Charlie Adhara

Books: Fantasy | Queer| Romance

Big Bad Wolf: The Wolf at the Door (2018), The Wolf at Bay (2018), Thrown to the Wolves (2019), Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (2010), Cry Wolf (2021)

Monster Hunt: Pack of Lies (2022)

Big Bad Wolf

The Wolf at the Door (2018)

Agent Cooper Dayton was transferred from the FBI to the BSI after a werewolf attack. The job of the BSI is to deal with werewolf crime–and keep the existence of werewolves from becoming known to the general public.

The public could never know about werewolves, though. That was one of the few things the BSI and the Trust agreed on. The panic, the prejudice, the senseless violence that would surely come if the truth was revealed.

After a teenage werewolf is shot and killed, the BSI and the Trust (the face of the werewolves) decide something new needs to be tried–that a BSI agent and a Trust agent should work together to search for what appears to be a new serial killer.

So Cooper is sent to Maine with Park, his temporary partner, where they join in the search for a missing man and look into the bodies that have already been discovered.

I especially liked Cooper as a character. He still has health issues from the attack, and those issues persist throughout the book, as he has to watch what and how he eats. He also is out to everyone but his family, which makes his personal life even more complicated, since he can't tell his dad and brother about the details of his work or his love life.

He's also very perceptive, and good at his job.

He'd watched her read him the minute he sat down. Out of town, thirtysomething, dissatisfied with his day, a chip on his shoulder and an anxious energy boiling his blood. A man with something to prove and no one to prove it to. An ugly, dangerous look. He didn't blame her for shifting away from him warily. He didn't find it an attractive look on men, either.

He also lives in his head just a little too much, which makes him all the more endearing.

"She's not my type because I'm gay."

The silence was sharp. Vaguely Cooper was aware his mouth was hanging open. He shut it quickly. Then opened it again to say, "Oh, that's nice."

That's nice? Good job, Dayton. Christ, so much for getting better at picking up on the little clues. Did that mean… Could Park actually have been interested in him back at the metro?

Cooper couldn't think of what else to say and went with the next thing that popped into his head. "Me, too."

But what was best was the mystery. I thought I knew pretty quickly who the killer was, but there was a lovely twist at the end that was both unexpected and made everything fall into place.

This is a M/M romance and there is boinking. But it is also a well-written supernatural mystery, that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Publisher: Carina Press

The Wolf at Bay (2018)

After solving the serial killer case four months previous, Cooper and Park have become partners at the BSI–and partners in the other sense as well, but neither of them is capable of talking about how they feel about each other.

"That depends on just because what. Just because you love him?"

Cooper coughed. "Oh, well. Let's not get crazy. What are my other options?"

She snorted. "Like that, is it? You sound like my second husband, Gary. He couldn't handle looking like he cared either. A man like that gives daisies. Dead by the end of the work week. Don't be a daisy man, friend."

"I thought you said you've been married for thirty-two years." "And I was. Just not to the same man or for consecutive sentences."

The problem is that although they solved the case, many at the BSI believe Cooper might have gotten away with murder–regardless of the fact that the BSI officially cleared him of wrong-doing.

Either they didn't believe he hadn't been involved with his ex-partner's crimes or they thought he should be punished for not figuring it out sooner. Cooper didn't blame them. He just wondered if Park felt the same way.

And Cooper blames himself for not realizing what was going on earlier.

Cooper was injured in a werewolf attack, and those injuries remain with him, and I like that the repercussions of that injury have become an integral part of his life.

Ever since then Park had been hyper-vigilant that Cooper was getting enough nutrition. He often cooked him little omelets in the morning before Cooper woke, had started researching supplements and vitamins he thought Cooper should take, and packed snacks for him on cases as if he was a child.

First, that's adorable. Second, I like that Cooper's medical issues don't magically disappear.

In this book, Cooper and Park have solved the case they were working on, and are heading back to DC when Cooper is reminded that he was supposed to go home for his brother's engagement party–and he hasn't been home since before he was injured.

This trip home reminds Cooper not just of the problems he has with his family (like the fact he's never come out to them) but that his mother's death still looms over the family, even though she died when Cooper was a child.

(W)hite walls kept immaculate except for the small patch of butter yellow in the back room that his mother had painted to test out the color but never had time to finish and Ed had never painted over.

Cooper has a lot of bitterness towards his father.

"What's wrong with calling?" Park said. "Besides, you'd probably get along better if he knew what you did. Or some version of it, anyway."

"If he can't be proud of every part of me, he doesn't get to know the rest," Cooper hissed. "I'm not some kind of fucking pick'n'mix bag."

"They didn't even know you were in the hospital." Park's voice was raised now, his eyes dilating and possibly glowing gold, though through the haze of Cooper's frustration with his father, everything seemed brighter. "You almost died, Cooper."

"Yeah, and? You think if he'd seen me tubed up in some hospital that would fix us?

What I particularly liked about this story was that we slowly learn just why Cooper's family life was so difficult (besides the fact that his dad became a single father of two pre-teen boys) and that what Cooper felt was not necessarily how things were.

I also appreciated that Cooper was full of self-doubt.

"I'm sorry," Cooper blurted. His heart was beating hard, but fuck it, what were they here for if not this?

Park looked at him. He had that same odd look on his face he'd had when they first got to Jagger Valley that looked so much like nerves, but a little hopeful, too. "For what?"

"Everything. Well, for earlier, and for being, you know, me." Cooper laughed awkwardly.

"What the hell, Dayton," Park said, sounding angry. "That's a horrible thing to say."

And that Park calls him on it.

The mystery was again quite good, and I actually enjoyed seeing Cooper and Park work out their issues–because they both had issues, and seeing Cooper learn Park's was revealing about the both of them.

I am enjoying this series.

Publisher: Carina Press

Thrown to the Wolves (2019)

Cooper is (again) recuperating, having had his leg badly broken in their last adventure–the one that got Park suspended for a month.

They are still hiding their relationship from the BSI, but neither is sure if that will work once they are both back at work together.

Every official communication was carefully uninterested about the private lives of their agents but reaffirmed their stance that BSI agents engaged in a personal relationship could not be partnered together in the field.

Now they're headed north for Park's grandfather's funeral.

Cooper put the guidebook down and cleared his throat. This was getting ridiculous. "Did you tell them I was coming?"

Park blinked slowly, like he'd been dragged from deep in thought. "Yes, of course," he said after a long moment. Then, "Don't be nervous."

"I'm not," Cooper said. Well, I wasn't until you said that.

Unfortunately, it gets worse for Cooper, as they wreck their car before even reaching the house.

Park said. "We need to get you to the hospital."

"No!" Cooper groaned against his own arm. "No more doctors."

"You lost consciousness."

"Didn't. I was just closing my eyes," he muttered. Park was silent. "I can sense your disapproval from here. Surely that means I'm not concussed."

"You'd have to be dead not to." Park sighed.

Also unfortunately, it seems likely that someone killed Joe Park. And the Park family refuses to allow the authorities to be called in.

On of the aspects of the world building I particularly like about this story is the focus on how the government and policing agencies would deal the supernatural. Because anyone who put more than three seconds of thought into it realized that humans are not going to be happy to discover non-humans, and that government agencies are ill-suited to deal with the strange and unexpected.

Bribes for humans getting too close, land purchases kept undeveloped for runs, bail money for wolves who end up in jails where they can't shift, et cetera."

Cooper absorbed that. He hadn't thought much about what went into keeping werewolves out of the news. Now he couldn't seem to stop thinking about it.  …  No wonder the antiquated system of pack control flourished. The wolves had no one to turn to when they were in trouble and couldn't rely on the police without endangering their secret.

The other interesting thing about this story is what we spend no time in Park's head, so we know only what he has told Cooper about wolves and about his past. It's not especially unusual for mysteries, but it is less common in romances, and it works very well for these stories.

If Cooper were an armchair psychologist, he'd guess the early abandonment Park had experienced by his parents paired with Joe's extremely conditional love had shaped him into someone who'd do anything, be anyone, for love. That sounded romantic. It wasn't.

I really like this series. I also like that although there could easily be more stories, it will be okay if there are not.

Publisher: Carina Press

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (2020)

Wolf in Sheeps ClothingCooper Dayton and Oliver Park are trying to buy a house. Well, Oliver is looking at houses and Cooper is horrified at how much money Oliver wants to spend.

So what do you think of this place?" Park asked.

Cooper bit his lip. "What do you think?"

Park tilted his head and regarded him. "I think your facial expression says you'd rather be drawn and quartered than put an offer in."

When they are requested to go undercover at a couple's retreat it's the perfect opportunity to work on their issues and maybe to find a missing wolf.

"It's not you, it's me."

Cooper nodded. "Very helpful. How on earth will an evolved couple like us convincingly pretend to need counseling?"

But when they arrive at the retreat, nothing is quite what they were expecting, and everything is more complicated.

If you've read many of my reviews, you know I have a thing for damaged characters. Cooper and Oliver are both damaged, but over the series Cooper has slowly been recognizing his issues, from coming out to his father, to his fear of letting people know he cares. So reading this was a big step.

(He) found himself wondering if the "uselessness" of the sessions (after his attack) had more to do with it not being the right time or person and less with his own inability to just feel better. If the retreat gave him the chance to suss out not only a possible criminal but a bit of advice for managing his temper and anxiety, so much the better.

There's a lot that is important here, but what I liked most was Cooper realizing that just because therapy didn't work for him previously, that doesn't mean it won't ever work for him.

Is this touchy-feel? Yes. Is it important? HELL, yes.

And the point about the right person is also extremely important.

Joyce tilted his head thoughtfully. "A thing doesn't have to turn completely bad before you leave it behind. Something better just needs to come along."

Cooper blinked at him "That sounds like some serious midlife crisis advice given right before a really shit decision."

Let me be clear. There is WAY more going on here than Cooper learning about himself. There is murder and pack politics and learning about how wolf packs work.

It's very good and I'm remaining delighted with this series.

Publisher: Carina Press

Cry Wolf (2021)

Cry WolfCooper Dayton is under significant pressure: His family wants all the details about his upcoming wedding to Oliver Park and Cooper has none to give them.

Cooper groaned. "Who's coming is the hardest part."

"Well, there's us, of course. What about Oliver's family? You're going to invite them, right?"

"I see you've been speaking with the voice I hear in my head at three a.m. while paralyzed with anxiety. Good, good."

First, let me share the author's note at the beginning.

Any resemblance to actual persons or events is coincidental. Though if you do know of a criminal plot involving werewolves that has taken place at any of these locales, that is a coincidence I would love to know about.

Oh, same please!

One of the things I really love about this series is the snark and humor.

Dean stepped forward, taking off the long green cape that was his Halloween costume.

"Can I—" Dean hesitated, then took another cautious step forward, holding it out in offering. Eli stared blankly at the cape, looking uncharacteristically lost for words.

"I'm a pupae," Dean said, then stuttered. "From the metamorphosis, life cycle, butterflies."

"That's always been my favorite stage," Eli purred, accepting the fabric.

Cooper momentarily yearned for the end of his own life cycle.

Cooper is prickly and snarky and extremely unsure of himself and regularly worries about whether he is enough for Park. But he is also finally going to therapy (YAY!) and both he and Park talk about what is going on. So although things aren't perfect between the two of them, and although Cooper remains insecure, the two are growing into a healthy relationship, which I do adore seeing in a series.

I think some types of romance emphasize the happily ever after, possibly leaving readers with the false expectation that relationships are easy once you decide you're in one, when instead, they are a lot of work, and I love when stories remind us of that.

The only negative of this book is I now probably have a year to wait for another book.

Publisher: Carina Press

Monster Hunt

Pack of Lies (2022)

Pack of LiesWhine whine whine. I don't wanna read about Eli, I wanna read more about Cooper and Oliver.

(finally picks up book)

(devours book)

(immediately preorders sequel)

Eli is managing the retreat while Cooper and Oliver are on their honeymoon. What could possibly go wrong?

Multiple things, apparently, including a cryptid hunt, a nosy actor, and a dead body.

He had plenty of experience with criminal investigations. Nearly always from the other side of things, but still. Surely that still counted for something.

Julian is struggling with the loss of his younger brother, and has come out to Maudit Falls in hopes of being able to put his grief behind him.

"I've been seeing this grief counselor and she gives me these little homework assignments. A couple weeks ago the assignment was to go somewhere I associate with Rocky and apologize to him. Let him apologize to me."

Eli is delightfully snarky.

"Do the roads often go out?" "Motto of the mountain, or so I've heard. Come for the murder, stay because inclement weather and neglected infrastructure make it impossible to leave."

"Did Cody tell you that? I admit I'm impressed; I didn't think he had the imagination."

"Oh, he doesn't," Eli said. "Cody insists that you and Ian were hunting for buried treasure. I assumed he'd gotten the wrong end of the euphemism."

Publisher: Carina Adores

September 2022 | Rating: 8/10