Lessons in Desire by Charlie Cochrane – review

Rating: 2/10 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 
Title: Lessons in Desire
Author: Charlie Cochrane
Genre: Historical, mystery
URL: Linden Bay Romance
Price:US $6.99
Other Information/warnings: Violence (mild)
Summary [from the publisher]:
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?

My review:

I had such high hopes for this one, given that I rarely feel tempted by historical m/m romances. A touch of Dorothy L. Sayers, in the land of Bergerac (not Cyrano de, the TV cop) crossed with Brideshead Revisited. Sounded fun.

Wasn’t, unfortunately. Lessons in Desire is the most inane m/m romance I have ever had the misfortune to read. It’s like erotica written by Enid Blyton, only Ms Blyton knew how to tell a story and Ms Cochrane…sadly does not.

The plot should have been okay. Two young swains and amateur sleuths become involved in the murder of the father of a casual acquaintance, while exploring their own new relationship. Plenty of potential there – but utterly squandered. The author doesn’t seem to have any idea how real people would react in such situations. The victim’s son spends more time the day after his father’s death maundering about a failed pass at Orlando than thinking about his bereavement, and so little attention is paid to the facts of death that the dead man isn’t buried, has no funeral, his son and only surviving relative apparently has nothing to do in settling the estate, is invited out for merry jaunts when he’s supposed to be in the deep mourning so strictly enforced at the period, and when finally confronted with the real murderer, he pours them tea! That kind of inauthenticity together with the inappropriately OK-Homo reactions of too many characters made me roll my eyes far too often for enjoyment.

As for our two lover detectives, they’re twits. They talk and act like self-absorbed, brain-damaged children, their entire conversation either about how they met, or their relationship thus far, or protesting virginal innocence over this and that, and since the author can’t decide which POV to tell any part of the narrative from (so in a single paragraph we will get anything up to three different ones) or what name the characters call themselves and each other, we are led to believe there are many more of these tiresome idiots than there really are. Two is more than enough. Oh and Orlando is prone to bursting into tears, while Jonty is a thug. Not attractive.

The writing is tedious, to the point where I could only read three pages at a time before going off to do something more interesting, like housework. The author apparently has never heard of ‘show not tell’ because this is all badly executed ‘tell.’ The scene setting is perfunctory, and jumps all over the place, so with the erratic POV, I soon lost track of where I was or who was talking, and the constant info-dumping of pointless and stolidly written background meant I had little interest in trying to keep up.The concept of ‘Chekov’s pistol’ is one alien to the author, too. If you think the fact page after page and buckets of bathos is devoted to a nosebleed means anything, then you haven’t grasped just how bad the writing is in this novel.

The line editing sucks too. I’ve seen self-pubbed works better produced than this, and although it claims to be 219 pages, it’s actually a short novel with content more suited to a short story. Padded, flaccid, boringly told, and with no more erotic content than in Ms Blyton’s output. That most of the tension between our two childish lovers is about Jonty trying to go all the way with his drippy beloved, and then the author doesn’t even pull a decent veil over the event, simply chopping it off and jumping to the next scene without making the segue even slightly interesting, makes the title of this book most ironic indeed.

I’ve read more offensively bad books but at least they were bad enough to be mockable. This was simply vapid and failed at every level to entertain. Not recommended in the slightest.