• book,  Uncategorized

    SERIES REVIEW: Haven Hart Books 1-7 by Davidson King

    ***Long post. you can skip to the end for the tl,dr version if preferred

    Never judge a series by its spin-off is a lesson I learned from Haven Hart.

    I read Joker’s Sin series first, and I’m sad to say, I wasn’t too impressed. I didn’t bother with Haven Hart after that. Then on a whim, I decided to pick up Snow Falling, since heck, Joel Leslie and Philip Alces were narrating, and these two are always fantastic. Plus, I was also in the mood for some mafia romance.

    I ended up binging the entire series! That GOOD!

    These are not-so-mini reviews of the seven books in the main Haven Hart universe. The books should be read in order.

    Snow Falling: A man with a dangerous past and a man with a dangerous future find love amidst murder and mayhem. But with Snow’s life being threatened at every turn, will Christopher’s best be enough to prevent Snow Falling?


    I didn’t have much expectations going in. I thought it would be the usual mafia romance. Little did I know, I would be completely charmed by the delightful titular character, Snow. This ray of sunshine also charmed a houseful of mobsters, especially the boss, Christopher Manos.

    Snow saved Simon, Christopher’s 8-year-old nephew, from a dire fate, putting himself in grave danger in return. Christopher offered the homeless Snow protection and a place to stay, hiring him as Simon’s companion.

    It was a joy to watch the much-feared mob boss, Christopher Manos, become simply Chris. I loved how he was drawn to Snow without seeming to realize it. He instinctively let him take the lead, and it was so endearing that Snow didn’t even realize how much power he had having the Christopher Manos in his corner. Our boy asked for so little, and here was Chris, ready to give him the world!

    It’s a fabulous book to open the series. It showed a glimpsed of Haven Hart from its underbelly. It touches upon some dark themes, but still relatively lighter than the other books. The plot had many surprising twists and dark secrets to uncover. I was completely riveted!

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

    Soundtrack: Naked
    Artist: Jaymes Young
    Album: Feel Something


    Hug It Out: When a mole is discovered within Riordan’s organization, relationships are compromised, and people’s lives are in danger. Time isn’t on their side, and they discover answers can’t always be found by hugging it out when someone is hell-bent on eliminating each and every one of them.

    So I tried reading this a couple years back, but I wasn’t feeling it. I was a bit skeptical (and admittedly judgey) about Teddy’s job. Like seriously, a professional hugger? I don’t even like hugging my relatives.

    Second time’s the charm because past the first couple of chapters, I got the hang of it. It’s a cute story of an assassin who was gifted with a professional hugger. He didn’t know what to do with him, so he ended up falling in love.

    I wasn’t as interested in the romance as I was with Riordan’s organization and his co-workers. He works for Black, an enigmatic and intimidating Thor of a man, who suddenly discovered somebody plans to launch a hostile takeover of his assassin company. Riordan and a few other trusted assassins work to uncover who was behind it.

    This installment introduced many of the characters who star in the succeeding books. The plot is as suspenseful and more action-packed. It also hinted at the presence of the nameless, faceless, hella mysterious heir to the Haven Hart founding family via the presence of Poe. He is an artist Snow befriended, and also the Hart heir’s representative. I was dying with curiosity!

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

    Soundtrack: Bullet Holes
    Artist: Gregory Alan Isakov
    Album: Evening Machines


    A Dangerous Dance: Bill and Mace’s traitorous hearts draw them closer together no matter how hard they fight the inevitable. With the lives of their loved ones hanging in the balance, they find themselves in the middle of a dangerous dance.

    This is an enemies-to-lovers story of Bill, Christopher Manos’s underling who became Snow’s best friend, and Mace, an assassin from Black’s organization. They were forced to work together.

    I didn’t expect Bill to get his own book. He was a goon from the Russian mob who threatened Snow. He had been given a second chance by Christopher after Snow asked to spare his life. He was mostly in the background, so I was surprised that he was suddenly Snow’s best friend.

    Mace was more memorable because he’s a flashier character. That’s all I’ll say about him because he and Bill weren’t that interesting. However, both are great as secondary characters.

    Their story felt very much like a mid-series book. It picked up the threads from the previous book and ended in an HFN. Not so satisfying but understandable given how things went.

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

    Soundtrack: Born Killers
    Artist: Selebrities
    Album: Lovely Things


    From the Ashes: Unknowingly sharing the same goal—burying their own pasts deeper than the fires of hell can reach—Black and Quill are unaware that jumping into that fire will do more than ignite their feelings, it could lead to their own demise.

    I was excited about this because Quill piqued my interest when he first appeared in Book 2. I was thrilled he’s paired with Black because they’re total opposites.

    Quill is the colorfully tattooed smallish barista who latched on to Black and flirted every chance he got. Black is this grumpy giant who couldn’t understand why Quill, 20 years his junior, was interested in him. After the events in Book 3, he hired the young man to do deliveries.

    At first, the story was cute and amusing with Black trying to fend off the relentless Quill. Then things took a darker turn when it was revealed Quill was a victim of domestic abuse. Black was in full protective mode because he took such crime personally.

    Why he takes it personally was a story so tragic and horrific it triggered my anxieties. And I’m normally the type of reader who’s barely ruffled by blood and gore scenes. The author didn’t make it too graphic, it was just that terrible. You can feel how heartbreaking it was for Black to talk about it. Also, the scene where Quill was being hunted had me holding my breath. I was so terrified for him!

    My heart went out to Black and Quill! I am so glad this is romance, and the happy ending is guaranteed, or else I would be completely devastated.

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

    Soundtrack: Born In Flames
    Artist: In This Moment
    Album: Mother


    Snow Storm: The city of Haven Hart rests under the heel of Christopher Manos. Snow has found a home, a family, and the love of one of Haven Hart’s most powerful men. When Christopher and Simon are kidnapped, Snow risks everything to find his family. Snow calls in every favor he is owed, risking his life promising favors in return, all to save his family and the man he loves.

    This installment returns to Christopher, Snow, and now teen, Simon. The happy couple wants to celebrate Simon’s birthday. Chris promised his nephew the two of them would go camping so that they could spend some quality time together. En route, they were ambushed and kidnapped.

    Manos family skeletons were unearthed when Christopher came face to face with their kidnappers. The lengths Snow would go through to save his family knew no bounds. He even went so far as break his friendship with Poe by asking him to do the unthinkable, betray the Hart heir.

    This part was particularly juicy because I was hungry for crumbs about the Hart heir. Poe guarded his secrets like a dragon guarding his hoard. I’m so tempted to skip to the 7th book!!!

    Anyway, Snow was wonderfully brave and smart, even if he had to hurt Poe in process. Thankfully, they reconciled later on. With Black’s help, Snow hatched a clever rescue mission. This book also has a mid-series feel to it, bridging the past events to the present and laying down the seeds of things revealed in the next book. It’s not as dark as the previous book but still very gripping!

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

    Soundtrack: Find You
    Artist: Ruelle
    Album: Rival


    Triple Threat: Lee, Jones, and Ginger deal with dangerous situations and mounting stress daily working for the most powerful assassin organization in the world. All of those things seem like a walk in the park compared to the friction that sparks between them. When all three are assigned to the same job, ignoring the heat from the inferno of desire becomes impossible.

    Lee, Jones, and Ginger are Black’s people. Jones is the muscle and Lee’s best friend, while Ginger is the recruit. Lee is a hacker who went to the dark web to track down human traffickers who were running an auction. Then they discovered Ginger’s brother being sold and rushed to save him.

    This is a road trip poly romance running alongside a vigilante mission to take down the human trafficking ring. It had Jones and Lee pretending to be buyers while Ginger worked in the shadows since his close resemblance to his brother would give them away. They had to follow instructions and codes to various locations before they could retrieve their “merchandise.”

    Given the stomach-turning crime tackled here, the author did a good job keeping things from becoming too disturbing. The plot brings various arcs together and edges closer to the finale. I love how things are starting to fall into place. At the same time, it had me asking burning questions!

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

    Soundtrack: Bloom
    Artist: Murder By Death
    Album: The Other Shore


    Raven’s Hart: Haven Hart stands on the edge of good and evil. Having balance between the two is the only thing keeping the town from crumbling to the ground. For years, one man has been charged with maintaining that balance. Poe. The air of mystery surrounding Poe is one of necessity. Poe will need the help of his friends to fight the ultimate battle; not just save Haven Hart but everything and everyone he holds dear to him.

    Finally, Poe’s book!!!!

    I will not say much about the plot. All you need to know is that it’s so worth it to read the first six to get to this! My jaw dropped to the floor at the revelations. And that’s just in the opening chapters!

    I was also floored to know the true measure of the weight and heartache Poe carries. This guy is holding Haven Hart together single-handedly. And doing it while barely holding himself together. It’s a wonder he’s still standing, the poor man! Poe is amazing!!!

    Davidson King definitely saved the best for last! Haven Hart was never the same after this!

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

    Soundtrack: You
    Artist: Tally Hall
    Album: Good & Evil

    The Haven Hart series is about family. The good ones, the ones people found, and the ones they’d rather forget. I loved how the main characters were so alive and real, I felt like I knew them personally. Their stories moved me, scared me, amused me, made me feel like I’m part of their lives. Their stories are a delicate balance of good and evil, much like the city that gave the series its name.


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to buy your copy of Haven Hart. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

    Haven Hart Boxset 1-4: US | UK
    Haven Hart Boxset 5-7: US | UK

    You can also use my Bookshop affiliate links to buy paperbacks and MP3 CD audiobooks and help support independent bookstores.

    HAVEN HART BOXSET 1-4
    HAVEN HART BOXSET 5-7

    If you like my content, please consider supporting me on Ko-fi or PayPal. Your donations will help keep this website going. Thank you so much!

  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Sleight Of Hand by Charlie Cochet

    58295191. sy475

    The Kings: Wild Cards: Sleight Of Hand – Charlie Cochet

    Former Special Forces Green Beret, Sacha “Joker” Wilder, is well-versed on the subject of demolitions. As a silent partner of Four Kings Security, Joker spends his days working alongside his brothers-in-arms and his best boy, Chip—a bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois with sass. Years of military and private security experience have prepared Joker for almost anything, except the explosive attraction between him and Giovanni Galanos.

    When Gio returns from his travels abroad, everyone is charmed by the handsome billionaire philanthropist, but in Joker’s experience, anyone who’s too good to be true usually is. Gio is hiding something, but the more time Joker spends around Gio, the more his walls start crumbling, leaving him exposed and at risk of losing his heart, something he swore he would never do. Love is for suckers, and that’s not him.

    For years Gio has dedicated his life to his charity work, helping people around the globe, but when things go horribly wrong during one particular trip, Gio decides it’s time to come home for good. The desire for family, and a certain ex-Green Beret with a chip on his shoulder, has Gio eager to restart his life Stateside. For all of Sacha’s blustering and griping, no one makes Gio feel safer. If only Sacha could see how right they are for each other.

    Danger lurks in the shadows as someone sets their sights on Gio, and secrets are forced into the light. If Gio and Joker are to have any kind of future together, they’ll have to face difficult truths, because where love is concerned, it’ll take more than sleight of hand to make things work.

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


    Among the ex-Special Forces Green Beret co-owners of the Four Kings Security, cybersecurity specialist Jack is my favorite. But my most anticipated story is his best friend, Joker’s.

    Our boy Joker is the group’s wild child. He grabbed my attention from the start. He hates being called by his real name, Sacha. He boldly declared he was never going to fall in love, EVER. He is short of stature, with an even shorter fuse, sloppily dressed, occasionally skips showers yet still managed to be very adorable. Jack might be his brother but his best friend is Chip, his black, bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois. This lovable duo charmed their way into everyone’s hearts.

    When Gio made his appearance and Joker expressed his dislike of the do-gooding billionaire, I knew right off the bat that what these two have was something special. The author teased us with glimpses of their USTs-filled, long-distanced interactions in previous installments. Gio has always been upfront about his interest in Joker who he calls Sacha. This, despite never having met him face to face yet.

    Now home after a long stint abroad, he was very determined to show his beloved Sacha how good they could be together. Meanwhile, Joker was very determined not to fall for Gio’s considerable charms. Still, the very enticing billionaire has a way of breaking through his walls.

    The magic of Sleight Of Hand was how it brought Gio and Joker together in the most delicious and satisfying way possible even if we already know what to expect. I loved how naturally Gio and Joker fell for each other and the way Joker came to terms with his feelings. This was one of the most enjoyable and well orchestrated relationship progressions I’ve ever encountered. The chemistry was off the charts!

    Joker’s antagonistic approach to Gio stemmed from preconceive notions fueled by trust issues. Despite his best efforts to disliked the billionaire, he was attracted to him. The more time he spent with Gio, the more he realized how truly kind-hearted and sincere about his intentions the other man was.

    Gio is awesome! He is sweet, generous and caring. He is a self-made billionaire who’s always smiling and genuinely enjoys helping people. He has so much love to give. Joker was surprised at how much the billionaire cared for him. Also, the man loved his dog Chip almost as much as he did. So really, our boy stood no chance of resisting.

    I lived for that moment when things fell into place for Joker and he realized, oh fuck, he was indeed in love! With last person he expected to fall for. It was so damn GOOD!

    My favorite part was how the two showed they care. These are men who take action. And their gestures, no matter how grand or small, really showcased the depths of their feelings. Joker, for all his griping about Gio, always made sure the busy man had eaten properly. What Gio did near the end made me a bit emotional. It was a touching tribute that meant the world to Joker.

    The book is mostly romance with bits of action/suspense and mystery to move things along. The bad guy’s identity was very obvious but even with the elements of predictability, the story never felt stale to me. The plot moved fast while still giving Gio and Joker enough time to slow-burn their way towards each other (and make us squee).

    The book is written in that inimitable Charlie Cochet style that’s always humorous, engaging and immersive. There were a lot of ridiculous dialogues and gags. Also, very thorough with details, especially the actions, yet never dragging.

    The best thing about her books are the people and their wonderful dynamics. Joker and Gio belonged to a big family of ex-Green Berets, their boyfriends and their friends. Since the first time I meet this group in Jack’s book, Stacking The Deck, they felt very real to me. The author created such a fabulous cast, every one of them is memorable. And watching them interact with each other is always a treat.

    However, the real star of the show is Chip. I loved all his cute doggy antics! New dog Cookie is also a sweetheart. You need to see how Cookie came into the picture. This part is pure heart-melter!

    Sleight of Hand gave us everything we hoped for for our boys, Joker and Gio. Theirs was a fun, emotional, fluffy, sweet, delicious and happy coming together, with furry friends to light their way and human friends to cheer them on. Well played, Charlie Cochet!

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

    Soundtrack: Wild Heart
    Artist: Bleachers
    Album: Strange Desire

    P.S.

    Sleight of Hand is best read after meeting all the Kings, Jack and their fabulous Boyfriend Collective in the sister series, Four Kings Security and The Kings: Wild Cards Book 1, Stacking The Deck.


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to buy your copy of Sleight Of Hand. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

     US |  UK

    You can also use my Bookshop affiliate links to buy paperbacks and MP3 CD audiobooks and help support independent bookstores.

    SLEIGHT OF HAND

    If you like my content, please consider supporting me on Ko-fi. Your donations will help keep this website going. Thank you so much!

  • book,  Uncategorized

    SERIES REVIEW: Four Kings Security Books 3 & 4 by Charlie Cochet

    More love for the Kings today.

    The Four Kings Security is owned by ex-Special Forces Ace, Red, Lucky and King, along with their fellow Green Berets, Jack and Joker. They built their security firm to continue their mission of protecting people in honor of their fallen brothers in their unit.

    This is the second part of my review of this well-loved series by Charlie Cochet. In the first two books, we meet Ace, the troublemaker and Red, the sweetheart and how they found their persons (review of books 1 & 2 here). The next two books is about the King of Clubs and The King of Diamonds.


    41011708. sy475

    Four Kings Security: Join The Club – Charlie Cochet

    Eduardo “Lucky” Morales is a fighter, from his childhood days in Cuba to his time as a Special Forces Green Beret. Scarred by the wars of his past, Lucky has learned nothing lasts forever. Guarding his heart is second nature, and getting emotionally involved is not an option. As co-owner of Four Kings Security, Lucky works hard alongside his former brothers-in-arms and fellow Kings, but he also plays hard. Flirting with sexy Texas cowboy and detective, Mason Cooper, is too much fun to resist, until Mason turns the tables on him.

    Mason Cooper may not be a soldier, but he’s fought his share of battles as an openly gay cop and now a detective for Major Crimes. Mason has no idea when things changed between him and Lucky, but the gorgeous, fiery Cuban has turned his world upside down. When a mistake leads to his suspension from the force, Mason turns to the least likely person for help: Ward Kingston.

    Determined to keep Mason at arms’ length, Lucky is surprised to find the man at Four Kings Security. The Florida nights might be getting cooler, but the heat between Lucky and Mason burns hotter with every passing moment. Working private security can be dangerous and unpredictable, but so can falling in love.


    Lucky got his nickname because he has all the luck with the ladies and gents. Unlike his cousin Ace who is half-Cuban and raised in the US, Lucky grew up in Cuba until he was 14 when his Aunt was able to bring his family to Florida.

    Lucky still uses his native tongue sometimes, especially when emotions ran high. I really enjoyed that he’s bilingual and the author uses Spanish words liberally. I liked that her Cuban roots gave the story much authenticity.

    All the Kings, Jack and Joker had gone through much in life, but I think Lucky had a few more challenges to hurdle. He grew up dirt poor with barely anything to eat. What his parents, especially his mother, had to go through just to put food in the table was tough to think about.

    As a result, he had a special appreciation for the finer things in life. Not in the materialistic sense but more of a reminder of how far he had gone and what he had accomplished. Lucky is a man who can appreciate a pair of limited edition Gucci loafers. He and Colton could go shoe shopping together.

    Mason Cooper is a drawling cowboy transplant from Texas and a recently promoted detective who’d worked with the Kings in some cases. After a failed drug test (he forgot to mention the cough syrup) that caused his suspension, he requested King for a temp job. He was paired with Lucky.

    Lucky gets along with everybody. Except Mason. Who is Ace’s ex. Also, the guy he had some sort of moment with. And so they’re always riling each other up a.k.a. flirting. They not so much as throw off sparks but more like burn for each other since the previous books. It’s so palpable everybody already expected the inevitable sooner or later. They’re just too stubborn, the idiots.

    When I started on this, I was a bit meh. I’m not particularly keen on cowboys and Mason was probably the character I’m least drawn to. But the deeper I got into the story, the more I became engrossed.

    A big part of the book showed the day to day of a security specialist with Lucky showing Mason the ropes. I liked this peek into their working lives. It made Mason realized how much he could achieve working for Four Kings. There is a nebulous threat to Mason’s life and this came to a head at the last 20% with a twist I least expected.

    This installment is different from the rest. This is more of an antagonistic partners-to-lovers romance. The forced proximity of working together made all their excuses not to get close disappear in a cloud of lust and feelings. There’s a lot of push pull and a lot of heat. The chemistry was explosive. So was the love.

    The King of Clubs has everything he could ever want.

    ˛˛ꉂ ◞•̀д•́)◞⚔◟(•̀д•́◟ ) <- Lucky and Mason being idiots.

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

    Soundtrack: How Lucky We Are
    Artist: Douwe Bob
    Album: Fool Bar


    44006542. sy475

    Four Kings Security: Diamond In The Rough – Charlie Cochet

    When the cards are stacked against you, the Kings will even the odds.

    For Ward “King” Kingston the role of protector, forged by fire and tragedy, is one he takes seriously. When King is asked to safeguard the son of a four-star general and friend, he is pulled back into the world of government black ops on a mission that raises painful memories from his past. The moment King meets Leo, amid the chaos of a lockdown at a secret black site, it’s clear he’s never faced a challenge like this—one that will test his unwavering sense of control.

    Leopold de Loughrey is a misunderstood genius whose anxiety and insecurities are sent into overdrive when he is forcefully recruited to work on a top-secret project. Terrified of what his role as “invaluable asset” means, Leo’s stress leads to disappearances, arguments, and blowups that threaten the project and Leo’s future. King’s arrival is a calm in the storm for Leo and his frenetic thoughts.

    King and Leo couldn’t be more different, yet as they navigate the dangers of a secret multi-agency operation and face unknown threats, their differences could be what saves them. Neither man believes a happily ever after is in the cards, but their hearts might just prove them wrong… if they can survive a deadly betrayal.


    Saving the best for last because The King deserves a Leo.

    King is the group’s alpha. He was the second in command of their former unit so the men naturally follows his orders. He’s also the most enigmatic of the Kings, always there but almost in the background. He’s a known grump who shoulders the world’s responsibilities.

    His book picks up right after the epilogue of Join the Club. King just completed his mission. He was asked a favor by his friend, their old general, to protect his son. Little did King know, it was more than he bargained for.

    A hell lot more.

    Leopold de Loughrey is a tech genius recruited a.k.a. blackmailed by the government to create a program for surveillance. Leo has always been special, according to his dad who feels very protective of him. He has anxieties and health issues that made it hard for him to work in such a difficult environment as a tightly-guarded government facility. Especially with the other analysts being downright hostile towards him.

    Leo is also a master escape artist.

    It began with a ridiculously cute meet-cute in the middle of chaos inside a bunker hidden in a black site. While everyone was scrambling about looking for the missing Leo, King, standing still while taking stock of the situation was offered fish crackers by an unidentified but admittedly very cute young man. Guess who.

    I have to use cute 3 times there because Leo is so freakin’ adorkable!!! That he was inspired by Dylan O’Brian made me love him more. The moment King laid eyes on him, the man was a goner.

    The mission here was to protect Leo from the Russians and the traitor who was working with them. They used code names from the Avengers. I’m totally living for the Marvel references.

    This is an age-gap, opposites attract, slow-burn romance with a lot of humor and heart. King and Leo formed a great partnership. I loved how King paid attention to the little things that make Leo ticked. Their dynamics was so funny and sweet. I loved the contrast between the brawny, protective grump and the brainy, quirky nerd.

    The scene I like replaying in my head was the part where the rest of the guys met Leo. All of them were so flabbergasted to know that King, who never laughs, laughs and smiles with Leo. Like, all the time! Even Ace was impressed. It was hilarious!

    Of course King will never hear the end of it.

    (*・∀・)_Ω~ヽ(o_o–) <- King and the fish cracker incident

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

    Soundtrack: King and Lionheart
    Artist: Of Monsters and Men
    Album: My Head is an Animal


    I can’t recommend Four Kings Security enough! This is one of the most enjoyable series I have read. The camaraderie and the humor alone made this worthwhile. I loved the huge cast and their group dynamics.

    The series tend to focus on the relationship development and the interactions between characters. The action/suspense usually occur in the latter parts. However, there is still a good balance between the various elements. This is definitely a series worth binge-reading!

    The books are best read in order.

    Review of Love in Spades and Be Still My Heart, books 1 & 2, here.

    P.S.

    And so faceclaims!!! LOVE Charlie Cochet‘s inspiration for the guys. Check out her pinterest here.


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to get your copy of Four Kings Security. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

  • book,  Uncategorized

    SERIES REVIEW: Four Kings Security Books 1 & 2 by Charlie Cochet

    You meet one King, you’ll love them all. Which is why I ended up binge reading this fantastic series by Charlie Cochet.

    Four Kings Security is owned by the the Kings, Ace, Red, Lucky and King, along with their friends, Jack and Joker. All of them are ex-Special Forces, the remaining half of a unit deployed in Syria years ago. All of the men felt the loss of their brothers heavily, each of them carrying of traumatic memories of a mission gone wrong. These memories are gradually revealed as the stories progressed. They are the reason why these men started their security agency.

    But this is not an angsty, tear-jerker of a series. These are, in fact, some of the funniest books I’ve read. Like its spinoff, Stacking the Deck, which was the one I read first, I keep remembering some hilarious scenes. It keeps me nicely entertained while going about my day. Talk about memorable!

    This series also stands out for the wonderful friendship and camaraderie. These are men who would die for each other. There’s so much palpable warmth and love here, this quickly became one of my favorite found families ever.

    This is a review of Love in Spades and Be Still My Heart, books 1 and 2. The books are not standalones. They pick up from events of the previous books. There are many recurring characters and scenes alluded to throughout the series, it’s definitely best to start at the beginning to get the most out of it.

    I’ll be reviewing books 3 and 4 on Friday. First, let’s meet the King of Spades and the King of Hearts.


    39920487. sy475

    Four Kings Security: Love in Spades – Charlie Cochet

    When the cards are stacked against you, the Kings will even the odds.

    Ex-Special Forces soldier Anston “Ace” Sharpe is fighting a different battle these days—one involving the world of private security across the state of Florida. As part owner of Four Kings Security, Ace and his fellow Kings tackle everything from armed transport and investigations to cyber intelligence and executive protection. Cocky, fearless, and brash, Ace isn’t afraid to take risks.

    After years of working alongside his father, Colton Connolly is ready to take the helm at Connolly Maritime, but his father’s retirement is put on hold when Colton begins receiving death threats. If that isn’t bad enough, his father signs a contract with Four Kings Security to provide Colton with round-the-clock protection, despite his adamant refusal. Colton’s life has been turned upside down, the last thing he needs is a shadow, especially in the form of infuriating, sexy-as-sin Ace Sharpe, who seems to be on a mission to drive Colton mad.

    Sparks fly the moment Colton and Ace meet on a sultry night club dance floor. But getting involved with a client, even one as fiery and beautiful as Colton Connolly, is a line Ace is unwilling to cross. Colton might be attracted to Ace, but he’d been burned before. He might be willing to put his life in Ace’s hands, but not his heart.

    As the Florida nights heat up, so does their passion, and Ace and Colton are faced with a difficult choice—take the plunge and risk it all, or play it safe and walk away?

    If Ace can keep a deadly threat from robbing Colton of a future….


    Ace is the chief purveyor of mischief and instigator of some of the funniest scenes in the series. He’s almost never serious, always riling up one or all of his brothers. All the jokes hide a smart individual who can be quite perceptive. And you got to hand it to the guy, he can be really professional when on the job.

    Which is what he tried to do while working for the Connollys. Well, he tried. But when faced with the temptation that is billionaire Colton Connolly, he was sorely tested.

    The thing that brought them together was a stalker threatening Colton. This part was almost forgotten through most of the story. The focus were on the interactions between the major characters and the development of the romance with the action/suspense crammed at the last quarter.

    Can’t blame Ace for falling hard. Colton is a wonderful person. He’s a beautiful, hardworking, generous man who can stand toe to toe with Ace’s brand of crazy. He succeeded in driving Ace out of his wits with his 4-hour shoe shopping sprees and firm opinions on powder white vs snow white loafers.

    The attraction was insta, the romance slow-burn, the USTs sizzling. Since this is bodyguard romance, it’s only a matter of time before they surrender to the inevitable. So I tend to judge this kind of situation on how fast they give in before they throw professionalism out the window. Ace wins my approval for holding out as long as he could, which was more than half the book. He put up a good fight but Colton was a very determined man. As they say resistance is futile.

    <( ̄︶ ̄)>  👞 ლ(ಠ_ಠლ)ᑦᵒᔿᵉ ᵒᐢᵎᵎ <— Ace met his match.

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

    Soundtrack: Protection
    Artist: Future of Forestry
    Album: The Complete Travel Series


    40977703. sy475

    Four Kings Security: Be Still My Heart – Charlie Cochet

    When the cards are stacked against you, the Kings will even the odds.

    Former Special Forces medical sergeant Russell “Red” McKinley knows a thing or two about wounds, like the fact some can take a lifetime to heal, if they heal at all. The scars Red carries run deep, and living with PTSD often means battling the memories of his past. Injuries he received while working an executive protection case with fellow Kings and co-owners of Four Kings Security, have once again forced past heartaches to the surface, but Red is determined not to let it derail his blossoming romance with sweet and sexy fashion photographer Lazarus Galanos.

    Laz can’t deny there’s something special developing between him and Red, but Laz has wounds of his own. He’s hesitant to jump into a new relationship after his recent explosive breakup. Experience has taught Laz to doubt his judgement when it comes to men. Guys who seem too good to be true, usually are, and no one appears more perfect than Red.

    When an attempt is made on Laz’s life, Red is determined to keep him safe. Laz may not be a client, and Red is still off duty, but Laz is one of their own, and nothing means more to the Kings than family. While an investigation is underway, Red and Laz are growing closer, but can they find a way to help each other heal and take a chance on love, or will their fears and insecurities cost them more than their future together?


    Red is the quietest King and the sweetheart of the group. He’s a gentle teddy bear everybody feels safe around with. He’s also a pansexual, disco-dancing, lavender-scented aromatherapy enthusiast who knows his way around the kitchen.

    He and Laz met in book one at a party in Colton’s house. Laz is Colton’s bestfriend’s Gio younger brother. He had a huge messy fight with his then boyfriend. The asshole pushed Laz who hit his head and fell to the pool. Red jumped to his rescue.

    The mission here was to protect Laz from death threats from an unknown person. Red being on leave since he was recovering from injuries that happened in the previous book, volunteered to stay with him.

    I wasn’t terribly impressed with Laz. As a person, he’s sweet, driven, and talented. I loved how he stood by Red when he had a bad episode with his PTSD. But when Laz’s insecurities were triggered, it led him to some very stupid conclusions that hurt Red badly.

    Red’s PTSD was something that had cost him his past relationships. Laz was badly burned by his ex so both man were hesitant to jump into a relationship. These issues were used effectively in the story while still keeping it light and fluffy.

    This is an insta-attraction, slow burn romance with hurt-comfort thrown in. There’s a perfectly balanced mix of humor and drama. As with the previous book, it’s all about the relationship and the group dynamics. We don’t see much action till the later parts. Even if that is the case, there’s never a dull moment with this gang!

    With support from their awesome family, Red and Laz promised to work around their issues and emerge a stronger couple. Red wins the day for his enormous capacity to forgive. He really lived up to his title as the King of Hearts.

    ヽ(⌐■_■)ノ♪♬♡(‘∀’●) <— Red showing off his groovy moves

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

    Soundtrack: Heart to Heart
    Artist: James Blunt
    Album: Moon Landing

    P.S.

    And OMG!!! you guys have to check out the faceclaims a.k.a. inspiration for the Four Kings in Charlie Cochet’s pinterest!!! So much eye candy!

    Review of spin off, The Kings: Wild Cards book 1, Stacking The Deck here


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to get your copy of Four Kings Security. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Stacking the Deck by Charlie Cochet

    44300880. sy475

    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


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to get your copy of Stacking The Deck. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

    Kindle
    Audiobook
  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Torch by Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott

    30169169. sy475

    Unbreakable Bonds: Torch – Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott

    Nine months ago, Rowan Ward thought he had it all. Now he’s fighting to pull his shredded life together, buried in work and battling the kind of grief that destroys a man’s soul. When fires spring up around Cincinnati threatening Rowe’s friends and clients, he’s thrilled to find his old Army buddy, Noah Keegan in town. They were a hell of a team when they served together, so in-sync, it was rumored they could read each other’s minds. 

    Noah thought devoting his life to the Army would be enough. Then he realized he had no family and only one friend he cared about. When his enlistment was up, he found himself standing on Rowe’s doorstep, looking only for friendship but secretly hoping for more. He needs to know if their one unbelievable night together years ago wasn’t a mistake. 

    Caught in a dangerous game of fire and bullets, neither expects the inferno of emotion that ignites between them. One Rowe isn’t prepared to accept. One that could break Noah

    Unbreakable Bonds is centered around four men who have deep connections with each other. Lucas Vallois, the alpha and the center who holds everything together. Ashton ‘Snow’ Frost, dark and brooding, is a trauma surgeon and the one Lucas considers his brother. Rowan ‘Rowe’ Ward, laid back and goofy, they met him during basic military training. He is their warrior. Their heart is Ian Pierce, a talented chef. He’s adorable, the type you want to put in your pocket to keep safe. Well, I want to put them all in my pocket really. I love these guys! ♡

    Torch is Rowe rekindling that spark.

    Rowan ‘Rowe’ Ward, owner of Ward Security, is dealing with a security breach of his system which caused fires in his friends’ and clients’ properties. Normally full of jokes and pranks, he has become less than his normal goofy self and this had his friends worried. He’s trying to cope with the loss of his wife, Melissa this past year. Rowe loved his wife wholeheartedly but sometime in his army ranger days, he had something going on with his best friend that he buried deep.

    Enter Noah Keegan, army ranger and Rowe’s bestfriend after Lucas and Snow retired from the military. Noah, now also retired, always had feelings for Rowe and could never forget that one night they spent together. He is as easy-going and just as much of a prankster as Rowe. He came in, regaled everyone with his stories and won over Lucas, Snow and Ian. He also won me over with his patience and understanding of what Rowe was going through. He’s steady and dependable. He always had Rowe’s back even though every time they slept together, Rowe bolts. Most importantly he loved Daisy, Igor and Vlad. ∪^ェ^∪

    Truth be told, I was hesitant about Rowe’s story. I liked Mel and grieving spouse stories are not really my thing, they’re painful to read. Here, I could feel Rowe’s grief and pain but the story didn’t feel heavy. Mel’s presence was strong but it wasn’t overwhelming. I get a kick every time one of Rowe’s friends say Mel would be happy for the two men and as Snow wickedly added, would even demand a video. The woman was a certified fujoshi.

    At the same time Noah brought joy and relief to Rowe that was palpable. Rowe deserved this second chance. He just needed to stop running away.

    He couldn’t lose Noah. Mel’s death had destroyed his life, but Noah had given him balance and laughter again. He lifted him out of the abyss and made him feel alive. He had to find a way to meet Noah…at least part of the way. After years of loyalty, patience, and unwavering love, Noah deserved at least that.

    Rowe finally stepping up! He and Noah had such great chemistry.

    We all know Rowe moving on from the past into his present life with Noah can’t be easy. The authors did a great job of portraying all the complicated feelings involved. And we get to see Rowe as so much more than the goofy one of the family.

    Torch has the most shocking revelation so far. The fires were obviously caused by arsonists and the hunt for these criminals relates to the overarching thread regarding the men’s past with Boris Jagger, a criminal mastermind, also a pederast who abused Ian many years ago. When the arsonists were caught, they revealed the main reason why Jagger was targeting them. And I was as shocked as the rest of them. My heart skipped a beat! Poor Lucas can’t handle it.

    It also has some of the funniest scenes in the series. Witness Rowe and Snow getting plastered:

    Snow was silent long moments. “I thought it was something like that. We’re all scared of giving our hearts, Rowe. Sometimes, we have no choice. Sometimes a person comes along who completes you in a way you can’t imagine being able to breathe without them. We have to take that chance then. We have to revel in the good times. Cherish them. Being in love makes you feel so damn alive.”

    Rowe stared at him. “Who the hell are you?”

    “I have no fucking idea.”

    Snow and Jude got a kitten named Sargeant. How freakin’ adorable is that!! Again, Jude gets a medal for domesticating the General.

    Meanwhile, Lucas ‘Grumpy’ Vallois finally managed to say the L-word and Andrei got a big promotion. Later on, when the Jagger bombshells were dropped, Lucas shut down and practically avoided his poor boyfriend. No dammit!・゚・(。>ω<。)・゚・

    Ian meets Hollis again. The detective disappeared and resurfaced to give Ian warning. The younger man wasted no time in letting his feelings known. Attaboy!

    Overall, it was a pleasant surprise that Rowe’s story was as enjoyable as Snow’s. Torch is a wonderfully executed second chance romance and a grieving spouse trope that gave justice to both past and present loves. Despite Rowe’s grief, fears and push/pulls, it wasn’t as emotionally draining as I expected. It has many somber moments yet it felt hopeful, optimistic and eventually, cathartic.

    P.S.

    Ian’s next. Boy is desperate to get some.

    This is not a standalone. Unbreakable Bonds should be read in order (here).
    Jocelynn Drake books here.

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

    Soundtrack: Torch
    Artist: The Sisters of Mercy
    Album: Floodland