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Lieutenant Tom Donald envies everything about fellow officer Frank Foden—his confidence, his easy manner with the men in the trenches, the affectionate letters from his wife. Frank shares these letters happily, drawing Tom into a vicarious friendship with a woman he's never met. Although the bonds of friendship forged under fire are strong, Tom can't be so open with Frank—he's attracted to men and could never confess that to ...
Lieutenant Tom Donald envies everything about fellow officer Frank Foden—his confidence, his easy manner with the men in the trenches, the affectionate letters from his wife. Frank shares these letters happily, drawing Tom into a vicarious friendship with a woman he's never met. Although the bonds of friendship forged under fire are strong, Tom can't be so open with Frank—he's attracted to men and could never confess that to anyone.
When Frank is killed in no-man's-land, he leaves behind a mysterious request for Tom: to deliver a sealed letter to a man named Palmer. Tom undertakes the commission while on leave—and discovers that almost everything he thought he knew about Frank is a lie
First light. A distant sound of something heavy being moved. A thin curtain of rain—the sort of misty, drizzly rain that soaked us through to the skin. Prospect of something for breakfast that might just pretend to be bacon and bread.
Good morning, France. An identical morning to yesterday and bound to be the same tomorrow. Tomorrow and tomorrow, world without end, amen.
I looked up and down the trench. The small world I'd become bound in was now starting to rouse, stretching and facing a grey dawn. The men were stirring, so I had to get out my best stiff upper lip. If I showed how forlorn I felt, then what chance had I of inspiring them?
"Morning, sir." Bentham, nominally my officer's servant but in reality a cross between a nursemaid and a housemaster, popped up, smiling. "Breakfast won't be that long. You and Lieutenant Foden need something solid in your stomachs on a day like this."
"Aye." I nodded, not trusting myself to say anything else until I'd got my head on straight.
"Tea's ready, though." He thrust a steaming mug into my hands. Add telepathist to the list of his qualities. Maybe when I'd got some hot tea into me then the world might seem a slightly better place. "Quiet, last night."
"It was." I was going to have to enter into conversation whether I wanted to or not. "I don't like it when they're quiet. Always feel that Jerry's plotting something."
"He's probably plotting even when he's kicking up Bob's a dying."
"Bob's a dying?"
"Dancing and frolicking, sir. Not that I think Jerry has much time for fun." Bentham nodded, turned on his heels and went off, no doubt to make whatever we had in store for breakfast at least vaguely appetising. I took a swig of tea.
"Is it that bad?" Foden's voice sounded over my shoulder.
"Do you mean the tea or the day? You'll find out soon enough about the first and maybe sooner than we want about the second."
"The perennial ray of sunshine." He laughed. Only Frank Foden could find something to laugh about on mornings like these, when the damp towel of mist swaddled us.
"Try as I might, I can't quite summon up the enthusiasm to be a music-hall turn at this unearthly hour." I tried another mouthful of tea but even that didn't seem to be hitting the spot.
"If you're going to be all doom and gloom, can you hide the fact for a while? The colonel's coming today. He'll want to see 'everything jolly.'" The impersonation of Colonel Johnson's haughty, and slightly ridiculous, tones was uncanny. Trust Foden to hit the voice, spot on, even though his normal, chirpy London accent was nothing like Johnson's cut-glass drawl.
"Oh, he'll see it. So long as he doesn't arrive before I've had breakfast."
Foden slapped my back. "That's the ticket. Don't shatter the old man's illusions." He smiled, that smile potentially the only bright spot in a cold grey day. In a cold grey life. Frank kept me going, even on days when the casualty count or the cold or the wet made nothing seem worth living for anymore.
"How the hell can you always be so cheerful?"
"Because the alternative isn't worth thinking about. Why make things more miserable when there's a joke to crack?" They weren't empty words—that was how he seemed to live, always making the best of things. He wasn't like a lot of the other officers, plums in their mouths and no bloody use, really. The men loved him.
"I bet it's not raining at home."
Posted August 9, 2013
Review originally posted at Bettering Me Up.
Well color me impressed. I honestly wasn't expecting much from this short story; it's hard to create a world in just over 50 pages. But Cochrane did it: she made me believe that this happened and that these characters existed during WWI.
I really wish this were a full-length novel so I could read more about: 1) Frank's background and his relationship with his wife; 2) the time Tom and Frank spent together during the war; and 3) what happens to Tom when the war is over.
My jaw dropped when I read that Charlie Cochrane is a woman. Most female authors who write m/m romances are so over-the-top that I've mostly stopped reading their works. I will definitely read more from Ms. Cochrane, especially if she ever considers extending this story (pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!).
Recommended for fans of Jojo Moyes.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Posted March 3, 2013
4.5 Surprising Stars
Historical MM romance set during World War I.
Full of surprises, mysteries, history and colloquialisms.
""I'd been smitten, knocked off my feet as surely as if I'd got a Blighty one and, this time, there was a chance he'd reciprocate.""
Captain Tom Donald - Brave on the battlefield, but not as sure in his personal life. Tom Donald realizes time is fleeting.
Frank Foden - Honest, steadfast. He and Tom are perfectly paired to fight battles and more.
Veronica - Frank's wife, a doctor, is extraordinary.
Strong bonds are formed between comrades. Living vicariously through happiness of others is one way to lift the oppression of war.
Despite the bleak nature of trench warfare during The Great War, 1914-1918, I found this to be a true love story. The atrocious conditions that surrounding this story do not smother it. Instead, it's the constant knowledge that life is precious and moments are fleeting that drives this story forward.
Letters from home hold whispers of truth. I kept going back to the letters even before I finished my first read. Then after my second read, the letters brought new light to the story.
"I've enjoyed your letters so much,"...
"You've stolen my very words,"...
It's easy to imagine the impact letters from the homeland would carry.
Fifteen pages in and I had tears in my eyes. It surprised me to find that I could connect to these characters so quickly in this novelette.
Some could argue that the romance develops too quickly, but I don't see it that way at all. You have to consider the passage of time during warfare.
Early colloquialisms may put some off, but just read through; it really sets the time frame perfectly.
I find myself simultaneously wanting to analyze bits and pieces, but also, to let it stand. I think this would be a great little discussion generator.
MM sex is only alluded to (off screen), but in a lovely way this carries the tone and dignity of the story toward a sexual relationship.
[I just finished it, again, and I can recommend it whole-heartedly. Emotional, but no real angst, still moving and lovely. This would be an excellent entry point into MM romance.]
My thanks to Netgalley and Carina Press for providing me with a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review.
Posted February 26, 2013
I am not usually a fan of historical fiction, but I am finding that I've come to enjoy reading the genre as long as the writing is done well and the story is an interesting one. This is the case with Promises Made Under Fire.
From the beginning Charlie Cochrane pulled me into the story by introducing me to Tom Donald. His voice was a mix of frustration over his predicament at being in the trenches and his joy at having forged a friendship with Frank, a fellow soldier. He enjoyed their conversations and their friendship, especially sharing Frank's letters. He came to look forward to these days because he could glimpse the love Frank shared with his wife Veronica - the kind of love he yearns to feel one day for another man.
When Frank is killed he is surprised to find that Frank wanted him to deliver a letter to a friend. He's confused as to why Frank saw the need for him to do this, since Frank had not mentioned this friend to him in any of their conversations. Nevertheless, he sets out to fulfill his friend's last wish only to find that Frank was not who he thought he was and that his life would be irrevocably changed by delivering Frank's letter.
This is the first work by Charlie Cochrane that I have read and I enjoyed the way the author went about telling this story. Giving us glimpses of Tom's life in and out of the war, his family dynamics and his struggles with his sexuality, Charlie Cochrane made it easy for me to connect to Tom. I could clearly understand his hesitations, thoughts and actions, which only made the story that much more enjoyable.
The slow pace of the story and the emotions that the author brought out of Tom and into the story gave this novella a very romantic feeling. It was like watching on of those great classic movies where you're drawn into the story by the setting and the characters alone. Charlie Cochrane managed to do just that by taking me back in time to experience Tom's journey in finding what he had looked for all this time - a deep connection to someone else.
I received this title from Carina Press through NetGalley in exchange of my honest opinion.