Monday, August 13, 2018

Monday's Memorial Moment: Pack Up Your Troubles by Charlie Cochrane

An officer thinks he finds love in the trenches, but is it really waiting for him on the home front?

A doctor and an army chaplain spend the night in a foxhole and discover there’s hope even in the darkest situations

And an old soldier discovers that there are romantic problems to solve even after you’ve cashed in your chips.

Pack Up Your Troubles is an amazing collection by an author that really understands and respects the significance of history.  I know its not everyone's cup of tea but Charlie Cochrane has a way about her that makes it entertaining even while making the reader grasp what these men dealt with and it takes true talent to not turn it into a school lesson, which is what Miss Cochrane has in spades.  Pack Up Your Troubles is a WW1-themed trio that I will definitely be re-visiting for years to come.

This Ground Which was Secured at Great Expense
I've read this one before and loved it then and I loved it even more the second time.  You can't help but want to shake Nicholas and Paul for not speaking up when they have the chance but then you remember its WW1 and it wasn't so easy or legal back then to love who you wanted to.  I love watching Nicholas grow and yet still retain the same befuddled innocence when he came home on leave.  Will they ever find the happiness neither seems strong enough to reach for?  You have to read for yourself for that answer but watching them get from point A to point Z makes for a lovely entertaining and heartwarming read.

Hallowed Ground
Won't say too much about this one because it truly is a short story but one that definitely earned its place in my heart.  A little ditty about realization and friendship.  When two people are brought together under fire, a bond is formed like no other.  We may never know what fate had in store for these two men or if anything beyond this night occurred but witnessing their time in the foxhole makes for lovely reading.

Music in the Midst of Desolation
This one is why I said "WW1-themed" above, because it is a combination of historical and supernatural in a mostly-contemporary setting.  Some might say it doesn't really fit with the other two in the collection because of the contemporary setting but I think its a perfect way to end the collection.  "Old soldiers never die" "guardian angels are all around us" are sayings and ideas that have become cliché over the years but just because they are cliché doesn't mean they aren't comforting.  I may have wished we had a little more definite answer as to what happened to some of the characters in this one but at the same time I found it comforting and peaceful knowing that they found a place where happiness is not out of their reach.

Overall Collection Thoughts:
Whether you are a historical fan like me or you tend to shy away from stories about the past, Pack Up Your Troubles is a lovely read that will make you smile, laugh, shed a tear or two, but mostly it just warmed the heart.  If you've never read Charlie Cochrane before or at least none of her historicals than this is the perfect place to begin.

Original Home Fires Burning Review containing This Ground Which was Secrued at Great Expense February 2015:
Both tales are amazing.  It's the simplest and easiest way to describe it.  In This Ground Which Was Secured At Great Expense, you can't help but feel what Nicholas is going through.  Not only is he dealing with the heartaches of war but he's also has his heart set on a man he didn't reveal his feelings for before leaving.  He's given a chance at exploring physical love when he has a new tent mate in Nicholas.  In The Case of the Overprotective Ass, we see 2 actors entertaining post WW2 audiences with Sherlock & Holmes but they are given a chance to play detectives for real. Alastair and Toby share similarities with Miss Cochrane's famed Orlando and Jonty from her Cambridge Fellows series, but they are definitely their own pair.  Both tales, although shorter than what I would like, are most enjoyable and very entertaining reads. 


Author Bio:
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, but she's making an increasing number of forays into the modern day. She's even been known to write about gay werewolves - albeit highly respectable ones.

Her Cambridge Fellows series of Edwardian romantic mysteries were instrumental in seeing her named Speak Its Name Author of the Year 2009. She’s a member of both the Romantic Novelists’ Association and International Thriller Writers Inc.

Happily married, with a house full of daughters, Charlie tries to juggle writing with the rest of a busy life. She loves reading, theatre, good food and watching sport. Her ideal day would be a morning walking along a beach, an afternoon spent watching rugby and a church service in the evening.


🎧Audiobook Review Tour🎧: Robby Riverton - Mail Order Bride by Eli Easton

Title: Robby Riverton - Mail Order Bride
Author: Eli Easton
Genre: M/M Romance, Historical
Narrator: Matthew Shaw
ebook Release Date: April 24, 2018
Audiobook Release Date: August 2, 2018
Cover Design: Dar Albert/Wicked Smart Designs
Being a fugitive in the old west shouldn’t be this much fun.

The year is 1860. Robby Riverton is a rising star on the New York stage. But he witnesses a murder by a famous crime boss and is forced to go on the run--all the way to Santa Fe.

When he still hasn't ditched his pursuers, he disguises himself as a mail order bride he meets on the wagon train. Caught between gangsters that want to kill him, and the crazy, uncouth family of his "intended", Robby's only ally is a lazy sheriff who sees exactly who Robby is -- and can't resist him.

Trace Crabtree took the job as sheriff of Flat Bottom because there was never a thing going on. And then Robby Riverton showed up. Disguised as a woman. And betrothed to Trace’s brother. If that wasn’t complication enough, Trace had to find the man as appealing as blueberry pie. He urges Robby to stay undercover until the danger has passed.

But a few weeks of having Robby-Rowena at the ranch, and the Crabtree family will never be the same again.

I don't really have anything to add to my original ebook review as far as the story goes.  I don't usually do a re-read(or listen in this case) this soon after the first time so I was a little reluctant to do so but I loved Robbie and Trace's story so much that I decided to give a go even though its only been a couple of months.  Well, I still loved the boys and was blown over by Matthew Shaw's voice.  I tend to need to listen to an audiobook a few times because I find myself zoning out because I'm concentrating too much on what I'm doing but not with Mail Order Bride.  Truth is I felt like a bystander in Flat Bottom, if I looked up I would see Robbie riding in to town with the girls or Trace's badge glint in the sun as he walked by.  Matthew Shaw really brings this story to life and even though it might not have been my first choice to listen so soon after reading Robbie Riverton: Mail Order Bride, I'm glad I did and look forward to many more listens.

Original ebook Review May 2018:
Robbie Riverton had a bright future ahead of him on the stage in 1860 New York but one fateful night everything changed.  Witnessing a murder he hightails it out of town and while on the wagon train he meets mail order bride Rowena Fairchild.  Through a few more twists of fate, Robbie takes Rowena's place with the Crabtree family. But when he meets son Trace, sheriff of Flat Bottom, more than his life is at risk.   Nothing will ever be the same for each member of the Crabtrees after they welcome Robbie Riverton, mail-order bride into their home.

How can one not fall in love with Robbie Riverton is beyond me, he is so absolutely adorable and anyone who can make such an impact on a whole family in such a short space of time is aces in my book.  Trace is no slouch himself when it comes to enjoyable, would I call him adorable? Probably not but he is certainly lovely and one I rooted for from the very first moment we meet him.  You just know the fire between them will rival any shoot-'em-up the Old West has to offer.  Now I won't give anything away but I will say that Robbie's journey is one I won't soon forget and I'll be re-visiting on more than one occassion in the future.

I haven't read everything in Eli Easton's library but what I have read has never failed to entertain and Mail Order Bride is no different.  Taking her spin on romance, her character development, her way with scenery and dialogue, and putting it into a historical setting was just one of the best reading treats I could ask for.  Was it a bit of a far-reaching idea for 1860? Some might see it that way but history does contain some interesting twists and turns.  This is fiction after all and Robbie Riverton: Mail Order Bride is clever, fun, sweet, and entertaining from beginning to end with just the right amount of heat and humor, I hated to say goodbye to the lads when I swiped the final page.  Who knows maybe if we're real nice and real lucky we'll see the boys again in one of Miss Eaton's famous Christmas stories😉😉 but if this was the only time we see them, Holy Hannah Batman! what a winner!


Chapter One
March 15, 1860
New York City
“It was from Aunt Dinah’s quilting party, I was seeing Nellie home!”

Robby’s melodic tenor echoed in the narrow corridors backstage as he made his way to his dressing room. He exchanged winks, grins, or backslaps with everyone who squeezed past him. He was in a damned pleasant mood. The standing ovation they’d just received had put him on top of the world.

“Seeeing Nellie hoooome!” he bellowed in the big finish as he banged into his dressing room. His name, ROBBY RIVERTON, was on the door, and there was a water pitcher and a single rose on the table. This was the good life.

He plopped down at his dressing table. In the mirror Jenny Daley appeared, looking like an exotic flower in her red kimono. She leaned against the doorframe. “How you have a scrap of energy after three shows a day, I’ll never know.”

“Tis the reward of a pure and saintly heart,” Robby said, laying on a thick Irish brogue.

“Bollocks. You’re depressingly young. That’s all.”

Jenny Daley was a huge star of the New York stage. She played Lady Macbeth in their current production, and easily convinced the audience she could bend a man to her will with her raven hair and green eyes. She’d managed to outrun her age so far, though Robby figured she had to be nearing forty.

“You hardly even break a sweat,” Jenny complained.

“Nonsense. I’m wet as the Hudson in unmentionable places. Lord, I’m parched.” Robby reached for the pitcher. It was vilely hot onstage, especially under the costumes and makeup. He tilted the china pitcher over a glass, but nothing came out.

“Flory!” he bellowed. He went to the doorway, squishing Jenny aside, and stuck his head out. “Flory!”

Jenny stuck a delicate finger in her ear. “And to think I once had excellent hearing.”

Flory, a mousy little thing of about fourteen, came running. “Yes, Mr. Riverton?”

Robby ignored the hearts in her eyes. “My pitcher is empty again. How many times must I remind you to keep it filled?”

Her face fell. “Sorry, Mr. Riverton.” She bobbed a curtsy and ran off with the pitcher. With a huff, Robby returned to his chair.

“Don’t be hard on the girl,” Jenny tsked. “She’s awfully mashed on you, Robby.”

Robby began wiping off his makeup. “You forget, I was that girl. I labored backstage for four years, and I always had water ready for the actors.”

“Yes, but you are smart and capable,” Jenny said gently. “Thank God not everyone is, or we’d have even more competition than we have now.”

Robby gave her a smile in the mirror. “You’re right. Though how you stay so humble, I’ll never know.”

She made a face. “I’ve been set down a peg or two in my life. Now, are you coming out with us tonight? Don’t tell me you’re working, for I shall despair if you say no.”

Robby grimaced. “Not tonight, me bonny lass. I have an audition tomorrow. Need to memorize my lines.”

“Oh? What’s the play?” Jenny slunk into the room with renewed interest.

“Nick of the Woods at the Tripler.” Longing shot through Robby’s chest. He really wanted this role.

“Ooh! That ghastly thing?” She looked delighted.

“Yes, life in the wilds of Kentucky. It’s quite bloody, you know.”

“The play is? Or the real Kentucky?”


She shuddered. “Lands. You couldn’t drag me any farther west than Philadelphia.”

“I concur. But playing a frontiersman would be loads of fun. Don’t you think? All that growling and snarling and…hair.” Robby made claws with his hands and grimaced horribly at her in the mirror.

She laughed. “Darling, you growl like a kitten. You’d sooner be cast as Nick’s wife. Want to borrow my red dress for the audition?” She smiled at him prettily.

“Nick doesn’t have a wife. He has animal pelts, and knives, and a vengeful heart.”

“Pity. You’d be a shoe-in for Mrs. Of-the-Woods.”

Robby would never live down the fact that his first big break at Burton’s New Theater had been in a female role. He’d been working in costuming when the actress playing Ophelia fell ill with the flu, as did the understudy and several other cast members. Hamlet had been his mother’s favorite, and Robby had every line of the play memorized. He’d stepped forward and, at nineteen, got his first role on stage. The audience and critics had loved his “tender insanity.”

Well, why not? Men played women’s roles in the olden days. If anything, Robby considered it a double feat of acting—playing the part of “Miss Angeline Smith” who was playing the role of Ophelia. He was blasted proud of that performance.

“I can growl,” he said firmly. “When you come see me in Nick of the Woods, I shall put you into convulsions of terror.”

 “Well, good luck, my bene boy. We shall miss you tonight. You know what they say about all work and no play.”

She kissed his cheek and glided from the room, a picture of grace.

She didn’t give Robby the chance to respond, but what he said about all work and no play was that if he were very diligent, and very lucky, he might one day be as famous as Jenny Daley.

Robby finished removing his makeup, thanked Flory and gave her a sweet smile when she returned with water, and put on an undershirt and dressing gown. He settled down with a bottle of wine an admirer had sent backstage, turned up the lantern to its highest pitch, and dove into the realm of the dreadful Nick. He paced and grimaced, shouted and groaned.

He could growl, damn it. He needed a role like Nick. He’d been playing pretty boys for five years now, always the son or the young, naive lover. Hence his role as MacDuff’s son in the current production and not Macbeth. He needed to prove he was ready for mature roles despite his baby face.

He was so focused on his task that he lost track of time. Then tiredness hit him like a sledgehammer from out of the blue, and he could barely keep his eyes open. He glanced at his pocket watch. It was just after midnight. The unsavory elements would be out and about, and it was a twelve-block trek to Mrs. Grassley’s boarding house. He should have left hours ago.

When he exited the back door of the theater, the sky was pitch black and the city was transformed by the flicker and shadow of gas lamps. It was cold, the sort of cold that made the inside of your nose crisp and brought tears to your eyes. Robby pulled on his gloves, struggling with them under the back door’s gas light. At least the cold woke him up. If he walked fast, he’d be home in no time.

Only he got no farther than one step. He was suddenly aware that near the opening of the alley were moving shapes. There was a shouted, “No, please,” and a barely there snick of a knife.

Robby blinked in surprise. His eyes adjusted to the shadows just in time to see the act. Two large men held the arms of a dignified-looking fellow with gray hair, an elaborate moustache, and a three-piece suit. A fourth man, a short bulldog of a brute with thick jowls, a heavy wool coat, and a bowler hat, attacked the gray-haired man, jabbing forward with his right arm. The victim’s face contorted with agony as the knife plunged. Bowler-Hat stabbed again and again until the man with the gray hair slumped, lifeless. And still the knife moved once, twice.

Robby was so close, he could see the sticky glint on the blade.

He only realized he was panting in terror by the rapid cloud of condensation that formed in front of his face and faded, formed and faded. Then he made an involuntary sound, a sort of lowing, and the three men snapped around to look at him.

“Don’t stand there, you nimenogs. Get him!” Bowler-Hat bellowed.

The men who were holding the victim let him drop to the cobblestones. It wasn’t until they’d taken a step toward Robby that he found the sense to move. He briefly considered going back into the theater, but the door had locked behind him, and there was no time to muck around with keys now. He dove to the right. The alley wasn’t a dead end, thank God. He came out on Centre Street, the sound of his pursuers loud in his ears. He ran harder and faster than he’d ever run before in his life, on and on, street after street, turning as often as he could. He finally turned onto a familiar street and, seeing no one when he glanced behind him, dove into the Long Shoreman.

Jenny and her friends frequented the establishment often, and Robby was not unknown there. The owner, Phil, was a good sort. After no more than a brief plea, Phil stuffed Robby into his private office then vanished again. With his ear pressed to the door, Robby heard Phil’s voice and the angry demands of his pursuers. The back door banged as someone rushed out.

For a long moment all was silent, and there was only the pounding of Robby’s blood in his ears. Then a light tap on the door startled him. Robby stepped back to let Phil in.

Phil carried a whiskey bottle and two shot glasses, and he filled them. “They’re gone. Here, drink this.”

Robby took his and swallowed gratefully.

“What the hell was that about?” Phil grumbled. “Is The Weekly Sun hiring thugs as their critics now?”

“I saw a murder.” Robby’s voice was hushed, as if it were afraid to come out. He dropped down onto a settee crowded with coats, the strength leaving his limbs.

“No kiddin’? Did ya really?” Phil didn’t sound especially surprised. Murders were far from uncommon in New York City. “Well, we can smuggle you outta here after a bit, and you should be all right. I told ’em you went out the back and off they went.

Robby shook his head. It had all been such a blur. But a heavy, dark feeling was settling on him, a sense of utter doom and dread. “No, they saw me coming out of the theater. Had to have gotten a good look at my face. There’s a gas lamp above the door.”

“Oh. That’s a bit of rum luck.” Phil pushed aside some coats and sat down next to Robby. He poured them both another shot.

“And I was so thrilled to have that new poster of me stuck up at the front of the Burton too,” Robby said with a bitter laugh.

It had pricked Robby’s pride every time he passed that poster. There were five glass frames hanging at the front of the theater, and several were dedicated to the current and next production, so being featured in one of the remaining slots was the privilege of a drawing attraction.

The poster depicted Robby standing with one foot on a stool, a dashing cape cast over his shoulder, his face angelic as he looked toward the heavens. The costume, complete with leggings and puffy pantaloons, was from his recent role as Laertes in Hamlet. His face, unfortunately, was completely bare in the image, without even whiskers to disguise him. WITH ROBBY RIVERTON the poster proudly announced.

Yes, it was rum luck. The rummiest. Robby wondered how long it would take the men to trace him to Mrs. Grassley’s boarding house. A day? An hour?

“Ah, Robby, I wouldn’t worry about it,” Phil said amiably. “They’re probably some no-accounts who won’t even bother to go look at the front of the theater. Why should they? You saw something, they scared you off, end of story. It was dark, wasn’t it? You probably didn’t get a good look at their faces. They’ve no reason to track you down.”

Robby stared at Phil, that sense of doom settling deeper. Ice crept up his spine and he thought he might cast up his accounts. This couldn’t be happening. Dear Lord, his life was ruined. Scorched earth. He couldn’t go back to the Burton, or any other theater in New York. He probably shouldn’t even go back to Mrs. Grassley’s to collect his things.

Because he had recognized them, or at least one of them. He’d just seen Mose “The Terror” McCann, leader of the Bowery Boys and the most notorious gangster in New York, murder a man in cold blood. And Mose McCann was known for being smart, vicious, and very careful to never leave witnesses.

Robby grabbed Phil’s shoulders with both hands, like he might grab a life raft in a treacherous sea. “You must help me get out of town, Phil. Because if I don’t, I’m a dead man.”

Author Bio:
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, and organic farmer, Eli has been a m/m romance author since 2013. She has over 30 books published.

Eli has loved romance since her teens and she particular admires writers who can combine literary merit, genuine humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, bulldogs, cows, a cat, and lots of groundhogs.

In romance, Eli is best known for her Christmas stories because she’s a total Christmas sap. These include “Blame it on the Mistletoe”, “Unwrapping Hank” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles”. Her “Howl at the Moon” series of paranormal romances featuring the town of Mad Creek and its dog shifters has been popular with readers. And her series of Amish-themed romances, Men of Lancaster County, has won genre awards.

In 2018 Eli hopes to do more of the same, assuming they reschedule the apocalypse.




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