Pay It Forward · Review · Writing

Fangirl Friday – North Pole City Tales

‘Tis the season (or just after) so I thought we’d cover this one first. This is one of my favourite Christmas stories, ever. I loved the first story, the minute I read it. Then each story in the series just got better and better. When the series ended, with the final release at Christmas 2017, I was both elated and disappointed. The former because the end of the series meant it was collated into a paperback edition, and the latter because the series was finished, which meant there would be no more. But, now I’ll have a paperback where all the books are included in one format, all at my fingertips, and I can binge read the entire series every Christmas.

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Everyone has heard of Santa’s home in the frozen north, where elves and reindeer work hard to ensure Christmas cheer for the world. But that’s only part of the story….

All is not sparkly snowflakes and sweet candy canes in Mayor Kringle’s city. Sometimes it takes more than a little courage to keep the workshops running smoothly and enemies at bay. When their duties are complete, the Rein Dear, elves, winter spirits, and a legendary figure or two are ready to spice up their chilly nights—and hopefully find a happily ever after along the way. Sometimes it’s waiting in the last place they expected.

With adventure, magic, and romance hot enough to melt the polar ice, these holidays won’t soon be forgotten. Welcome to North Pole City, where love is the greatest gift of all.

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Dreamspinner

Amazon

Book Depository

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Charlie Cochet is an author by day and artist by night. Always quick to succumb to the whispers of her wayward muse, no star is out of reach when following her passion. From adventurous agents and sexy shifters, to society gentlemen and hardboiled detectives, there’s bound to be plenty of mischief for her heroes to find themselves in, and plenty of romance, too!

Currently residing in Central Florida, Charlie is at the beck and call of a rascally Doxiepoo bent on world domination. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading, drawing, or watching movies. She runs on coffee, thrives on music, and loves to hear from readers.

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Website: http://www.charliecochet.com

THIRDS HQ: http://www.thirdshq.com

The Purple Rose Tea House: http://www.purpleroseteahouse..com

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Book One: Mending Noel

This was a lovely Christmassy story, filled with heart-warming sweetness and hope.

Easily suitable for the YA/NA market, because there’s no 18+ material, the story focused on the emotions, while adding a sprinkle of Christmas to almost every aspect, without feeling overdone or exaggerated.

From the Rein Deer Squadron, Jack Frost, the Mouse King, Mayor Kringle, the AAD (Abominable Administrative Department), Mayo Kringle’s Construction Firm, Claus College, Sugar Plum Fairies and Elves, there was a little bit of Christmas everywhere, in the sweetest way! I loved that the exclamations were all holiday-related and appropriate – Pixie dust, Holy Holly. Together, the gentle but constant dedication to the holiday season made the world of North Pole City seem more authentic.

As main characters, I really hated Noel to begin with, until he got his own POV about the midway point of the story. Then it all became clear. He and Tim were lovely, sweet and charming in all the right ways. Great characters to read in terms of POV and their personalities being bright enough to shine through the pages and make them seem real.

The additional characters – and romance! – of Rudy and Jack was brilliantly done. Not only did their story pave the way for Tim and Noel’s future and their relationship, but it was the warmth that was needed, even when Noel was still a little frosty. Both big, strong characters and in the Rein Deer Squadron, it was nice to see their gentle side when with each other and the impact that their situation had on the rest of the Rein Deers.

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Book Two: The Heart of Frost

I thought I loved book one, but this one was a complete emotional rollercoaster!

As before, the worldbuilding and storytelling were fantastic! Such attention to detail. This is only my third story by Charlie Cochet (after book 1, obviously, and The Soldati Prince), but I can already tell that they’re going to be an Instant Buy author for me, from now on.

Again, the story perfectly embodies the holiday cheer and the wintery feeling of Christmas. But the added danger and drama of that plane incident and what happens with Jack nearly killed me. The way that everything is fine one minute and then crumbling apart the next was a great piece of plotting that worked seamlessly with the events that took place.

I loved that we got to see Tim and Noel back again, but this time Rudy and Jack took centre stage and it was perfect. Tim, Noel and the addition of Vixen (who was intriguing and is up next), Hollis and Vale made great back up characters, as well as subtly introducing the next story and the characters that would be most important to that. I thought the addition of Ginger, the little Sugarplum Fairy, was genius and a perfect lead into more possible changes within North Pole City.

I loved that we got to explore Jack’s relationship with his father in more detail, as that’s such an important part of who he is as well as being vital to what happened previously. It was great that aspects of book 1 were picked up on and continued here – the Mouse King, the explanation of what had once happened to Jack, even the repercussions of Jack’s relationship with Rudy.

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Book Three: Vixen’s Valor

Another year, but even better. I thought book 1 was my favourite, as Tim was just too adorable for words. But I’ve been corrected. This one is my favourite.

Vale is adorable, in so many ways. Romantic, charming, old fashioned, understanding, thoughtful, considerate. Can I have one? Oh, and can I just say I loved the charming little nod to A Princess Bride with Vale’s “As you wish.” Loved it!

And then there’s Vixen. Gosh, what a bundle he is. All he wants is to be loved and appreciated, but no one ever gives that to him. No one treats him like the Prince he wishes he was. Until Vale comes along. And Vale doesn’t care about the rumours and whispers of Vixen being a floozy, too free with his vices and too concerned with himself. Vale sees that he’s just trying to be happy and find that love and appreciation he’s always wanted.

It was great to see Rudy and Jack pop up again, though we didn’t get any of Tim and Noel in this one and that was okay. I do have a niggling wonder of why it was never mentioned in books 1 or 2 that Vixen was Rudy’s very best friend, but I let it slide since Rudy went through some pretty monumental things back then and mostly it all revolved around Jack, so it might be understandable that he wasn’t thinking of others too much.

Again, I loved the continuity of the plot. The stories don’t overlap majorly, but just enough to show progress and a timeline. I’d say you could read them out of order if you wanted to, but the best enjoyment always comes from reading in order, where you can spot those little nuances that I love so much. Like the Mouse King making a reappearance.

Unashamedly, I’ll admit that this one is my favourite, so far. I cried like the Dickens multiple times. Truly brilliant.

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Book Four: Loving Blitz

Wow! This series just keeps getting better and better and better.

I’ll admit, the minute I finished this, even before writing this review, I checked to make sure there would be a book after the next one. I know who book 5 is going to be about, from the blurb, but there’s another couple I desperately need and I wanted to make sure they got their story. Though unconfirmed as the couple of the book, I at least get to know there’s another installment. Because I. NEED. IT. NOW.

At first, I was scared for Cupid and Blitz, because they’re the friend-zone-likely risk of two best friends who are crushing massively on each other and I wasn’t sure what would get in their way or how badly it would affect them. All throughout the story, I was scared for their future. More so than in other books. But, the way they dealt with it and the way it all worked out was magical.

For secondary characters, the usual suspects made a lovely, if often brief, appearance – Tim, Noel, Rudy, Jack, Vale, Vixen, Hollis, Donner, Dasher and Comet. By far the most interesting side story was Dasher. He’s one feisty fella. That moment with him and the King, at the Ball was both terrifying and thrillingly exciting. Then, later, I just about wet my knicker in excitement over how it was all turning out!

I was a little confused at first as to why we got Gunne’s – Cupid’s brother – POV, but it all made sense in the end and, quite honestly, the story wouldn’t have made sense without it.

Although the story ended at 88% (giving it the biggest back-matter of the series so far) I wasn’t too disappointed. Charlie Cochet always knows how to give the story everything it needs, in whatever space it needs. And ending with that small confrontation between Donner and Calder was so promising and exciting; it gave me hope and makes me excited to move onto Book 5. But, not withstanding that excitement, I really truly desperately NEED Dasher and the King to get their story. Pretty please?

I’m not going to bother repeating the gushing of previous reviews for this series (great plotting, world building, characterisation, detail) but I will reiterate that there is probably no better series of books to keep you feeling all warm and snuggly on a wintery night, wrapped up in a blanket, with a cup of hot cocoa.

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Book Five: Disarming Donner

Well, the last in the series…until next Christmas.

A beautiful story of not judging a book by the cover, opening your mind and looking beyond the surface. For me, this one ranks equally with Vixen’s Valor for best story of the series.

Calder was…beautiful. It’s the only word to describe him. Strong, smart, teasing and playful; he was a great main character, but also the kind of deceptively brutish looking sweetheart with a gooey centre. On the other hand, Donner was a little bit more feminine than I’ve seen him before, more emotional, creative and flustered a lot. As a pair, they were charming and adorable.

I cried, I laughed and it was all for the good. Like the others, it hit me in the feels just when I thought everything was safe. And those moments when people were astoundingly happy, but it was only 60-70% and I just knew something awful was going to happen – they killed me.

I really loved that Cupid started the revolution of accepting that not all Dockalfar elves were evil, just like not all Christmas elves or Toy Soldiers were unerringly good. The brotherly love between Calder and Cupid was just stupidly lovely and the fact that we got to see more of Cupid and Blitz was just as sweet.

Again, another winner. Great writing, great plotting, great characters and one hell of an attention to detail with the world building. I don’t think I’ll ever not love an instalment of this series.

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Book Six: The King’s Courage

Well, what can I say? I’ve been waiting for this book since last Christmas and now that it’s finally here it didn’t just live up to my expectations, it surpassed them.

With every story in the North Pole City Tales series, there’s a warmth and a sweetness behind the romances that just makes me love each book more than the last. As the final book in the series, The King’s Courage is my ultimate favourite, unsurpassed by the others. It’s beautiful, heartbreaking, and quite scandalous when it wants to be. It’s everything I could have ever wanted from this story and more.

I can’t say too much about the plot, because it would ruin the surprise, but I’ll admit that I was crying before the book even reached the halfway mark, and again after that. There was so much emotion and story told in such few pages that it shouldn’t have been possible to feel as connected to the story and the characters as deeply as I did. But the genius of this series is that each book has a link to the next, so we’ve known Dasher and the King since book one, even if their parts were small. We know them, we know their stories – or, at least, part of their stories – and there’s less need for long explorations of who they are or their backgrounds.

Dasher was a bright, lovely character who reminded me of Vixen, a little. Both had been hurt and put on a mask to hide that hurt for too long. Eirik, the King, was a broken, lonely man until Dasher came along. Seeing them together, their chemistry is so brilliantly written, and I love how they become playful and open with each other. Yet it still manages to be gradual and gentle between them. There’s heat – Holy Christmas, is there heat! – with the snowball fight and the whispers on the wind showing just how naughty they can be, but there’s also tenderness and uncertainty, fear and doubt. In fact, it’s probably the hottest, most scandalous book of the series, what with that beautiful moment of a father-son bonding conversation being sealed by Jack’s parting words about that desk drawer!

Overall, I love it. From the world building, characterisation and plotting of the series, nothing has changed – it’s just as brilliant as when I read the first book. Only, this time, I felt like I was returning to my favourite Christmas holiday spot, meeting old friends and celebrating their good fortune with them. The King’s Courage might be the last in the series, but it’s a perfect round up of all the stories, of the sweetness and spice, and a perfect ending for a perfect series. Charlie Cochet has surpassed themselves with this one.

I’ve just seen that the series will be compiled into a paperback, so guess what I’m getting for Christmas? Because, this series, is a re-read every single Christmas and there’s no way I don’t want a paperback where I can binge read from one to the other without even moving!

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