Sometimes it’s really worth checking out backlists. There are some marvellous books out there but with hundreds of new titles every week it can be very hard to find them.
Authors – have you got a title a year or more old that could do with a little love?
Readers – have you got a favourite book that you think deserves some attention?
Message or email me and we’ll set something up.
I have a double favourite this week. My guest is Charlie Cochrane, one of my favourite people, and the book is Awfully Glad, one of my favourites of her books. It isn’t very long but it covers themes close to my heart – people who dare to be themselves and who have the courage to try and get what they really want even though the odds are stacked against them. Please do check it out, I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do.
WWI hero Sam Hines is used to wearing a face that isn’t his own. When he’s not in the trenches, he’s the most popular female impersonator on the front, but a mysterious note from an anonymous admirer leaves him worried. Everyone realizes—eventually—that Sam’s not a woman, but has somebody also worked out that he also prefers his lovers to be male?
When Sam meets—and falls for—fellow officer Johnny Browne after the war, he wonders whether he could be the man who wrote the note. If so, is he the answer to Sam’s dreams or just another predatory blackmailer, ready to profit from a love that dare not speak its name?
Corry ushered the gaggle of officers out, leaving Sam alone with the business of casting off one persona and putting his real face back on. While being Madeleine was always exhilarating—especially when some poor dupe fell for the trick—he was more comfortable in his own skin. He knew men who weren’t, of course, who’d have envied him this opportunity to prance about onstage and garner the temporarily deluded worship of ranks of young men, but that wasn’t his cup of tea. Somehow his being a rugby-playing, Military Cross-winning officer added a certain authority to the deception. A female impersonator he might be, but nobody would ever accuse him of being a pansy.
He considered his reflection, which was almost passable now that the red patches on his face, where he’d smeared off the make-up, had faded and his hair had been towelled to a tawny dark blond. He looked younger than twenty-seven, barely a touch of six o’clock shadow, which was why Madeleine was always so authentic looking, of course. He’d make some young lady a wonderful husband, as his family kept reminding him.
Except that was on the bottom of his list of priorities, possibly even below getting himself stuck on a piece of barbed wire.
Make some chap a lovely husband? Yes, well, less chance of that happening than George V coming out here, shaking the Kaiser’s hand, and putting this whole mess to an end right now. Still, he couldn’t deny that the last few minutes had been pleasant. Corry was a great bloke—if he knew, then he was keeping his own counsel—and the ginger-headed lad had blushed rather attractively, even if the rest of his face seemed to consist of rough and pockmarked terrain.
The other two officers had been a treat for the eye, though. Did somebody in the regiment have an eye for a handsome face and make sure the pair had been assigned to the same battalion?
A small shape, just at the corner of Sam’s vision, caught his attention: a small piece of writing paper, or something else of the same colour, between two jars of make-up on the makeshift dressing table.
He prised the thing out—a little piece of paper, which had clearly been folded with great care before being wedged in such a position as to be visible only to someone sitting in the chair. It hadn’t been there before the show, and he’d swear it hadn’t been there at the interval nor straight after they’d taken their curtain call, either. Which meant, presumably, that one of his little gaggle of visitors had left it. Except he hadn’t noticed anybody put it there, or even one of the officers touching the jars on the table. Someone must have had a good tactical eye, an appreciation for the lay of the dressing-table land, and the ability to make a bold but discreet move. That hardly narrowed the field, did it? They were army officers, after all.
He turned the paper in his hand, imagining some poor chump of a second lieutenant writing love lines to Miss Madeleine, leaving them here, and then not being able to retrieve them after the great denouement had occurred. How that chap would be squirming now at the thought of Sam reading the lines he’d penned and having a good laugh over them. Perhaps it would be kinder just to chuck the note in the bin, rather than making the man suffer embarrassment. He might have put his name to it, after all.
I asked Charlie for a recommendation and this is what she said:
Too much choice! I’ll go with the first book which came to mind, which is Tamara Allen’s charming Whistling in the Dark. Such a gentle, atmospheric and beautifully written book, conjuring up a post-war America that’s trying hard to re-find its feet.
Biog and links: 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, sometimes historical (sometimes hysterical) and usually with a mystery thrown into the mix.
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, Lethe, MLR, and Riptide. She regularly appears with The Deadly Dames and is on the organising team for UK Meet.
To sign up for her newsletter, email her at email@example.com, or catch her at:
Blogs: http://charliecochrane.livejournal.com and https://charliecochrane.wordpress.com/