The strikingly beautiful cover of Once a Wolf might be reason enough to pick up the book. Readers who choose to enter Susan Krinard’s world of the loup-garou, or werewolf, will find themselves mesmerized by an erotically-charged tale of revenge and suppressed passion. This is paranormal romance in top form.
Lady Rowena Forster, after three years in New York, has finally consented to marry the man her brother Braden has chosen for her: Cole MacLean. Rowena and Cole share a legacy that Rowena wishes to forget. They are both loup-garou. But beside Cole, safe in his world of strict propriety, Rowena can be as human as she wishes to be. And if Cole is a bit too overbearing and controlling, well, Rowena will gladly exchange that for the chance to escape her heritage.
Rowena’s world is turned upside down one night with the arrival of a man calling himself Thomas Randolph. He tells Rowena that her brother Quentin is in danger, that she can save him from self-destruction if she’ll go to him in southern Colorado. Rowena cannot deny the truth of the letter he brings, written in Quentin’s hand nor the niggling warning signs that have appeared in her own mind. She agrees to travel west with Thomas.
Only Thomas is not what he appears. He’s really Tomás Alejandro Randall, a man bent on avenging the death of his family at Cole MacLean’s hands. Rowena will be his bait. And if she chooses to keep her werewolf persona under close control, if she refuses to acknowledge the loup-garou bond between them, well, perhaps he can change her mind. Tomás is consumed with visions of Rowena beckoning to him, seducing him, then Changing into her wolf persona before his eyes to deny him. He knows the passion that is trapped inside her. Can he free it? And if they are, indeed, soulmates, how can he ask her to give up her life of wealth and privilege and follow a desperado?
Tomás is clearly defined and easy to empathize with. His longing for Rowena, his driving need for revenge, and his dawning realization that he may have a far greater treasure at his side are all compelling. He’s a gentleman on the surface and burning underneath. An irresistible combination.
Rowena is a little harder to define. Given her background of wealth and privilege, and the fact that she’s part of a family that includes two adored brothers and a sister-in-law, it’s not quite clear why she is so determined to be strictly human -- even to the point of marrying a man she does not love. Perhaps more was explained in the previous Touch of the Wolf, Braden’s story.
The secondary characters add much to the story almost too much. A mute girl with a gift for mysticism and a harsh sidekick friend of Tomás have their own issues to deal with and leave the door open for future appearances. Their interaction at times came close to overshadowing the romance between Tomás and Rowena. And Quentin, the younger Forster, is merely a teaser, leaving us with the impression that his story is next.
The sexual tension between Rowena and Tomás is a standout. Tomás is drawn to Rowena from the start, and she to him, but while he recognizes the attraction, she resists it. Fire and ice together can only reach one of two conclusions, and here the reader is on hand to witness the slow melting of Rowena’s resistance. It’s beautifully done. Tomás has heat in spades under his controlled exterior.
Once a Wolf is an excellent addition to any fantasy romance bookshelf. Susan Krinard weaves a compelling tale of revenge, discovery and explosive passion that’s guaranteed to delight.