All Lessons Learned

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Title: All Lessons Learned
Author: Charlie Cochrane
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Historical (WWI) Romance/Mystery
Length: Novel
Rating: 5 stars out of 5


A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

One Sentence Review: Highly recommended and a must-read by fans of the series, but make sure you have tissues available.

THE BLURB

He’s at the end of his rope…until fate casts a lifeline.

The Great War is over. Freed from a prisoner of war camp and back at St. Bride’s College, Orlando Coppersmith is discovering what those years have cost. All he holds dear—including his beloved Jonty Stewart, lost in combat.

A commission to investigate a young officer’s disappearance gives Orlando new direction…temporarily. The deceptively simple case becomes a maze of conflicting stories—is Daniel McNeil a deserter, or a hero? —taking Orlando into the world of the shell-shocked and broken. And his sense of Jonty’s absence becomes painfully acute. Especially when a brief spark of attraction for a Cambridge historian, instead of offering comfort, triggers overwhelming guilt.

As he hovers on the brink of despair, a chance encounter on the French seafront at Cabourg brings new hope and unexpected joy. But the crushing aftereffects of war could destroy his second chance, leaving him more lost and alone than ever…

Product Warnings: Contains sensual m/m lovemaking and is a three hankie story, two of which you’ll need for the happy ending.

THE REVIEW

“I trust Charlie.” That’s what I told Wave when she emailed me the blurb and said the next story in the Cambridge Fellows Mystery series was out. I think she thought I might not want it because of what it says in those couple of paragraphs, but I truly did believe that this author would not torture us, and that she would make it all okay in the end.

All Lessons Learned is book eight of Charlie Cochrane’s wonderful Cambridge Fellows Mystery series and it packs an emotional punch, so grab a box of tissues before sitting down to start. If you’ve never read Cochrane’s books before, what are you waiting for? She is a wonderful author, such a talent. Smart humor, fully-fleshed characters, tight plots and great dialog all make for winners in my book. If you’re looking to start this series, do so from the beginning with Lessons in Love. Reading All Lessons Learned before the others will not give you the emotional ride it will provide those who know and adore these characters.

The story opens on November 12, 1918 with Orlando walking out of a prisoner of war camp. It is a day after the cease fire of the First World War, and it seems that Orlando is not necessarily looking forward to going home. Skip ahead to April of the next year and we find our heroes’ good friend, Matthew Ainslie, at Cambridge getting ready to meet Orlando for dinner. Jonty did not survive the war and Orlando is in deep mourning, his grief almost unbearable. And it isn’t just Jonty; the elder Stewarts — both of Jonty’s parents — are also gone, as well as the headmaster of St. Bride’s. He puts on a brave face and pushes himself to go through the motions every day for classes, but he has made himself a recluse, closing his study and their Forsythia Cottage to all but a few select people. In the hopes that it will give Orlando a diversion, Matthew delivers a new sleuthing commission: a request to look into the disappearance of a soldier by his mother. The British Army claims he’s dead, but she isn’t so sure. During the early part of his investigation, he meets a historian who is researching wartime mental injuries, and someone to whom Orlando is unexpectedly — and to his shock and dismay — attracted. Meanwhile in France, an English soldier named Cesario hides behind a beard and rusty French, making the choice to not return to his homeland as he has nothing left there. The question is who is this man and could this be the missing soldier Orlando is looking for? Or someone more significant?  When fate seems to bring them together, he finds the answers.

This was a really difficult review to write because to talk about it all would be to include big spoilers, so forgive me if I seem vague and do not address the entire plot. Suffice it to say that it’s a great addition to the already fabulous books in the collection, my trust in Cochrane was well-placed, and it’s a must read for fans of the series.

A bit darker and more somber than other installments, ALL has themes of grief, loss, guilt, fear, change, hope and second chances. I openly and often wept in the first part of the book, feeling Orlando’s pain as my own (even now, in my second reading for this review, I find myself blubbering). Jonty’s war-time notes and sonnets written to Orlando and words spoken before their separation were heartbreaking to me. And he couldn’t even share his grief with the Stewarts as they were gone as well. How can he possibly go on without his Jonty? Maybe he can’t.

Additionally, the ravages of war, of that War to End All Wars, is a focal point of the story. Not that war isn’t horrific in general, but it seems that specific conflict was especially so, and the men and boys who returned alive were changed — as was the world itself. There was a loss of innocence and things were never the same. Also playing a big part of the plot part are the difficulties vets face upon returning home to families who could (or would) not understand what they went through.

I really, really missed Jonty’s parents. Anyone who knows me and my reviews of these books, Helena Stewart is one of all-time favorite characters, and Jonty’s papa, Richard, has grown on me dearly through the series. I was quite sad when Cochrane decided their time was up.

But even with the overall sad tone of especially the first part of the book, Cochrane managed to slip in trademark humor. I loved that Orlando was able to smile once in a while. And it’s not all sad; the second part of the book emotionally picks up as Orlando heads to France to further his investigation.

OVERALL

All Lessons Learned is highly recommended and a must-read by fans of the series. And remember, if you haven’t yet begun the series, start with Lessons in Love.

29 thoughts on “All Lessons Learned

  1. Leslie

    I adore this whole series and like you I was blubbing away at parts of the book. Charlie Cochrane is such a great author and this was a fantastic review for a wonderful, heart-wrenching story.

  2. LadyM

    It’s out!? Oh, man… When I heard about the plot a few months ago, I was like: What!? NOOOOO!!! But, then, like you, I decided that I do trust Charlie. This is a must read. Thank you for the review!

  3. Patricia

    When I started the first installment of this series and saw the date over the first chapter, I thought “Oh, no, it is set not too long before WWI, so it is very likely that the main characters won’t have long together.” I actually considered not starting the series because I dreaded the upcoming war. I am happy I read the series so far, but I am very hesitant about starting the latest installment.

  4. Kassa

    Great review. I’ve been holding off on this one because I knew it was both incredibly moving and the end of one of my favorite series of all time. Historicals rarely make it to my keeper shelf but I adore this series so much. *sniffs*

    I think I’ll pick this up now and maybe restart the whole series after. Thanks!

    1. Aunt Lynn Post author

      Hi Kassa and thanks. I know you love this series as much as I do. I’ll let Charlie address your second concern, but don’t hesitate to read this one. Let me know what you think after.

    2. charlie cochrane

      Not the end; just a chapter that needed to be written now, for exactly the reasons Patricia gives above. I’ve felt WWI hanging over the lads since the start.

      Am working on book 9 (set in 1919) and then would like to fill in some of the late Edwardian blanks…

      Many thanks

      Charlie

  5. Wave

    Lynn
    This is a wonderful review but I love Jonty and Orlando together, so I don’t think I’m ready to read the series without Jonty. I don’t know if I’m ever going to be up to reading this book. I’m already crying just reading the review. I need more time after having just finished another somewhat sad book about a soldier who didn’t return from the Viet Nam war.

    I guess this is the end of the series – I hope so – too much pain. :(

    1. Aunt Lynn Post author

      Trust Charlie like I did Wave. And yes, it will make you blubber, but it’s worth it. If Charlie weighs in, she can speak your last comment. I won’t as I don’t want to do spoilers here.

    2. charlie cochrane

      Sorry I’m late commenting. Had middle daughter having an op on Monday and since then we’ve been in and out of hospadiddle.

      Not the end of the series – am working on book 9 at present – but can’t give away too many spoilers, just that there’s a happy ending and things do carry on…

      Charlie

  6. Kate McMurray

    Oh, this book was wonderful. I sobbed through a great deal of it—seriously readers, have tissues at hand!—but, without giving anything away, I’ll say it’s worth it for the ending. Trust Charlie!

  7. Dianne T.

    Lynn, great job on the review. Difficult with this one not to include plot spoilers. I’m another one who adores Jonty and Orlando and Charlie’s stories about them. This latest is no exception, although my tears were flowing so hard at the end of chapter three it took some gumption to keep going. (Orlando re-reading a letter and one of the sonnets from Jonty that Lynn mentioned)

    Charlie wove a very gripping portrayal of the war and the toll it took, and how the characters dealt with feelings of loss, grief, and moving forward. To anyone who is holding off reading this, Charlie said to trust her, and you should.

    1. Aunt Lynn Post author

      Thanks Dianne. I thought I could get through my second reading without tears since I had already experienced it, but I was so wrong. And yes, the message here is to trust Charlie.

  8. aquina

    What an appropriate review for Valentine’s Day since IMHO Jonty and Orlando are one of the great m/m love stories.

    I had to read this story twice in the same sitting. The first time really quickly because I just had to know and the second to savor the story. Thanks Charlie!

  9. Tracey D

    With each book, I fall in love with Orlando and Jonty more and more.

    Now, please excuse me because I’m going to do some book shopping!

    1. Aunt Lynn Post author

      Hi Monica. That’s a great way to read these — in order one right after the other. Let us know what you think when you’re’ done.

    2. Ted Hayes

      Monica, have you got a multiple level treat in store for yourself! You will become, as I have, a great fan of Charlie Cochrane and “her boys.” She and I have been corresponding for a while since the death of my partner of 26 years. This sweet, gentle, talented, loving woman has seen fit to make my Jack and me two of the persons to whom the “All Lessons Learned” is dedicated.

      I am both honored and humbled by this. That the book came out just a few days before my 80th birthday was such a moving experience that, even though I knew it was to happen, I wept when I saw it in print.

      Dear Charlie is, indeed, one of a kind!

  10. Gaycrow

    I trust Charlie!

    I’m half-way through Book 7, and can’t wait to start book 8, even though I’m dreading it. I’m sure to have a lump in my throat most of the way through, and will need a box of tissues.

      1. Gaycrow

        Finished now, and managed very well. Didn’t shed a tear, but sniffled a bit.

        I’ve gone back and started the series from the beginning again. Jonty and Orlando are such wonderful characters. Can’t get enough of ‘em.

  11. charlie cochrane

    Lynn/Wave

    Thanks for the wonderful review. Sorry to be so tardy with replies (see comment above). Been a bit of a week.

    The lads and I are so pleased you enjoyed the book (tears and all) and promise they have more adventures to tell me about.

    Hugs

    Charlie

  12. Theresa

    Lynn,

    I’ve just finished this, and your review was spot on, I used my hankies as you said I would throughout.

    This series continues to be superb and thanks to to Charlie Cochrane in achieving this. I can see me re-reading these books ongoing.

    Ted what a gracious and heartfelt email, all the best.

    Theresa

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