Title: The Angel in the Window
Author: Charlie Cochrane
Length: 18,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m historical (early 1800′s) mystery romance
When a traitor walks your deck, who’ll be the one to clear him off it? or What happens when your comrades are more dangerous than your enemies?
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?
I have to admit that I’m not usually a great fan of ‘Age of Sail’ books. This is mainly because these types of books are often peppered with confusing nautical jargon and I get all muddled about what’s happening, or where the action of the story is taking place. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with this story which managed to be authentic without overwhelming me with sailing vocabulary. In fact the sailing terms were given a bit of an amusing twist as our pair of heroes use them teasingly towards each other when being intimate.
The story is in two parts. The first part is set around Christmas and New Year where Alex and Tom are home on leave. Alex is captain and Tom his first lieutenant, but they have been friends and lovers for years, moving up the ranks together and being lucky enough to be posted on the same ships. This first part shows the ease and friendliness they share with Tom’s family, with an undercurrent of nervousness about keeping their true relationship secret. This part managed to be heartwarming but with a thread of sadness that they couldn’t be open about their love.
The second part of the story takes place after the New Year as the men return to their ship and sail to Gibraltar and then onto Malta through dangerous seas. I liked that the story stayed focused on the relationship between the men and although you still get a strong flavour of life at sea – its dangers and its beauties – it didn’t overwhelm the human aspect of the story. It was just the right balance for me. The mystery plot worked well and provided some tension to the story, and I also liked the way that it was resolved. Another aspect of the book which worked for me was the constant tension of hiding their relationship, of being careful and attentive to it all the time. This could have caused a deep strain on both men but whilst they may reflect on a time when they could be open, they know that the need to stay hidden is worth the effort.
The highlight of the story though is the relationship between Alex and Tom. Their love and attraction shines through the dialogue, although they are very much of the British ‘stiff upper lip’ type. There’s no overly sweet declarations of love and devotion, just two men living and working alongside each other who have an obvious regard for one another. Their lives are categorised by hard work and restraint which made it all the more wonderful when they could relax together. I liked them both very much.
Overall, this was a wonderful story with strong characters who fit exactly the time and setting. If you want to read a marvellous historical this holiday season, you can’t go wrong with this one.