Count the Shells, by Charlie Cochrane
Series: Porthkennack, Book 6* (see summary)
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: October 16, 2017
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
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
*This book is technically part of the series but it is a standalone. It just takes place in Porthkennack but doesn’t connect to the other plots in any way.
I really wanted to like this book more, but it just left me unfulfilled. The writing was good, but it lost me with the plot, romance, and some of the characters. The pacing was slower than other books but felt about the same as other books I’ve read that were actually written during the early 1900s, so it didn’t bother me.
The drama was probably the biggest reason why the book fell flat for me. It took away from both the romance and the World War One angst the author was building up. I don’t know why the author got bogged down with it but, personally, I feel like it made the book have almost too much going on. Also, there was a lot of build-up to the scandal and Michael’s reaction to it, but the resolution and ending to it fell flat.
The romance ended up suffering because of the aforementioned drama but also because Michael kept getting wrapped up in old drama with his ex-boyfriend (Thomas). The plot of the book was really driven by Michael realizing that Thomas was not the great guy that he remembered. However, Michael kept thinking about him and bringing him up so much that I think it also contributed to his current romance having no chemistry. How could Michael romance or seduce another guy when he was too busy poking around in Thomas’ old business? The romance also got in the way of the book having a more fulfilling resolution to the family drama but if you are interested in romance the reverse is true as well.
What I really enjoyed was how Cochrane incorporated World War One into the story and showed how it shaped Michael. Michael comes back from the war changed (and angsty), but through his reflection on the war, we also get to see how the war shaped the people left behind (the families). However, for all that the war influenced the story, it wasn’t really pushing the plot forward (either for the romance or the family drama).
There were three stories going on in this book and all three bogged the other stories down. So we got an unfulfilling family drama, a romance with no chemistry, and World War One angst. I feel like if the author had chosen one or two to focus on, this book would have been a lot better and a lot more fulfilling.
Because Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her mystery novels include the Edwardian era Cambridge Fellows series, series, and the contemporary Best Corpse for the Job. Multi-published, she has titles with Carina, Samhain, Riptide and Bold Strokes, among others.
A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at literary festivals and at reader and author conferences with The Deadly Dames.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.