wolfsbane coverRating: 4.25 stars
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Rael Morrow is half human, half werewolf, due to his mixed parentage. While he has all the skills and abilities of other werewolves in their human form, Rael can’t shift into wolf form. Now that he is 18, Rael knows it is likely his bigoted alpha will kick him out of their Boston Southside pack for not being a “real wolf.” At the pack meeting, even the sight of the gorgeous Jameson Mercer, heir presumptive to the pack, can’t fully distract Rael. He has been crushing on Jameson for a while, but the alpha wolf is a few years older, very powerful, and seems unlikely to notice Rael. But when Rael is on the verge of being kicked out of the pack, Jameson surprises him by offering to court Rael and see if they may work as mates. If so, Rael could stay in the pack, along with his mother.

Jameson has been interested in Rael for a while too, and was planning on asking him out anyway, so this situation with the pack seems like a good way to get to know Rael better and see if they suit. Jameson hasn’t been happy with his uncle’s leadership in a long time, and he doesn’t want to see his bigotry turned on Rael. He is even considering switching packs, and with Rael headed off to college, this could be the right time.

The two men end up having fabulous chemistry and Jameson and Rael can see their trial courtship turning into something real. But when someone attacks Rael and tries to kill him, it is clear that they aren’t going to be able to move on from the pack easily. And when Rael realizes that he is more than just a failed shifter, that there is something more in his background, it may put him in even more at risk. Now, Rael and Jameson have fallen for one another and want to turn their courtship into a full on mating. But they must figure out who is trying to hurt Rael and how to stop them before it is too late.

Wolfsbane is the first book in S.J. Himes new Werewolves of Boston series, a spin-off of her Beacon Hill Sorcerer series and part of her expanding Infinite Arcana universe. I am a HUGE fan of the Beacon Hill books (one of my top all-time urban fantasy series), so I was really excited to see Himes not only writing a spin-off, but building a whole universe of series that will fit into this world (these two, plus more coming). This book totally stands alone (though Angel Salvatore does make an appearance), so you can easily jump in with this series if you haven’t read the others. Wolfsbane also has a slightly different tone than the Beacon Hill books, which have more of a pure urban fantasy feel. This story straddles the line more between traditional paranormal shifter and the magical urban fantasy, which makes sense given the characters, and I think Himes really pulls it all together nicely.

The initial focus here is on Rael’s risk of being kicked out of his pack and Jameson’s offer to court Rael as a potential mate (he actually wants to “woo” him, which is both adorably dorky and charming at once). Rael has steeled himself for the fact that he will likely be kicked out from the pack, and if he goes, his mother goes as well. So he is taken aback not just at the chance to stay in the pack, but that Jameson is interested in him. At first Rael is wary, not sure Jameson is truly interested versus just trying to be a good guy and help out, but he quickly comes to realize Jameson is serious. There isn’t a ton in the way of relationship development here, as the guys move to serious within a few days (though we are told werewolf matings happen fast). But that didn’t really bother me, and the guys are sweet and sexy and have great chemistry. Jameson is strong and powerful, but also doting and kind. He is charming to Rael’s mom and protective when he needs to be, but also a supportive partner. Rael is still figuring himself out, especially as he comes to learn more about his background, but he fits well with Jameson. I had to remind myself at times that he is supposed to be 18 and just graduated from high school, as he comes across much older and more mature (perhaps unrealistically so), but I still think it mostly works.

Since the guys are pretty solid relationship-wise early on, the conflict moves to the pack issues and Rael learning more about his own past and abilities. I don’t want to get too much into the latter because it is fun to see what is going on and how it plays out. But both conflicts add some excitement to the story and things come together nicely.

So this was a great start to a new series and I am really excited to see what else is to come for the Boston werewolves, as well as the larger world Himes has built.

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