To everyone else, Tobias is always seen first as the Alpha of Boston North Pack and as his own person second. To Kyle, Tobias is his boyfriend, lover, and mate—just Tobias. Letting Tobias have and express needs is part of what makes Kyle and Tobias such a great couple. Yet even with an ever deepening trust between them, there are still some things that could pose a challenge and maybe even a threat. For one thing, Tobias’ alpha powers don’t work on Kyle. This is virtually unheard of among werewolves and it’s not just Kyle’s alpha, but any alpha, even those who outrank Tobias. And that might be why Kyle is the only one who recognizes that the two packless wolves recently introduced to the Boston North and the Boston City packs could mean a hell of a lot of trouble. In fact, Kyle is the only one who seems to realize one of the two wolves is actually Saul, an extremely dangerous wolf who’s murdered his own kind for power. Now Saul’s continuing his hunt for Tobias and Kyle and leaving trails of abject fear and death in his wake.
Not only are Tobias and Kyle desperate to resolve the question of what to do about Saul, they must contend with new tenants in the apartment block where most of the Boston North Pack lives. All of the residents are werewolves and everyone generally agrees it’s safer for humans and wolves to live separately. But for various reasons, the new human tenants were moved in before anyone from the pack realized what was happening. On the one hand, Kyle is ecstatic to have a kid as a neighbor. It helps him cope with the idea that he and Tobias could never have children of their own. On the other hand, some of Kyle’s packmates are vocally upset about having to share space. To make matters worse, Saul finds a way to use the humans as leverage in a ploy to hurt Kyle and Tobias’ pack. Enraged, Kyle finds a way to stop him, but the consequences of going it on his own could be more than significant, they could be deadly.
Hummus on Rye is the third installment in Karenna Colcroft’s series, Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat. It’s set about six months after the events of book one (Salad on the Side, where Kyle gets turned into a werewolf and he and Tobias discover they’re mates) and a couple months after the events of book two (Veggie Burgers to Go, where Tobias and Kyle attend an important meeting of regional alpha level wolves that gets thrown into chaos by Saul’s attack). Hummus on Rye delivers big on developing an established couple while also stringing out tension from the previous book’s still-at-large bad guy. Alongside the clear question of what to do about Saul, there is drama that arises from Kyle’s human-hating packmates, which is further emphasized by Kyle actually befriending both the single father and his son. Kyle has not been universally liked in his pack, even though he’s the alpha’s mate; being buddy-buddy with humans is just another reason for more traditionally minded wolves to not like him.
When I picked up this story, I was so eager to wade back into the complex give-and-take of Tobias and Kyle’s relationship. They’ve been together less than a year, but being mates means their bond is strong. Yet things are not perfect. Even now, Tobias feels guilt over his past and when he finally tells Kyle the full truth about what happened to the sexual predator who turned Tobais at 15, he fears Kyle will reject him. Kyle is such a strong and contrary character, there’s no way he would jump to a wild conclusion or pass judgment based solely on outcomes. Especially when it comes to Tobias. Rather than punishing or condemning Tobias, Kyle reaffirms his love for the man and explains his take on how Tobias dealt with his trauma. I just enjoyed how Tobias made himself vulnerable and Kyle accepted, validated, and protected his partner. And then, of course, these two engage in some seriously steamy sex. Win-win, I say.
The two human tenants figure prominently into the plot. As noted above, the child scratches Kyle’s itch to fulfill a parental role (perhaps guardian is a better term) and the kid’s father and Kyle actually become sort-of friends. The friendship is a bit fraught as Kyle scrounges for ways to convey that the humans need to avoid certain areas of the apartment at certain times of day lest they cross a werewolf…but of course, Kyle can’t just say it like that. So Kyle ends up coming off as weirdly protective, but at least it gets the point across. Without going into specifics for spoiler reasons, I am eager to find out what happens with the friendship that developed between Kyle and the dad. I could see it causing a whole lot of problems for Kyle and maybe for Kyle and Tobias.
Saul was pretty satisfying as the main antagonist. I liked how early on, it was clear that Kyle was the only one who could fully wrap his head around the reality that Saul was actually back. That’s because Saul can compel wolves’ and humans’ actions and basically edit their memories…of everyone except Kyle. Plus, Kyle’s own pack by-and-large only grudgingly accept him, so they were predisposed to not fully believe him when he said it was Saul. Even Tobias wasn’t fully convinced, but he knew his mate somehow had special powers of his own. Having Kyle as the narrator again also helped alleviate the sense of doomed dread (you know, like telling the pretty girl in a classic horror movie to NOT go into the house alone but you know she does anyway), so I could focus more on what was happening rather than feeling the tension of characters acting blindly.
As far as criticisms go, my only big critique is of how Kyle goes through the werewolf equivalent of a tribunal. Wolves have very clear rules about what happens when they harm or attack a human, about what happens if they shift in front of a human, etc. These rules don’t exactly get thrown out the window when it’s Kyle who’s being accused of breaking some of them, but his defense was along the lines of “well, the human was too hurt to really pay attention to me as I shifted” and “the kid was too scared to notice I was shifting back.” It felt weak as hell and yet was still presented as though Kyle was judged and found completely in the clear. Not to mention the tribunal came across as a slap-dash affair (that even got interrupted). Maybe this will tie into something in the future…the fact that Kyle cannot be compelled by any wolf and a few other quirky abilities he has may mean something bigger down the road. But in the context of this book and this universe, it just felt like his rule-breaking was mostly ignored and that felt very at odds with how hyper regimented and strict werewolf society is.
All in all, I thought Hummus on Rye was an excellent addition to Colcroft’s werewolf series. Kyle and Tobias continue to grow and love and I just loved seeing them fall more in love with each other. The main villain was deliciously insidious, basically able to fool all but the one wolf most other wolves only put up with because he’s the mate to a powerful alpha. And there are inklings of future developments (a human kid, a new werewolf in the pack, Tobias’ alpha powers, Kyle’s Kyle powers); these are less concrete signifiers of what’s to come and more pieces laid out to be developed in the future. If you, like me, thought books 1 and 2 were good, then I think you’re in for a big treat with book 3. I know I was!