Michael Gray returned from World War One injured, but at least he returned. Others were not so fortunate, including his first and greatest love, Thomas Carter-Clemence, with whom Michael had parted bitterly before the conflict began.
Broch, the Carter-Clemence home in Porthkennack, was an integral part of pre-war holidays for the Grays, the two families drawn together in the wake of their sons’ friendship. Returning to the once-beloved Cornish coast for a break with his sister and her family, Michael has to find the courage to face old memories . . . and dare new relationships.
When Thomas’s brother Harry makes an unexpected appearance, Michael is surprised to find himself deeply attracted to Harry for his own sake. But as their relationship heats up, it unearths startling revelations and bitter truths. Michael must decide whether Harry is the answer to his prayers or the last straw to break an old soldier’s back.
A post WWI era, summer holidays with the family, and a chance to face down the past and get on with the future were all tantalizing elements of a story told by an already favorite author. It was irresistible. I was delighted by the way the author could surround me with an authentic feel of the era and situation for her little cast of characters.
As the Porthkennack book six, Count the Shells only shares the locale with other books from the series so functions just fine as a standalone. In fact, this innovative series that pulls in a handful of solid British authors doesn’t even stick to one era which I thought was a great thing.
Count the Shells is not a dynamic story nor is it a swift moving one. It’s tremendously contemplative. This is not a book with a crisp, clean plot either particularly with that fuzzy happy for now ending. I don’t reveal all that to say that I hated the book. Actually, far from it, though yes, I wanted a more swoony tied-up ending rather than the appropriate one for the times and the situation.
Speaking of the times, this is post-war, waning years of the Edwardian era Cornwall. The author nailed the whole feeling of the setting, culture, society, and the people of that era.
Michael is the narrator and he is the main figure in the story, but really, this is the story of two families. Michael reminisces and tends to get broody. I enjoyed him most of the time. Though, there were a few moments when he let his anger and resentment get the better of him and he ‘shoots the messenger’ making me want to kick him in the pants to get over himself. But, it was a very significant shock he receives that changes everything he thought so I guess I’ll cut him some slack.
My one niggle is that as Michael reflects back, I did get distracted and felt the story dragged. I wanted things to get moving.
The romance was not exactly a full romance. It was more the beginning of one. The past had to be dealt with when it came to Thomas’ ghost and Michael’s feelings for Thomas. He was attracted to Harry, but the author carefully made it clear that he distinguish between the brothers and distinguish between his feelings for them. There were fun banter, passion, and then emotional conflict. I would have loved an epilogue maybe even a year or two in the future to see something more solid between this pair.
So, all in all, it was moderately enjoyable. I wasn’t as vested as I wanted to be, but didn’t actually dislike anything. Its a lovely, gentle and emotional m/m historical romance.
My thanks to Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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