Caspian Drake is a stylish, charming, rakish Earl who spent his youth stirring up trouble with his best friend, Brandr, the Prince of the Dragons. There is much more behind Cas’ frivolous facade, however, and when tragedy strikes and the court is attacked, Cas is called in to help. He is appointed to the Order of the Blue Dahlias, a group of elite spies that is so secret, no one believes it actually exists. Now, Cas is determined to use his new position to find out who was behind the attack and why.
Tiger shifter Saphir Vepkhia was formerly the head of the King’s guard, but now has retired and been given the title of Baron Archer. Saphir wants nothing to do with the aristocracy, however; he prefers to spend all his time at his family’s country home. But his younger sister is ready for her debut into society, not to mention that Saphir is determined to conduct an investigation into the attack on his own, so he is forced to take up his role in society.
What Saphir doesn’t expect is to be selected from among the aristocratic shifters for a match for the season with Cas. While the men don’t have to ultimately stay together, they are obligated to at least be partners for the season to see if their match sticks. It is frustrating for both men, as they don’t particularly like one another, but even more, being stuck together at all the society events means it is next to impossible to conduct any kind of investigation secretly. Fortunately, the men eventually realize they are working toward the same goal and are able to join forces. They also begin to fall for one another, and realize that what started out as purely a society match may actually be a chance for real love between them. But with a killer still out there who doesn’t want to be found, Saphir and Cas’ lives are still on the line.
Notorious is the first book in the new Shifter Scoundrels series by Charlie Cochet and Macy Blake. The story is sort of a mashup of genres, set in a hidden shifter area of our contemporary world, but also with a very historical flavor. The premise is the world used to be filled with magic and magical creatures, but when humans arrived and started causing trouble, the Dragon King hid the magical world away. But he chose some select humans to become shifters and modeled their society on the old aristocracy, so essentially, while it is modern day, they live mostly like the lords and ladies of the regency era.
The story kicks off with a dramatic attack at court that shocks everyone. The Dragon King is determined to find out what really happened, so he orchestrates things so he can bring in his elite spies, the Dahlias, to do some investigating. That includes Cas, as a newly appointed member of the group. But Saphir is also furious about the attack, so while he no longer has any official role, he is looking into things on his own. Throughout the story, we see both men looking into the attack, all while trying to keep the other from realizing what they are doing. It adds a fun element to the process, as they are working toward the same goal, but don’t realize it at first. Things are even better when the men team up, and I enjoyed seeing them working together to find out who is behind it all. I do feel like the investigation feels rather light though. Not in terms of urgency, because the authors make the stakes very high. But we don’t see a ton of the investigation on page, so it isn’t quite as much mystery/suspense as I was hoping for.
The men start out sort of at odds, mostly because Saphir is a military man who has spent his life in uniform and hates the trappings of the aristocracy and his new role, and Cas is a well known charming rake of a man who is always dressed in the latest styles. So not quite enemies to lovers, but more like they don’t really know quite what to do with one another, nor do they feel like they can trust each other with their secrets. The men make a fun opposites attract pair when they finally begin to accept their feelings. Cas helps to soften Saphir and bring some light into him, while Saphir is a safe, warm place for Cas to land. I liked them a lot together and found them a fun team.
The world building here is interesting, as it is a quite the mashup, as I noted. There is an explanatory section at the front of the book that lays out the basics, which was helpful in getting oriented. But I still found myself a little confused here and there. We are told there is this magical world with mythical creatures, but the only ones we see are the formerly human shifters and the Dragon king and prince. I kept wondering where all the other magical creatures were. Also, this gets clarified very late in the story, but I spent a lot of time thinking this shifter society was in the magical realm away from the human world, but we later learn it is actually hidden in the human world. So I think more explanation into the world building earlier on would have helped. I also found myself struggling to remember that this was supposed to be a contemporary world, as everyone we see is part of this Regency-era like society of aristocrats and society balls and court politics, etc. It is basically 95% a historical with shifters, with a few modern things thrown in now and then, like cell phones or cars. So it felt kind of jarring every time I was reminded this is supposed to be modern day, as everyone lives and acts like it is regency England. Honestly, I am not quite sure why the authors didn’t just make it a full on historical, but maybe future books will reveal more.
Those issues aside, I really enjoyed this story and found it a fun start to the new series. We get some revelations with regard to the attack, but it is not all wrapped up here and will continue on with future books. I am very excited to see where things go from here.