Shifter Scoundrels: Notorious – Charlie Cochet & Macy Blake
New Paranormal Romance from Bestselling MM Authors Charlie Cochet and Macy Blake. Modern-day Bridgerton with shifter royalty, a snarky fox, and the tiger who refuses to fall for his charms.
Caspian Drake knows what it takes to get ahead in modern-day shifter society. He is an Earl, after all, and known for his wit, style, and ability to charm the pants off of anyone he chooses. Getting his best friend Brandr, the Prince of the Dragons, in and out of trouble is only one of his many talents. When a horrible attack shakes Cas’s world, he’s forced to pair up with Saphir Vepkhia, the esteemed tiger shifter and former Captain of the Royal Guard.
Upon retirement, Saphir is granted the title of Baron Archer and, much to his dismay, becomes part of royal society. Years later, when he’s summoned to the palace, the last thing Saphir expects is for the king to request a favor that ties him to the scoundrel, Caspian Drake. Despite his misgivings, Saphir accepts the assignment, knowing it will give him the access he needs to infiltrate the wealthy and powerful while trying not to get outfoxed by the exasperating Earl.
Forced into a fake relationship by an outdated matchmaking ritual, Cas and Saphir each face the upcoming season with their own agenda. The secrets pile up as the two mates navigate the complexities of a modern world that plays by historic rules. But the closer they get to the truth, the greater the danger–and their attraction to each other–grows.
With their lives on the line and the very foundations of their society at risk, Cas and Saphir must unravel the mystery, even if it means creating a scandal more notorious than their newfound love.
Notorious is Book 1 of Shifter Scoundrels, an alt-universe ruled by a dragon king who created their world based on his favorite human era. As a fan of Bridgerton, I reveled in all the ton intrigue, the ridiculously expensive finery, the amusing rules of etiquette, and of course, the endless balls.
I initially expected the anachronisms to be cheesy or jarring, but the blending of modern-day Bridgerton and shifter lore was beautifully seamless. Even the fashion was a fabulous mix of historical and contemporary, something I would really love to see on screen. While they behave with Regency manners, they also possess cell phones, cars, and other technology.
An interesting twist is the outdated ritual where eligible shifters are matched, and a hunt ensues. If they catch their match, the couple is together for the duration of the season. If not, the hunted has the right to turn down their pairing.
The story opens with a murder, and the king tasked the crown prince’s best friend, Caspian Drake, Earl of Brus. to find the killer. Unknown to the Earl, the king also tasked his trusted friend and former Captain of the Guard, Baron Archer Saphir Vepkhia, to keep him safe.
The rakish earl and the gruff baron want nothing to do with each other, but they are paired by the matchmakers. Cocky Cas boasts no one has caught him yet. To which Saphir smugly responds, we’ll see about that…
The romance is enjoyable, but it’s just what could be expected of an enemies-to-lovers + fake relationship story. It’s the rest of the plot and the very entertaining supporting cast that had me hooked. The series is peopled with sharp-witted matrons with deadly tongues and even deadlier secret skills, as well as charming young lords and ladies, both naïve and worldly.
The first chapter saddened me because the short time he appeared on page, I already liked the murder victim’s character. The first half slowly established the setting and plot. Then it picked up pace with the latter half sweeping me into a whirlwind of antagonistic shenanigans, espionage, murder mystery, action, and adventure. One complaint is how Cas and Saphir missed the very obviously villainous bad guy and instead latched on to the very obviously clueless side character.
Three interesting characters I’m keeping my eye on are the scarred and mysterious Lord Everard, spacey scientific genius Lord Quentin, and purveyor of gossip and dandy extraordinaire Lord Beaumont. Lord Everard’s book is next. Now this man knows how to make an entrance!
Notorious is my first Macy Blake, but I’ve read many Charlie Cochet books. One thing’s guaranteed, it’s always going to be fun! This series opener is no exception. It has a plot that takes you on a wild ride, characters you’ll fall for, and deftly executed writing that captures the best of both worlds! It’s definitely quite a catch!
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
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The Night Of – Tal Bauer
You’ve heard this story before: a guy supposedly kills himself, but his best friend can’t accept it. He calls in an investigator he knows to take a second look, certain there’s more going on.
I’m the investigator. Secret Service Agent Sean Avery. The guy who called me? My ex, Vice President Jonathan Sharp. And the guy he doesn’t believe put a bullet in his brain?
That was President Steven Baker.
The deeper I dig, the more things fall apart. I’ve got a dead president inside a locked room. A hidden note. A secret gun. A missing CIA officer.
And no one I can trust.
Now Jonathan’s in the crosshairs, and if I don’t figure out what really happened that night at Camp David, the love of my life might be the next president to die.
***This M/M romantic suspense features smoldering forbidden love and a May/December second chance romance that ignites your pages.
I’m not too keen on politicians as the love interest but the premise for The Night Of intrigued me right away. Secret Service Agent Sean Avery is doing night patrols at the G8 Summit. All while trying really hard not to think about that fateful night exactly one year ago. The night he spent with Jonathan Sharp, the VPOTUS.
It was a drunken night he barely remembered, but Sean was convinced he fucked up so bad he really should be in jail. His angsting was interrupted by a gunshot and a dead president. The next thing he knew, he was called by the VPOTUS, now POTUS, to investigate if it was indeed suicide or murder.
The case was a locked door mystery and a damn good one. Sean’s investigation had him involved in federal pissing contests and unearthed evidence that cast him and Jonathan in a suspicious light,
The book had one heck of a twisty turny plot that kept me on the edge of my seat. Although I had my suspicions regarding a certain well-placed individual, it kept me guessing until the third act. This was when Sean’s spidey senses started tingling around this person as well.
The WHO might be relatively easy to suss out but the WHY and the HOW was what made the mystery so clever. Things came to a head, in the Oval Office no less. It was such a super intense, super suspenseful climactic scene, I held my breath the entire time.
The book deals with a lot of heightened emotions that jumped off the page. The grief was almost unbearable. The way the writing and narrator John Solo brilliantly portrayed it, I deeply felt how devastated Jonathan and the First Widow were.
The aga-gap, second chance romance between Sean and Jonathan was beautiful and tender. I loved how the two men were both strong and vulnerable. Sean may smart-mouth his way around his colleagues, but it’s easy to see how badly shaken he was to have a president die under his watch. It was also easy to see how much he loves Jonathan.
Jonathan making Sean coffee exactly the way he likes, even after That Night!, slayed Sean. Jonathan, stoic ex-military general and new POTUS, giving his trust, his heart, himself to Sean, slayed me! ♡✧。 (◍＞◡＜◍⋈)。✧♡
My favorite part was Sean counting how many times he could make the famously unsmiling Jonathan smile.
Almost no one could make him smile, but damn it, I had. I’d felt like the biggest man in the whole damn world the first time I’d teased a smile out of him. It was the first time my heart had stutter-stepped, too, the first time I’d realized I was fucked. But not as fucked as that night, when—
This part had the reader guessing about that night a year ago. Why is Sean beating himself up over it? What exactly did he do that he feels guilty Jonathan was still so nice to him after all this time?
For their confrontation scene alone, I highly recommend experiencing this story as an audiobook. John Solo is a narrator who takes you inside the story and his portrayal of this particular scene was sublime!
The way he emoted Sean’s self-flagellation with such rawness, the way he voiced Jonathan’s response with such vulnerability, that scene felt so real. It was like I was there in the Oval Office with them. And the way he portrayed the love scenes, lowering his voice to a whisper, he gave them an intimacy most narrators don’t bother to do. I was struck with the odd feeling of wanting to give them privacy.
The Night Of is Tal Bauer doing what he does best, gripping romantic suspense that breaks the heart into pieces and puts it back together again. The audiobook is the perfect marriage of writing and narration. All in all, an experience worthy of the Presidential Seal of Approval.
5 Stars – absolutely perfect
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Note: long post so you can skip to the end for the tl:dr version if you wamt
The Varik brothers, Marcus, twins Rafe and Bel, and Winter became vampires to protect the world and their mother from herself. Julianna Varik was changed by their adopted father, Aidan, because she was ill. Madness overtook her right after that. She can only be calmed by music. Each Varik brother plays a musical instrument. They each have their own unique powers as well.
The author’s version of vampires is typical of what we know with the addition of special powers. However, she made them stand out by making them very human. The vampires here get tired. They get dark circles under their eyes. There’s not much focus on hypersensitive senses and barely any mention of enhanced physical abilities.
Normally, authors tend to give descriptions of physical perfection. super strength, super speed, super smells, etc. I don’t think Jocelynn Drake‘s style is necessarily bad, just different from how others do it. I think it’s why this aspect of the writing made an impression on me.
The series is set in a world where vampires lived secretly among humans. They are ruled by the council. So far Marcus, their serious eldest brother, had done what he could to keep the Variks out of vampire politics. However, trouble always had a way of finding them. The upside to all of these was that he found his mate in the sunshiny Ethan.
Rafe, the pleasure-loving provocateur, found himself on a hunt for a killer with the leader of the Arsenault clan, Philippe. The French vampire saw there’s more to Rafe than the hedonistic side he shows to the the world. Unfortunately, the rest of the vampire world, the council in particular, saw their union as more of the Variks gathering strength for a takeover
And we’re on to the youngest Variks.
Lords Of Discord: Waking Bel – Jocelynn Drake
Beltran Varik believes in science.
It holds all the answers he seeks.
Except for one.
How in the world did he end up falling in love with two werewolves?
Of course, there was no way science could account for the beauty, warmth, and mind-blowing sexiness of Wyatt and River.
The two shifters are outcasts from their own kind and must seek the protection of a vampire.
Bel might take them in out of a need to keep them safe, but his feelings for them grow into something so much deeper.
Unfortunately, Bel might have to choose between his wolves and his family as a fight brews with the local werewolf pack and the Variks face a darker threat from the Ministry.
Waking Bel is the third book in the Lords of Discord paranormal romance series. This book is an MMM and contains vampires, werewolves, nosy brothers, music, science!, Ozzie the raven, so many first times, hope, dirty talk, and a love that will never end.
Right off the bat, I had a good feeling about Bel’s book. He is my favorite Varik. I was over the moon when I heard he’s going to get not only one but two werewolf mates!
And OMG!!! This is the most perfectly choreographed threesome dynamics there is! I think the author outdid herself with how well Bel, Wyatt and River played off each other. Wyatt and River were already a couple and the way Bel just naturally fell into place in their relationship, there was never any doubt that Bel was theirs and they were Bel’s.
Winter is technically the youngest but I’ve always thought of Bel as the baby of the family.. Probably because he seemed so fluffy and wholesome. Our sweet Bel is the mad scientist. His power is communicating with animals. He’s a mild-mannered guy whose life was wholly dedicated to his family and his experiments.
He’s also the most over-protective and the most dangerous. This is the man who invented a weapon that can reduce living creatures into a puddle of goo. It’s so deadly, he was banned by the council from ever making it again.
Wyatt and River are werewolves who were exiled from their pack for being gay. The shifters here are a bunch of homophobes who don’t approve of same-sex relationships because they don’t lead to procreation. This is probably my least favorite version of shifters.
Wyatt is more of the strong, silent type alpha and River is summer and sunshine. I loved these two! All the Varik mates are awesome in their own way but I think these two are the best thing to happened to the Variks in general. Not only did they give them shifter allies, their presence gave Bel’s story a lot of soul.
Unlike the vampires, werewolves are tactile and very affectionate and their warmth and care really resonated throughout the book. They also made the succeeding book more fun. So very apt title because Bel truly came alive with Wyatt and River.
5 Stars – absolutely perfect
Lords Of Discord: Embracing Winter – Jocelynn Drake
Winter Varik believes in only one thing—protecting his family.Even from himself.
For nearly 200 years, he’s kept a dangerous secret from his brothers.
But Winter might have found his salvation in the form of a sexy witch named Fox.
Too bad this same witch was named in a prophecy foretelling the destruction of the Variks.
In a race to uncover the truth behind the prophecy and take down a vampire determined to kill all the Variks, Winter may have to choose between finally having his heart’s desire and the family he loves.
Embracing Winteris the fourth book in the Lords of Discord paranormal romance series. This book contains vampires, werewolves, witches, nosy brothers, music, lots of rope, sass, hope, dirty talk, redemption, and a love that will never end. And did I mention rope? Lots of rope.
I was as eager for Winter’s book as Bel’s. The youngest Varik is the most mysterious. Even his brother’s don’t know what he can really do.
I didn’t quite have a grasp of his personality in the previous books so I was surprised to learn that Wee Varik is a grumpy, grumpy bastard. I guess being the family spy and assassin doesn’t really leave much room for good cheer. Especially not one burdened with a secret such as his. The only other person who knows about this is their father, Aidan. Let’s just say, Winter’s world is very noisy. All he ever wanted is some peace and quiet.
This is why Fox is a great foil for him. The witch is super sassy and assertive, the type who talks a lot when nervous. Winter was supposed to kill him because he was the witch who will destroy the Variks, according to a prophesy. One look at the redhead and Winter had the sudden urge to protect him. Turns out, Fox was the gift he never realized he could have.
I didn’t warm up to Fox immediately. I found him a bit pushy at first. But later on, when more of Winter’s centuries-long struggle was revealed, I was glad Fox held on until the vampire’s walls came down. And that’s when we really see Winter the man.
I do think their dynamics is somewhat similar to Marcus and Ethan’s. The story was also longer than it really is. A lot of it spent cooped up in Winter’s house. I understand it was a way of letting the relationship develop slowly while also taking place in a matter of days. But I couldn’t help feeling things could have been resolved faster. The pacing picked up when the rest of the Variks became more involved.
All the Variks and their friends rallying to put an end to the bad guys gave this book one heck of a conclusion!. If the series ended at this point, I would have been already satisfied. Happily, there’s more because Aidan gets some love too!
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
The two youngest Variks certainly had the most delicious tales to tell. Bel’s awakening is a threesome surprise delivered in the most delightful way. Winter’s story might have gone about things a bit too slow at some parts, but Wee Varik living his dream in the arms of a witch and the thrilling mega-boss fight are definitely worth sticking around for.
Lords of Discord should be read in order because you meet one Varik, you’ll love ’em all. Start with how a feisty human charmed the big bad vampire with food and some Tori Amos in Claiming Marcus. Witness how the self-proclaimed purveyor of fleshy delights met his match in one angelic vampire in Saving Rafe.
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