I love shape shifters, especially wolves. I also love the fey, most especially the Sidhe courts. So when I found a book that combined both Sidhe and shape shifters, I was delighted. Unfortunately, by the end of this book I was far less pleased.
Prince Ruben of Teslinko must choose a bride. As heir to the throne he has obligations which include continuing his shape shifter lineage and giving his people a caring and compassionate queen. His parents have arranged for a ball where he can meet all the lovely eligibles of his land – both human and shifter – and begin a proper courtship. What his parents don’t know, what he can’t let them know, is that he is turning feral. Slowly but surely his wolf is winning the battle for control. One day soon he will shift to wolf, not change back, and die in madness and agony.
He vows to be polite to everyone at the party but no one lady out. He refuses to drag a bride through the problems he will soon be facing. Yet that changes when a lovely young woman enters the ball and snares the interest of both him and his wolf. The two are enjoying one of the most peaceful interludes he has known in quite some time when violence disrupts the entire party. A bomb goes off and while Ruben and his mystery lady rescue others from the rubble there is no time to talk. When the dust finally clears Ruben realizes his mysterious crush has disappeared with it.
Willow, of the Bright Sidhe court, enjoys spending time in the human world. There she is not judged for her oddly dark appearance (Willow has black hair and brown eyes, all other Bright Sidhe have blonde hair and purple eyes) or her lack of magic. Attending the ball gives her a chance to be free for a few hours from the never ending pressure of her mother’s disapproval. When violence erupts she stays to help the humans as long as she can. But time passes differently in her world than theirs and she leaves at the first sight of dawn lest the night turn into a week or more. It is not until she reaches home that she realizes she has lost a valuable magical earring that belongs to her mother.
Willow’s intention is to head straight back to the human world to search for it, but her plans are unexpectedly interrupted by guests. Her sister’s fiancé has arrived bringing with him the young prince to whom Willow’s parents plan to marry her off. When Willow finally escapes her company and uses the portal to once more enter the human world, she does not realize she is followed. She heads directly to the castle to search for the magical earring only to be delayed by Prince Ruben as he accuses her of working with the saboteurs. By the time he is convinced both of her innocence and the pressing need to return the earring, it is too late. He had found the earring and placed it on his dresser but the maid sent to retrieve it has been murdered and the jewelry stolen. Determined to avenge the maid Ruben returns to the Bright Court with Willow. The two will seek out the killer, unaware that in the meantime he is seeking them.
Normally I am pretty easy to please when it comes to romance novels. However, this book had so many flaws that I had a hard time not banging the wall with it. One of my biggest problems was with the inconsistencies within the text. For example at one point Willow tells Ruben:
My appearance is distasteful to them. Here two things are valued above all others. Beauty and magical power. Because I have neither I am considered worthless.
Then just a little bit later, when making sure he takes her along on his quest for the killer:
“I’m very well liked here and my people won’t talk to you without my assistance,” she said, fully aware he had no idea exactly how unpopular she was with her people.
How was it possible for him to be unaware when she had recently spelled it out for him?
At another point she tells him that she has information that the man they are looking for is in the palace and that he is the killer of several small animals near there. Not even a few pages later she wonders aloud if the same man who killed the animals killed the maid. Say what?
Leaving aside the inconsistencies with the plot, my biggest problems are with the characters. Ruben fighting with his wolf means that he can not use the wolf’s superior senses to pin point the killer. Yet he uses those same senses to hunt rabbits for meals or to know when Willow is nearby. Willow is an unhappy nightmare. She is miserable at home and throughout the text it is made clear she is not even wanted there. But she never takes the opportunity to make a life for herself in the human world, even though that possibility is clearly available to her. In addition, Willow does have magic. We learn within the first few pages that she can call all manner of creatures to her and that even predators quiet at her touch. Yet she doesn’t tell anyone about this or work at getting better at the skill. Or at least she doesn’t until she is on the trip with Ruben; then she learns to expand those powers. I hate it when the heroine is only half a person before she meets the hero. It is fine if he brings out the best in her but for her to barely exist before true love enters her life just doesn’t work. Love is basic math. You need two complete people to make one good couple.
The mystery could have saved the tale, but sadly it added to the problems instead. We know right away who the killer is and he is essentially one of those characters that is eeevvvviiilll. There are no dimensions to him at all; he uses and hurts everyone, even those that love him. The hunt for him is rather boring since it is handled so ineptly.
I wish I could recommend this story as good shape shifter love stories are always in short supply. Unfortunately this one joins the long list of bad ones.</p
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