Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: Count the Shells
SERIES: Porthkennack #6
AUTHOR: Charlie Cochrane
PUBLISHER: Riptide Publishing
LENGTH: 253 pages
RELEASE DATE: October 16, 2107
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.
Summers in Porthkennack were always something a bit special for Michael Gray. But after years away–and a bloody war fought in countries he had no real interest in remembering–Michael isn’t sure he can recapture the magic that for him always meant seaside, family, youth, and even more importantly, Thomas Carter-Clemence. Especially since Thomas died years ago, near the beginning of the war that would later be known as World War One. In fact, the war had a way of claiming many of Michael’s lovers. Thomas was just the first–and probably the most heartbreaking.
Still feeling at odds with his life, though, he agrees to come back to the seaside town for a bit. To be with his sister and her family. To help find himself among the ghosts of his pasts, or maybe to bury them once and for all. But it isn’t only his ghosts that seem to be popping up, because when Harry Carter-Clemence arrives in town it seems like things long locked tightly in closets all come barreling out into daylight. And once out, they might change the landscape of both families forever.
This ended up being not quite the book I was expecting it to be. It was an experience that I enjoyed, and a book I would totally recommend, but at the end of the day I can see how some aspects of it are not exactly some people’s cup of tea.
While I really did enjoy this story, I will admit that if you come into it expecting some great romance you will leave a bit disappointed. I found the storytelling, the characters, the plot, and the slow-slog through the various secrets these two families keep made for a good read, but the way this book downplays the relationship between Harry and Michael made this feel less like a Romance, and more like a story with romantic elements.
Harry and Michael certainly have a romance, and it was even one that I liked. It was just very low-key, in a kind a way. It doesn’t exactly run-smooth, but it was more a catalyst for the other actions and reactions in the story, than the main focus. I think this book would make for a great first story in a series long romance arc for Harry and Michael, to be honest. You get the beginnings of a relationship in this book, but not much else. There is chemistry and the two of them are always a pleasure to read, but there is not a lot of depth yet to what they have. Which is why I am glad this book didn’t end with declarations of Endless Love. That would have been a tad unbelievable.
The story seemed to want to focus more on the quartet of Michael, Thomas, Caroline (Michael’s sister), and Richard (Caroline’s young son) and their various intertwining relationships over the years. It was a plot I really loved, actually. I loved the mystery and the secrets. I liked how the various characters reacted to the truths unveiled. It was certainly a slow moving story, and had a sense of loss and disconnect to it, but for a story told thru Michael’s pov, it worked well. It might not be what I was expecting out of this story from the blurb, but for what it was, it was a pretty damn good.
It is not perfect, though. Richard is eight(ish), but talks like he is in his thirties. It is very distracting. He still acts like a kid his age would act (I assume), but then he would open up his mouth and suddenly he becomes some kind of middle-aged academic. I know the book tried to cover it up by making the adults around him constantly say “yes, isn’t it cute how grown up he sounds!” but that didn’t make up for the fact that you have this young kid talking miles above himself. He is not an annoying kid, thank all the gods, but he is an odd one for sure.
I would have also liked a bit more detail as to the lives of Michael and Harry. Just basic things like jobs or such. Maybe a clue why they all seem to be able to sway slowly thru each day with no real destination and no real obstacles like money or jobs. I do know Caroline’s husband is a doctor, but he seems to be the only one who needs to work for some reason. It just seemed a bit odd. I don’t know. Maybe they are all still fairly rich.
Overall I think this is a story that can be enjoyed, as long as you are not in search of the next Great Romance. I found it to be very well written, and while not my favorite of the series, certainly worked better for me than the author’s previous offerings in this series. If the author gets a chance, I’d love to watch this relationship grow and see where Michael and Harry go from here.