★ Wolf in the Shadows
Maria Vale sweeps readers into a compelling paranormal world in her fifth entry in the Legend of All Wolves series, Wolf in the Shadows. Julia Martel, pampered shifter princess of Montreal, has been kidnapped by the Great North Pack, who live apart from human society and ritualistically shift to their wolf forms every full moon. Though she was raised to be “exquisitely inconsequential,” Julia finds her inner strength as she lives with the pack and gets to know Arthur, a wolf at the bottom of the pack's hierarchy. Vale's storytelling is immersive and fascinating as she chronicles Julia's metamorphosis from plaything to predator. And Arthur is a uniquely appealing love interest: keenly attentive, sensitive and always willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Lushly described set pieces, from Julia's embrace of her animal nature to the couple's smoking hot love scenes, make for a fiercely beautiful read.
A couple grapples with life, love and being true to themselves in Husband Material by Alexis Hall. It's been two years since Lucien “Luc” O'Donnell and Oliver Blackwood got together in Boyfriend Material, and the opposites-attract pair are happy together—and happy to witness the people around them tie the knot. But does that mean they should follow suit? Narrated by Luc in a self-deprecating and often sarcastic first-person voice, the next phase in the men's romance plays out with the help of their loyal but sometimes screwball friends. Family drama adds serious layers and provides an opportunity for soul-searching, even as Hall's bouncy dialogue tumbles along through plenty of rom-com fun. As they grapple with their future, examining both compatibility and commitment, Luc and Oliver are amusing, authentic and eminently deserving of their happily ever after.
Quarter to Midnight
Karen Rose's latest romantic suspense novel, Quarter to Midnight, begins a new series set in New Orleans. When his father, a former police officer, dies under suspicious circumstances, chef Gabe Hebert hires a PI agency to look into the matter. Molly Sutton, former cop, former Marine and forever badass, takes on the case. A patron of Gabe's renowned restaurant, she's long admired his culinary skills and his good looks, and she's committed to getting answers for him, no matter what she may uncover in the process. Rose always constructs an appealing team to aid her main couple and further engage the reader's emotions; this time, the crew includes a brave young med student, a pair of canny brothers and two witty and determined older women. It's a twisty, dangerous ride all the way to the end, with the French Quarter setting and the descriptions of Gabe's food adding an extra je ne sais quoi to this entertaining read.