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Quincie Morris's first love is a hybrid-werewolf named Kieren. Though they love each other deeply, Kieren is a shape-shifter who doesn't yet know how to deal with his changes. Back in middle school, this inability to control his power turned a tender preteen handhold into a casualty. Quincie remembers: "I didn't feel the pain when I first heard the wet crunching, didn't feel it for long even, wicked hot, turning my sweat cold. There was an instant, just one, when I looked down at my hand and felt the blood dripping and realized his nails…claws…had extended, piercing clear through."

At 17, Quincie is an orphan who has lived in the care of her Uncle Davidson. Uncle D decides to put a spin on the financially troubled family Italian restaurant. He is making it into a vampire-themed extravaganza called Sanguini's: A Rare Restaurant. Quincie wonders if Uncle D's spooky vampire-wannabe girlfriend, Ruby, had something to do with the idea.

When the head chef, Vaggio, is murdered in the kitchen and his body is left mangled with claw marks, Quincie fears that her shape-shifting-challenged boyfriend will become a suspect. Along with the stress of the murder investigation, she is also worried about losing Kieren. He will soon join a wolf pack and be gone, maybe forever. "At eighteen…as a human, he'd have to register for the draft. As a wolf, it's not much different."

With all her worries, Quincie still cares deeply about the family restaurant and takes it upon herself to work with the new head chef her uncle hires. The chef, Henry Johnson, is renamed with a vampire-sounding name, Bradley Sanguini. As Quincie works closer and closer with Bradley, she finds herself falling under his charm. She helps him plan his extravagant dishes for the Friday the 13th opening night party. With a menu divided into two parts --- "Predator" and "Prey" --- Quincie tastes the new chef's creations nightly and starts drinking more and more of the red wine that will go along with the food. Before she even realizes what is happening, Quincie finds herself smack in the middle of a dangerous love triangle. Does she have what it takes to survive?

Like the title itself, this offering from author Cynthia Leitich Smith is just that --- tantalizing. She creates a dark fantasy world mingled with real teen challenges that is entirely satisfying. The format of the novel works particularly well as a menu dividing the book into sections: antipasto, primo, secondo, dolce, conforno. From its troubled beginning to the shocking ending, TANTALIZE is a suspenseful thrill ride that is sure to entertain shape-shifters and non-shape-shifters alike.

Reviewed by Kristi Olson on February 13, 2007

by Cynthia Leitich Smith

  • Publication Date: February 13, 2007
  • Genres: Fantasy, Gothic
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick
  • ISBN-10: 0763627917
  • ISBN-13: 9780763627911