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The Loop
Nicholas Evans
Things aren't going too well for wolf biologist Helen Ross. At 29, she's unemployed (recently retired dishwasher), single (boyfriend of two years left her for Africa), and has just learned that her father is marrying someone younger, richer, and prettier than herself (completely accurate).

Back in her lonely log cabin in Cape Cod, frantically chain-smoking, she receives a message from her former lover Dan Prior. Prior, also a biologist, works for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service wolf-recovery program. In return for helping him track the lupine posse, Prior will provide her with a cabin, truck, and a snowmobile for good measure in a rustic little town called Hope, just outside of Helena, Montana.

Apparently, Ross has never heard the proverb "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," and happily skips off to Big Sky Country.

Within moments of her arrival, she finds out what she's up against: a small town with a long history of wolf fear and loathing, no resources (big surprise), and a powerful rancher who will do whatever it takes to eliminate the wolves. The rancher, testosterone-saturated Buck Calder, has got the community riled up after a wolf stalked his daughter's home and killed the family dog. He won't stop until every last endangered wolf is dead, which proves problematic for Ross when she decides to romance his 18-year-old son, Luke. Cynics be warned: their love affair spawns a trove of gooey pillow talk and syrupy prose. Even so, Evans has made impressive strides as a writer since his debut novel, The Horse Whisperer, and his storytelling has reached a noticeably new level of sophistication: the plot is tight, the characterization is realistic, and the dialogue is crisp. --Rebekah Warren


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