Desert Isle Keeper
Master Wolf is the eagerly awaited second instalment of Joanna Chambers’ Capital Wolves duet and concludes the story begun in Gentleman Wolf, which introduced readers to the beautiful, elegant, devil-may-care Lindsay Sommerville and Drew Nichol, the rather dour architect with whom he falls head-over-heels in love. This book is a direct sequel to the first and does not stand alone – and there will be spoilers in this review.
Master Wolf opens just days after the shocking events at the end of the Gentleman Wolf which saw Lindsay, in a moment of sheer desperation, biting a mortally wounded Drew in order to save his life. When he learns what happened, Drew is furious, filled with rage and betrayal at what was done to him without his permission, even though he knows he’d likely have died had Lindsay not acted as he did. He’s devastated and wants nothing to do with the man who, just hours earlier, had called him his mate and with whom Drew had finally begun to allow himself a small measure of acceptance of the needs and desires of which he’d before been so ashamed.
Now, Lindsay is getting ready to leave Edinburgh for the Low Countries, leaving Drew in Edinburgh with Francis Neville, one of Lindsay’s oldest and closest friends, to help him to adjust to his new reality and learn to accept his wolf. Normally, this obligation would fall to a wolf’s maker, but Drew refuses to see or speak to Lindsay and their parting – a parting which, if Drew has anything to say about it, will be forever – is painful and awkward. Lindsay is clearly grief-stricken and Drew is surprised at being able to feel such visceral pain – but he puts that aside, believing it to be due to the unwanted bond Lindsay created when he made him and bids the other man a cold, curt goodbye.
The story then moves forward by thirty-two years, to 1820 and to London, where Drew has become a successful businessman. He has never fully come to terms with his wolf, shifting only when absolutely necessary and determined never to give in to the pull towards Lindsay the bond still exerts. In a series of flashbacks, we learn that the pair has seen each other only rarely in the intervening time, and that although their mutual attraction burns as brightly as ever, Drew hasn’t forgiven Lindsay for what he forced upon him and is determined he never will. Now, twelve years after their last meeting, Drew has noticed a subtle change in the nature of the bond he’s always felt tugging at him, a gradual lessening of it, which makes him believe that perhaps at last he is getting a measure of control over his wolf and – finally – gaining freedom from Lindsay’s mastery over him. It’s what he has wanted for the last thirty years – so why does the prospect of losing that connection make him want to howl in misery?
Drew’s return to Edinburgh for the first time in more than thirty years is occasioned when Marguerite de Carcassonne, the leader of his pack, tells him she needs his help in acquiring the misshapen remains that have been recently discovered in the Nor’loch by St. Cuthbert’s Church. (The remains are, of course, those of their adversary from the previous book.) There are several parties interested in purchasing the bones, and Marguerite wants to get to them first so as to prevent anyone from investigating further and discovering the existence of werewolves. After their arrival in the city, it quickly becomes apparent that there is much more at stake than the recovery of a decades old skeleton.
Drew isn’t sure what to expect at his first sight of Lindsay in twelve years. The tone of his recent letter to Marguerite was odd, to say the least, but even so, Drew isn’t prepared for Lindsay’s drastically altered appearance. He’s obviously very ill, his always slender body now little more than skin and bone, his still beautiful face etched with pain and exhaustion, and he leans heavily on the cane he’d before only carried as a fashion item. He explains that he’s tired of running from Duncan MacCormaic, his maker and the man who had kept him prisoner for forty years and subjected him to utter degradation and humiliation, and that he has at last found a way to sever the bond between a wolf and his maker and free himself from Duncan’s hold – an incredibly dangerous way that will also finally enable him to give Drew the one thing he knows Drew wants above anything else. His freedom.
This book will break your heart and make you want to break things at the same time. Gentleman Wolf told the story of Drew and Lindsay’s romance from Lindsay’s point of view, and this continuation is told from Drew’s – and he’s not always the easiest character to sympathise with. He views the wolf-bond as one of master and servant, knows that a wolf’s master can control him utterly, and is so completely focused on his fear of Lindsay’s having such power over him and of the depth and strength of the yearning he attributes to the bond, that he has absolutely no idea that what he’s feeling is love and the all-too-human desire to be with the love of his life. He also fails to see that Lindsay is just as trapped by their bond as he is, and that he is trying to show the depth of his love regardless of the cost to himself.
The anger, despair and longing felt by these two simply leap off the page and the scenes between them are both heartfelt and heart-breaking, full of intense sorrow and deep denial; and witnessing Drew finally learning to accept his wolf while we watch Lindsay becoming weaker and weaker is poignant and utterly gut-wrenching.
While the main focus of the novel is Drew’s journey towards acceptance – of his wolf and of Lindsay’s place in his life – other plot-threads are tied up as well, most notably that of Lindsay’s master, Duncan MacCormaic, which comes to a tragic and unexpected conclusion. Ms. Chambers’ writing is focused and polished, and her descriptions of nineteenth century Edinburgh and the other locations to which she takes readers are vivid and evocative. Above all, the love story which takes centre stage is truly epic, with high stakes and a happy ending that is hard fought and hard won. Master Wolf is a wonderfully satisfying conclusion to the Capital Wolves duet.