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Friday, July 16, 2010

Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab

Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab
Publisher: Love Spell/Dorchester Publishing
Genre: Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (321 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Book Rating: 5 Books
Review by Xeranthemum

Celia Fussell’s father is dead, and she reduced to the status of a poor relation in the house of her brother, the new baron, and his shrewish wife. A life of misery looms ahead.

But, no. There is hope. Deep in the Black Forest, in the Great Duchy of Baden, stands Celia’s inheritance. Among fir trees so dark they almost look black The Castle of Wolfenbach rises. It is a fortress of solitude, of secrets, of old wounds and older mysteries. But it is hers. And only one thing stands in her way: its former master, the hermit, the enigma -- the man she is obliged to marry.

The tradition of Gothic romance is alive and well with all its mystery and misdirection to thwart the would-be lovers.

The tale starts off as many of the historical romances do; a female left on the shelf ends up beholden to relatives once their parent dies and one of the relatives is a spiteful manipulative viper. In this case the parent had a trick card yet to play upon the reading of the will which ends up sending the heroine on the adventure of her lifetime.

Celia is a balanced and complicated mixture of a character. She’s book worldly and life innocent. She’s on the borderline of gullible and yet tips the scales towards wisdom. She’s also imaginative, courageous and mostly optimistic. She will need all her innate skills in order to make the best of her new situation. Her sense of humor and inquisitive nature hold her in good stead in many parts of this book. She wins over the servants, makes new friends and inadvertently triggers an evil that stalks the halls of her new home.

As much as the author built up the scary persona of the male lead, a reader of romance will surely expect the revealed truth to be as they expect, but not as any of the characters in the book were led to believe. Except for one very observant and worldly person, who, in my estimation, made a terrific secondary character. Her taste in cards is quite fascinating and I’d love to get my hands on such a deck.

Fenris is the hero who acts like an anti-hero for a time because there are many moments where Celia and the reader can’t get into his head. Only by conversation with and hints from Johann his butler, did I get a sense of the deep pain, anguish and self-loathing plaguing Fenris. Compassion for him gradually grows as a reader watches a man so closed off from love begin to allow himself to feel, to believe that he truly has worth. Worth not only to himself but to Celia as well. It’s a slow tentative process hampered by that evil I mentioned earlier.

I picked up this book because of its paranormal promise but I’ll warn fellow readers to expect a more gothic style adherence. The hint of the paranormal is a dusting, like fairy dust. It doesn’t truly affect the action in the story or the characters in any direct way. The only thing it does is nicely and neatly explain the security of the happily ever after. And even that is done with gothic spookiness.

Castle of the Wolf is an entertaining read filled with dire elements, hopeful frolic and a bit of clever sleuthing by the heroine and her co-hort. It has old world flavor and charm and its dialogue was interesting, well-paced and true to character. By the time of the happily ever after, it’s well earned, solid and believable. I absolutely recommend reading this book. I flew through the pages in one sitting.

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