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    REVIEW: Stacking the Deck by Charlie Cochet

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    The Kings: Wild Cards: Stacking the Deck – Charlie Cochet

    Ex-Special Forces Communications Sergeant Jacopo “Jack” Constantino knows a thing or two about communications technology. As head of Cyber Security at Four Kings Security, Jack spends his days working with high-tech systems. Life for Jack is pretty uneventful—despite working with his brothers-in-arms—and he finds himself longing for a little excitement.

    Be careful what you wish for.

    Two years ago, Fitz Harlow captured Jack’s heart and walked away with it. Now he’s back.

    Fitz spent the last two years picking up the pieces of his life after a disastrous end to a ten-year relationship. After much therapy, and ice cream, Fitz leaves the fashion world behind and returns home to St. Augustine to open his own high-end salon, Hair Comes Trouble. Two years later, Fitz finally has the quiet, peaceful life he’s wanted for so long. There’s only one thing missing, or rather, one man missing, but Fitz has his doubts. With Jack, he’s not just gaining a boyfriend, he’s gaining a boyfriend, his family of mischief-magnet ex-Green Berets, and one highly opinionated Belgian Malinois.

    Fitz and Jack discover their connection has only grown stronger over time, thanks in part to meddling friends, but just as they start to pick up where they left off, someone takes objection to their reunion. Danger hides in the shadows, a stalker determined to keep Fitz out of Jack’s life, no matter the cost. With the odds stacked against them, can Jack and Fitz win a battle against an unknown enemy, or will Jack lose Fitz forever?

    The Kings: Wild Cards series is a spin-off of the Four Kings Security series.


    I know Charlie Cochet writes great humor (witness The Prince and His Bedeviled Bodyguard) but Stacking The Deck had me LOLing. Scenes from the book even started popping in my head the next day. I was chuckling to myself while working. These guys are crazy!

    The Kings here refer to King, Ace, Red and Lucky who co-own the Four Kings Security company along with Jack and his best friend, Sacha a.k.a Joker. All of them are ex-military. The Kings have their own books and I’m pretty sure Joker is going to get one.

    Our hero of the moment is Jack, head of the cybersecurity department. He’s super smart, sweet and nerdy. He’s a Macguyver who can fix anything from broken fridges to military parachutes but can’t cook to save his life. Not even toast because him and kitchen appliances don’t get along.

    Fitz was a runway hairstylist who got tired of the limelight. He’s been together with his former boyfriend for 10 years until he caught him cheating. He needed a fresh start. Fitz is first to admit he’s high maintenance. He’s wary of relationships because of his cheating ex.

    He and Jack had an brief but unforgettable history together where Jack saved his life. This probably happened in the other books. The attraction was strong but Fitz wasn’t in the right headspace yet to start a new relationship. So he ghosted Jack.

    Fast forward present day, Fitz is now in a better place, running a successful salon. Jack receives a text from him about a hair appointment and promptly got distracted from monitoring Joker and the guys on the job. He got razzed about it because Fitz texted all of them

    Despite all the USTs exploding all over the place, the romance was a slow-burn. Trust had to be gained and the two danced around their feelings. Everybody did their best to help them along because they knew these two dorks are a forgone conclusion.

    I loved how the book didn’t hold back on the fluff. There’s this really squee-tastic scene where Fitz was drugged and Jack had to keep him awake on the way to the hospital. Fitz basically confessed everything while Jack in his best gentlemanly self, tried not to take advantage of Fitz in his present condition. The next day, Laz, Fitz’s bestfriend told him all about it. Then he finds Jack in his kitchen where he burns the toast.

    Jack is adorbs! His brain short-circuited when he realized he fell in love and had to be talked through it by Joker. Joker his wild, dog-loving, hates being called by his real name, “I’m never falling in love” best friend was suddenly the voice of reason. What is the world coming to?

    Also, famous last words, Sacha.

    This is a book about friendship and camaraderie. The author really did a great job with her characters because I remember all of them. King is the alpha and their big brother. His boyfriend is Leo, the best hacker of them all. Red’s a former military doctor. He’s a great cook. His boyfriend is Laz, a fashion photographer. Ace, purveyor of all mischief, is about to be married to his billionaire fiance, Colton. Colton is friends with Laz and Fitz. Lucky is a Latinx whose boyfriend is Mason, a former detective.

    The guys are awesome but the star of the show is Chip, Joker’s military dog. Everybody loves Chip.

    I appreciated that the author really made the effort to get all her well-loved characters in the picture so readers who want to check in on their favorites get a treat. There were a lot of cute scenes that were mostly there for cuteness sake, all designed to reduce you into a warm puddle of goo. The writing is so thorough in providing every detail, it’s like she anticipated all our questions. It gave all the information we need, giving hints to potential love interests because 99% of the male characters are queer

    The thing with this, however, is that it’s easy to guess who the good guys are and who’s not. If their eye color is mentioned, it’s probably either they have a book or will get one in the future. The faceless ones are usually up to no good which makes the mystery weaker. Understandable, since it comes as third priority to the romance and the group dynamics.

    While totally consumable as a standalone, Stacking the Deck is best experienced by reading Four Kings Security first. I have not read the main series yet and nearly got lost on the who’s who at the first parts because this had a huge cast. Not only you meet all the ex-Green Berets and their boyfriends, there’s also the other supporting characters that make their appearances here and there. There were a lot of inside jokes and references to hilarious past events that had me itching to start on the other series.

    All in all, this spin-off is off to a rocking start! Recommended if you’re up for some fantastic, fan-servicey, escapist fun.

    P.S.

    Review of The Prince and His Bedeviled Bodyguard here

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Moonlight
    Artist: Future Islands
    Album: As Long As You Are


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    FIRST LINES FRIDAY 56: What The Hell?

    First Line Fridays” is by Hoarding Books and is all about the first line of a current/upcoming read. Friday 56 is a meme hosted by Freda’s Voice, where you turn to page 56 (or 56%) in what you’re reading a find a snippet that jumps out at you. The idea to combine the two came from Kat @ Here There Be Dragons

    I found this meme on The Writerly Way. And I’m doing this on a Thursday just to be difficult.

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    REVIEW: The Prince and His Bedeviled Bodyguard by Charlie Cochet

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    Paranormal Princes: The Prince and His Bedeviled Bodyguard – Charlie Cochet

    Prince Owin

    Being a fierce predator—not at all adorable, despite my graceful stature—the last thing I needed was a bodyguard. Especially a wolf shifter, whose presence alone was an insult to my princely principles. As Prince of the Ocelot Shifters, I prided myself on my infallible feline instincts, uncompromisable dignity, and flawless fashion sense. If having a canine follow me around at all times wasn’t bad enough, I now faced the most important moment of my entire life. The time had come to prove I was worthy of my crown. If only I could find a way to get rid of the pesky bodyguard.

    Grimmwolf

    When the King of All Shifters asked me to guard Prince Owin, I admit I had no idea what to expect. Cat shifters tend to be a little intense, not to mention kinda cranky. Owin was no exception, though he seemed crankier than most. Being his bodyguard was proving to be one of the greatest challenges of my life—but not nearly as great as convincing him there was something special between us. When Owin is faced with a perilous quest to prove his worth, I was determined to keep him safe, even if the same couldn’t be said of my heart.


    Charlie Cochet is a hit or miss author for me. While her charming historical series, The Auspicious Troubles of Love, hit all the right spots, her shifter books, Soldati Hearts, missed by a mile.

    I’m happy to say that the first book of Paranomal Princes, The Prince and His Bedeviled Bodyguard is adorbs! And soooo much FUN!

    Prince Owin of the Ocelots is not adorable. No, no, not adorable at all (he will scratch me if I say adorable one more time). He is a spoiled brat and a hot mess but you’ll love him anyway.

    Grimm is the bodyguard. He’s an alpha wolf and successor to the Grimmwolf clan. He’s loyal, brave and strong, everything you’ll ever want from a bodyguard and more. You’ll love him immediately.

    Together they embarked on a quest that took them to many far flung corners of the kingdom. They meet other magical creatures who all tried to kill Owin (because he’s a prince who’s being very princely with them). It was all Grimm could do to keep him alive.

    As to the travel part, don’t worry, no long drawn-out journeys here (gad I hate those). They have handy dandy portals.

    This is a fairy tale about the things one hold dear and what one willing to sacrifice for power. This is also a delicious, low-angst, opposites-attract, (kinda) enemies-to-lovers romance with the kind of seme you wish you could take home.

    I love the dynamics between Grimm’s dog-like seme and Owin’s bratty uke. Their interactions made the simple story come alive.

    Cochet also teased us with King Alarick and his friend/confidant Jean, who has an unrequited love for the clueless monarch. Their story better come soon!

    I highly recommend The Prince and His Bedeviled Bodyguard. The plot followed the tried and tested route of the quest trope. Still, the author was able to pull off a highly entertaining story with endearing characters, hilarious antics, fantastic chemistry and engaging writing.

    Do read if you like light-hearted stories with sneaky cave snuggles, outdoor displays of princely privates, and a whole lot of hissy fits and dogged determination.

    P.S.

    Charlie Cochet books here.

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: I Choose You
    Artist: Tears for Fears
    Album: Raoul and the Kings of Spain

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    My Top 10 Reads of 2018

    1. Death and the Devil Series – L.J. Hayward

    Explosive, action-packed, edge-of-your-seat thrills. Sizzling unconventional romance. Yes, the entire series is the best thing to come out this year. Everything’s a solid 5

    Reviews here.

    2. The Agency: Merlin in the Library – Ada Maria Soto

    The ace romance story of my dreams

    Review here.

    3. Green Greek: Ravensong – T.J. Klune

    dirt and leaves and rain. packwitchmateheart

    Review here.

    4. On Davis Row – N.R. Walker

    So emotional and emotionally satisfying I got goosebumps.

    Review here.

    5.  Captive Prince: The Adventures of Charls, the Veretian Cloth Merchant – C.S. Pacat

    We’ll make another kind of empire.  

    Review here.

    6. The Auspicious Troubles of Love: The Impetuous Afflictions of Jonathan Wolfe – Charlie Cochet

    A sqee-tastic, tension filled, delicious slow burn dance of the young and impetuous.

    Review here.

    7. Bureau: Creature – Kim Fielding

    Because love means loving him, even though. The best Bureau story so far.

    Review here.

    8. Bad Behavior: Reckless Behavior – L.A. Witt & Cari Z

    A police procedural story that went above and beyond. Perfect combination of flawless writing and heartfelt narration.

    Review here.

    9. Lord of the Butterflies – Andrea Gibson 

    Powerful poetic stuff!

    Review here.

    10. Whyborne & Griffin: Balefire – Jordan L. Hawk

    The best W&G book yet! Whetting our appetites for the final magnificent showdown.

    Review here.

    Bonus:

    A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo – Marlon Bundo & Jill Twiss

    Attack of the super cute!

    Review here.

  • book,  Uncategorized

    A Tender Curiosity – Charlie Cochet

    Take a journey into the past and meet the men who laughed, lived, and loved in a bygone era. This collection includes three short but sweet tales of infatuation, adventure, humor, and even a dash of the paranormal.

    When Love Walked In
    Private investigator Bruce Shannon’s cases of missing persons and infidelity don’t inspire warm feelings around Valentine’s Day. Luckily Bruce is quite happy with only his cat for companionship—until handsome Jace Scarret wanders off the street and into Bruce’s life.

    In His Corner
    Former world heavyweight boxing champion Jessie “the Demon” Dalton needs a cornerman, and Eli jumps at the chance, hoping for answers about why Jessie broke his heart years ago. It soon becomes clear that Jessie needs Eli in his corner—and in his life. Now all Eli has to do is convince Jessie.

    Believe Me, Beloved
    Robert Bradley dreams of singing on the radio, and when he attends the masked ball of handsome station owner Gabriel Chase, Robert has no idea his dream is about to take an unexpected paranormal turn.

    In His Corner originally published by Torquere Press, Inc., September, 2012.
    When Love Walked In originally published by Torquere Press, Inc., February, 2012.
    Believe Me, Beloved originally published in Masks Off Anthology by Top Shelf, An imprint of Torquere Press Publishers, 2012. 

    A collection of historical stories set in the same era as The Auspicious Troubles of Love series.

    Two were set in the real world while one had paranormal elements.

    All three featured age-gap which is catnip to some but not really my thing. 

    When Love Walked In: Mittens and her human, Bruce Shannon, pick up jobless Jace. They fed him, clothed him, housed him and gave him a job. Throughout all these, Bruce and Jace dance around their mutual attraction. Well-paced, well-developed and sweet. Comes with Mittens’ seal of approval.

    In His Corner:  Washed up boxer Jesse Dalton tries to deal with his feelings for Eli as the young man whom he had pushed away comes back to his life as his new cornerman.

    A story about second chances with fully-fleshed out background and convincingly delivered romance. 

    Believe Me, Beloved: Aspiring singer Robert Bradley was invited to a posh ball hosted by his boss and crush Gabriel Chase. There he discovers a different kind society. Weakest story for me. I must have bad luck with Cochet’s shifter stories because this one did not work. It seemed nothing more than a set-up for a human/were-jaguar mating.

    Rating:
    When Love Walked In – 

    4 Stars 
    In His Corner  – 

    3 Stars

    Believe Me, Beloved – 

    2.5 Stars

    Overall: 

    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: First Day of My Life
    Artist: Bright Eyes
    Album: I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39722627-a-tender-curiosity)

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    The Auspicious Troubles of Love: The Impetuous Afflictions of Jonathan Wolfe – Charlie Cochet

    Eight years after leaving the deserts of Africa and the French Foreign Legion behind, Jonathan Wolfe has settled into life at Hawthorne Manor in the English countryside. Johnnie helps his adopted family run the manor and provide a safe, loving home for a new generation of “brats”: boys mistreated and discarded for their homosexuality—something all too familiar to Johnnie.

    Although no longer an unruly youngster, Johnnie is as stubborn, foul-mouthed, and troublesome as ever. His recent rash behavior becomes a concern for those closest to him, especially Dr. Henry Young, the only man ever to capture Johnnie’s heart. Instead of soothing him, their closeness brings Johnnie’s insecurities from an unsettling past to the surface, and leads to an explosive situation that threatens to tear them apart. Then Henry’s past catches up to them….

    Charlie Cochet topped the already very good Auspicious Troubles of Chance with the ridiculously good, ridiculously fun Impetuous Afflictions of Jonathan Wolfe. 

    After the end of the war and out of uniform, the fairy infantry flourished in the Hawthorne Manor with more Brats, now fondly referred to with a capital B. Johnnie and Doc Henry had met each other eight years prior and sparks flew. You would think the two would have had their happily ever after by now but, nooo, Johnnie had to be Johnnie and couldn’t let go of personal demons. Yes, even if everyone was vocally and actively shipping them, even if each knew how the other felt, Johnnie is still keeping Henry at arms length. But that doesn’t keep him from flirting like mad. Sometimes Henry turns the tables and beat Johnnie at his own game. How these two managed to deliciously slow burn their way through the entire book, until Jonathan finally came to terms with his feelings, is a treat worthy of a 5 halle-fucking-lujah stars. 

    DId I mention the book was fun? I live for the wisecracks and the banter, Chance especially. He came a long, long way. I’m glad to see him at his best and I love that he kept his lunatic streak. Jacky continues to be the pillar of strength for all and that twit Glen deserved more than just a bullet in the leg for what he did to Jacky. As for Chance AND Jacky, well…

    “No one can out-kissy-face Chance and Jacky,”

    Alexander and Bobbie are now grown ups and still as fluffy as ever. Alexander is a certified professor, homeschooling the Brats and Bobbie, well whatever he is doing right now, he’s still attached to Alexander. And like Johnnie and Henry, they need to sort things out between themselves, too

    And then there’s the Brats. Elliot, Rori, Aubrey, Connor, Edmund, Oliver and Gideon make up the rest of the family. I’m not even remotely interested in kids but these Brats are sooo adorable! You simply can’t resist them!

    It’s not all fun and games. Behind each person is a tragic backstory and the book is all about not letting your past define you and letting people in. Even though the author might have taken liberties and I am treating this story as a fairy tale, the idea that you are not alone and family doesn’t always mean related by blood resonates strongly. There’s also a message of hope and trust, of learning how to open yourself up to people who will never give up on you.

    “Piss off. I’m not talking to you as your doctor now, I’m talking to you as the man who loves you, every stubborn, foulmouthed, infuriating inch of you. Do you understand? I love you.”

    Even with his words warming me up inside, I couldn’t help my response. “You shouldn’t.”

    Henry’s hand came to rest on my cheek and I turned my face to kiss his palm, making him smile. “You’re right, I probably shouldn’t, but that doesn’t change the fact that I do, and I’m glad I do, because even when you drive me barmy, I love you more every day. Despite what you may think, you’re a good man, and very much worthy of being loved. Please, let me love you. Instead of struggling alone, confide in me, lean on me, trust me to help you to the best of my ability. Trust me to love you and comfort you. I’m not weak.”

    It doesn’t even end there. It took a lot of convincing and I mean A LOT, for Johnnie to finally open up and forgive himself. And it takes a lot of work to heal but he realized, it starts by reaching out to the right person

    Whatever happened, I knew I had to try. Most importantly, I knew no matter my heartache, I wasn’t alone. I never had been. Rather than act on impulse, feeling my way through the dark, all I had to do was reach out. 

    I wasn’t all that happy with The Soldati Prince, the first Charlie Cochet story I read but then she blew me away with the Auspicious Troubles of Love series. 

    This series was published way back in 2012 and I am glad I was able to discover this underrated gem.

    I really, really hope she would release more stories about the other Brats, like Aubrey and Rori or Connor and Gideon. Most importantly, 

    Alexander and Bobbie! They need their own book. I can’t believe everything’s hanging between them. They need closure. I need closure. Come on Charlie, make this happen please!

    Rating: 
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect 

    Soundtrack: Flaws
    Artist: Bastille
    Album: Bad Blood

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18691963-the-impetuous-afflictions-of-jonathan-wolfe)