Charlie Cochrane writes to order – the final installment

And here they are, the final two prompt fics. If you want to catch up, you can find the master list of all Charlie’s fics here.

This first one is for Thrace Adams who asked for “indignant men that are really NOT damsels in distress”. Charlie says it’s not quite what you ordered, but it’s what her muse sent her. It features the actor lads from the second story in Home Fires Burning.

“Why did I let you persuade me to do this?”

“I didn’t persuade you, Alasdair. I’m as reluctant as you are. But Landseer pay the piper and if they call for a new tune…” Toby spread his hands in defeat.

“More publicity for ‘A Royal Scandal’.” Alasdair raised the insured eyebrow. “Or is it just a case of him wanting to see Fiona in tights, as Prince Charming?”

“By him I assume you mean the one on the Board who gets all of a lather over her? Probably. And think of the extra publicity they’ll get by putting on a week’s worth of performances and all in aid of the British Legion.”

“I hear they’re filling the front row with old soldiers. They’ll all be looking up her legs.”

“They’re welcome to it. And if they’re that way inclined, they can look up your legs when you’ve got your bloomers on.”

Alasdair snorted. “Why can’t we be the Prince and Dandini?”

“Tradition. Principal boy and all that. Those roles have to be played by Fiona and Emilia.”

“Which leaves us as the Ugly Sisters.” The Golden Frown got aired. “The costumes are appalling.”

“The costumes are hilarious, you old stick in the mud. The only thing which is keeping me going is the thought of prancing about the stage in them. And all the funny business with the mirror and the sausages.” Toby grinned. “I’ve always wanted to do pantomime, although I thought I’d be Jack or something.”

“At least the tradition means I’m not playing Cinderella.”

“With me as the Fairy Godmother? Thank goodness for small mercies. I don’t mind a bit of farce, but I refuse to be a damsel in distress.”

“Even for me?” Alasdair ran his fingers along his lover’s chin. “That’s a game we’ve not played.”

“For you, only. As a reward.” Toby pulled the fingers to his lips. “Be the best Griselda you can possibly be. Flash the old soldiers your knees. They’ll love it.”

“And what will you flash them?”

“Those bloomers with the Union Flag on, of course. It’ll be the highlight of the evening.” Toby grinned again. “Until we get home and play Jack and the beanstalk, of course. I’ll be Jack…”

And now, for her very last fic, Charlie gives you punting with Jonty and Orlando, Hokey Cokey style. This one is for you, Prue!

You put your punt pole in, your punt pole out
In, out, in, out, you shake it all about
Get your Jonty soaking and you turn around
That’s what it’s all about
Oh, punting on the river
Oh, making Jonty shiver
Other punters start to quiver
Straight back, flex arms, rah rah rah

You get the punt pulled in, the picnic out
In, out, in, out, you stuff food in your snout
You throw Jonty a sandwich and you lounge about
That’s what it’s all about
Oh, lying by the willow
Oh, watching branches billow,
Using Jonty as a pillow
Lie back, chill out, rah rah rah

You hold the big scream in
Let a big sigh out
In, out, in, out, get Jonty not to shout
You’ve got to keep it quiet while you turn around
That’s what it’s all about
Oh, punting on the river
Oh, making Jonty shiver
Now both of you can quiver
Lie back, big smile zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

***

I’m still giggling at that last one! I hope you’ll join me in saying a huge thank you to Charlie for her generosity in writing all these wonderfully witty fics. Cheers love, I think I owe you a drink or two next time we meet!

Charlie Cochrane writes: two more limericks

More limericks, including one for me! Thanks Charlie *g*

It may come as a terrible shock
If things usually upright as a rock
Have gone flaccid and wrinkly
All floppy and crinkly
So wear suspenders on your sock!

And here’s one for Anne Barwell, who asked for something where either Jonty or Orlando were “having one of those days where nothing goes right.”

When equations go arse over tip
And the dunderheads give you the pip
Take an hour in bed
With your Jonty, instead
And you’ll suddenly feel full of zip!

Charlie Cochrane writes to order!

Yes, Charlie’s still sending over her challenge flashfics to me – what a star she is!

Charlie says: “this is for Grace Roberts, who wanted revolving doors. Not Jonty and Orlando this time, but my two guys from Wolves of the West.”

“What’s taking them so long?” George peered through the window one way and then the other.

“Apparently there’s a fire at the back of Selfridge’s. We’re low priority.” Rory put his phone back in his pocket and grinned. “And just when I was looking forward to some handsome firemen coming to my rescue.”

“Why can’t they just break the glass?”

“It’s antique and irreplaceable. Just like you.” Rory put his arm round his friend. “It’s survived the Blitz, suffragettes, student pranks. It shouldn’t be sacrificed for us.”

They’d survived much the same, too. Lovers for well over a century and all due to some freak of their DNA, or metabolism. Or something.

“What if we’re still here come evening?” George, who had the courage of a lion, looked anxious. “It’s a fine day and once the moon’s up…”

“There’s seven hours to moonrise. If it gets that close, I’ll pretend to have a fit and smash the bloody things myself. They couldn’t blame a man in a medical emergency.” Rory looked out onto the road. “I just hope the press don’t turn up. I can see the headlines now. ‘Oh dear, what can the matter be? Two old werewolves stuck in a revolving door’.”

“That doesn’t rhyme,” George said, laughing despite their plight.

“Well, it’s the tabloids, not Marcel Proust.”

“And what are we to do with ourselves until your oiled hunks from the firemen’s calendar arrive?”

“Not that, Georgie boy. I refuse to be the floor show.” Rory sniffed. “Now, could our rescuers not use their baby oil to ease the wooden joints?”

“The door’s?” George grinned. “Or yours?”

Charlie Cochrane’s prompt fics: two Cambridge Fellows flashfics

For Jay Rookwood, who asked for “some kind of unfortunate mishap involving Jonty getting covered in something mucky but delicious.”

“If there isn’t condensed milk in heaven, I don’t think I want to go, Orlando.”

“Don’t assume they’ll have you, condensed milk or not. You’ll have to go cap in hand to St. Peter and beg for mercy.”

“You’re just jealous.” Jonty waved his sandwich, sending little unctuous droplets flying. “Because I have one of these and you don’t.”

Orlando snorted. “Condensed milk is a wonderful thing, in its proper place. On fruit, with perhaps a soupcon of jelly on the side. But in a sandwich? I think not.”

“But the combination of the airy dryness of the bread and the sweet softness of the milk, the delicate absorption of one into the other, the moment when the creamy liquid hits one’s palette…”

“You’ve got it all down your tie.” Orlando cut off the flight of fancy. “Not to mention your face.”

“What about my face?”

“It’s got more condensed milk on it than’s left in your sandwich.”

“Hm.” Jonty laid down the last of his bread. “Is the substance in question only acceptable when adorning a peach or pear or the like?”

“Why?”

“I just wondered if it would be acceptable adorning me.”

“I’m sorry?”

Jonty turned his face, the better for the application of his lover’s tongue. “Forget about the sandwich. Start here and we’ll see where we go…”

***

For Stevie Carrol, who asked for “something involving Jonty, Orlando and a Morgan three-wheeler.”

“What’s two plus two?”

“Sorry, Orlando? Are we losing our grip? I’d have thought the answer was obvious.” Jonty looked up from his morning tea and toast, bemused.

“To me, perhaps, although I’m not sure about you. Here’s a clue. How many corners to a rectangle?” Orlando drew one on the table with the end of his knife, in case Jonty had forgotten what a rectangle was.

“I have no idea what this is about, but four. Quatre. Quatro.”

“Then why has your stupid new car only got three wheels?”

“It’s a Morgan, they…”

“Inadequate answer.” Orlando cut his friend short, as though he were one of the dunderheads. “Cars should have four wheels.”

“Why?”

“Because they should.”

“Inadequate answer.” Two could play at that game. “Expand.”

Orlando took a deep breath. “I would propose that there could be a fundamental instability in any system where the vehicle isn’t firmly anchored at the four points of what is effectively its compass. Any cornering would lead to the possibility of a loss of adequate friction and thus a tendency to slip. In extreme cases, where the angle is sharp or the camber adverse, this might cause the vehicle to overturn.”

Jonty grinned. “In other words, you’ve decided cars need four wheels and if they don’t you don’t like it.”

“No!” Orlando grinned, sheepishly. “Yes. They should. It doesn’t.”

“Then don’t come for a drive in it. Shame though,” Jonty added, slyly, “as Mrs. Ward’s put up a lovely picnic lunch. Pie.”

“Pork pie?” Orlando asked, voice tremulous.

“A raised one. Cold water pastry. But you won’t be tasting it, as I can’t promise not to take a corner or two en route to Grantchester.” Jonty waited, confident of victory.

“Perhaps one could make a series of observations, to see if one’s theory was plausible?” Orlando’s plaintive gaze would have melted the hardest heart, although whether he was yearning for the pie or the chance to lie in the grass of the water meadows with his lover at his side, who could tell?

“One could.” Jonty laughed. “Irrespective of one’s investigations, you’ll look neat upon the seat of a motor car built for two.”

Orlando groaned.

“What now? Don’t you like my singing?”

“It isn’t that. I’ve remembered the threat to buy a tandem and the thought of looking at your fat backside going side to side. Stick with the Morgan.”

Charlie Cochrane’s prompt fic: Mirror, Mirror

This one was written for JL Merrow, who asked for: either a flashfic or a limerick about the boys, on the theme of “Who’s the prettiest?”

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?
Is it Jonty, small and sonsy, or Orlando, tall and ponsy?
Do you like them blonde and pimpled
Or dark haired and slightly simple?”

“How dar’st thou with voice so squeaking
Come to me an answer seeking?
How dar’st thou, so small and spotty
Cast a slur on St. Bride’s totty?”

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?
Is it Jonty, small and sarcy, or Orlando, tall and narcy?

“Truly I’ll an answer sort yer
Even though you’ll find it torture
Some think Jonty’s far the sweeter
Others think Orlando’s neater.”

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?
Is it Jonty, small and plumpy, or Orlando, tall and grumpy?”

“Jonty sets all hearts a running
And his partner’s just as stunning
Such a choice between two beauties
Owens, you’re just full of cooties.”

***

*g* I’m voting for Orlando myself. There’s something about grumpy nerds that just gets my heart beating faster!

Charlie reckons that’s the last one we’ll see from her today, but she’ll continue taking prompts until midnight so get on over to the prompt post and give her something to really give her muse a workout!

Charlie Cochrane’s prompt fics

First up, a limerick for Tam who linked this photo (NSFW-ish) as inspiration:

Beware the defrocked chiropractor
Luring boys like a camp, fading actor
“Just bend over, like so”
And the next thing you know
You’re the star of “The X-rated Factor”!

And now a flashfic for HJ who gave the following prompt: “The rugby blue meets the rowing blue away from their home territory, where petty rivalry between their two sports has prevented them from getting to know one another as each would secretly have liked…”

The School of Pythagoras swirls in and out of focus. What the hell do they put in the punch at these Eagle Club events? He’s thought about switching to orange juice but isn’t convinced that hasn’t been spiked with vodka.

Faces swim in and out of view: the bloke with the set in the Wedding Cake, who plays football and is totally up himself; the nice, shy lad from just across in Cripp’s Court, the modern pentathlete, who looks out of his depth; Danny.

Danny, the wet-bob to Luke’s dry-bob, if you could apply the term to rugby as well as cricket. Danny, all long limbs and powerful shoulders. Danny, who everybody said was struggling to get over that tosser from Magdalene who’d given him the push end of Lent term.

Danny, who’s saying something…

“Sorry?” Luke manages to get his brain to work his mouth.

“I said anybody with any sense would be getting out of here before the great and good of Lady Margaret’s Boat Club start puking on the floor.”

Luke’s amazed that anybody can be so eloquent on four glasses of punch. He’s been counting. “Aren’t you one of them? LMBC, I mean,” he adds, not wanting to sound like he’s being snide. No guarantee Danny’s heard anything about him.

“Only on the water.” Danny smiles. Luke’s knees go, worse than if he’d taken a whack to the shins. “Nice day. Fancy a stroll up the towpath?”

Luke nods, not sure he can trust his mouth not to come out with something daft.

“Mind if we don’t cut through Magdalene?” Danny looks worried, even Luke’s befuddled brain can tell that.

“You’re in charge. We’ll do what you want.” Luke clams up, cursing his stupid gob.

Danny leans closer. “Been waiting half a term to hear you say that.”

He grins.

Luke grins back.

The bow of the first Lady Margaret Boat starts retching behind the drinks table.

Best day of Luke’s life.

Amazing Author reviews – Charlie Cochrane

Charlie’s bibliography is huge and I’ve yet to work my way through all of it!

Lessons in Love

He didn’t think he had a heart. Until he lost it.

Cambridge Fellows Mysteries, Book 1

St. Bride’s College, Cambridge, England, 1905.

Jonty Stewart is handsome and outgoing, with blood as blue as his eyes. When he takes up a teaching post at the college where he studied, his dynamic style acts as an agent 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 university walls. He strikes up an alliance with Jonty and soon finds himself heart-deep in feelings he’s never experienced. Before long their friendship blossoms into more than either man had hoped.

Then a student is murdered within St. Bride’s. Then another…and another. All the victims have one thing in common: a penchant for men. Asked by the police to serve as their eyes and ears within the college, Jonty and Orlando risk exposing a love affair that could make them the killer’s next target.

Warning: Contains sensual m/m lovemaking and men in punts.

Review:

There’s so much to love about the pairing of Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith – where to begin? Charlie has succeeded in creating two utterly lovable and compatible heroes, but who nevertheless have plenty of opportunity to rub each other up the wrong way as their personalities are so very different. It’s delightful to watch the sheltered, studious Orlando being prised from his protective shell by the outgoing, cheery Jonty.

In this first book a series of homophobic murders cast a real shadow over Jonty and Orlando’s blossoming relationship, but I love the fact that Charlie doesn’t make the angst unbearable. There is much humour and joy between these pages too. I particularly appreciated the fact that although Orlando and Jonty are fully aware of the dangers their relationship put them in, they feel no guilt about falling for another man.

Lessons in Desire

Perfect love casts out fear. If you let it.

Cambridge Fellows Mysteries, Book 2

Jersey, 1906

St. Bride’s English don Jonty Stewart is in desperate need of a break from university life. A holiday on the beautiful Channel Island of Jersey seems ideal, especially if he can coax his lover Orlando to step outside the college’s walls to come along.

Orlando Coppersmith is scared. Within the safe confines of the school it’s easy to hide the fact that they are not just friends, but lovers. In an unknown place, in full view of everyone, how will they keep their illegal affair private—much less dare to make love, even in the security of their suite?

A brutal murder at their hotel forces their personal problems into the background—at first. The race to catch the killer gets complicated when the prime suspect finds Orlando irresistible. Suddenly keeping their affair clandestine isn’t only a matter of legality. It’s a matter of life and death…

Warnings: Contains sensual m/m lovemaking and handsome young men in (and out of) Edwardian bathing costumes.

Review:

In the second Cambridge Fellows book, our intrepid amateur sleuths take a much needed holiday. The beauty and calm of Jersey infuses the whole story, despite the murder of one of the guests at their hotel. There are rockpools, bathing and all manner of classic holiday activities. I think the only thing they don’t do is build a sandcastle!

Alongside the murder plot, which has a delightful number of possible murder weapons and suspects to ponder over, Jonty and Orlando have reached a difficult juncture in their relationship. Jonty wants to consummate things properly, but Orlando is twitchy about any physical contact outside of the safety of the familiar. However, his very first proper holiday helps to unwind him beautifully and we see a new, bolder side to his character emerge.

I’d recommend the Cambridge Fellows series to anyone who is doubtful about trying historicals. They aren’t burdened down with description and heavy prose, but have plenty of lively, witty dialogue. I know some of the later stories in the series have heavier subject matter, but certainly these early ones are sweet, entertaining and intriguing – the perfect kind of books to take with you on holiday, in fact!

 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”?

Review:

I was interested to read this short novella because there aren’t enough cross-dressing heroes out there, and I knew Charlie would put an interesting spin on the theme. Although somewhat slow-paced, this is an excellent character study that doesn’t opt for the easy explanations for cross-dressing.

Francis isn’t an easy character to love as he’s on the cusp of turning into a hard-drinking, bitter queen, yet you can see the hurt and vulnerability lurking beneath the tough talk and attitude. I enjoyed watching Tommy’s sweetness and naivety work their charms on Francis, and he seemed like the ideal man to deal with Francis’ mood swings. This is different to any other m/m romance I’ve ever read and made a refreshing change.

Amazing Author excerpt: Charlie Cochrane’s 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.

The following excerpt is from the first story: This Ground Which Was Secured At Great Expense

He was still alive, unless he’d died and this was hell. No, it had to be real; Nicholas wouldn’t be telling himself how damned lucky he was, otherwise. Luck? Given the average length of time an officer lasted out here it was more like a miracle, some guardian angel watching over him, sitting at his shoulder and fending off bullets and shells. It didn’t do to keep thinking about why one man survived and the one next to him in the line went down, how inseparable friends were parted by a sniper’s sharp aim. Fairness didn’t come into it, nor logic, and no one could possibly understand who wasn’t living in its midst.

This was no chivalric tournament. There was no white charger and the only dragon roared with the voice of field artillery.

The first letter from Paul had come within days of Nicholas reaching his training camp. Stiff, formal, and full of business, it had required an answer to one particular question about the state of the stable roof, one Nicholas was sure the man could have answered for himself. Paul still deferred to his absent employer; soon he’d be getting into the swing of making weightier decisions as a matter of course, the reporting back almost a formality.

Unless. Unless the question about the roof had been asked to ensure that Nicholas replied; almost every letter had seemed to contain something which needed a response. He’d tried not to raise his hopes about that, any more than he tried to raise his hopes that the British really were gaining ground against the Hun. Wondering if there was hidden significance in Paul’s words was as pointless as hoping the war would be over by Christmas 1916, let alone this. And there was always what seemed like a last-minute, casual addendum. What is it like there? Have you seen anything of Belgium? Do you see much of the horses?

What is it like there? That same question came often, but how could Nicholas reply with any degree of truth? It wasn’t even worth the attempt, as it would all get censored, anyway. Water and lice, that’s what it’s like, Paul. Our two greatest preoccupations.

He’d crafted the words in his heart often enough, the lines he never dared commit to paper. Somehow, my heart’s got hardened to the killing, the buzz of the flies and the awful smell of corrupted flesh; it’s the water gets me down. It soaks your boots, makes your puttees like flannels. It falls down in curtains, fills the air with damp cold, bites to my bones. Sometimes he’d been brave enough to commit a more candid word to a postscript, but mainly he dreamed of saying them face to face, over a pint of beer. I never imagined I’d fantasise about a dry shirt and socks.

***

Published by Cheyenne Publishing and available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk as an ebook or paperback.

Charlie Cochrane’s first two limericks

For Elin, who gave the first line:

The Pusser of HMS Wareham
Got robbed in a gin joint in Fareham
While he kissed the mollies
They whipped off his trollies
So the bloke had to just grin and bare ‘em!

***

For E Van Hine, who asked for: “a limerick revolving around sculling and Edwardian underwear”

When sculling, avoid boats with flaws,
If they leak, you’ll end up with wet drawers,
Men will offer to mop them
but cunningly drop them
and then they’ll pull more than just oars.

***

Coming up next: an excerpt from Home Fires Burning!