Author: Shelly Laurenston
Plot Type: Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence—3-4; Sensuality—4-5; Humor—4
Publisher and Titles: Brava
"Like a Wolf with a Bone" in Howl for It (8/2012)
The Mane Event (9/2007)
The Beast in Him (4/2008)
The Mane Attraction (11/2008)
The Mane Squeeze (11/2009)
Beast Behaving Badly (5/2010)
Big Bad Beast (5/2011)
Bear Meets Girl (3/2012)
Wolf with Benefits (4/2013)
As the story opens, Livy's family has gathered in Washington, D.C., for her wayward father's funeral and all of the family infighting that entails. Livy is Toni Jean-Louis Parker's best friend, and we got to know Livy and her family in the eighth novel, in which she played a key part in the main story line. When Livy accentually discovers that her father's death was not caused by his own unfortunate life choices, as everyone in the family believed, she is overcome by an unshakable need for vengeance. In actuality, Dad was killed by hunters hired by Frankie "The Rat" Whitlan, the Wolf-shifter villain whose story line simmered in the background in novel 8. After Livy's horrific discovery, the action part of the plot shifts into gear as Vic and Livy, along with their friends and allies, form a plan to figure out the identity of the traitorous shifter who is assisting Whitlan and then take down everyone involved in this nefarious scheme…permanently.
Although I always enjoy Laurenston's outrageously unrefined shifters, this novel did not engage my interest to the same degree as the earlier ones. Vic, Livy, and the snake-eating Kowalski-Yang family don't have the same level of earthy humor as the hilarious Smith family, so the laughs are fewer and less entertaining. Here's hoping that the next novel will give us a Smith-centered story line.
One last note: Please be sure to read Laurenston's "Dear Reader" letter at the beginning of the book in which she explains and defends the cover art, which doesn't exactly match Vic's hybrid appearance. In many ways, that letter is funnier than the book itself.
In this series, the action revolves around several streetwise shifter groups (i.e., lions, tigers, wolves, bears, wild dogs, hyenas) on the urban East coast. The dialogue is raunchy, the sex is hot, and the humorous sniping among the characters never stops.
Each book follows a shifter couple from lust at first sight to soul-mate status, with lots of graphic sex and coarse language adding spice to their stories. Click HERE to go to the PRIDE World Connections page on Laurenston's web site, which contains brief character descriptions of series regulars.
Here is a book-by-book list of the soul-mate couples in this series:
BOOK 8: Wolf with Benefits
Toni has ten brothers and sisters, and she is the only one who exhibits absolutely no artistic or intellectual genius. Her other siblings showed their talents when they were very young, becoming famous artists, scientists, musicians, mathematicians, and dancers at a very early age. Toni's talent lies in her organizational skills, and she has had to keep her talented, but troublesome, siblings in line ever since she was a teenager. Toni's brothers and sisters—especially the younger ones—are spoiled, narcissistic brats who argue and fight amongst themselves continuously, relying on Toni to keep their complicated schedules straight and to get them out of the trouble they cause for themselves.
Up to this point in her life, Toni has had no life of her own, but that changes when she takes a stressful job at Ulrich (Ric) Van Holtz's Sports Center, a massive agency that manages a big-time hockey team as well as other sports interests. When Toni is sent off to Russia to negotiate a hockey contract with the Russian Bears, Ricky goes along to protect her, and their mutual attraction turns into much more than the simple one-nighter he was expecting.
Laurenston never has just one story line, and this book follows that same pattern. We have Toni's best friend, Livy, a fierce and belligerent shifter who squats illegally in other people's apartments and takes down shifters three times her size. Then, there's Toni's sociopathic sister, Delilah, who gets involved with a cult and turns against her family in a most violent manner. Another sister is agoraphobic until she gets involved with a roller derby team and discovers that she enjoys the danger and the competition. One of the younger brothers is a computer genius, but he's also a thief and a firebug when he gets stressed out. Then, we have Toni's mother, a famous violinist, who is scheming to become the mentor of the talented son of the Wild Dog shifters across the street. And let's not forget Novikov, the OCD hockey player who runs his life on a tight schedule and pummels anyone who interferes with it. Novikov babysits Toni's siblings while she is in Russia, and his massively unsuccessful attempts to schedule their lives and control their endless bickering are quite amusing to watch.
Ricky Lee has his share of story lines as well—the primary one being his ex-girlfriend's unanticipated and unwanted visit to Manhattan. Laura Jane starts causing trouble between Ricky and his sisters as soon as she arrives in town. Then, Ricky's mother shows up to add even more complications to the situation. In other words, there's always something going on—never a lag in the action and definitely never a dull moment.
In addition to all of these story lines, there is one percolating in the background that involves a man named Whitlan, who kidnaps shifters and then sells the victims to rich humans who enjoy hunting shifters and stuffing them in their animal forms to display as trophies. Whitlan never shows up in this book, but there are several scenes in which he is mentioned. Some of this book's supporting characters are attempting to track him down—but that piece of the plot is all talk and no action in this story.
If you haven't read the earlier books, you may have to skim over some of the references to past events, but that shouldn't matter too much. I have read the early books, but not the last three, and I didn't have any problem keeping up with the plot. The characters are entertaining, and the snarky dialogue sometimes makes you laugh out loud. Ricky's street-tough, steel-magnolia sisters are particularly fun to watch. If you like humorous, angst-free paranormal romance, this series is for you.