Reviewed: March 5, 2012
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Werewolf, Book 1
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Length: 384 Pages
Format: Print, eBook
Orphaned as a child when her red lupus garou pack was slaughtered by hunters, Bella was rescued by young gray wolf Devlyn and taken in by his pack. She should have been safe, grown up cared for and treated well. For a while she was, until male alpha Volan took over as pack leader and started making her life hell. He wanted Bella as his mate, intended to make her his, even if he has to force their mating...by raping her when she's still a child.
Having escaped his vile attempts for several years, Bella knew her time was running out. At sixteen, she wasn't a child anymore. Not in the eyes of the pack. Soon the pack would support his attempts and she would no longer be able to hide. All Bella really wants is Devlyn, but he will not leave the pack and to stay would goad Volan into slaughtering him.
So she does the second most unthinkable thing for a young wolf. She gives up her adopted pack and runs. Alone. Because as lonely and as unnatural as being a loner wolf is for her, it's preferable to being Volan's mate...and seeing Devlyn die.
For over a century and a half Bella lives the life of a loner. Careful living and staying far away from any lupus garou, has kept her safe. Unfortunately, her luck has run out. Living in Portland has given her the freedom and space she needs, but someone has started to kill young redheaded women...and the murders look like wolf attacks. Then, when she slips away to her cabin in the woods for a weekend run in her wolf form, she catches the scent of a new lupus garou in the area...but completely misses the presence of the hunters tracking her.
Waking up in the wolf pen at the Portland zoo isn't exactly the high point of her life, that's for sure. Adding insult to injury is the presence of a full-wolf male intent on mating. The real silver bullet in this scenario, though, is the scent on the breeze. It was a scent she hadn't known for over a century. And it was one she would never forget. Seeing Devlyn standing at her enclosure, muscles tense and eyes intent as he glares at her with need and reproach, sends both chills and thrills through her.
If Devlyn is there, Volan won't be far behind. Bella has been keeping close enough tabs on the pack to know the alpha leader hadn't given up on her yet. Now she's got to get herself out of captivity, find out more about the werewolf murders, and evade Devlyn and Volan all over again. Because she has not changed her mind.
She will never be Volan's mate, and she will never sign Devlyn's death warrant by becoming his.
I love stumbling across fresh paranormal fiction concepts and seeing them evolve in series. Spear's no-nonsense approach to the lupus garou mythology, drawing heavily from the social pack interactions of wolves in nature, is a fascinating novelty. One I enjoyed, though I do think parts were a mixed blessing. I felt it actually hampered the romance of Bella and Devlyn to the point that I struggled with their emotional connection at various intervals throughout the book. With the emphasis placed on their culture's similarities to wolves, their physical relationship didn't suffer the same fate, but it kept me from really feeling much emotional intensity in their bond.
That's not the only element that caused a problem for me, either. Bella herself made me a little mental in places. Her oft-bemoaned certainty that Devlyn would not win against Volan if he challenged their pack leader, as well as her lies, secrecy, and hidden agendas because of it, not only got old very fast, but it smacked of an intrinsic lack of faith and respect in him as a potential pack alpha leader and a mate. She was fairly emasculating, both in her own thoughts and out loud. I didn't find that flattering to her character...nor a ringing endorsement of his. It's a shame Bella mentioned her fears so very, very frequently frequently in the narrative.
External conflict plot elements were intriguing in concept, with the Big Bad Wolf in one corner, and the lupus garou murder mystery in the other. Unfortunately, the execution of both of those plot threads lacked sufficient depth, attention, and sophistication to add much to the book. Volan was curiously a non-factor throughout most of the story, which I found both perplexing and frustrating after the setup in the prologue. The murder investigation into the dead redheads, conducted as it was by Bella and Devlyn, seemed too perfunctory and easily solved. And both of those plot threads were also exceedingly abrupt during resolution after the story climax.
When Bella wasn't fretting and panicking over everything she feared Devlyn couldn't accomplish against Volan, both she and Devlyn were fine main characters. I do like the lupus garou mythos and backstory quite a bit, and I was drawn into the story most completely whenever they were looking back into the past or divulging some information on how the pack is structured or what it means to be one of their kind.
There was too much useless filler and unnecessary repetition in the narrative for the pace of the story to hold my interest over the long haul, though. My mind kept drifting while I was reading. And secondary characters were exceptionally two dimensional...or just bizarre. Bella's best friend and next door neighbor was an odd duck, for example, and her thoughts and actions didn't always seem in any way natural or organic to the situation she was in. She struck me as more a caricature...as did others, including some of the bad guys. They were a touch too big a bunch of howling clichés to be truly threatening.
I ended up feeling fairly confused with my overall impression of this book. Parts I didn't like at all, parts I liked fine, and several elements were problematic...but not too egregiously so. The only thing I do know for certain is that Heart of the Wolf didn't quite reach my heart. And I wanted it to very much. I still admire the respect and careful concern given to the wolves' plight in the wild. It is in clear evidence on every page of the story, and it shines bright.
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