Count the Shells by Charlie Cochrane: Quick Review

A standalone Porthkennack historical novel

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.

Word count: 66,000; page count: 246

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This book is part of a series that take place in the English seaside town of Porthkennack. Other authors in the series include Joanna Chambers and Alex Beecroft. This book wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t my favorite, in the series or otherwise.

Michael is a WWI veteran who’s returned to the summer home his family has stayed at since he was a child. While he has returned mostly unscathed physically, he’s haunted by both his experiences during the war as well as the fact that many of his former lovers and friends were left behind on the battlefields of Europe. He is especially broken over the wartime death of his first lover, Thomas, who died before the two could make amends after a falling out 10 years before. Understandably Michael is filled with regret over the unfinished business between them.

Enter Thomas’ younger brother Harry, whom Michael hasn’t seen in many years and who he remembers as the pesky kid that followed him and Thomas around every summer. But Harry is now older, wiser and considerably more attractive and the two embark on a friendship that quickly turns to more. Secrets involving both families are revealed leaving Michael reeling as he learns that perhaps his relationship with Thomas wasn’t mutually meaningful.

Most of the angst in this story is internal to Michael, as he tries to reconcile what he thought he knew about Thomas and what he’s learned about Thomas from Harry. Michael is also afraid that he may experience the same heartbreak with Harry.

I love that the setting is post-WWI; there aren’t enough gay romances during that time period. I also love that the books in this series take place in the same town at different points in time. The supporting characters are okay; the heroes don’t change much from begin to end. It was a sweet story, but I tend to prefer more external angst and action than the hero having to work things out in his own head before giving me an HEA (which this one does.)

2.5 pieces of eye candy

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