Sunday, 6 December 2015

My Guest ~ Charlie Cochrane

An Angel In The Window
Release date: 21 December 2012
Publisher: MLRPress

Alexander Porterfield may be one of the rising stars of Nelson's navy, but his relationship with his first lieutenant, Tom Anderson, makes him vulnerable. To blackmail, to the exposure of their relationship—and to losing Tom, either in battle or to another ship. When sudden danger strikes—from the English rather than the French—where should a man turn?

A message from Charlie
It’s not just beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

I love the way that our senses can affect our thinking. Who can see a candle shining next to some holly and not feel a warm glow of goodwill? Or look at the lights twinkling on the Christmas tree and not be transported back to childhood, feeling again that giddy sense of excitement at what the big day would bring? Funny how certain things re-awaken dormant memories. If I see shiny blue and gold paper next to each other, for some reason I’m back in primary school again, with nativity plays and homemade decorations...

But it isn’t just sight which is evocative. The other four senses affect me, too. I only have to hear “Nutrocker” or “House of the Rising Sun” and it’s Margate, early 1960’s, on holiday and getting lost in the back of beyond. I can see the scene so vividly. Same with Christmas songs. “Stop the Cavalry” is one of my favourites, although now it makes me choke up as it’s become inextricably linked in my mind with the scene in “Warhorse” where Tom Hiddleston is charging at the enemy.

The aroma of pine needles—real pine needles on a real pine tree—is for me the definitive smell of the season, but cinnamon and cloves and the turkey roasting in the oven all play their part. I suspect smell is the most evocative of senses, although I, alas, have very little sense of smell and I miss it hugely. So when I can detect a particular perfume or the odour of something gorgeous cooking, I feel very blessed.

At least I still have most of my sense of taste, so can appreciate the seasonal delights. Turkey, sage and onion stuffing, Brussels sprouts, Christmas pudding, mince pies, roasted ham—I love them all. So what’s the definitive yuletide flavour? Well, have you ever tried Black Butter (a traditional Channel Island delight)? We have a friend who, the first time she tasted it, said, “It’s like Christmas!” She was right, the apples and cider and spices making the perfect combination.

There’s one sense left. Feeling. The first thing I thought of was pine needles, which get everywhere and poke you when you’re least expecting it and in the most astonishing places. Not that pleasant, though. The scrunching of leaves under foot is much more like it, as is snow in your hands or on your face. Wrapping paper and ribbon in eager hands, the shape of parcels in stockings in the dark, that tin of Cadbury’s chocolate fingers I simply couldn’t identify in the early hours of Christmas morning when I was a child.

Please savour Christmas to the full, if you can.

  “I remember the Trojan well, Tom.” Alexander’s voice was hardly above a murmur. “The midshipmen were all particularly ugly.”

  “Oh, you clown, it was at Port Mahon—don’t you recall the little inn where you played whist? You should remember, given how much you won.” Tom snorted and shared the last of the wine between their glasses. “A young man came and chatted to me. Do you recollect at all?”

  “I can remember that the run of the cards was unusual that night.” Alexander frowned as if that was all he could bring to mind.

  Tom grinned. “I don’t believe you. You can, no doubt, recollect the detail of every trump you played that night but you don’t recall the fact that your lover was being seduced before your eyes.”

  Alexander looked sheepish—not an expression he often adopted. “Unfair! I wasn’t aware that your virtue was under threat. If I had been, the man in question would have felt the edge of my sword.”

  “Would he? Really?” Tom chuckled at the ridiculous thought of Alexander calling a man out for attempting to seduce his fellow officer.

  “Now you mention it, I do recall a rather striking looking young man.”

  “I thought you couldn’t have failed to notice him. He reminded me of you when we first met—all gangling awkwardness and puzzled innocence. At least until he made his proposal.”

  “What did he say to you?”

  “I could not possibly repeat it. Not even here in private. But it was completely indecent and very anatomically detailed.” Tom snorted. “In return I made an anatomically exact suggestion as to what he could do with his idea.”

  “And you say this has happened frequently?”

  “Well, only if you count as frequent one admiral as well as the chap at Mahon. Now, are we to make use of that bed or not, sir?”

  Alexander drained his glass. “And so to bed, my lord and master. I am entirely at your command.”

  “At my command? Are we to play admiral and flag lieutenant again?”

  “We’ve not played that since I was made captain.” Alexander leaned forward, tugging at Tom’s less than immaculate stock. “I’ll have to upbraid you for the slackness of uniform.”

  “You’re not allowed to. I’m the admiral, remember?” Tom pulled his captain closer, for a kiss. “You’ll do what you’re told. This jacket of yours, for instance. It needs a good brushing. Take it off.”

  “Aye aye, sir.” Alexander eased the offending item from his shoulders.

  “And that shirt needs the attention of your steward. We’ll have that off, too.”

  “If you insist.” Alexander was clearly trying hard to keep a straight face.

  “And no undershirt!” Tom feigned shock as his lover’s chest appeared, bared before him. “Your sister would be appalled, as she spent so long sewing you that flannel one.”

  “You forget, I have no sister.”

  “Sir,” Tom grinned. “You forget I have no sister, sir.”

  “Sir,” Alexander repeated, looking remarkably gormless. “I apologise for my lack of a female sibling. I shall endeavour to do better in future.”

  “It would be as well for you to do better in your duty there,” Tom nodded towards the bed.

About Charlie
Because Charlie Cochrane couldn't be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her mystery novels include the Edwardian era Cambridge Fellows series, series, and the contemporary Best Corpse for the Job. Multi-published, she has titles with Carina, Samhain, Riptide, MLR and Bold Strokes.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at literary festivals and at reader and author conferences with The Deadly Dames.

Find Charlie Here