Touch of the Wolf
For me, Touch of the Wolf was like Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I enjoyed it, not as much as the original installments, but it was a good set-up story that started to link what is already there from earlier books. Prince of Shadows and Prince of Wolves are the two previous werewolf books by Krinard, and this novel is the beginning of a new trilogy that will, in the author’s words, link her previous and future contemporary werewolf stories.
Cassidy Holt is an American half-werewolf whose parents died and brother disappeared when she was seven years old. After being raised by her human relatives, she sets out for England to find her werewolf, or loup-garous, family. Braden Forster, the Earl of Greyburn, is the leader of all loups-garous and is Cassidy’s cousin. He is devoted to the Cause, the arranging of marriages between wolves of pure blood to carry on the werewolf line and make sure they do not become extinct. When Cassidy finds him, he is thrilled to have recovered his long-lost American relative because her blood should be very strong. He plans for Cassidy to marry his brother, Quentin, for the good of the Cause.
Cassidy is a young woman who has grown up in relative isolation. She is very innocent and exuberant and wants nothing more than to belong to a family, find out more about her werewolf abilities, and learn how to Change. Cassidy’s most sacred possession is her collection of books, mostly poetry. This is all she knows of what love is, and Krinard throws in a stanza every now and then to explain Cassidy’s feelings. I understood why she was using this device, but it did get a bit distracting, as did Cassidy’s propensity to use Spanish exclamations such as “Caramba,” which she learned growing up in New Mexico.
Braden is autocratic, aloof and totally devoted to the Cause. After his disastrous marriage that ended in his wife’s death, he refused to marry again. Despite the bond between him and Cassidy, he continues to think she is for his brother. Braden is one of those dark heroes, intense and a little tortured. He is almost unlikable at first as he schemes to use Cassidy but keeps his plans from her. He becomes more open and likable as the book draws to a close and as Cassidy gets closer to him.
Rowena, Braden’s sister and Quentin’s twin, is a strong secondary character. I imagine she’ll be the heroine of one of the next two books (and Quentin will probably be the other). She is also aloof, the total opposite of jokester Quentin. Isabelle Smith, a friend of Cassidy’s and her mother, and Matthew Forster round out the secondary cast. Each one has a little story of their own which keeps the action moving.
The conflict here comes in the form of Braden’s late wife’s family – they challenge him for leadership. It was resolved quickly – almost too quickly. Krinard also manages neatly to avoided a Big Misunderstanding during the book that I was sure would come about when Isabelle received a note accusing Braden of causing his wife’s death. Thank goodness she didn’t go there.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. The last quarter of it was the most satisfying as it brought understanding to Braden and maturity and power to Cassidy, who had been on the border of being too much a child-woman. As she comes fully into her gifts, she becomes a woman to be reckoned with indeed. This story is intense and almost gothic, and I look forward to reading the next ones. I dug out Prince of Shadows and realized that its hero is a Holt and must be linked to Cassidy’s missing brother. I think the connections Krinard is building will be interesting and look forward to the rest of the series.