About the Book
- Charlie Adhara
Welcome back, lovers, to FYA’s Grown-Up Guide to Romance Novels. This week, I wanted to get outside of my Regency comfort zone, so I called in the big dogs (wolf pun), and asked my good friend and fellow Little Rock FYA Book Clubber, Shanna, to pitch in. Shanna is the moderator for the Young Adult subreddit at r/YAlit which started out as exclusively Young Adult, but now includes New Adult content and discussion. Her font of gay/thriller/shifter romance knowledge overfloweth, and she’s joined me today to walk you through the first five books of one of her favorite series.
Big Bad Wolf series by Charlie Adhara
Sub-Genre: Contemporary M/M, Shape Shifter, Thriller
What to Expect: Werewolves, LGBTQA+, FBI Agents, Good Cop/Bad Cop, Murder Mystery, Thriller
When Agent Cooper Dayton joined the FBI, he knew to expect the unexpected, but he didn’t think that included werewolves. After a near-fatal attack, Cooper is transferred to the Bureau of Special Investigations, a highly secretive department created to police the goings-on of the area’s werewolf community. But relations between the BSI and the governing body of the werewolves, The Trust, are growing more and more tense every day.
In an attempt to bridge the gap, the BSI is partnering their agents with agents from The Trust. As in: werewolves. Cooper is wary of his new werewolf partner, Oliver Park, who is both very good at his job AND very good looking. The tension between them continues to, uh, mount as pressure to solve a mysterious string of murders puts them in one precarious situation after another.
The Leading Man:
FBI-turned-BSI agent Cooper Dayton is anxiously navigating his new career and learning how to be partners with a werewolf after nearly being killed by one. Anxious being the key word, here. Cooper is one big ball of neuroses, which is only juxtaposed against Oliver Park’s chill, mysterious vibes. But who WOULDN’T be awkwardly freaking out if they were paired with a super hot werewolf on a work project?
The Leading Man Wolf:
Agent Oliver Park, meanwhile, is the opposite of nerdy. Handsome, enigmatic, mysterious, and infuriatingly good at his job, Oliver is everything that Cooper feels like he isn’t. But Oliver isn’t perfect. He has a lot of baggage – personal, professional, of the werewolf variety – and tends to be emotionally closed off and distant.
From Fancy Dress to Fabio:
The covers for this series are more mystery/thriller than gay erotica vibes. Think mud, lighthouses, and rivers in the wilds of Maine, always with subtle wolf paw prints, and the title treatment in a typewriter font. Without two naked men groping each other on the cover, this series is safe to read in public!
Mrs. Perky’s Prize for Purplest Prose:
“You’re beautiful,” Park said, then added quietly to himself, “So beautiful.”
Cooper felt the flush of pleasure race across his skin, warming him inside out. No, it was even brighter than pleasure. It was joy, pure and simple, lighting him up, erasing the shadows, burning away the twisted knots of anxiety and fear, like dry tinder. He half expected to see himself burst into flame right there in the mirror.
The Wolf at the Door (Big Bad Wolf #1)
Cooper has worked his entire life to become an FBI agent. After being gruesomely attacked while on a case, Cooper learns the truth that werewolves exist and he is forced to transfer to a special unit handling wolf crimes. His new partner is Oliver Park, a handsome and endearing werewolf who Cooper tries and fails to keep at a distance. The two are assigned to a string of murders in small town Maine, where werewolf foul-play is suspected. As Cooper and Oliver work together to solve the murder case, they begin to realize they’re drawn to one another in a way that is not HR-approved.
Risque Ranking: 7
The romance is this book is a bit of a slow build at first, but it catches fire a little past the halfway mark. There aren’t a ton of sex scenes, but the ones we get are detailed enough to be pretty spicy. Much of the hotness in The Wolf at the Door comes from Cooper’s not knowing. Is Oliver gay? Is he attracted to Cooper the way Cooper’s attracted to him? Does he always act so frustratingly mysterious or is that just a werewolf thing? Did he just touch Cooper’s hand on purpose? This ratchets up the tension so that when Cooper and Oliver finally give in to their attraction, it feels like an explosion of sexy.
Was it Good For You?
Rosemary: Yes! This book is like Criminal Minds meets New Moon meets romance novels and I was roll-call-HERE for all of it. The murder mystery part of the story was a nice addition, and I never felt like it took away from the romance. If anything, it made the romance feel forbidden, which was even sexier.
Stephanie: I was pleasantly surprised by this book! Werewolves, in general, and more specifically, werewolf romances (with too many hints of alpha-holeness, which often seems to accompany the pack leader / submission vibes of the genre), are not really my thing. But this read more like a murder-mystery that happened to contain romance, and it was well-written and engaging. The overall mystery could’ve used some tightening up; I guessed the killer right away (though not the why until a bit later) and there were too many instances of Cooper thinking “XYZ” was familiar or important but then not following up. The romance was mostly good, though I was getting a bit tired of Oliver’s “enigmatic” smiles by the time we got to the end and had yet to really learn his mystery background. Since there was much left unsaid about their families and home lives back in DC, there seemed to be plenty to mine for future books. All that said, I’m not sure I actually feel the urge to keep going. The ending wrapped up nicely enough that I can infer Oliver and Cooper will have a nice relationship moving forward solving crimes, and that’s enough for me.
Shanna: I adore this book, and Cooper and Oliver have become one of my favorite fictional couples. I’m really into m/m romance, cop/FBI partner tropes, and werewolf/shifter stories, so this book checked a lot of boxes for me. Oliver is pretty laid back and chill, while Cooper is an anxiety-ridden little porcupine that Oliver can’t resist. It makes for some fun and cute moments as the two test the waters and try to figure each other out. The murder mystery itself was decent, but it definitely serves more as a device to let you get to know the characters. However, I’m not one to kid myself and say that I need an excellent mystery in order for me to like the book, so this didn’t bother me at all. The story wraps up well enough that it could probably be read as a standalone, but there is a lot of information and backstory, especially about Oliver, that isn’t explored in the first book. Overall, this book is a quick read with a good mystery and a great romance.
The Wolf at Bay (Big Bad Wolf #2)
Things are still tense between Cooper and Oliver after the events in The Wolf at the Door. They need to DTR but haven’t done it yet, and things can be awkward at times. When Cooper has to head to his hometown for his brother’s engagement party, he brings Oliver with him – as his work partner. But trouble follows these guys wherever they go, and while staying in Cooper’s childhood home, a body is found under the backyard gazebo, throwing Cooper’s family into the spotlight as his father is suspected of murder.
Risque Ranking: 8
In The Wolf at Bay, we get the first hint that Cooper is a little kinky and Oliver is here for it. This book continues to build on their relationship while also exploring Cooper’s past. When writing a series where each book continues to focus on the same couple, the author can easily fail to keep the reader invested. After all, the reason we love romance so much is mostly because of the build up prior to a couple finally getting together. But Adhara does a great job at writing conflict that forces Cooper and Oliver to continue to work hard for what they want. Plus, Cooper hasn’t officially come out to his family yet, so the added aspect of sneaking to fool around adds to the sexiness.
Was it Good For You?
Rosemary: Yup. I enjoyed this one better than the first book. I thought the murder mystery was more interesting, since it was so closely tied to Cooper’s family, and I loved getting to know him better through his relationships with his brother and father. I also thought it was swoonier, now that Cooper and Oliver have moved past the initial will they/won’t they phase and into the humping-like-rabbits phase.
Shanna: Yes! Adhara writes swoony romance and hot sex scenes, so you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. There’s a lot of sweet moments where you can tell Oliver is besotted with Cooper, but Cooper is just too insecure or oblivious to realize it. The murder mystery is another good one–I actually liked this one more than the first one because it tied in to Cooper’s childhood. But there is also a really nice subplot between Cooper and his father and brother. A lot of misunderstandings get brought to light, and Cooper is finally able to begin healing and move on from perceived slights. This in turn helps him face the issues he’s having with his relationship with Park, and it all ties up nicely. Overall, I thought this book was even better than the first one because you start to get a better read on the characters.
Thrown to the Wolves (Big Bad Wolf #3)
When Park finds out that his grandfather, the family patriarch-slash-alpha male, has died, he must head back to his family home in the Canadian wilds for the funeral, a place he’s been avoiding for most of his adult life. Cooper tags along, but it’s clear from the jump that Port Drove is full of more than just werewolves. Think eyebrow-raising family dynamics, old pack rivalries, ex-were-boyfriends, and more secrets than you can shake a stick at (last dog pun I swear).
While there, Cooper and Oliver stumble upon another murder, one that shines lights on Oliver’s family. Cooper gets his first real taste of the dynamics of a werewolf pack, and he finds himself a fish out of water. It doesn’t help matters that Park (in kind of a dick move!) failed to inform his family that Cooper was a human. To say the pack is less than welcoming of Cooper is an understatement. The insecurities he’s been struggling with threaten to overwhelm him, and as secrets from Oliver’s less-than-savory past come to light, their relationship is put to the ultimate test.
Risque Ranking: 9
As Cooper and Oliver grow in their relationship, the spicy scenes get even spicier. These books are told through Cooper’s POV, so the reader only ever knows as much information as Cooper has, but we finally get enough breadcrumbs to piece together a full picture of Oliver Park, and we find that he has just as many insecurities as Cooper does.
Up until now, Cooper and Oliver had been living in a sort of suspended state where they generally avoided discussing anything substantial that might rock the boat. Among Oliver’s family, that charmed life is brought to a screeching halt, and it proves to be a bit of a wake-up call for their relationship. They are reluctantly forced to face their issues before they can move on, and that vulnerability with one another makes for some SEXY (and kinky!) moments.
Was it Good For You?
Rosemary: Every time I start a new book in this series, I wonder how Adhara is going to keep the reader interested in Cooper and Oliver’s romance. I’m invested in them as characters, but after two books you wonder if the sex will still be sexy. UM, DO NOT WORRY. IT DEFINITELY IS. The more Cooper and Oliver go through together, the closer and more vulnerable they become. This makes them braver in the bedroom (or, in this case, the barn) and had me fanning myself at regular intervals throughout. I also loved the move to the Park family home–the Park pack in their big mansion reminded me of the secretive, asshole families in movies like Knives Out or Ready or Not.
Shanna: Thrown to the Wolves is another instance of Adhara finding a new way to bring tension to the story in order to keep the reader invested. Overall, this book highlighted the continued evolution of their relationship and made it more real, even if some of the truths they face aren’t pleasant. They come out of it stronger and you get the sense that the two are finally on the same page.
Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (Big Bad Wolf #4)
Cooper and Park are taking the next step and house hunting together. It’s an exciting development, but one that puts both their insecurities on full display. When they’re asked to go undercover as a couple attending a werewolf couples therapy camp (!), they’re forced to face these insecurities and decide what they both want in their relationship.
But they’re still on a case, and as bodies start turning up around the retreat, their dedication to The Trust and one another is put to the test.
Risque Ranking: 9
In Thrown to the Wolves we got a peek into werewolf life and in Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, we finally get down to the nitty gritty of Oliver Park’s inner workings. He really starts to open up to Cooper, and even gets comfortable shifting in front of him. We already know Adhara can deliver some serious heat, and once again she does not disappoint. As Cooper and Oliver get more serious in their relationship, their growing confidence makes for some really sexy moments. The sex scenes are HOT AS HELL but now, they’re also infused with so much raw emotion and vulnerability, they can make you lightheaded.
Was it Good For You?
Rosemary: This book really digs in to what attracts one werewolf to another and the hold an Alpha can have on his pack. And it was really eye-opening to find out what makes Cooper and Park different from other couples, and why they work so well. I’ll admit, I found the murder mystery in this book a little confusing – there were a LOT of new characters I had trouble keeping up with, and I was far more invested in Cooper and Park’s relationship than the mystery this go-round.
Shanna: By this point in the series, Cooper and Park have mostly dealt with the baggage of their respective pasts. Now it’s time to work on their future. Cooper and Park are tasked with going undercover as a couple at a werewolf therapy retreat, and (surprising absolutely no one) they discover more wolf mysteries and murders. While working the case and doing some therapy of their own, Cooper learns more about his AQ, or Alpha Quotient, the rating system used to determine the Alpha-ness of any particular wolf. While he’s not a wolf, it starts to become clear that he has a certain quality that attracts them.
Cry Wolf (Big Bad Wolf #5)
What was supposed to be a quick Dayton family outing to the National Zoo turns into a full-blown murder investigation when a half-shifted werewolf is found dead in the sea lion tank. Cooper and Park are tasked with solving the mystery while also dealing with a feud between Park’s ex and a rebel pack leader. To get to the bottom of things, Cooper must turn to a former villain who he’s already put behind bars. She has information he needs, and the duo must use it to solve the case.
Risque Ranking: 9
Adhara has already proven herself capable of keeping the reader invested in an established couple’s relationship, and once again she brings the spice. This time, we have the added element that Cooper and Park are now engaged. This doesn’t dampen the spark between the two in the least; in fact, it only makes it hotter. You can easily tell how much the two love each other, and it really elevates the sex scenes.
Was it Good For You?
Shanna: At this point I don’t think Charlie Adhara can do wrong, so of course I enjoyed it. Each book builds on Cooper and Park’s relationship, and it’s done in a believable way that makes you continue to root for them as a couple, and this book is no different. We still see Cooper’s insecurities, but we also see how hard he works to overcome them so he can be what Park needs. In book 4, we learn about Cooper’s off-the-charts AQ (Alpha Quotient), and this book goes more into that and we see Cooper accepting that and stepping up in a big way. There’s still some mystery to it/him, and we’re sure to find out more in the next book (whenever it’s released!).
Rosemary: This was such a quick and easy series to binge. My only beef was that I listened to the audiobooks, and as the series goes on, the guy who reads them gets more, uh, confident with the voices he does. He reads Oliver’s voice in this really smarmy, patronizing way that, by the fourth book, was almost unbearable. So this is one series where I’d definitely recommending reading over listening if you can. That said, the audiobooks seemed to FLY by and never failed to bring the swoon. I’ll definitely be continuing this series as more books are published.
Shanna: I LOVE THIS SERIES and I annoyingly try to hound (hehehe) people to read it all the time. Each book is a quick read, and they’re all full of romance, sex, and mystery. What more could you want?
Are you a fan of Charlie Adhara? Have more shape-shifter or m/m romances to rec? And join us next week, when we’ll be talking about the Big Bad Wolf Series by Charlie Adhara.
FTC Full Disclosure: We did not receive money or Girl Scout cookies of any kind (not even the lame cranberry ones) for writing these reviews. The Big Bad Wolf books 1-5 are available now.