Just months after the life-altering events at the residence of the Northeast Region’s Arkhon, Tobias must return to Pennsylvania for another semi-annual meeting of all alphas in the region. Even without the threat of Saul hanging over his head, Tobias is convinced he can keep Kyle, his mate and lover, safe if Kyle stays in Boston. Unfortunately for him, Kyle vehemently disagrees and for similar reasons: being together will help Tobias deal with the PTSD of returning to the scene where he was nearly murdered. Things get extra complicated when Tobias gets a phone call that is as baffling as it is threatening, one with a single clear message: if Kyle goes to Pennsylvania, he won’t be coming home.
As much as Tobias and Kyle love each other, there’s more than just a disagreement about going to Pennsylvania coming between them. Something feels off about their relationship and no amount of physical or emotional intimacy seems to completely bridge the growing gap. Logically, Tobias knows it’s not Kyle’s fault that so many unfortunate events have befallen the Boston North pack since he and Kyle got together. But the fact remains that ever since these two met and fell for each other, a number of pack members have left or died. This inescapable fact only exacerbates both their tempers, which flare ever higher as Tobias begins to tease out a potentially huge and damaging problem within the werewolf community. In fact, Tobias is starting to piece together clues that explain Saul was perhaps not merely a lone wolf with a lot of power and a grudge, but a pawn for a much more powerful werewolf. Tobias will have to take incredibly drastic action if he’s got a hope of saving not just his own pack, but all the wolves in his region—if not the country.
Try the Tofu is the fourth installment of the Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat shifter series by Karenna Colcroft. The story picks up a few months after the events in the last book, Hummus on Rye. Chapter One even opens in the middle of Tobias and Kyle having a typical disagreement about what Kyle can and cannot do. Here, it’s an argument over Kyle’s attendance at another upcoming meeting of alpha wolves in the Northeast Region. Much of the tension and angst these two experience stems from the harrowing events our MCs have survived. Therefore, if you haven’t read the previous three books, you’ll miss a lot of the context that makes the interplay between Tobias and Kyle so satisfying. Another huge bonus for me with this book was that Tobias is the narrator. That means we get to experience this couple’s dynamic from Tobias’ perspective, which is a first for this series. It was a lot of fun to see the actions and emotions through his eyes. Another big plus for me was getting a sense that even though Kyle is sort of a wunderkind with inexplicable powers (like being impervious to higher-ranking wolves’ powers of compulsion or randomly just knowing information that he couldn’t possibly know), Tobias really shines in this book as someone who doesn’t just piece together details to form a bigger picture, but has the confidence to take action based on what he perceives.
Needless to say, I was enthralled with this installment. I loved how Tobias and Kyle’s relationship is going through some kind of growing pains. There’s a good mix of same-old-drama where Tobias has to grapple with the fact that Kyle cannot and will not submit to any alpha, even Tobias himself, unless it threatens Tobias’ image as a strong alpha. (Note: Kyle absolutely knows Tobias is strong, but in this universe, it’s bad enough that Tobias actually loves his mate, there is no precedent for any wolf being able to eschew the compulsion magic of an alpha. If that got out to anyone besides Tobias and a select few, Tobias’ standing in the community would likely not survive. Oh, and no one is thrilled Tobias is a gay alpha, either.) On top of the familiar disagreements and struggles these two have, there’s the whole idea that their bond as mates is somehow being undermined. I found this added a great layer of depth to Tobias and Kyle’s relationship. On the positive side, they both notice and acknowledge something feels off and often talk with each other about those feelings. I loved the way they didn’t really sugar coat it, but acknowledged it and still usually reaffirmed their love for each other. On the negative side, the sense of growing apart sometimes acts like a wedge between them. And the real negative was that I didn’t feel like it was super clear where this negative juju was coming from. Maybe it was supposed to simply be the fact that so much negative shit has gone down since Tobias and Kyle got together, but it never really felt like there was a clear connection these two made between shit happening and that affecting their bond.
The intricacies of the romantic relationship helped keep the story fresh for me, especially considering the broadest strokes of this story closely mimic those of the last book. Both books 3 and 4 take place during semi-annual Northeastern Region alphas and both books feature existential threats to Kyle and Tobias. That said, there is plenty of divergence in the details. And despite the repeat setting, the events in the previous book and in this one impact the meta plot in significantly different ways. With Saul permanently out of the picture, I was wondering how the overarching plot would develop going forward. Try the Tofu introduces a very neat and intriguing explanation for Saul and for what is maybe going to happen with Tobias and Kyle going forward. Foreshadowing for the win! And, of course, this book continues to show our MCs threading the needle between adhering to werewolf conventions (which often seems to be rooted in bigotry) and ignoring it for the greater good.
Overall, I was chuffed to dive back into Tobias and Kyle’s story. There is a terrific mix of familiar ground (literally, as this book takes place in the same location and under the same circumstances as the previous one) and new ground (Tobias as narrator, the revelation that there is something truly wrong at the highest levels of werewolf hierarchy). If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, I highly recommend continuing with Try the Tofu.