Castle of the Wolf
Castle of the Wolf certainly delivers a refreshingly different setting, but the characters and the story have a regrettably familiar feel. Still, for readers craving a story not set in Regency England, this book might well hit the spot.
The plot involves Cissy Fussell, a young woman destined to be a poor relation living on suffrage in her brother’s house. She is stunned to learn upon her father’s death that she inherited a castle deep in the German Black Forest. The catch? She must marry the son of the house in order to keep the castle.
The intrepid young woman makes the long journey to Germany from England only to discover that, not only is her castle a crumbling ruin, but the young man her father intended for her husband is a bitter, reclusive, hermit with a wooden leg. As Cissy learns, Fenris von Wolfenbach, went against his country and fought with the British to defeat Napoleon, a decision that both made him an outcast amongst his own people and cost him his leg.
Fenris is an altogether familiar character, alas – one of those snarling, unpleasant heroes who feels as if he is not worthy of the heroine (or any woman, for that matter). He is joined in the castle by his facile, charming, good looking brother, who is of course really not worthy of the heroine either. In fact, because the brother is such an obvious creep, Cissy soon enough marries Fenris, who continues to reject his bride for many months after the marriage.
Ms. Schwab is a talented writer who knows very well how to create an atmosphere and evoke a mood. However, the ground she plows in this one is so familiar – bitter hero; strong, no nonsense heroine; oh-so-obvious bad guy – that, unfortunately, it detracts significantly from the originality of the setting.
Things pick up considerable in the book’s last half when the heroine is sent a deck of erotic playing cards that finally get things moving in the proper direction in the marital bedroom. At this point, the hero, heroine, and the reader are treated to some much-needed fun that I, for one, enjoyed very much. It should be noted that the creepy castle features a few unexpected Gothic goings-on that definitely added to the story’s interest. And in the end, I did believe in Fenris and Cissy’s HEA.
Ultimately, however, Ms. Schwab’s follow-up to the excellent The Lily Brand is a bit of a disappointment, though by no means a total let down. The author is a talented one and in her next book I am confident that she will match her unique setting with equally unique characters as she most certainly did in her debut book.