I have always loved mysteries and I grew up being a bit of a history buff too. So when I came across The Cambridge Fellows Mysteries I decided to give it a go, despite there being 10 books to the series. See, I knew that if I liked Lessons in Love I would be completely devoted until I read the whole series because when I fall for characters I'm just never ready to let them go. This was no different. I read all 10 and the free short stories the author had on her live journal page, that was four months ago and I'm still feeling the Jonty & Orlando hangover.
I have since read a couple of her other stories and even though most are on the shorter side, those who have read my reviews know that I prefer longer novels but am not against novellas, I do intend to work my way through her entire body of work.
Her Cambridge Fellows series of Edwardian romantic mysteries were instrumental in seeing her named Speak Its Name Author of the Year 2009. She’s a member of both the Romantic Novelists’ Association and International Thriller Writers Inc.
Happily married, with a house full of daughters, Charlie tries to juggle writing with the rest of a busy life. She loves reading, theatre, good food and watching sport. Her ideal day would be a morning walking along a beach, an afternoon spent watching rugby and a church service in the evening.
Cambridge Fellows Mysteries
Lessons in Love #1
St. Bride's College, Cambridge, England, 1905. When Jonty Stewart takes up a teaching post at the college where he studied, the handsome and outgoing young man acts as a catalyst for change within the archaic institution. He also has a catalytic effect on Orlando Coppersmith. Orlando is a brilliant, introverted mathematician with very little experience of life outside the college walls. He strikes up an alliance with the outgoing Jonty, and soon finds himself having feelings hes never experienced before. Before long their friendship blossoms into more than either man had hoped and they enter into a clandestine relationship. Their romance is complicated when a series of murders is discovered within St. Brides. All of the victims have one thing in common, a penchant for men. While acting as the eyes and ears for the police, a mixture of logic and luck leads them to a confrontation with the murderercan they survive it?
Lessons in Desire #2
With the recent series of college murders behind him, Cambridge Fellow Jonty Stewart is in desperate need of a break. A holiday on the beautiful Channel Island of Jersey seems ideal, if only he can persuade Orlando Coppersmith to leave the security of the college and come with him. Orlando is a quiet man who prefers academic life to venturing out into the world. Within the confines of their rooms at the university, it's easy to hide the fact that he and Jonty are far more than friends. But the desire to spend more time alone with the man he loves is an impossible lure to resist. When a brutal murder occurs at the hotel where they're staying, the two young men are once more drawn into the investigation. The race to catch the killer gets complicated by the victim's son, Ainslie, a man who seems to find Orlando too attractive to resist. Can Stewart and Coppersmith keep Ainslie at bay, keep their affair clandestine, and solve the crime?
Lessons in Discovery #3
On the very day Jonty Stewart proposes that he and Orlando Coppersmith move in together, Fate trips them up. Rather, it trips Orlando, sending him down a flight of stairs and leaving him with an injury that erases his memory. Instead of taking the next step in their relationship, they’re back to square one. It’s bad enough that Orlando doesn’t remember being intimate with Jonty—he doesn’t remember Jonty at all.
Back inside the introverted, sexually innocent shell he inhabited before he met Jonty, Orlando is faced with two puzzles. Not only does he need to recover the lost pieces of his past, he’s also been tasked by the Master to solve a four-hundred-year-old murder before the end of term. The college’s reputation is riding on it.
Crushed that his lover doesn’t remember him, Jonty puts aside his grief to help decode old documents for clues to the murder. But a greater mystery remains—one involving the human heart.
To solve it, Orlando must hear the truth about himself—even if it means he may not fall in love with Jonty the second time around…
Lessons in Power #4
The ghosts of the past will shape your future. Unless you fight them.
After settling in their new home, Cambridge dons Orlando Coppersmith and Jonty Stewart are looking forward to nothing more exciting than teaching their students and playing rugby. Their plans change when a friend asks their help to clear an old flame who stands accused of murder.
Doing the right thing means Jonty and Orlando must leave the sheltering walls of St. Bride’s to enter a labyrinth of suspects and suspicions, lies and anguish.
Their investigation raises ghosts from Jonty’s past when the murder victim turns out to be one of the men who sexually abused him at school. The trauma forces Jonty to withdraw behind a wall of painful memories. And Orlando fears he may forever lose the intimacy of his best friend and lover.
When another one of Jonty’s abusers is found dead, police suspicion falls on the Cambridge fellows themselves. Finding this murderer becomes a race to solve the crime…before it destroys Jonty’s fragile state of mind.
Lessons in Temptation #5
For friends and lovers Orlando Coppersmith and Jonty Stewart, a visit to Bath starts out full of promise. While Orlando assesses the value of some old manuscripts, Jonty plans to finish his book of sonnets. Nothing exciting…until they are asked to investigate the mysterious death of a prostitute.
Then Orlando discovers that the famous curse of Macbeth extends far beyond the stage. It’s bad enough that Jonty gets drawn into a local theatre’s rehearsals of the play. The producer is none other than Jimmy Harding, a friend from Jonty’s university days who clearly finds his old pal irresistible. Worse, Jimmy makes sure Orlando knows it, posing the greatest threat so far to their happiness.
With Jonty involved in the play, Orlando must do his sleuthing alone. Meanwhile, Jonty finds himself sorely tempted by Jimmy’s undeniable allure. Even if Orlando solves the murder, his only reward could be burying his and Jonty’s love in an early grave…
Lessons in Seduction #6
This time, one touch could destroy everything...
The suspected murder of the king's ex-mistress is Cambridge dons Orlando Coppersmith and Jonty Stewart's most prestigious case yet. And the most challenging, since clues are as hard to come by as the killer's possible motive.
At the hotel where the body was found, Orlando goes undercover as a professional dancing partner while Jonty checks in as a guest. It helps the investigation, but it also means limiting their communication to glances across the dance floor. It's sheer agony.
A series of anonymous letters warns the sleuths they'll be sorry if they don't drop the investigation. When another murder follows, Jonty is convinced their involvement might have caused the victim's death. Yet they can't stop, for this second killing brings to light a wealth of hidden secrets.
For Orlando, the letters pose a more personal threat. He worries that someone will blow his cover and discover their own deepest secret... The intimate relationship he enjoys with Jonty could not only get them thrown out of Cambridge, but arrested for indecency.
Lessons in Trust #7
He thought he knew who he was. Now he’s a stranger to himself.
When Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith witness the suspicious death of a young man at the White City exhibition in London, they're keen to investigate--especially after the cause of death proves to be murder. But Police Inspector Redknapp refuses to let them help, even after they stumble onto clues to the dead man's identity.
Orlando's own identity becomes the subject for speculation when, while mourning the death of his beloved grandmother, he learns that she kept secrets about her past. Desperate to discover the truth about his family, Orlando departs suddenly on a solo quest to track down his roots, leaving Jonty distraught.
While Jonty frantically tries to locate his lover, Orlando wonders if he'll be able to find his real family before he goes mad. After uncovering more leads to the White City case, they must decide whether to risk further involvement. Because if either of them dares try to solve the murder, Inspector Redknapp could expose their illicit--and illegal--love affair.
All Lessons Learned #8
He's at the end of his rope...until fate casts a lifeline.
The Great War is over. Freed from a prisoner of war camp and back at St. Bride's College, Orlando Coppersmith is discovering what those years have cost. All he holds dear--including his beloved Jonty Stewart, lost in combat.
A commission to investigate a young officer's disappearance gives Orlando new direction...temporarily. The deceptively simple case becomes a maze of conflicting stories--is Daniel McNeil a deserter, or a hero?--taking Orlando into the world of the shell-shocked and broken. And his sense of Jonty's absence becomes painfully acute. Especially when a brief spark of attraction for a Cambridge historian, instead of offering comfort, triggers overwhelming guilt.
As he hovers on the brink of despair, a chance encounter on the French seafront at Cabourg brings new hope and unexpected joy. But the crushing aftereffects of war could destroy his second chance, leaving him more lost and alone than ever...Product WarningsContains sensual m/m lovemaking and is a three hankie story, two of which you'll need for the happy ending.
Lessons for Survivors #9
Cambridge, September 1919 Orlando Coppersmith should be happy. WWI is almost a year in the past, he's back at St. Bride's College in Cambridge, he has his lover and best friend Jonty Stewart back at his side and-to top it all-he's about to be made Forsterian Professor of Applied Mathematics. With his inaugural lecture to give and a plagiarism case to adjudicate on, Orlando's hands are full, so can he and Jonty afford to take on an investigative commission surrounding a suspected murder? Especially one which must be solved within a month so that a clergyman can claim what he says is his rightful inheritance? The answer looks like being a resounding "no" when the lecture proves almost impossible to write, the plagiarism case gets turned back on him and Jonty (spiced with a hint of blackmail), and the case surrounding Peter Biggar's death proves to have too many leads and too little evidence. Orlando begins to doubt their ability to solve cases any more, and his mood isn't improved when there seems to be no way of outsmarting the blackmailer. Will this be the first failure for Coppersmith and Stewart? And how will they maintain their reputations-professional, private and as amateur detectives?
Lessons for Suspicious Minds #10
An invitation to stay at a friend of the Stewart family’s stately home can only mean one thing for Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith—a new case for the amateur sleuths! With two apparently unrelated suicides, a double chase is on.
But things never run smoothly for the Cambridge fellows. In an era when their love dare not speak its name, the chance of discovery (and disgrace) is ever present—how do you explain yourself when a servant discovers you doing the midnight run along the corridor?
The chase stops being a game for Orlando when the case brings back memories of his father’s suicide and the search for the identity of his grandfather. And the solution presents them with one of the most difficult moral decisions they’ve had to make...
Promises Made Under Fire
Lieutenant Tom Donald envies everything about fellow officer Frank Foden—his confidence, his easy manner with the men in the trenches, the affectionate letters from his wife. Frank shares these letters happily, drawing Tom into a vicarious friendship with a woman he's never met. Although the bonds of friendship forged under fire are strong, Tom can't be so open with Frank—he's attracted to men and could never confess that to anyone.
When Frank is killed in no-man's-land, he leaves behind a mysterious request for Tom: to deliver a sealed letter to a man named Palmer. Tom undertakes the commission while on leave—and discovers that almost everything he thought he knew about Frank is a lie…
The Best Corpse for the Job
Tea and sympathy have never been so deadly.
Schoolteacher Adam Matthews just wants to help select a new headteacher and go home. The governors at Lindenshaw St Crispin’s have already failed miserably at finding the right candidate, so it’s make or break this second time round. But when one of the applicants is found strangled in the school, what should have been a straightforward decision turns tempestuous as a flash flood in their small English village.
Inspector Robin Bright isn’t thrilled to be back at St. Crispin’s. Memories of his days there are foul enough without tossing in a complicated murder case. And that handsome young teacher has him reminding himself not to fraternize with a witness. But it’s not long before Robin is relying on Adam for more than just his testimony.
As secrets amongst the governors emerge and a second person turns up dead, Robin needs to focus less on Adam and more on his investigation. But there are too many suspects, too many lies, and too many loose ends. Before they know it, Robin and Adam are fighting for their lives and their hearts.
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.
Home Fires Burning
Two stories, two couples, two eras, timeless emotions. "This Ground Which Was Secured At Great Expense" It is 1914 and The Great War is underway. When the call to arms comes, Nicholas Southwell won't be found hanging back. It's a pity he can't be so decisive when it comes to letting his estate manager Paul Haskell know what he feels before he has to leave for the front line. In the trenches Nicholas meets a fellow officer, Phillip Taylor, who takes him into the unclaimed territory of physical love. Which one will he choose, if he's allowed the choice? "The Case of the Overprotective Ass" Stars of the silver screen Alasdair Hamilton and Toby Bowe are wowing the post WWII audiences with their depictions of Holmes and Watson. When they are asked by a friend to investigate a mysterious disappearance, they jump at the chance-surely detection can't be that hard? But a series of threatening letters-and an unwanted suitor-make real life very different from the movies. Charlie Cochrane, author of the delightful Cambridge Fellows series, brings her familiar romantic, roguish style to the two novellas that together are "Home Fires Burning."
Dreams of a Hero
Mild-mannered and unassuming, Miles is on a journey he never expected. After a visit to Greece with his partner, Roger, he begins to experience vivid dreams in which he travels back in history and takes on the role of avenging hero.
Roger notices Miles's newfound bravery during his waking hours and is concerned that his lover is changing into someone he doesn't recognize.
When they discover a gay-friendly café is being plagued by violent thugs, Miles is uncharacteristically determined to take action, no matter the cost. Roger argues it would be both dangerous and pointless to intervene, but Miles insists he's been called to fight an army, and now he's found one.
All That Jazz
Francis Yardley may be the high kicking - and cross-dressing - star of an all-male version of Chicago, but he "can't do it alone". Bitter and on the booze after the breakdown of a relationship, he thinks that the chance for true love has passed him by.
A handsome, shy rugby player called Tommy seems to be the answer to his problems, but Tommy doesn't like the lipstick and lace. Can they find a way forward and is there still a chance for happiness "nowadays"?
This short story is part of the ENCORE! ENCORE! anthology.
Winning isn't everything...except when everything rides on being first.
Ben Edwards is the rising star of British Paralympic swimming, with a medal at London 2012 firmly in his sights. Love isn't going to be allowed to get in the way -- until he meets Nick, who proves to be a big distraction from training. With his times sliding, and a family illness, to worry him, it looks like Ben's Olympic dreams are in tatters. Until Nick comes up with the most outrageous incentive for winning.
Why do you do when finding a new boyfriend is like conducting a job interview?
It's Jamie's idea of torture---a training course about selection and interviewing and on February the fourteenth! Everybody's going to be full of romance and he'll be playing gooseberry as usual. When Jamie finds himself sitting next to the gorgeous Alex, who seems to hate the day as much as Jamie does, will he turn out to be the ideal candidate for the vacant position of boyfriend?
Adam Jackson feels frustrated that he isn’t doing more for the war effort; a liaison job with the War cabinet is hardly as glamorous as being in the forces. Nor is London, in the grip of the Blitz, the sort of place where a young man expects to find love, especially when your ideal partner isn’t a young lady.
Hugh Scarborough—a handsome decoder from the same department—is exactly what Adam’s looking for, but will the interest be returned? And what chance can any budding romance have against a background of air raids and huddling in shelters?
WWI hero Sam Hines is used to wearing a face that isn’t his own. When he’s not in the trenches, he’s the most popular female impersonator on the front, but a mysterious note from an anonymous admirer leaves him worried. Everyone realizes—eventually—that Sam’s not a woman, but has somebody also worked out that he also prefers his lovers to be male?
When Sam meets—and falls for—fellow officer Johnny Browne after the war, he wonders whether he could be the man who wrote the note. If so, is he the answer to Sam’s dreams or just another predatory blackmailer, ready to profit from a love that dare not speak its name?
The desert works its magic on a wounded heart.
"Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand."
Andrew Parks has come to Syria to escape potential disgrace in Edwardian England, burying past heartache and scandal among the tombs. Charles Cusiter has travelled here more reluctantly, as chaperone to a friend whose fondness for the opposite sex gets him into too much trouble at home. Out in the desert there aren't any women to turn Bernard's head -- just the ubiquitous sand.
The desert works its magic on Charles, softening his heart. Not even a potentially fatal scorpion sting can overcome the power this strange land exerts
What You Will
They say there's no fool like an old fool. Antonio didn't count himself as old but he was more fool than any man ought to be who'd flown around the world and back again so often he might as well have just been going from Deptford to Dartford. There was a lad involved. There's always a lad in the tale, for men like him.
And was there a happy ending? Now that depends on whether you believe what a certain playwright wrote, or whether you want the real story.