Today it's our pleasure to welcome the wonderful Charlie Cochrane to Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews. We're very proud to be part of the blog tour hosting her new book Second Helpings and I was delighted to be the one picked to read it, and I loved it!
Not only is Charlie a fantastic author, but all you guys who have been lucky enough to go to the M/M UK Meets will know and love her for the amazing job she does alongside the rest of the awesome organisers who work tirelessly to make it one of the best UK book conferences EVER! Rugby fanatic and with the best pair of legs in the business, we love Charlie.
One thing...with Charlie's way with words, you'll never suffer a lack of communication from her books!
Second Helpings by Charlie Cochrane
Title ~ Second Helpings
Author ~ Charlie Cochrane
Publisher ~ Riptide Publishing
Published ~ 21st July 2014
Genre ~ M/M Romance
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.
I think the thing that struck me most of all about this gentle romance was that all the central characters felt like real people, the sort you would pass in the street or see in your local pub. Okay we gather these two guys are attractive (because they find each other so) but they aren't buffed, ripped, Adonis'. Stuart and Paul are the type of nice looking guys you would see talking quietly in the pub together, good looking enough to catch your eye but not model like, drop dead gorgeous specimens who you know you wouldn't really ever stand a chance with, just two easy on the eye, ordinary, everyday fellas who are dealing with their own sets of baggage. For Stuart it's plain and simply heartfelt, grief after losing his much loved partner Mark, in a car accident and for Paul it's dealing with past family (dad) issues and the worry that he's losing another romantic partner. Not to tragedy but to uncertainty and long distance, which relies on communication to keep it thriving but is sadly and mysteriously lacking from the thoughtless, currently off the radar boyfriend Ben. Both are trying to come to terms with the fact that perhaps it's time for each of them to accept that it's okay to start looking for love again but how do you take that step? Stuart is hanging on to the memory of his love for Mark, which is totally understandable and Paul is in denial about the fact that that perhaps Ben is trying to tell him something, albeit in a cowardly way, about the state of their relationship?
Second Helpings is about second chances and it's not just for Paul and Stuart but for their widowed parents too. In fact this is how they get pulled into each other's circles. A widower for five years, Stuarts dad is tentatively dipping his toes back in the romance pool with Paul's mum, also a widow, who he'd known when they were younger and has just met up with again, so their two sons are inadvertently drawn into a friendship which unfortunately doesn't start off too well as they're both feeling vulnerable. In that state where it's easy to take offence at certain things said, but mostly because they both feel guilty for the underlying attraction they instantly feel for each other.
"Paul smiled and got a smile in return, a smile that held something in it. Something that under other circumstances might have been immediately labelled as mutual attraction acknowledged."
Their first conversation ends badly as they're both decidedly prickly about their situations but they decide to meet again, to straighten things out, the night after at their local where, over a drink and a meal, they begin to open up more to each other. The tension between them becoming more relaxed but at the same time a touch more palpable as they both feel the attraction that's present between them, but still they tread carefully around each other. Paul argues with himself about crossing the line until he knows exactly where he stands with Ben, and his continuous, months long, silence that's making it harder to gauge if he still wants to be with Paul or not; but deep down he's pretty sure it's over. Stuart is still missing Mark dreadfully, but he's lonely and seeing his dad on the verge of a romance after grieving for his mum, gives him some hope that perhaps this is the time for him to make that difficult move from bereavement, back into the world, so he invites Paul back to his place for dessert and coffee and in a sweet and tender but not particularly graphic scene they give into the pull between them and spend the night together. The angst level is never overly dramatic but what transpires afterwards did give me a moment where I was thinking "Hang on a minute? How is she going to resolve this?"
All this happens over a very short period of time in which they tell each other some pretty personal things so when the final blow up happens it's even more hurtful to both parties than they expected. There's soul searching to be done from both sides and my heart went out to both of them really, although it was the effect on Stuart that pulled my sympathy most of all after Paul says some things in anger, frustration and confusion that you know he doesn't really mean, it's just that everything has suddenly come to a head for him, so of course Stuart's terribly hurt. It takes his dad to put things into prospective for him to move forward again.
"What's wrong with setting your sights high?" He felt the helter skelter of emotion skidding him towards tears. Well, he'd cried here before. Over grazed knees and broken teenage hearts. It wouldn't hurt him to cry again.
"Because you end up looking at the stars and miss the diamonds at your feet,"
Wise words that set the ball rolling towards it's HFN ending, which to be honest I came away from quite happy and prepared to believe that as 'early days' as their relationship was at the finish there would be a HEA in their future. This was a sweet, tender hearted, real life feel story, dealing with real feelings and believable situations with characters who felt genuine and that's all due to Charlie Cochrane's easy writing style and ability to make you believe in them. Sometimes it's less about the sizzle in the bedroom and more about the emotion and considering this isn't an overlong book, I felt it in this. I enjoyed this one a lot.
Buy it Here
A Word from Charlie
I'm thrilled skinny to be dropping in here as part of the Second Helpings blog tour. A million thanks to Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews for having me as a guest.
Rapid communication – curse, blessing or old hat?
One of the key plot points in Second Helpings concerns modern methods of communication. How nowadays we send messages (via text or e-mail or on social media) expecting an almost instantaneous response. And how we can get into a blind panic when it doesn’t come, guessing and second guessing and generally torturing ourselves about what might have happened to the person at the other end to mean that they haven’t got back to us. Have they fallen down a manhole? Have they been abducted by aliens? Have they decided they hate us and will ignore us for the rest of their lives?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a dinosaur and I believe that being able to communicate quickly and over vast distances can be a godsend. (Just recently my middle daughter lost her phone within a day of arriving in Thailand. Rescue and reuniting operation was conducted within hours via Romsey in England and a castle garden in Wales!) But I sometimes think that the routine use of constant communication has its dangers. Not least people walking into you in the street because their eyes are glued to a screen! I suspect it also takes away some of our ingenuity and resilience, as the solution to problems is looked for on the web or down a line rather than inside our heads.
How did people cope in the olden days, when messages could take forever? I guess they learned not to be anxious, because you’d have gone mad constantly worrying while your sailor boy was away on a ship for months on end and never getting word back to you. But actually, human ingenuity being what it is, methods were found to send messages quickly over increasing distances. From signal flags, semaphore, use of coloured lights/flashing lights, there were low tech, simple ways of getting your point across. One telegraphy was developed, the ‘size of the world’ decreased considerably, even for the man or woman in the street. Telegrams were speedy and effective (think of all the times Sherlock Holmes was summoned by one) and, because they were priced by the word, the style employed was clipped, with all extraneous words cut out. (And people have the nerve to complain about modern textspeak.)
The other shortened written communication form was postcards, which became popular at the start of the twentieth century. I was astonished by a radio documentary about the Anglo-French exhibition at the White City, London, in 1908. Apparently they had half a dozen postal deliveries a day in London back then, so if you sent a card to your pal saying “Meet you at the pub half past six tonight” he’d have got it in plenty of time to turn up.
I wonder if people got into a state when there was no ‘immediate’ reply to something like that, or were they stoical and patient? And is patience a lost art? (That’s scope for a whole other blog post!)
About Charlie Cochrane
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or catch her at:
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