Review: Second Helpings by Charlie Cochrane

July 21, 2014 Review 0

Review: Second Helpings by Charlie Cochrane

Stuart Collins’s life might as well have ended a year ago when his partner died in a car crash. Even Stuart’s widowed father has found new love with an old friend, Isabel Franklin, so why can’t Stuart be bothered to try?

Then he gets a phone call from Isabel’s son, Paul, who wants to check out whether or not Mr. Collins is good enough for his mother. During dinner together, though, they end up checking out each other. Trouble is, Paul’s got a boyfriend—or maybe he doesn’t, since the boyfriend’s supposedly giving Paul the push by ignoring him. Or maybe Paul just wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Honesty with each other is the only way to move forward. But maybe honesty with themselves is what they really need.

Title: Second Helpings
Author: Charlie Cochrane
Other books by this author that we've reviewed: The Best Corpse for the Job
Published by Riptide Publishing
Source: Publisher
Published: 21 July, 2014
Genres: Male Male Romance
Pages: 140
See the title at Goodreads
Purchase your copy: Visit the Author's Website

Stars: four-stars
Flames: three-half-flames
Riptide

A bit of a rough start with characters and language that is woodenly correct, this soon changed and the true heart of the story started to shine.  Nearly completely character driven, everyone that we encounter in this story is recovering in some way from a relationship.  Whether it was the loss of a wonderfully fulfilling relationship like Stuart and Mark, or less successful pairings of Paul and his parents, or even Isabel and her now deceased husband: each character has had to find the wherewithal to move forward, even if they aren’t necessarily ready to move on.

Stuart and Paul are both damaged:  Stuart from the recent death of Mark, and Paul by his current up in the air status with his partner, not to mention the layers of grime and hurt that were inflicted by his father.   These two are brought together by Paul’s ‘vetting’ of Stuart’s father as a potential love interest of his mother.  While that whole situation screamed of over-involvement in a situation far too early, his reasoning was coming from a good place, even if his approach was awkward.

Both Stuart and Paul find an instant attraction, but Cochrane doesn’t throw them into sexcapades, he uses their first interaction to slowly reveal bits about themselves, even as it dissolves into sharp words and angry feelings when their own guilt, concerns and hang-ups enter the picture.

Cochrane took his time to develop these characters, and they creep up into your heart as you see them slowly reveal the pain, confusion and loneliness that is there.  While Paul is certainly the most guarded and troubled, Stuart’s guilt and grief are almost palpable in equal measure, and these two manage to find a level of connection and honesty about their histories, their lives now and hopes for the future that is far more complex and layered than I expected. There were some moments that could have used flushing out, and there were moments that I just wanted to see some forward motion for everyone, and a bit more development of the relationship between Stuart and Paul, but since neither of them had a real idea about their own future, perhaps it was fitting to leave that area alone.

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I’m thrilled skinny to be dropping in here as part of the Second Helpings blog tour. A million thanks to The Jeep Diva for having me as a guest.

 

***

Second Helpings – Missing Scene

 

I enjoyed writing about Stuart and Paul, not least because producing something in a contemporary setting is a novelty for me. There’s so much more freedom, for one thing, and I don’t have to worry about such important things as whether it’s a button or a zip fly!

This ‘missing’ scene takes place at Stuart’s house during the first night they’ve spent together. It isn’t just the night air that’s sparking and crackling. . .

 

“What was that?” Paul sat bolt upright, nearly knocking Stuart out of the bed.

“Some idiot with fireworks probably,” Stuart replied, annoyed and exhausted. The flash—blue, covering the sky from end to end—had appeared without warning, just as they’d finally got settled for the night.

“No, it’s a storm,” said Paul, just as the thunder broke. “And here’s the rain.”

The assault came suddenly, droplets the size of old halfpennies lashing the window panes, rattling the frames and sending the air temperature plummeting.

Stuart, reluctantly, eased himself out of bed to shut the window. “That wasn’t forecast.”

“Don’t tell me you actually trust the weather forecast?”

“Boil your head.” Stuart sat on the edge of the bed, shivering, as a second wave of thunder rolled over. “I’m going to make a cup of tea. I don’t particularly like storms and I’ll never get back to sleep with this racket going on.”

“There’s something better than tea. For distracting you. And helping you to sleep.” Paul leaned across, drawing a lazy line down his host’s spine.

Stuart swallowed hard. There seemed to be no alternative but explaining the problem. “Sorry. I can’t. It’s not the sex, it’s just . . . look, Mark loved thunder. He’d watch it from the window and sometimes I’d join him. Then we’d come back to bed again. Or sometimes we’d just do it on the floor. It was sort of our special thing, if that makes any sense outside of my head.”

“It makes entire sense.” Paul’s arm slipped round his shoulders. “Tea it is, then. And we might even be able to find some sport on the telly to keep your mind off things. Thank God for the Sky box.”

“Sounds good. But don’t rush. This is good, too.” Stuart curled into the caress, like a child finding comfort. “You’re a gold standard cuddler.”

“So I’ve been told. Perhaps I should believe it.”

Another, ear-splitting, peel of thunder nipped any burgeoning romantic moment in the bud. Tea and telly it was.

 

***

About Second Helpings

Stuart Collins’s life might as well have ended a year ago when his partner died in a car crash. Even Stuart’s widowed father has found new love with an old friend, Isabel Franklin, so why can’t Stuart be bothered to try?

Then he gets a phone call from Isabel’s son, Paul, who wants to check out whether or not Mr. Collins is good enough for his mother. During dinner together, though, they end up checking out each other. Trouble is, Paul’s got a boyfriend—or maybe he doesn’t, since the boyfriend’s supposedly giving Paul the push by ignoring him. Or maybe Paul just wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Honesty with each other is the only way to move forward. But maybe honesty with themselves is what they really need.

***

As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her favourite genre is gay fiction, predominantly historical romances/mysteries.

 

Charlie’s Cambridge Fellows Series, set in Edwardian England, was instrumental in her being named Author of the Year 2009 by the review site Speak Its Name. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, and International Thriller Writers Inc., with titles published by Carina, Samhain, Bold Strokes Books, MLR, and Riptide.

To sign up for her newsletter, email her at cochrane.charlie2@googlemail.com, or catch her at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/charlie.cochrane.18

Twitter: http://twitter.com/charliecochrane

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2727135.Charlie_Cochrane

Blog: http://charliecochrane.livejournal.com

Website: http://www.charliecochrane.co.uk

 

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