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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Shadow Wolf by Bonnie Vanak

The Shadow Wolf by Bonnie Vanak
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (229 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

On the run from authorities, gutsy Megan Moraine knows shadow wolves like herself have no place in this world. But she's still prepared to do anything to protect her young charges. That resolve is tested when the trio is captured by Gabriel Robichaux. Everyone knows that Gabriel is a ruthless bounty hunter, a member of an elite group called the Enforcers. Why then is Megan so attracted to her enemy—a wolf who hunts his own people? A wolf whose languid, sexy drawl makes her dream the impossible?

I bit my nails, ground my teeth and flipped through the pages at a furious clip because I never knew what was going to happen next and the suspense kept me glued to my chair. The Shadow Wolf has the emotional punch to make what happens to the hero and heroine matter to a reader.

Right off the bat, Ms. Vanak introduced characters that would appeal to a reader. She painted a scene of despair, hopelessness and fear while showcasing the heroine’s determination, strength and loyalty. The first chapter presented the main players who have the most to lose and gain during the course of this story and sets up the initial conflict between the hero and heroine. And wouldn’t you know, just as I’m writing this I realized something about one of the characters that I read about early on. I’m in shock. Oh, my gosh! I didn’t catch it on the first read through. That really twists the knife. And now I understand all the ramifications. I’m officially blown away. Oh poor, Gabriel.

Yes, Ms. Vanak created characters I cared about. Once the hero, Gabriel bared his heart, there was only one option open to me and that was to fall in love with him too. I wanted to hug him, care for him and wanted him to be happy. He eventually gets all those things from Megan, the heroine but not without some seriously suspenseful and heartbreaking moments along the way.

Megan has had to fight tooth and nail to get where she is and to get where she’s going. She has been hurt so much and so badly, trusting someone else is a huge stumbling block for her. And yet, for all her doubts and fears, she tentatively reaches out to Gabriel and the action begins.

The twins are adorable and important. They are little kids who’ve seen too much and yet still retain some of their innocence and charm. They are the glue that holds the little group together initially until the bigger picture gets painted for a reader and the scope with which they’re up against is revealed.

The suspense of not knowing who to trust, why what is happening is happening and will they get away and survive intact is a constant. Not knowing if both Gabriel and Megan can get beyond their own fears and reach out to the other is another effective hook in this story. What is really going on and why everything is so perverted is another question to be answered. So many threads weave through this book and Ms. Vanak didn’t let one dangle. Eventually everything comes to light in a spectacular confrontation.

There are different levels of secondary characters and some are more important than others. The most fascinating for me was Tristan. He can be a cool dude one second and the other, he’s popping footballs. Amazing man with a hint of omniscience, I’d love to know more about him. The others have supporting roles or shed light on the hero. The heroine doesn’t really have any friends so that’s an emotion tugger.

The conflicts are many but the solution comes down to a decision that only Megan and Gabriel can make. Once they do, it was thrilling to see the intense and volatile scenes that followed. And it was a WOW! moment when it was revealed just what Gabriel really was. Never saw that coming and it made me wonder why they were hunted in the first place. Something tells me it was the other nasties that arranged it all those many years ago. Interesting thought and it makes sense.

The happily ever after is tender, sweet and well earned. In fact it was the icing on the cake. Right before the charming part, their coming together was its own happy ever after and it was sensual, poignant and well written. If a reader is looking for well written physical expressions of love, they’ll find it here.

The Shadow Wolf is one heck of a ride that will leave a reader breathless. I think my TMJ got a workout from all the teeth clenching I did during the suspenseful parts Рof which there were many. At one point I thought the heroine was spiraling down into a clich̩ but no, she dodged that one with style and true grit. This story has dark depths and a meaty plot sure to appeal to paranormal romantic suspense readers who look for a quality written story. The editing is perfect, the characters extremely well formed and the dynamics between the hero and heroine are wonderful. I was thoroughly entertained and can say with all confidence that readers are in for a treat and a great read when they pick up their own copy of The Shadow Wolf.