A Tender Curiosity is a sweet collection of novellas from Charlie Cochet that do not especially connect in theme, but all have a nostalgic tone. The setting for each is roughly in post-prohibition, Great Depression-era, New York City. The lingo really helped me feel like I was back in a film noir of that period.
I think my fave was the first one, When Love Walked In, which featured a gallant private eye who becomes a good Samaritan. Bruce Shannon has gotten jaded in the course of tramping the mean streets to catch cheaters on film. He’s made a good business, but he’s been distracted by the vagaries of keeping his office running now that his capable secretary quit to get married. One evening just before Valentine’s Day, Bruce’s landlord asks him to get rid of a vagrant camping on the landing near his apartment. Jace Scarret is young, has luminous blue eyes, and has a hardluck story that melts Bruce’s defenses. This story is the least physical, yet I was really touched by Bruce’s willingness to help a stranger. Jace had a lover who’d taken advantage and turned on him at a time when Jace needed a true friend. His attraction to no-nonsense Bruce was sweet.
The second story, In His Corner, is a reconnection romance between an aging boxer and the young man he’d never felt worthy of loving. Jessie Dalton thinks he’s washed up and he is into his forties. His long-time manager has set him up for a benefit fight and recruited his nephew, Eli, to work Jessie’s corner for the event. Jessie had a definite attraction for Eli, a man he’d known from his boyhood. Eli had a deep crush on Jessie, but three years ago Jessie pushed him away before he could confess his deep love. Now, prepping for an unexpectedly difficult bout, Eli’s determined to offer Jessie whatever he needs to succeed—and his love brings Jessie luck. It’s a tender reconnection, and there’s some steamier moments, too. The fight is the centerpiece of the story and I loved how Eli saw Jessie—with such love and hope. Jessie thinks he’s too dumb and damaged for Eli to love, but he won’t turn him away a second time.
The final story, Believe Me, My Beloved had a great twist. Robert Bradley is a mail clerk at the radio station owned by Gabriel Chase. Robert’s co-workers recognize he has a beautiful singing voice and Robert longs to be one of the many voices on the airwaves. He figures he has an in, now that a star of the station has invited him to an exclusive ball held at Gabriel’s country estate. The thing is, Robert’s not a true guest of honor; he’s become a pawn in a dangerous game between paranormal folk. If Gabriel is lucky, he might be able to save Robert, what he’d hoped to do by ignoring Robert’s golden voice back at the station. This one has both deadly suspense and steamy confessions. Between Gabriel’s strength and Robert’s determination, they thread the needle to find love and safety.
While I liked When Love Walked In the best, the stories are all intriguing and interesting. Also, with each being roughly 30 pages long, they are perfect for a lunchtime read. I think readers who enjoy historical romance would devour these.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.