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SHIP WRECKED by Olivia Dade – double review!

After All the Feels and Spoiler Alert, Olivia Dade once again delivers a warm and wonderful romantic comedy about two co-stars who once had an incredible one-night stand—and after years of filming on the same remote island, are finally ready to yield to temptation again…

Maria’s one-night-stand—the thick-thighed, sexy Viking of a man she left without a word or a note—just reappeared. Apparently, Peter’s her surly Gods of the Gates co-star, and they’re about to spend the next six years filming on a desolate Irish island together. She still wants him…but he now wants nothing to do with her.

Peter knows this role could finally transform him from a forgettable character actor into a leading man. He also knows a failed relationship with Maria could poison the set, and he won’t sabotage his career for a woman who’s already walked away from him once. Given time, maybe they can be cooperative colleagues or friends—possibly even best friends—but not lovers again. No matter how much he aches for her.

For years, they don’t touch off-camera. But on their last night of filming, their mutual restraint finally shatters, and all their pent-up desire explodes into renewed passion. Too bad they still don’t have a future together, since Peter’s going back to Hollywood, while Maria’s returning to her native Sweden. She thinks she needs more than he can give her, but he’s determined to change her mind, and he’s spent the last six years waiting. Watching. Wanting.

His shipwrecked Swede doesn’t stand a chance.


Title : Ship Wrecked
Author : Olivia Dade
Series : Spoiler Alert (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 413
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : November 15, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★  / ★  


Hollis’ 3 star review

This series has been a wild ride for me. We started strong, took a hard left into mostly nope, but then we are ending (right? it felt like the end!) on a mostly better note.. which I’m happy about.

I’ll admit, though, this started off rough. But not literally. Chapter one? Hoo boy hot. Chapter two? My reaction to the Peter’s behaviour was the buzziest of buzzkills. Eventually we get the reasons why but his defrosting was tough. Meanwhile Maria was delightful always. My only real issue was her quick pivot on her feelings for Peter out of nowhere offpage.

Naturally I hated the third act conflict but that’s mostly because it felt a miscommunication-adjacent and I hate that trope.

I’m definitely here (again, always!) for all the positive rep. But the highlight, as always, was the snarky commentary around this not-GoT but definitely GoT show at the centre of the plot. It’s incredibly satisfying. It’s also a little fanfic-y in of itself for all the people who were real-life shipping two characters who were mostly, sorta, embodied by Peter and Maria. Basically all the homages to everything around the show and actors were (chefs kiss) the best.

Having said that, once again, I’m hear to warn you away from playing drinking games; this time the keywords had to go with goats, herring, and other over-used bits used for increasingly lackluster and tired banter the longer it all went on.

But when the romance was in the transition from pining to confessions and then actually together? Delightful. The pre and post bits? I could leave them. The group chat threads? Hysterical. So, yes, equal parts fun and not fun. All that to say, I will definitely make an effort to dive into Dade’s backlist and continue to pick up whatever she does next.


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
On set complications
A love told over years
Scandi humour

The GOT/Gods of the Gates has never worked so well in this series as this book. The characters that Peter and Maria were inhabiting were fantastic but IRL, they were a blast to read. I went from like to serious Peter side-eye to warm to heart eyes.

I appreciated that this was a slow-burn romance told over years without it feeling too long to wait to see things reach a conclusion. The build-up was everything and the time the characters spent on set was my favourite part of the book. That meant that the second half of the book was a little less exciting to me.

I enjoyed Maria as a character immensely, she was sunny but realistic. Her body positivity was infectious and inspiring. Peter was a introverted grump at times but her sunshine made him eventually sunny(ish).

For me, this was a welcome addition to the series and I enjoyed the cameos of the previous characters.

KUSHIEL’S DART by Jacqueline Carey

When Love cast me out, it was Cruelty who took pity on me.

The land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good…and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission…and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair…and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.

Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel’s Dart – a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new. 


Title : Kushiel’s Dart
Author : Jacqueline Carey
Series : Phèdre’s Trilogy (book one)
Format : physical
Page Count : 901
Genre : fantasy romance
Publisher : Tor Fantasy
Release Date : June 23, 2001

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

Like with so many of my rereads, where my intention is to go back so I can complete a series, I’ve come to realize that most of what I remember, and think happens over the course of more than one book (usually the first two), in fact all happens in the first book. I’m certain I read all three of this first saga in the Kushiel Universe, and GR even tells I read on (though more and more I doubt that), but considering all that I did remember has already come to pass, well. We know memory is a funny thing; and mine is particularly chockfull of holes.

But anyway. Did I enjoy this because of the nostalgia or did I enjoy it because it’s just good? Who can even say! I’ll admit the whole way the story was told, with Phèdre clearly retelling events, with little sneaky references to things to come or things unknown at the time, can be done well and make things exciting and compelling. And it’s not that this one wasn’t but.. I don’t know. I can’t say those little references added to the telling, or even encouraged me to push on to the next chapter, and the next. I just enjoyed the intrigue, the suspense, the politics, all of it, enough to find it hard to put down — this only took me two nights to read and at over nine hundred pages that says a lot. Even for a speedy reader like myself.

I will say that if you expect a straight forward romance with a side of fantasy, or fantasy with a side of romance, this isn’t it. There is a lot of sex, though very few scenes actually have any kind of graphic content — and more often than not things are implied instead of spelled out — but due to who Phèdre is, a courtesan with a connection to a specific god/religious patron who deals in pain with pleasure in equal measure, well.. that’s not for everyone. Additionally, she gets herself into less than ideal circumstances (on multiple occasions) and is forced to into various situations; sometimes against her will, sometimes fully consenting but just.. intense, and because of both I can see why some readers did a hard nope.

The people of this world are all loosely based on familiar cultures and places (you might spy French, Romani, Vikings, Irish, and more) and there’s a religious/mythology element at play, too, and while most lean into pretty typical stereotypes, it does allow you to ease into things with some semblance of, well, ease. But despite those stereotypes, we spend enough time with each group (lots of travel, some of it quest-y) that Carey actually offers layers to the individuals we spend time with; making everyone, even those on the side of the “villains”, more than just their intended archetype.

Overall, this feels a little like a folklore-y and parred down Game of Thrones sans dragons. Having said that, I get the criticisms about this book (this series) and think it’ll definitely be one that works for you or doesn’t. For once, shockingly, I could turn my brain off to some of the bits that might have otherwise bothered me and just enjoy the ride. Let’s hope that continues!

A MERRY LITTLE MEET CUTE by Julie Murphy & Sierra Simone

Cowritten by #1 New York Times bestselling author Julie Murphy and USA Today bestselling author Sierra Simone—a steamy plus-size holiday rom-com about an adult film star who is semi-accidentally cast as a lead in a family-friendly Christmas movie, and the former bad-boy pop star she falls in love with.

Bee Hobbes (aka Bianca Von Honey) has a successful career as a plus-size adult film star. With a huge following and two supportive moms, Bee couldn’t ask for more. But when Bee’s favorite producer casts her to star in a Christmas movie he’s making for the squeaky-clean Hope Channel, Bee’s career is about to take a more family-friendly direction.

Forced to keep her work as Bianca under wraps, Bee quickly learns this is a task a lot easier said than done. Though it all becomes worthwhile when she discovers her co-star is none other than childhood crush Nolan Shaw, an ex-boy band member in desperate need of career rehab. Nolan’s promised his bulldog manager to keep it zipped up on set, and he will if it means he’ll be able to provide a more stable living situation for his sister and mom.

But things heat up quickly in Christmas Notch, Vermont, when Nolan recognizes his new co-star from her ClosedDoors account (oh yeah, he’s a member). Now Bee and Nolan are sneaking off for quickies on set, keeping their new relationship a secret from the Hope Channel’s execs. Things only get trickier when the reporter who torpedoed Nolan’s singing career comes snooping around—and takes an instant interest in mysterious newcomer Bee.

And if Bee and Nolan can’t keep their off-camera romance behind the scenes, then this merry little meet cute might end up on the cutting room floor. 


Title : A Merry Little Meet Cute
Author : Julie Murphy & Sierra Simone
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : contemporary romance / holiday
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : September 20, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

I wanted to be able to give this one a higher rating solely because of the inclusion of a fat FMC who also happens to do sex work (like, hell yes, more of this rep) but ultimately the good bits, which were more in concept than any kind of execution, just didn’t make up for the rest. And in that sense I mean mostly that this was boring, frustrating, and unbelievable.

While I wish I could’ve enjoyed the surface level festiveness of a Christmassy/holiday-themed movie being filmed over the holidays, the promised fun and hilarity and tension of both the bad boy ex-boyband member trying to rehab his image paired up with an actual sex worker trying to branch into a different kind of film — and also stay wholesome so as not to let anyone in on the secret of her career — just never panned out. This wasn’t really fun, there was only some token forced humour (which wasn’t funny), and the tension was flimsy at best considering how painfully oblivious the non-sex industry folks were to who was both starring and working on this movie. Also, I feel like every conflict could’ve either been avoided or was brought on by the dumb actions of the main characters (the picture in the strip club? you’ve got to be kidding me).

Added to all that, the chemistry between the leads was given a leg (or four) up because they had both crushed on each other prior to meeting; Bee idolized Nolan during his boy band days, and Nolan happened to be a fan of Bee’s sexy online persona. So they didn’t need to fall for each other, or even have personalities, because the “connection” was established off-page. Instead it was just very lust-driven with sexy times or thoughts of sexy times and full disclosure I started skimming those real fast.

What made this stranger is that this felt.. YA-y. I realize it’s an typical claim to make considering one of the co-authors is coming from YA, and most female authors are lumped into this category, but still. These characters didn’t feel like they had adult problems and the problems that did feel adult had non-adult reactions to them (I think they are supposed to be mid to late twenties? don’t quote me). I don’t know how else to describe it. But Nolan and his phone.. drove me up the wall. I don’t even care that they attempted to work it into the story, blah blah, no. I was over it — though I do have to say, there was one scene where his younger sister chastises him for trying to micromanage a crisis from afar after she calls him in the middle of a scene to freak out on him and get his help to manage a crisis. So, like, yeah, he did get the short end of the stick sometimes and that certainly didn’t help anything. But while he had sympathetic backstory/motivations, I didn’t enjoy how he was made to handle them or, really, him as a character. Even Bee, the stronger of the two, just wasn’t able to shoulder the burden of this story and I don’t feel enough time was really spent with her enjoying the filming and acting process. Instead it was just about keeping this poorly-hidden secret and being into Nolan. She was just as surface level as he was, really. And as for the rest of the cast.. honestly, no one stood out. And while a few should be called out for their pointlessness, I don’t even have the energy to bother.

Overall, this was a bummer. I do think a lot of readers will enjoy it for what it is — spicy holiday zestiness — I just expect a lot more from my romance than this. Having said that, I would warn any mostly-YA readers from jumping into this one. For all that it read YA-ish, there is a lot of adult and sex content, so maybe work yourself upto this one if you’re new to the steams. Or don’t, YOLO!

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

COURT OF THE VAMPIRE QUEEN by Katee Robert

Three Powerfully Alluring Vampire Men
And One Queen to Rule Them All

All Mina ever wanted was to escape her father’s control. Half human, half vampire, she lived eternally torn between two worlds, never fully experiencing the pleasures of either—until her father chose her as the pawn in his latest political move, gifting her to the darkly powerful and dangerously seductive Malachi Zion.

Malachi is not a vampire to be trifled with. He rules with an iron fist and has a reputation for the darkest of sins. But the longer Mina spends with him, the more she realizes he’s not the monster she first thought—and as fear bleeds into lust, then trust, then something more, Malachi opens Mina up to a world she never knew could be hers for the taking: including the love of Malachi’s two closest friends and companions.

Now surrounded by all three men, the center of their shockingly seductive world, Mina may finally have the power to face down her father and take back the life—and crown—that by all rights should be hers.

LONG LIVE THE QUEEN. 


Title : Court of the Vampire Queen
Author : Katee Robert
Format : eARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : paranormal romance
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date : September 6, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

I was willing to look past the fact that of the three instalments of this bind up, Acts I and II were basically 85% sex. Barely any plot to be seen or detected. I was willing to accept that. But then, not two chapters into Act III, something that was stated outright in the final chapter of the part before is suddenly.. not a thing. Okay. Tiny bit of double-take side eye. But then a few chapters later, two pages apart, a thing was said and then contradicted. Again. Eye twitch.

Listen, I know this is an ARC, but these stories existed before this bind up. Maybe there was no editing done beforehand but you’re telling me no editing was done before this republish? Not great. Also, before anyone yells at me, this bothered me to such an extent I held off on this review until after release and checked out the repackaged version via KU. And those errors are still there. Sigh. So much for my hope it would get caught before release..

But anyway, what’s this story about? Vampires, dhampirs, and more, oh my. It’s about an unwanted woman, destined to be a pawn or a sacrifice, finding there’s more to her than anyone thought. And falling into the laps of not one, not two, but three vampires, and the bond — mystical and otherwise — that connects them. That’s more or less the be all end all of the plot, though. The rest is just sex sex sex.

While Act III, unlike the two that came before, had more plot.. it wasn’t the kind that did much with the story that came before it. There are a lot of bits we never learn about, parts we’re apparently just supposed to go along with, and other minor irritants. All the sex aside, it did feel like the early parts had more time given to them, despite the lack of character development of backstory. Whereas the final was just kind of rushed along. Which kind of applies to the whole storyline, really. Everything happens really fast (granted, these are all novella length, so yeah, everything being fast makes sense, I guess) but I also mean timeline-wise. In the sense that no time at all passes. Also, only one of the three men has any real personality. And unfortunately that lack of character applies to our lead, too.

This could’ve been good. Maybe not great but decent. But overall, errors aside, it just misses the mark. I wish the author would’ve taken the opportunity to tidy things up while also fleshing everything out a bit before repackaging this. Alas..

But if you’re looking for a relentlessly spicy/zesty/insert euphemism for much sex-y time, with a bit of magic and blood and mayhem mixed in, this might be for you. Also if you’ve had any experience with the author before, I’m sure you know exactly what you’re in for.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

CRY WOLF by Charlie Adhara

Agent Cooper Dayton never thought anything could be harder than solving murders. Until he had to plan a wedding.

After taking down an old adversary, Agent Cooper Dayton of the Bureau of Special Investigations has earned a break. Not that planning a wedding to his sexy shifter partner, Oliver Park, is necessarily stress free, but it’s better than worrying about the ominous warning, delivered months ago, that Cooper’s life is in danger.

When he’s dragged to an event by his family, Cooper braces for an awkward evening, but instead finds himself in the middle of an ugly feud between Park’s ex and a rebel pack leader. What was supposed to be a quick outing turns into a full-blown murder investigation after the pack leader ends up dead, Park’s ex goes missing, and Cooper and Park are sent a series of disturbing wedding gifts that are somehow connected to it all.

The list of potential suspects is long, and with the bodies piling up, Cooper must turn to the one person he trusts the least: the villain he’s already put behind bars once and who has nothing to lose by lying and everything to gain if Cooper is out of the picture—for good. 


Title : Cry Wolf
Author : Charlie Adhara
Series : Big Bad Wolf (book five)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 269
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ paranormal romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : January 18, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So when I read initially this “finale”, I was so confused because it was an end but it wasn’t the end, you know? Which made reading it now, knowing there’s a spinoff, and knowing why it is shifting POVs, far more satisfying — not that I wasn’t initially happy with how this went! But it just lands better, knowing there’s more to come.. and what that might look like.

Is everyone you’ve ever dated an asshole?
Maybe I have a type.

Also, I think I maybe understood things a little better. I have a tendency to inhale books, read them compulsively quickly, and maybe I did that when I finally got my grubby mitts on this book the first time around. Because things have settled in my brain a little more and I like where we might yet see things go, particularly in a certain Moon-like direction.

You know, it’s never too late to call off this engagement. You’re a catch, you’ll find someone.
I was cursed by an old witch to find him charming.
That’s some dark magic.

Obviously there isn’t much I can say, even for a non-ending end like this book, but this had all the fun and swoons and feels and investigative hijinks as the previous books but in this case, specifically, the stakes are a little higher. But there wasn’t any need for artificial tension of drama because what drives those stakes, at least from Cooper’s POV (which is all we have), is.. meaningless. Or hard to grasp. Somewhere in there. Which makes it all kind of funny actually. And not at all typical for the genre. Again.

Also, [Eli] said to tell you you’ve been demoted to fourth rank.
We don’t do ranks. We’re not pirates. Fourth?
[The cat] took third already.

As mentioned before, Adhara really likes to mess around with expectations within paranormal/urban fantasy reads and I enjoy that immensely. But I also love that in a genre so highly saturated, this really does stand out. Because of the world, sure, but the characters. Even beyond Cooper and Park, there’s Eli, the other bureau agents, Cooper’s family, the cat (Boogie is best!), and more. 

Why did you reveal yourself to us in the first place?
Yes, I can see now that was my mistake. To be brutally honest with you, I thought Cooper had recognized me. But I’m beginning to understand this whole glaring, staring, nostril-flaring thing is less ‘I know that wolf’ and more of a permanent feature of his face.
Well, he’s not wrong.”

I can’t wait to see what new or familiar (and both) faces we get in the spinoff with Eli to come (out August thirtieth!) and I’m really excited to explore more of his backstory. As much as I love Cooper, and Park, their dynamic, their banter, and everything they’ve endured and earned over the course of their series, I’m excited for a new dose of freshness to this world and to shift (tee hee) into a new POV. 

WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING by Charlie Adhara

Agent Cooper Dayton and his partner, Oliver Park, are going undercover—at a retreat for couples who need counselling. They do say the best cover story is one that’s close to the truth…

Agent Cooper Dayton is almost relieved to get a phone call from his former boss at the Bureau of Special Investigations. It means a temporary reprieve from tensions created by house hunting with Oliver Park, his partner both in work and in life. Living together in a forever home is exactly what Cooper wants. He’s just not keen on working out the details.

With a former alpha werewolf missing, Cooper and Park are loaned to the BSI to conduct the search at a secluded mountain retreat. The agents will travel to the resort undercover…as a couple in need of counseling.

The resort is picturesque, the grounds are stunning and the staff members are all suspicious as hell.

With a long list of suspects and danger lurking around every cabin, Cooper should be focusing on the case. But he’s always been anxious about the power dynamics in his relationship with Park, and participating in the couples’ activities at the retreat brings it all to the surface. A storm is brewing, though, and Cooper and Park must rush to solve the case before the weather turns. Or before any more guests—or the agents themselves—end up dead.


Title : Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Author : Charlie Adhara
Series : Big Bad Wolf (book four)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 323
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ paranormal romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : March 2, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Oh hey, another review I can cannibalize for my benefit! 

What the hell about him had Park seen and thought, Oh yes, anxiety-ridden loner with a temper sharper than a serpent’s tongue and a deep-seated fear of change whose longest successful relationship is with an equally judgmental cat? Swoon.

Our couple has come so far by the time book four in this paranormal shifter series rolls around. They’ve settled into life together, come to terms with most (all?) of the secrets and tragic backstories, and have successfully navigated a few sticky situations related to being in a werewolf-human relationship. But this relationship is still half Cooper, after all. 

Why does it feel like all our cases send us to the gloomiest places off the map?
High altitudes, high crime rates?
One day, we’ll get assigned to a nice, sunny beach murder. And it will be wonderful.
What nice, normal goals you have.

The excuse for this particular adventure, going undercover at a couple’s counselling retreat for werewolves, was genius. Who doesn’t love the ‘pretend relationship’ trope except it’s even juicier when they are in a relationship and get forced to work through some things. Delicious. But so much of the counselling element of this story, the various topics discussed, the trust, the trauma, it was all done so well. And so smoothly; nothing felt shoehorned in, which is how it could’ve easily gone a) for the sake of drama and angst but also b) to find time around the actual mystery of the story. But no, the balance was there.

Cooper felt oddly exhausted and tender this morning. Was this what talking about feelings for an hour did to a person? What a nightmare.

Also, I liked how Adhara introduced another element for the shifters in such a natural way. It seems to happen in each book, the total opposite of an info dump, and always relevant for the moment, not for a ‘maybe in the future you need to know this’, and it’s so perfect. The worldbuilding is so fabulous and so natural, so subtle. 

What I probably did notice on my first read but don’t seem to have mentioned in my reviews is how Adhara continually subverts some of the expected tropes in these kinds of stories/series. I don’t really want to say how, not only because of spoilers, but because it’s a delight to watch unfold. So keep your eyes peeled. 

Also, this is what I always refer to, in my head, as the hug book. Because there is a hug that just puts so many other intimate scenes to shame. Curious how? Read these books! Really, I’m just throwing out all the reasons, trying to find that one sweet spot, that’ll convince you to do so. Let me know when I nail it.

THROWN TO THE WOLVES by Charlie Adhara

Agent Cooper Dayton is going to meet his boyfriend’s werewolf family. Unarmed. On their turf.

And he’s bringing his cat.

When Agent Cooper Dayton agreed to attend the funeral for Oliver Park’s grandfather, he didn’t know what he was getting into. Turns out, the deceased was the alpha of the most powerful werewolf pack on the eastern seaboard. And his death is highly suspicious. Regardless, Cooper is determined to love and support Park the way Park has been there for him.

But Park left him woefully unprepared for the wolf pack politics and etiquette. Rival packs? A seating order at the dinner table? A mysterious figure named the Shepherd? The worst is that Park didn’t tell his family one key thing about Cooper. Cooper feels two steps behind, and reticent Park is no help.

There are plenty of pack members eager to open up about Park and why Cooper is wrong for him. Their stories make Cooper wonder if he’s holding Park back. But there’s no time to get into it…as lethal tranquilizer darts start to fly, Cooper needs to solve the mystery of the alpha’s death and fight for the man he loves—all before someone else dies.


Title : Thrown to the Wolves
Author : Charlie Adhara
Series : Big Bad Wolf (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 263
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ paranormal romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : April 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

For the first time in this reread I get to take advantage of an unexpected joy : stealing parts of an already-written review from GR and getting to do a little less work for a review. Win!

Thrown to the Wolves is a perfect title for this one because both Cooper, and the reader, are well.. thrown to the wolves. This was the first time we actually got some real shifter action. And I don’t mean that in a pervy way. Up until book three, the shifter element was kind of background noise, even if the protagonists worked for a shifter-friendly/focused organization to police and investigate supernatural peoples and events. But book three throws us right into the politics, the families, and the fur, appropriately enough, goes flying.

I suppose you know why I’ve asked you out here.
Um, to tell me my engagement to your nephew, Mr Darcy, is impossible?

This book, as one expects (hopes?), had the most solid foundation for Ollie and Cooper. And as a result I loved them so much more than I ever have. Cooper is still a bit neurotic and twitchy but his internal voice, his concerns, are so much more.. stable. His observations, everything about him, felt more mature. More grounded. He’s secure in his relationship and that makes him more secure in himself. It was so nice to experience, so nice to see, so of course things fuck it all up. –> this is where I really started to appreciate Cooper the first time around but, as I’ve been saying all throughout this reread, he’s so much easier (for me) to love with hindsight. 

What am I supposed to be doing on this hike? Trying to start a.. a..
Investigation?
Threesome?
Okay. We’re obviously not a couple that should be trying to finish each other’s sentences.

Nonetheless, I loved both the story, the progression of their relationship, and their professional one, too. Cooper makes some big changes as a result of his deeper understanding of the world he now inhabits and I really loved that growth and understanding. On a less serious note, the sprinkling of humour that has been present in this series felt stronger in this one (so many lol moments) and aside from one weird roleplay sexytime (which culminated in a great great moment, not in a dirty way, stop side eyeing me!) I also thought the intimate moments were topnotch. Not just because it was hot but because it felt like an extension of the scene, the moment, the emotion. 

I love you. Really love you. I mean it.
That’s awkward, ’cause I’ve just been joking this whole time.

This book featured so many milestones both in the world and in Cooper and Park’s relationship. And it had the added bonus of breaking down so many barriers which, with the benefit of knowing what’s to come, makes for the perfect transition into the setting for book four.

Also, shoutout to the tiny reference that only Canadians might understand, when one character describes another as the “jewelry store commercial guy”. I died.

While I did add to and jazz this up a bit, additional shoutout to 2019-me for writing an excellently timeless review. I’m a fan.

THE WOLF AT BAY by Charlie Adhara

Going home digs up bad memories, so it’s something Bureau of Special Investigations agent Cooper Dayton tries to avoid. When he’s guilted into a visit, Cooper brings along Oliver Park, his hot new werewolf partner, in the hopes the trip will help clarify their status as a couple…or not.

When Park’s keen shifter nose uncovers a body in the yard and Cooper’s father is the prime suspect, Cooper knows they’re on their own. Familial involvement means no sanctioned investigation. They’ll need to go rogue and solve the mystery quietly or risk seeing Cooper’s dad put behind bars.

The case may be cold, but Park and Cooper’s relationship heats up as they work. And yet if Cooper can’t figure out what’s going on between them outside of the bedroom, he’ll lose someone he… Well, he can’t quite put into words how he feels about Park. He knows one thing for sure: he’s not ready to say goodbye, though with the real killer inching ever closer…he may not have a choice.


Title : The Wolf at Bay
Author : Charlie Adhara
Series : Big Bad Wolf (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 262
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ paranormal romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : September 24, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Once again, I sit here shaking my head a bit. Past me was having such a struggle bus time with Cooper. Current me? J’adore.

Also, this one got me reaaaallly in my feels. Woof.

So book two in this instalment continues the trend of being the least paranormal-paranormal series ever (thus far). While it’s obviously built into the world, but limited to those in the know, it really just is a procedural sprinkled with an extra something-something. And in this case the procedural takes a trip home.

Cooper finds himself bringing Park to visit his family — not as a boyfriend but just as a coworker and partner. But when they discover a body buried on Papa Cooper’s property, well. Suddenly they are the ones under investigation. And it brings all sorts of secrets to light. Whilst simultaneously forcing Cooper to unearth and stare hard at his feelings for Park and what it might mean for their future.

So, yeah, I mentioned feels? There were two big scenes that got me. One was between Cooper and his dad. And the other was between our main men. The hotel scene? Yeah.. you know the one. 

When I think back on this series there are two books that stand out to me : the third and fourth, for two different reasons. The next book is a favourite because it was where, in the past, I had turned the corner and fell absolutely in love with this series. The fourth is because that book is pretty much perfection. So I’m so excited to pick up the third and see whether the reread bumps that one up, too (also, worth noting, I’m pretty sure we meet the star of Adhara’s upcoming spinoff in this third book. So that’s exciting, too!). 

Why I was so stingy or so reluctant to love these back then.. well, yes, again, I know why. Cooper. I’m just so happy it’s not going that way on this second go round. I needed this. 

THE WOLF AT THE DOOR by Charlie Adhara

A former FBI agent is partnered with the enemy in this suspenseful male/male shifter romance from debut author Charlie Adhara

Hunting for big bad wolves was never part of Agent Cooper Dayton’s plan, but a werewolf attack lands him in the carefully guarded Bureau of Special Investigations. A new case comes with a new partner: ruggedly sexy werewolf Oliver Park.

Park is an agent of The Trust, a werewolf oversight organization working to ease escalating tensions with the BSI. But as far as Cooper’s concerned, it’s failing. As they investigate a series of mysterious deaths unlike anything they’ve seen, every bone in Cooper’s body is suspicious of his new partner—even when Park proves himself as competent as he is utterly captivating.

When more people vanish, pressure to solve the case skyrockets. And though he’d resolved to keep things professional, Cooper’s friction with Park soon erupts…into a physical need that can’t be contained or controlled. But with a body count that’s rising by the day, werewolves and humans are in equal danger. If Cooper and Park don’t catch the killer soon, one—or both—of them could be the next to go.


Title : The Wolf at the Door
Author : Charlie Adhara
Series : Big Bad Wolf (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 288
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ paranormal romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : September 24, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I’m so happy to be back in this world I could cry. Also I’m so happy to be reading something that I’m enjoying. Rereads can be risky but I knew (okay, hoped) this would go well. But I’m even happier to be able to say I enjoyed this even more the second time — which, I mean, was kind of a gimme as I only (for some reason!) rated this a three the first go around. And okay fine, I know why. Cooper.

Cooper’s our only POV and he’s a little prickly and is even affectionately referred to as a porcupine. And clearly his prickliness was a factor that worked against his favour on my initial read. Now? Now I just love him to bits. Possibly the benefit of hindsight.. but also possibly not because I know many of my friends did not struggle with him the way I did.

He was starting to wonder if Park bothered to argue with anyone. Not because he seemed like a doormat but because he had been beyond even-tempered all day. An almost annoyingly laid-back, Zen sort of person who didn’t so much as avoid confrontation as he seemed uninterested in it entirely. Bored by it, even. There was something about that kind of self-control that simultaneously drew Cooper and made him want to break it.

But aNyWaYs. What’s this about, you ask? It’s a queer paranormal investigative series. Werewolves are the particular flavour here and they are also.. partially out of the closet. In a way. A select group are aware of their existence and thus have created an offshoot of the FBI to help manage any issues that come up, as well as investigate in cases of supernatural crime or worse. Which is where Cooper comes in. A particular brush with said supernatural had him making the change from FBI to BSI and, when the agency’s reputation starts to sour and their PR takes a hit, Cooper is paired up with Park — a representative of the Trust, which is basically the werewolf equivalent of the BSI as well as the ruling/governing body — to try and ease tensions and promote teamwork and unity. And boy does it ever.. sorta. Eventually. Maybe.

Should’ve known you were a cat person.”
Why, because I don’t like you?”
Because you’re an antisocial asshole.

Investigations, mysteries, and hijinks ensue! Also sPaRKs.

I loved watching these two interact. The hesitancy, the lack of trust, the occasional glimmers of banter and respect, and then how they would have to start all over again when inevitably someone (Cooper) would mess it all up. It was extra fun watching Park be so amused by it all — when he wasn’t nursing a pout or legitimately (and adorably? I don’t know, it was sad but cute) wounded feelings. 

So many things make this series different but one of those biggest differences was how this focused more on the procedural element than the supernatural. I actually loved that. I loved so much. And in fact, I’m going to shut up and just recommend you pick this up. Find out for yourself why there’s so much love for this world and these characters. Do it! I dare you.

WICKED BEAUTY by Katee Robert

She was the face that launched a thousand ships,
The fierce beauty at the heart of Olympus,
And she was never ours to claim.

*A scorchingly hot modern retelling of Helen of Troy, Achilles, and Patroclus that’s as sinful as it is sweet.*

In Olympus, you either have the power to rule…or you are ruled. Achilles Kallis may have been born with nothing, but as a child he vowed he would claw his way into the poisonous city’s inner circle. Now that a coveted role has opened to anyone with the strength to claim it, he and his partner, Patroclus Fotos, plan to compete and double their odds of winning.

Neither expect infamous beauty Helen Kasios to be part of the prize…or for the complicated fire that burns the moment she looks their way.

Zeus may have decided Helen is his to give to away, but she has her own plans. She enters into the competition as a middle finger to the meddling Thirteen rulers, effectively vying for her own hand in marriage. Unfortunately, there are those who would rather see her dead than lead the city. The only people she can trust are the ones she can’t keep her hands off—Achilles and Patroclus. But can she really believe they have her best interests at heart when every stolen kiss is a battlefield?


Title : Wicked Beauty
Author : Katee Robert
Series : Dark Olympus (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : romance / retelling
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date : June 7, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

This is easily my favourite of the series so far. I know that maybe isn’t the big statement it might seem considering this is only a three star but this series has been a strange ride because I continually want to enjoy what Robert has created, and occasionally do like elements of things, but I ultimately feel like it’s overruled and spoiled by other things. And that’s not all gone. I still really struggle with comprehending how this world works but for once I was completely distracted by the plot. Because for once we h a d plot.

I had such a good time with the Ares trials and really enjoyed how they were set up. It certainly wasn’t as well thought out or complex as a fantasy might have made them out to be but lest we forget (we cannot) this is a romance first. And we had a good mix of action to move the players forward, romance and sexy times and emotions, and also a subtle little side plot to add some conflict to the world itself and set up something (hopefully) interesting for book four.

Now, as for that romance. I definitely wavered in my liking and disliking of the men; initially I was put-off by Achilles — but we’re supposed to be, there’s good reason for it. And then later.. he wins you over and it’s Patroclus who was maybe a little too hesitant, a little too overthink-y. Helen ended up being the perfect solution. Watching these three bounce off each other, resist each other, give in, bend.. it was fun. Sexy, yes, but mostly fun.

I also realllyyyy loved how the main plot point resolved. I had hoped but I wasn’t sure it would go that way. I was pleased.

So, yeah, colour me really surprised with how this one shook out. I am still very shaky on this world and how it all works but clearly I’m just going to have to learn to stow that and turn my brain off and focus on the immediacy of it all.

As for who and what’s next couple-wise, I had no idea until I went to investigate because nothing is set up in this instalment and I already know the Zeus and Callisto match-up is likely to be the last one. So I’m not going to spoil anything but if you’re curious, you can definitely hunt it down!

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange
for an honest review. **