Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-58021-3
Fantasy Romance, 2000
Unlike the overblown psychotics in the previous historical werewolf romance (and related) Touch of the Wolf, where the plot takes too many short-cuts, Once a Wolf is a better effort. This time around, why yes, there’s still a bit too many short-cuts taken to the rather unsatisfying denouement in the ending, but at least the heroine, unlike her brother (the hero of the previous book), isn’t a rather dumb sort of psycho.
Rowena Forster is a psycho, as is her eventual consort Tomás Alejandro Randall (AKA Thomas the Singing Outlaw), but they are fun psychopaths in that they are dark but they also display some humanity. Rowena and Tommy are werewolves, as is the villain and Other Man, but unlike Tommy who adores his beastie side, Rowena wants nothing more than to forget she is ever a wolf. Having read the previous book and witnessed her elder brother’s Norman Bates behavior, I’m not surprised.
Her Norman Bates-esque brother arranged for her to marry Cole MacLean (one of the man’s “I Wanna Be the Hitler of the Loup-Garous!” repertoire), and Rowena refuses. She starves herself almost to death in the previous book, but in Once a Wolf, she changes her mind. Cole, you see, wants never to reminded of his werewolf side too! Ooh, maybe they can have a decent life together. So Rowena packs her bags to move to Cole’s place for an as-happy-as-they-can-ever-after.
Until that rogue Thomas kidnaps her! Ooh, the outrage of that man. Thomas has a vendetta against Cole. Cole is the SOB who killed Tommy’s family, and Tommy, using Rowena’s brother Quentin as bait, lures and reels her in. He also dreams of their almost boinking, where she then changes into a wolf to then show him the metaphorical finger of a “Drop dead, you horny buster!”. Kinky. Such passion under that icy cold facade, he decides. He must seduce her.
Turns out she’s his soul-mate (loup garous know these sort of thing, and once mated, they’re mated for life). But there’s a long way to go before Rowena accepts her beastie side. Cole is also a very one-dimensional villain who will cause some trouble. There’s also a lot of angst from Tommy’s buddy and a psychic mute.
But Once a Wolf is a pretty decent read, ridiculous villains and all. Cole is easily the most insipidly cardboard villain ever from the author, while Thomas starts out like some lousy caricature of a slimy Romeo – he talks like, well, oily, and his “Accept the wolf within ye!” mysticism can really grate at times.
But Rowena, now that’s a lass. I love the way her icy exterior contradicts the fiery core within. She’s the ultimate fire and ice, the true star in this novel with the blossoming of her true strength as the pages hurtle into a overblown final conflict. Tommy and his “We are peaceful wolves of Greenpeace!” mantras and messages of love and werewolf-y pale in this woman’s presence.
Therefore, Once a Wolf has a great heroine, and I also must say I adore the villain’s younger brother, whom I feel is a better match for Rowena than Tommy (maybe in another lifetime, Weylin). And Quentin’s story sounds promising, given the man’s rather infectious personality. But like Touch of the Wolf, the male wolves just cannot compete with their she-wolves for the limelight. Maybe nature is female after all.