Bayou Loup (Rougaroux Social Club #3) by Lynn Lorenz

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Rating 4.25 stars

Bayou LoupWhen werewolf Bobby Cotteau’s wife died, two things happened.  One was that Bobby could finally start to live his life as he had always wanted to before his inner wolf chose Carol as his mate, live and love as a gay man.  The second thing that started to happen?  Bobby started to die.   Without his mate, a werewolf will slowly waste away, and the only thing that can stop it if the shifter finds another mate, a rare occurrence. But before Bobby dies, he wants to experience the life he always wanted for himself.  Not comfortable being out in St. Jerome parish where he used to be the Sheriff, Bobby heads out to neighboring towns to visit gay clubs and meet strangers for anonymous sex.

During one of his weekend stays at a Lake Charles hotel, Bobby meets Mark, a handsome man closer to Bobby’s fifty years of age and the sparks fly.  A weekend of wild sex leaves both men satiated, physically and emotionally, something that surprises them both.  Bobby leaves to return home and neither man has each others phone number or last name to their mutual regret.

Professor Mark Bradford teaches zoology at the local college, his specialty is wolves.  Due to traumatic incident from his past, Mark has made it his life mission to prove the existence of wolves in the Louisiana bayou and now he thinks he has found the location of the wolves in a place called St. Jerome.  The small parish even had a Rougaroux Social Club which put on a yearly Rugarou Festival about their swamp wolf.  Now he is off with camera and recorder in hand to get the final bit of proof he needs to make his colleagues believe in him.  Once he has done this, perhaps he can finally start his life fresh, maybe even with the man he has meet in Lake George.

Bobby has the responsibility of running their Rugarou Festival this year but all he wants to do is  find Mark. Bobby has finally realized what his emotions have been telling him, that Mark is his true mate but he doesn’t know where to find him.  Then there is a Jesus sighting in the bark of the old tree in the church parking lot, a band cancels and he has to find a replacement while hiding from the widow determined to  get Bobby to marry her.  Things are falling apart faster than Bobby can fix them, but he has no idea that the worst is yet to come.  His true mate coming to town to expose his pack.  It will take all of his years experience, all of his wiles and major mojo if Bobby can save Mark, himself, his pack and the festival.

What a wild and wonderful sexy romp this book turned out to be.  I fell in love with this series with the first book, Bayou Dreams which introduced us to St. Jerome, Sheriff Scott Dupree, his mate Ted and all the other colorful characters of the parish.  Scott was the first shifter in his conservative, Catholic pack to come out  as gay and bring in his human mate as a pack member.  Scott did it with the backing of  Bobby Cotteau, a man who is not only his mentor but has acted as his father figure since the death of his dad.  Bobby, even as a secondary character, still managed to grab my attention.  Then in the second book, Bayou ‘s End (Billy and Peter’s story), it comes out that Bobby is gay but he buried that fact about himself when he married Carol all those years ago.  That was a truly heartbreaking  and unexpected element of that book and it further endeared the character of Bobby Cotteau to all the readers.

Now Lynn Lorenz uses all her wonderful gifts of characterization and vivid portraits of the Louisiana towns and countryside to bring Bobby’s story to life in Technicolor  (google it) terms and lusty joy.  The first part of the story is consumed with bobby and Mark’s first encounter in Lake Charles. And while it might seem one continuous sexual encounter (love that shifter stamina), it really shows the slow turn around in the attitude and thoughts of both men as the weekend progresses.  As physical satisfaction evolves to an emotionally happy state of mind, Bobby and Mark start to realize that this weekend is becoming more than just a quick sexual fix and the sex changes to reflect that.  And while Bobby realizes that Mark is his true mate there is not a case of instant love going on here, just a meshing of individuals.

And as with the previous books, there are quite a few humorous elements here to offset the angst, mostly supplied by that wonderful character of Darlene Dupree, Scott’s mother and her black cat, which just might be her familiar.  She has her own peculiar way of looking at religion that Father Peder, the parish priest would not approve of or even her son, the object of several of her spells gone awry.  She cracks me up every time and as she is such a lively, fleshed out riot of a person, you can’t wait to see what escapade she will cause next.

But Bobby and Mark, especially Bobby are the reasons to read this book.  Bobby is such a wonderful character, older and  yet more vulnerable than he should be at his age, finally able to be himself for the first time in his life and yet looking at such a small time in which to experience everything he has denied himself unless a miracle happens and then it does.  I loved him.  I love St. Jerome and can’t wait to see who and what will come up next in this small bayou town.  Mama Dupree is making noise about grandchildren that should leave the reader laughing in anticipation and her son and mate quaking in their boots.  Either way, you know it will be memorable and that is why this series continues to be a must read for me. I think it will be yours too.

But start at the beginning and catch up with all the parish going ons and relationships.  Here are the books in the order they were written and need to be read to understand the characters and their relationships:

Bayou Dreams (Rougaroux Social Club #1)

Bayou’s End (Rougaroux Social Club #2)

Bayou Loup (Rougaroux Social Club #3)

Review: Infected Lesser Evils #6 by Andrea Speed

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Rating: 4.75 stars

“In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.”

When Roan gets a call from the police about a shifted Infected at Club Damage, that there are injured people, and the cat cornered in the club bathroom, he heads out to investigate and take down the cat.  But almost immediately Roan realizes there is a larger problem than just an infected cat on the loose.  The cat is dying and smells off, it has almost a chemical aroma to it.  Then another cat shifts out of  schedule and dies and then another.  The autopsy reveals a chemical in their bloodstream, a new drug that forces the Infected people to shift early and die.  Roan and the police force realize that someone has targeted all Infected’s and it’s up to Roan to find that person before they have a wave of cat deaths throughout the city.

Holden is also having a very bad day.  He is beaten up by one of his john’s and needs Roan’s help to get back to his condo.  But his john is not finished with him yet and an already anguished Roan takes on the role of an avenger something that is happening in greater frequency.  Because the infected population is not only being targeted by a drug pusher, a serial killer is hunting them down as well.  As Roan tries to find the supplier of the poisoned drugs and track the killer with Holden’s help, he also has to deal with increasing migraines and the fact that the lion just might be taking over.  It’s almost enough to make Roan want to die if the virus would let him.

Lesser Evils is the sixth book in the Infected series that remains one of my all time favorites.  This is quite simply a mesmerizing saga at every level starting with the central premise of an out of control virus. The virus is spreading throughout the human population with the disastrous effect of changing those infected into beings no longer completely human before killing them.  The origin of the virus is unknown, although the speculations include the most favored “secret government agency trying to build a super soldier” one.  But it could also include a feline virus not unlike the avian or swine bug run amuck.  I love the idea of a nebulous background for the virus although it remains to be seen if the author leaves it this  way or has something totally different planned for us and Roan.  Trust me, it would be just like Andrea Speed to have some utterly confounding explanation just lying in wait for us in future books.

The Infected series also includes some of my favorite characters, again starting with the heart of the series, Roan McKitchen.  He is an Infected child, born of an Infected mother instead of someone infected after birth.  Roan is also the only known child to not only survive but thrive with the virus inside of him.  But thriving physically is not the same as surviving emotionally or mentally and Roan continues to battle both his emotions and mental state as the virus mutates within him.  And it is this constantly changing state that Roan finds himself in that speaks to so many fundamental questions within us.  What does it mean to be human?  Is who we are internally, in our mind and soul tied to who we are physically?  If who you are physically is no longer within the realm of human specifications, does that outsider status remove you from the human condition and people all around you to the extent you can’t relate to them any more?  Question after important question is brought up but the answers are constantly evolving as is Roan.  I love the high level of complexity here and the fact that with each book, who and what Roan is becoming more bewildering and convoluted as well.

Just as there are no “reasonably” simple human beings, you won’t find them within these pages either.  This includes Holden Fox, another favorite. Holden started out as a high priced hooker but now seems to be evolving into Roan’s investigative partner and fellow vigilante when necessary. He is not just familiar with the dark underbelly of society, but is a top denizen there.  His outlook is a needed contrast to Dylan, Roan’s artist husband and part time bartender.  Dylan, another beautifully layered portrait, loves Roan and is trying to accept the changes he sees in him.  Dylan also is in the unpleasant role of being the one man who can never quite measure up to Roan’s true love, Paris Lehane and now must live with a ghost always present in their relationship. And then there are all the characters that circle around Roan, from the hockey players (Grey, Scott, Tank…all memorable) to Seb and Drop Kick, the police officers Roan works with.  There is no such thing as a cardboard character in a Andrea Speed novel.

Lesser Evils tackles several problems at once, much the same as the other stories.  One strand that is running through the last few books is that there seems to be a mysterious organization, perhaps one with white supremacists, that is targeting Infecteds, trying to wipe them out by various methods, in this case by poisoning a favored club drug.  Only those infected by the virus die and die horribly.  So Roan, the police, FBI and others are trying to track the source of the drug to its manufacturer in a race that also includes a antidote as more and more die on the streets.  In addition, someone is hunting the Infecteds like big game and the police with a couple of exceptions don’t seem to be taking this as seriously as they would if the serial killer was hunting “people”.  This infuriates Roan as he starts to feel like he must take the “savior” role he has always avoided.

As Andrea Speed pulls all these threads together, she also weaves Roan’s torment over his changing physical and mental state into the pattern as well.  The lion inside is coming out more and more and Roan is struggling with his emotions and temper to the point he thinks Dylan is in danger.  We feel his anger, the level of his depression and even his rage at those who remain unconcerned and removed from the plight of the Infected.  The author forces us to think about what makes us who we are as Roan loses the certainly we take for granted.  The virus also seems to be protecting him in startling ways even as it is morphing him into  something the world has never seen before.  And with increasing dread, we “hear” as the government starts to talk about making Infecteds register themselves, which sounds like a precursor to concentration camps, for their own good of course.  As I stated, so many elements are in play here, and the future for  all is becoming increasingly muddied. Especially for Roan, our most reluctant of heroes but for which race?

For even as Dylan reminds Roan that he is still human, and we know he is not, and Holden abjures Roan to renounce the human race and accept his non human status, Roan in his anguished, drugged state tries to find a median ground that probably does not exist.  And we are there with him for every angst ridden step he takes in the journey before him and the rest of the world.  And that is the cherry on top.  The tantalizing glimpses that Speed allows us to see along Roan’s path.  It’s these small windows that open up into a possible future for Roan and the other Infecteds that give me shivers and make me undeniably one of her biggest fans even when she leaves me and all the other readers hanging as she does here in Lesser Evils.  Yes, even as we find out the new mutations the virus has caused in Roan, it also has a debilitating effect on him that turns into a cliffhanger at the end.  *Head desk*.  Roan pulls out all the deepest emotions in the reader because he is so well crafted, that he becomes real to us which makes the cliffhanger at the end so frustrating because we need to know what happens next.  Sigh.

As I have commented on how much I dislike cliffhangers in other books, so that is the reason my head pounded when I found it here.  So as we wait for Dreamspinner Press to bring out the next in the series and for this situation with Roan in the hospital to be resolved, I will placate myself by going back to the beginning and starting to read the series all over again, looking for new clues I might have missed, and uncovering elements the author may have hidden away.  So even with the dreaded cliffhanger in place, grab this one up.  Or if you are new to the series, go back to the beginning and become acquainted with  one of the most complex and enthralling characters to cross a page.

Andrea Speed also compiles a playlist for each book.  They can be found at her website In Absentia. Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the saga:

Infected: Prey

Bloodlines

Life After Death

Freefall

Shift 

Lesser Evils

Cover: Cover by Anne Cain is just magnificent.  The cover art is available for download as screensavers at Andrea Speed’s website.