie Cochrane
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: October 16, 2017
Genre(s): M/M Historical Romance
Page Count: 253
Reviewed by: CrabbyPatty
Heat Level: 2.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Michael Gray returned from World War One injured, but at least he returned. Others were not so fortunate, including his first and greatest love, Thomas Carter-Clemence, with whom Michael had parted bitterly before the conflict began.
Broch, the Carter-Clemence home in Porthkennack, was an integral part of pre-war holidays for the Grays, the two families drawn together in the wake of their sons’ friendship. Returning to the once-beloved Cornish coast for a break with his sister and her family, Michael has to find the courage to face old memories . . . and dare new relationships.
When Thomas’s brother Harry makes an unexpected appearance, Michael is surprised to find himself deeply attracted to Harry for his own sake. But as their relationship heats up, it unearths startling revelations and bitter truths. Michael must decide whether Harry is the answer to his prayers or the last straw to break an old soldier’s back.
Michael returns home from WWI intact, but not unscathed. He’s haunted by his battlefield memories as well as the men he loved and lost because of the war. As he returns to his family’s summer house in Porthkennack, the memory of Thomas Carter-Clemence, his first love, is front and center. And when he meets Harry Carter-Clemence, Thomas’ younger brother, he is gobsmacked by how much he looks like his dead brother Thomas. There is an attraction but Michael wonders if he can get past his feelings for Thomas and move on.
This is very much an English family drama including Michael’s sister Caroline, her husband Eric and their children Richard and Lily, and the Gray family’s interaction with the Carter-Clemence family … and the secret we learn as the book proceeds. Some readers may find the pace of the story rather slow (okay, very, very slow) but I liked how Cochrane really gets the setting and time period right and the family interaction sets the tone of the book. However, about halfway through, I did wish that the pace of the story picked up!
We learn that Thomas is not the person Michael thought him to be, but Michael’s knee-jerk reactions to burst out in anger or flee when confronted by unpleasant details make me think that Thomas is not the only hero with feet of clay. Harry is an interesting character, but unfortunately we only get Michael’s POV throughout and I didn’t really get a sense of a strong sexual chemistry between the two men.
I enjoyed the time period and the way Cochrane shows how WWI changed the life of the men who served, as well as their families. The pace was slow, and I didn’t really buy into the relationship between Michael and Harry. 3.38 stars, rounded up to 3.5.