“The Green-eyed Monster causes much woe, but the absence of this ugly serpent argues the presence of a corpse whose name is Eros.” – Minna Thomas Antrim
Title: A Rose by Any Other Name
Author: Charlie Cochet
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Blurb: Nights in the roaring city remind bright young things that life’s too short to take for granted. Tucked away in Times Square hides the Pantheon: a secret cabaret for wealthy gay men. Pretty young men in elaborate costumes and rouged lips are eager to please, and the champagne flows all night long. It’s a world of frivolity, fantasy, and debauchery. As Eros, the most sought after performer at the Pantheon, Julius uses his beauty and charm on enthusiastic patrons, but growing weary of superficial love, he longs to make a better life for himself.
Five years after being declared mentally unfit after surviving the trenches of No Man’s Land, Edward Joseph Clarence Junior pieced his shattered life back together. Now he’s ready to take on the family empire. To celebrate his thirtieth birthday, Edward’s cousin takes him to the most posh nightclub in town, the Pantheon. Falling under the sway of Eros, Edward and Julius find a love they’ve never imagined and the chance for a future they had only dared to dream about. But as Ares, a notorious gangster and Julius’s most important—and dangerous— client watches them, the threat to their love and their lives grows by the day.
Review: It’s no big secret I love historical romance, but it wasn’t until I’d read Charlie Cochet’s free novella Roses in the Devil’s Garden some years ago that I realized what a scarcity there was of stories set in the 1920s, a time when Prohibition and gangsters in the United States created a matrix of cause and effect. When liquor was criminalized by the 18th Amendment and, therefore, became profitable to make and sell illegally, a hotbed for organized crime was created. What a great time in history to set a romance novel, as the roaring 20s just resonates with its own special brand of romanticism.
Not written as a sequel to but a complement of Roses in the Devil’s Garden (though Harlan and Nate do make a cameo appearance near the end of the book, and it was a treat to see them again), A Rose by Any Other Name is set within the decadence of a gentlemen’s club, where wealthy men come not only to indulge in a little illegal imbibing but also to appreciate the beautiful performers who also satiate their patrons’ carnal needs. Charlie Cochet has brought the Pantheon to life on the page, the opulence, sex and debauchery creating the perfect backdrop for the gangster who has taken a dangerous interest in Julius Knight, the gorgeous Eros to the criminal Ares.
Plucked from the gutters and polished to become the flawless diamond in the Pantheon’s collection of prostitutes, Julius is at once the practiced seducer, artful performer, and the jaded young man who understands he has few options in life other than being a plaything for wealthy men who want to use his body and then shower him with meaningless trinkets to remain in his good graces. This sets up the conflict from the start, for when Edward Joseph Clarence Jr., heir to the Clarence department store fortune, enters the picture, Julius’s cynicism of Edward’s sincerity makes for some necessary tension between them, something that Charlie Cochet builds on and then deconstructs as their story moves forward.
As the relationship between Julius and Edward strengthens and becomes something more than simply that of courtesan and client, the danger to Julius and Edward escalates in the form of the man everyone knows only as Ares. The depth of his criminal activities aren’t entirely spelled out in the storyline, but it’s sufficient to know that he will stop at nothing to keep from losing what he sees as his, namely Eros. Ares’ interference in Edward’s personal life, dredging up the pain and loss in his past to use it against him, is where A Rose By Any Other Name reaches its climax and hits its emotional pitch, and Charlie Cochet hits it spot on.
I loved a couple of the side characters in the book, who each play a significant role in Julius and Edward’s relationship, and I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll be getting their own stories; if not full length novels, then at least novellas. I’d also love to see much, much more of Harlan and Nate, as they’re the reason for my love of this series to begin with. Edward’s father was also an unexpected but wonderful surprise in Rose, entirely because of the depth of his love for his son. Their relationship played beautifully in my ideal of a father’s unconditional love for his child, even though the time in which the story is set would make the senior Clarence an exception rather than the rule.
Overall, A Rose By Any Other Name is the building of a sweet romance that’s tempered by fear, jealousy, and danger. The descriptions and details Charlie Cochet offers make it easy to picture the Pantheon in one’s imagination, and its atmosphere, combined with its 1920s setting, plays like a classic film in the heyday of Hollywood’s most decadent days.
You can buy A Rose By Any Other Name here: