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Fangirl Friday: Soldati Hearts, by Charlie Cochet

Soldati Hearts is a really original take on the whole shifter genre, not only combining the human world with that of another, fantasy, realm, but it also uses unusual animals for the characters to shift into. With great attention to detail, characterisation, and a whole lot of ingenuity, this series may by short stories, but it’s also a major hit with me.

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Book One: The Soldati Prince

One moment Riley Murrough is living a normal life working in a coffee shop, and the next he’s running for his life from demons, learns he bears the mark of a shape-shifter king from a magical realm, and—worst of all—he’s destined to become the mated prince to the arrogant tiger shifter he would rather strangle.

Khalon, the shifter king, is equally distraught at the idea of being bound to a human prince, and along with his Soldati warriors, he sets out to return Riley to his own world where he belongs. On their journey they might discover why the priestess brought them together—if they can escape the demons and make it to her alive.

Book Two: The Foxling Soldati

Foxling Toka has served the Soldati king for centuries, and now he attends to the kingdom’s cherished Soldati prince. It’s a position of honor, and as Toka helps the once-human prince adapt to their magical realm, he finds joy in their friendship. He also grows bolder in his encounters with Rayner, Soldati warrior and the king’s second. But the laws are clear: servants and Soldati are not permitted to mate. It doesn’t matter that Toka lost his heart to the dashing cad long ago.

Rayner never imagined he would fall in love with a servant, but the clever and beautiful foxling has ensnared him, and he resents the regulations keeping them apart. When an arrogant and spiteful king visits from a neighboring realm, Rayner is in danger of losing everything. But Soldati warriors don’t surrender, and he intends to fight all the harder to keep Toka where he belongs—in Rayner’s arms.

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Amazon

Dreamspinner Press

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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.

Website: http://www.charliecochet.com
THIRDS HQ: http://www.thirdshq.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/charliecochet
Facebook Author Page: http://www.twitter.com/charliecochet

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Book One: The Soldati Prince

Wow! What a rollercoaster ride that was!

Right from the start, I fell in love with Riley; he was fun, funny and charming in little small ways that made him so relateable, but also really different to other characters. The way he reacted to the supernatural instances that happened in his normal, everyday contemporary life was great; he doubted, he rationalised and he tried to protect his upended sensibilities with humour. The horror movie references were brilliant.

The writing was fantastic. This is my first Charlie Cochet, but it definitely won’t be my last! From the balance between detail, description and plot, to the showing not telling and the beautiful imagery they managed throughout the story, everything was so crystal clear that I felt like I stepped into another world for the time I was reading.

The humour was excellent. I laughed aloud more than once, had a good giggle when appropriate and was still able to cry and feel my throat tightening up at those dramatic, heart-wrenching scenes.

As for the other characters, I really loved how standoffish Khalon was to begin with and how Riley slowly melted the icy barrier aroudn his heart. The chemistry between those two was fantastic. As was the beautiful, but still heartbreaking, chemistry between Toka and Rayner. I most definitely need their book next. Immediately!

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For a short story, it really packs a punch. I can’t wait to read more of the series, to see how Riley and Khalon settle in together and watch them grow, while learning about new characters. And, hopefully, revisiting Toka and Rayner.

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Favourite Quotes

“There was a good chance the lemon cake he ate was somehow laced with LSD and he was high as a fucking kite, grinning like an idiot and sitting on the café counter stuffing baked goods into his mouth. One could only hope.”

“This was it. It was all over. Riley shut his eyes tight. He regretted not having been able to clear his browser history. Sorry, Mom. I wasn’t disturbed, I swear. Okay, maybe a little.”

“I am Khalon, king of the Soldati, and I am your mate.” Saying the words alone pained him greatly.
“Hey, if you want to be friends, that’s cool, but friends don’t kidnap each other or chain each other up. Okay, maybe some do, but why don’t we start small? Maybe grab a cup of coffee instead?
Khalon stopped pacing. “What?”
“You said you were my mate. Are you British, a little Australian, maybe? I can’t make out the accent.”
“I am neither. Why would you assume as much?” Khalon waved a hand in dismissal. “Never mind.” It was quite possible the man was an idiot. “I meant mate as in lover. Partner. You are fated to rule and hunt at my side as my prince.”
“Whoa.” Riley let out a laugh and held his shackled wrists up before him. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. You chain up all your dates? On second thought, don’t answer that.””

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Book Two: The Foxling Soldati

*Warnings: there are a few, that I wasn’t really prepared for. There is on page violence, beatings, vocal threats of rape, drugging, manipulation and false allegations. Nothing is too brutally on page, though a few incidents definitely made me squirm.*

Wow! I feel like I’ve just read some huge 300+ page novel for the serious feels it’s left me with. For all the twists and turns, the shocks and the amount of plot that managed to fit so comfortably into 102 pages, it’s almost unbelieveable.

I’ll admit, I went back to re-read book 1, before starting this, because I love seeing how they link together and reminding myself of how hit all started. Reading them back-to-back is the best way to do that. It reminded me of how much I loved Toka as a character, in book 1, but it also made me appreciate the presence of Riley and Khalon in this book, all the more. Because, although it wasn’t their book, they had as much of a presence here as Toka and Rayner had in book 1, as side characters. And, I love that. It’s definitely a sign that this series (and this author) doesn’t see any “minor” character as mere filler, but as a real potential for a solid, recurring character, which is really great to see and all the better for those of us who want to follow each book from one to the other. When you binge read a series, like I do (often in the same day/week) then you notice these small things and I love them. It makes the characters all the more natural, relatable and important, even if all they ever do is make a brief appearance now and then. Like Ezra and Segreti, who I hope will be the focus of the next book in the series.

What gutted me – amongst the many things – was that Rayner and Toka’s love for each other was so obvious that, a year ago, in book 1, Riley spotted it on his first day. Yet, Khalon had no inclination to change the laws to allow them to be together and no one ever realised that Rayner wasn’t just using him as a fling. Yet, they’d sneak away for kisses and to be together, just because it was the only way they could do it without drawing unnecessary attention and constant reminders that they couldn’t be together. I loved how much Riley fought for them and that he wanted them to be happy, beyond anything else, giving Toka enough hope that he fought through all the bad stuff that was thrown at him here.

There was more sexual content, than in book 1, but it felt a bit more natural, considering Rayner and Toka have known each other for such a long time and have spent so long sneaking away together. It definitely fit the characters, to have intimacy and flirtations from page one, whereas it would never have felt natural in book 1. I actually loved the chemistry between these two, because it was so settled and comfortable. They were happy being open and honest with each other, with hoping for more and fighting for that chance to be together. They’re flirtatious, charming, secretive and completely innocent with each other, in ways that are utterly adorable. I love that Rayner is set up to be the dominant male, with the seductive qualities that no one can resist and a past as a bit of a player, but I also love that he comes apart for Toka, that he’s more gentle and caring, that he’s more romantic with someone he has true affection for. In the same way, I loved that Toka was supposed to be the shy, sweet, naive servant being pounced on by a superior rank, but he’s not shy to admit how he feels, nor to be sensual and flirtatious back, when it comes to Rayner. Most of all, I love that they think their time together is limited, but they’re willing to make the absolute most of it that they can.

Now, I have a lot to say about the plot, but I really can’t say it without giving away a huge plot spoiler, so I’m going to keep it short and simple and hope it still makes sense, without ruining the surprise.

Pavoni is all those words that an Amazon review won’t allow. Mostly, the one beginning with a B, although adding in the F word wouldn’t go amiss, either.
It made me cry. Because it was hard to read, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the worst to happen and every time it didn’t, I felt like I stopped breathing for a minute.
Toka is the bravest little foxling I’ve ever seen.
When Rayner says “You are better than all of us.” he couldn’t be more right. Except for maybe Riley, who is definitely on equal par with Toka, in that regard.
I absolutely hated Khalon for a total of two minutes.

Overall, a fantastic continuation of the series and one that I’m looking forward to following into more books in the future.

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Favourite Quotes

““Rayner….” Although his heart was breaking, Toka summoned a smile. “Should the worst come to pass, then I will die happy, knowing I have your affections, having been touched by your hands and kissed by your lips. Knowing you would have me as your mate if you could…. It’s more than I could have hoped for.””

“Forgive me for being a coward . For not confessing my love sooner. Now it comes the eve before I lose you, forever. I thought we had more time. I was never in any rush, believing I had forever with you. I believed I had time to confess my growing affection, my love. Time to change Khalon’s mind about that insufferable law. Time to memorize every dip and curve of your body. A lifetime of seeing your beautiful face, of cherishing your timid smile and those radiant eyes.” He wrinkled his nose as he tried to remain in control of his emotions. “I can’t do this. I can’t let you go.””

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