Book Reviews

Count the Shells (A Porthkennack Novel) by Charlie Cochrane at Riptide Publishing

Genre Gay / Historical / 20th Century / Warriors/Soldiers / Romance
Reviewed by Lena Grey on 05-December-2017

Book Blurb

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.


Book Review

“In every betrayal lies a reason and comes with a lesson.” ~ Jane Johnson

Michael Gray, of 'Count the Shells' by Charlie Cochrane, is discouraged and emotionally damaged when he comes to stay with his family. The only thing that gives him pleasure is being with his young nephew, Richard, who insists that Michael join him in activities such as playing yard games, looking at old photographs, etc. For Richard's sake Michael joins in when he can. He doesn't want to disappoint the one person capable of making him feel alive again. One of their favorite activities together is counting shells on the beach in as many languages as Michael can recall; always five for the five men he's been intimate with, although he never tells Richard why. Most of them hold fond memories of times spent together, but first in his heart is Thomas, his first love, who wasn't as fortunate as Michael; he was one of the many men who fought in the war and never returned home.

Michael's family is, like many families, dysfunctional, mostly due to miscommunication and partly due to deliberate deception in order to maintain the status quo and protect certain members of the family. Eric, his sister's husband, is a wonderful man who adores his wife and their son. He's loving and forgiving. Richard is precocious, but still a child, although he sometimes seems too wise for one so young. Richard's little sister is sweet and Richard adores her. He likes to defend her and teach her things. Michael knows he's fortunate to be back from the war when so many others did not return, but he's definitely scarred by the experience. Michael is fighting for his sanity; he's also feeling guilty for being alive. He didn't intend to stay long at his sister's house, but circumstances make it difficult for him to leave. He's having trouble getting beyond his survivor’s guilt and his heartache for Thomas, who didn't return. Michael observes his family and knows there is more going on that he knows but isn't sure how to approach the subject.

Until Michael and Thomas had the argument that ended their relationship, their families had been close friends, but after that, the families drifted apart and lost touch with one another. Quite unexpectedly, Thomas's younger brother, Harry, almost literally runs into Michael and Richard while they are coming from the beach one day. Michael is shocked at how much Harry looks like his brother, Thomas. He and Harry become involved, but it's not an easy road for them. There are so many obstacles in the way, Thomas being a big one. They go back and forth between bed and arguing that it's difficult to know what's best for everyone involved.

Another thing that puts barriers up for them is the family secrets Harry tells Michael about Thomas, not realizing that Thomas and Michael were lovers, not just friends. It causes Michael to reevaluate how he's spent his life missing a person who was quite different than the one Michael thought he knew and loved. Michael has a lot of fences to mend and needs to find a way to forgive himself as well as his family for deceiving him for all these years.

I adore historical romance, but this book didn't grab me like some others have. It's very British in style, language, and culture, very formal which, of course, fits the time period. The beginning and middle section establish the dynamics of the family and their relationships toward each other, so when things go south, there's a basis for how each member reacts to the situation. The pace doesn't pick up until Harry and Michael become involved. After that things almost moved too quickly, especially between the two men. I liked the characters, particularly Eric, whom I admire for his wisdom and ability to put things in perspective. I couldn't help but think that Michael and Harry's coupling was too convenient, I didn't feel the passion between them as much as I usually do—but it still made for a good story. Thanks, Charlie, for introducing me to Michael's family and for giving him and Harry at least a happy-for-now ending.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Riptide Publishing for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 246 pages/66000 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 16-October-2017
Price $4.99 ebook, $17.99 paperback, $22.98 bundle
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