Prince of Kisses

 
The Wolf of Haskell Hall
by Colleen Shannon
(Dorchester Candleglow, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-505-52412-0
***
Dorchesterís new line of Candleglow Gothic romances mix the old with the new. All the trappings of an old-fashioned Gothic are blended with hotter sensuality levels in The Wolf of Haskell Hall. An interesting experiment, but ultimately not a complete success.

Delilah Haskell has come to England from Colorado to claim Haskell Hall as the new heiress. With her exotic maid Safira in tow, as well as a grumpy manservant, she arrives at the brooding castle. The previous heiresses all seem to have died mysterious, gory deaths. Lil, in typical brash American fashion, decides itís all nonsense. The handsome estate manager, Ian Griffith, is another matter. He certainly has the power to disturb her thoughts.

Ian is not an ordinary man. Heís a werewolf. (Iím not giving anything away the reader wonít discover in the first ten pages.) He lives alone in a sumptuous tower room in the Hall, and Delilah is warned to stay away and not invade his privacy. Naturally, thatís the first thing she does. Alone. At night. When itís quite dark. The first of many such adventures.

And thereís the fly in the gothic ointment. The very conventions of the subgenre -- headstrong heroine, brooding castle, lots of dark corridors to venture down alone at night without thinking of her safety -- are the very conventions that may make readers scream in frustration and heave the book into the nearest trashcan. Itís almost impossible to make a heroine act like this and not come across as too stupid to live. Lil only partly succeeds. Sheís smart enough to figure out that there is genuine danger, but too stupid (okay, be nice, letís call it headstrong) to heed the warnings for her own safety.

What may make the novel more palatable is the genuine, and very hot, attraction between Lil and Ian. Heís a tormented soul; aware of who and what he is yet unable to resist the lure of Lil. As they fall in lust, then fall in love, Ianís distress is palpable. He shouldnít go near this woman; he canít stay away. And the danger to Lil is real. Thereís another werewolf afoot.

If you grew up on Gothics and want to take a trip down Memory Lane, you might want to give The Wolf of Haskell Hall a try. It will likely have enough modern additions to make you happy. But if Gothics were never your thing, this isnít likely to convert you.

--Cathy Sova


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