|Wolf’s Temptation takes us into the heady world of espionage at a time when England was struggling to maintain control over its
rebellious American colonies. The romance between two English spies
is convincing, and the story is quite engaging, but there are a
number of plotting problems that make me hold back a higher rating.
Ethan Gray, son of an English aristocrat, is pursuing the mysterious
fourth man in a conspiracy to sell weapons to colonial rebels. He
believes he is getting closer to his quarry when he is temporarily
taken off the case and sent to France to stop the sale of a warship.
He must join forces with the Raven, a spy whose achievements he has
long admired. Ethan didn’t expect her to be a woman; nor was he
counting on her being the daughter of a man who died because of his
Maris Winter has had a crush on Ethan ever since he came bearing sad
news. Since then, she has followed in her father’s footsteps. She
devotes her energies to the British government and to taking care of
her sullen mother and senile grandfather. Her loyalties to the crown
are tested by her equally strong feelings for a shadowy figure named
Samuel. What the relationship between the two is becomes fairly
apparent, but the novel strives to keep it a secret.
During their mission in France, Ethan is slightly attracted to Maris,
but remains more interested in another woman, the mysterious and
seductive Peacock he met at a masked ball. He believes she can lead
him to the fourth man he is after. Needless to say, the Raven and the
Peacock are one and the same, but the possibility doesn’t occur to
Ethan. As he gets to know Maris, the Peacock’s flamboyance fades from
his memory and the Raven’s efficiency and subtlety intrigue him more
and more. Maris cannot turn down the advances of her girlhood hero,
but she doesn’t dare imagine anything more permanent because of the
secrets between them.
The success of this novel is largely due to its heroine. Her down-to-
earth and matter-of-fact style is a refreshing change from the more
typically glamorous and sexy female spy. The dilemmas and conflicts
she must resolve give her depth and authenticity, and although her
loyalties and her behavior didn’t always concord with what I would
expect from a woman of her times, they did elicit my admiration and
Ethan is less appealing. He moves very quickly from refusing to work
with a woman spy to groping Maris to expressing his deep admiration
for her accomplishments. At the same time, he continues to blame his
youthful trust in a female spy for his only failure, the one which
cost the life of Maris’s father. Because he never shares the details
of this event with Maris, we never know how it might have effected
her perception of her hero. Nor do we know how right he is in his
Though the story is well-told and the pacing good, there are too many
intrigues, sub-plots and villains. Some of these herald another novel
in the series; others hint at developments in an earlier one. While
both sound potentially engaging, the allusive information leads to
some confusion: I had a hard time keeping track of who was who and of
understanding why minor characters were given such central roles.
This seemed to be done at the expense of more important developments:
Ethan’s interest in the Peacock, for example, is forgotten only to be
resuscitated at the convenient moment.
These oversights didn’t annoy me half as much as all the unnecessary
suspense surrounding the mysterious Samuel. What’s more, there are
two glaring historical inaccuracies that surround his story, but to
discuss them here would be to reveal too much. So I’ll take pity on
those who might be willing to overlook some of the above-mentioned
flaws. They won’t be too sorry: despite its many shortcomings, Wolf’s Temptation can be quite an engrossing read.