In Trouble's Arms

Prickly Pear

Scandalous

Violets are Blue

 
The Untamed One
by Ronda Thompson
(St. Martin's Paperbacks,$6.99, R) ISBN 0-312-93574-9
***
The second installment of "The Wild Wulfs of London" opens in the village of Whit Church in the early nineteenth century. Jackson Wulf has come to the small village, seeking out the witch rumored to live there. A family legend says that only the defeat of his enemy will free him from the family curse - his "beast." With a name like Wulf, of course the curse has to turn him into a werewolf, right?

On his way to murder the witch (who, incidentally was not the one to curse them), Jackson just so happens to fall into the bed of a local barmaid. He does this a lot, we're told. It's this bad decision that sends him fleeing angry villagers and ultimately leads him to the home of a screaming woman named Lucinda.

Lucinda, she of no last name, comes from a long line of witches - a line that's about to get longer since she's in the process of giving birth. Thinking Jackson was sent by the child's father to kill her, she begs for him to safely deliver the child and protect him after her death. Jackson, assuming she knows about his vendetta, agrees. And thus a bond is formed. (Because, really, who doesn't bond with the man trying to kill them?)

After the birth, Lucinda, barters for her life: she'll break the curse if Jackson will raise her child as his own. Just as the deal is sealed, they are attacked and she assumes Jackson is dead. Having no other recourse, she travels to London and takes on a new identity: that of Mrs. Jackson Wulf, widower. It is only after she is firmly settled in her role that Jackson returns to Wulfglen, insisting she keep up her end of the deal.

The Untamed One has a lot of promise. Jackson is an alcoholic womanizer and Lucinda is a street tough single mother. The promise of the characters is quickly diminished by the fact that each of them has a "qualifier." Yes, Jackson's an alcoholic who slips into bed with woman after woman; but he has a good reason: he's hiding from the reality of his beast. And Lucinda may be pregnant, but she didn't lose her virginity willingly (this isn't a spoiler, it's spelled out for the reader very early, just so you don't doubt her purity). And, well, she's a witch, but only a good witch with absolutely no ability to hurt people - not even in self-defense. I would've liked the book a lot better if the characters had been allowed to have flaws, simply for the sake of having flaws.

Honestly, the first half of the book was such a slow read; I almost gave it a two-heart rating (and just barely that). What redeemed the story was the fact that it picks up midway. By the last third of the book, I was sucked in. I almost liked the main characters! And, our hero finally sees some action. For heaven's sake, how many times can a woman engage in foreplay only to cut the hero off, without being a tease? Once the two consummated the relationship, they actually started dialoguing, which was another element missing early in the story. It seemed to me that we were being told they had feelings for each other, without either character ever showing it.

I've mentioned the fact that Jackson is an alcoholic and would like to take a moment to praise the way Thompson deals with the matter. Jackson isn't just a drinker in name only. When he decides to quit, we see the struggle he goes through. The reader empathizes with his tremors, and with the temptation of "just one" glass of brandy. Thompson does an excellent job of making the reader respect him, and ultimately the strength of character he shows is what endeared me to him.

Thompson does a great job with the isolation that both characters feel, being paranormal beings in a normal world. The pathos of each character is believable and is treated seriously. The reader is really made to understand how two people from two so opposite classes can be brought together by both being outcasts. While the story moved a bit slowly for my tastes, all in all, it ended up being a decent read - maybe not something I'll re-read, but I might buy the next book.

--Amanda Waters


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