Music in the Midst of Desolation by Charlie Cochrane
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, M/M, GLBT
Length: Short Novel- 20 Minute Read/ 58 pages
Old soldiers never die -- they get whisked straight back to earth to take part in angelic "manoeuvres". Patrick Evans has no idea why he and Billy Byrne, who fought their wars a century apart, have been chosen for this particular "op", nor why it seems to involve fixing up the man Billy left behind with someone Billy's always hated. When Patrick realizes his old lover also has a connection to the case, will the temptation to refuse orders become too great?
Proving that old soldiers still know the drill, and that young ones who die haven't finished with their duty, Charlie Cochrane puts a new twist on the notion of guardian angels. Music in the Midst of Desolation has another mission for fallen soldiers Patrick and Billy, one only they can do.
Allot more than twenty minutes for this story no matter what the cover suggests; there's plenty going on. Patrick and Billy get tapped for some afterlife recon by a heavenly intelligence agency whose duty is to make sure important choices are made to play out long term goals and plans, and that certain people can perform their destiny-critical parts in life. If it takes some gentle manipulation and exposure of truths (these guys are literally on the side of the angels; they will do the work honorably) that's what they do, even if the living people are dear to them and the choices are hard.
Patrick's had nearly a century of afterlife to let his emotions cool into angelic dispassion, unlike Billy, for whom everything is very recent and raw. He needs Patrick's cooler head to keep him on mission, because he's so very close to the living people he's trying to guide. The two work very well together; Billy's modern directness and Patrick's older-school reserve mix together with their sense of duty and get the job done.
There's some subtle humor, such as Billy trying to curb his soldier's language for angelic surroundings, and when he finds out what people really think of him. Angelic agents trying to use corporate-speak and military-speak bring a smile; you'd think they be naturals at flow charts. No sex—none of the relationships are at that point.
Their mission becomes more clear as the story progresses; Billy is truly the only operative who can ensure success, and for him there is a separate success, in learning to see past what he believes. This is more a story of healing than a romance, although one couple who truly deserves their chance at happiness looks like they will have it after a long drought. The triumphs are low key and mostly set up to happen rather than playing out on page. The birdsong in the trenches that lifted the men's spirits is playing here: Music in the Midst of Desolation has hope for all these dead soldiers. 4 marbles