Title: Once Upon a Wolf (Wayward Wolves #1)
Author: Rhys Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: February 16, 2018
Genre(s): Paranoramal – Wolves
Page Count: 96
Reviewed by: Kristin
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Once Upon A Time, There Was A Wolf….
Gibson Keller’s days are fairly routine: wake up early, get some work done, drink lots of coffee, and take care of Ellis, his older brother stuck in wolf form after coming home from the war. It’s a simple life made up of long runs on two legs—or four—and quiet evenings…. Until Ellis chases a handsome man off a cliff and into the frozen waters beside their cabin, changing Gibson’s life forever.
For Zach Thomas, buying an old B&B is a new start. Leaving behind his city life, he longs to find peace and quiet, and hiking the trails behind his property seems safe enough—right up to the moment an enormous black wolf chases him into a lake, nearly drowning him. Discovering werewolves are real astounds him, but not as much as the man who rescues him from the icy water then walks into Zach’s heart as if he owns it.
Loving a werewolf—loving Gibson with all his secrets—has its challenges but Zach believes their love is worth fighting for, especially since his heart knows the big bad wolf is really a prince in disguise.
This is a short, fast-paced, story that literally hits the ground running. When Zach finds himself being chased by a wolf and plunges into an icy mountain lake, waking up in Gibson’s cabin is just the start of thing being surreal. For Gibson, hearing his brother’s panicked cry and finding Ellis had nearly downed Zach, it was just par for the course dealing with his brother’s wild ways. Until Zach woke up and saw Ellis mid-shift. Yet Zach and Gibson managed to find a connection that kept bringing them back together.
I enjoyed this. It was a tich different than the usual shifter book. Rhys never once mentioned the word “mate”, for which I am ever so grateful. It was subtly implied, like a hint of wood smoke on the air, but never mentioned out loud. I liked that.
The enjoyable thing about short stories is characters are kept to a minimum, kinda by default, and I liked this set of characters – Ellis and Gibson, both just trying to keep it together; our Lesbian couple running the B&B with some very interesting skill sets; the local Sheriff, convinced Gibson and Ellis had something to do with his father’s death and carrying a grudge. And Zach. he downside to short stories is there isn’t enough time to really flesh out the characters, and in this case, I felt Zach was the weakest in terms of personality development.
And I have my small issue to touch on: the flowery language at the beginning of the book had me groaning and rolling my eyes a bit. I’m all for description, but…eep! For example:
“There was an iciness in his storm-cloud-colored gaze, his gray eyes folded with a marble of blue and dove and a chilly detachment more keen than any knife Zach ever handled. It sliced through him, sharper and colder than the lake waters he’d fallen into…”
“A scruff of beard dappled his square jaw, a mink brown slightly darker than the sienna mane pushed back from his face.”
I found “stygian” used twice, “gyrations” used twice, “weald” used once and I’m still not entirely sure “weald” was used correctly. Thankfully, the colorful descriptions tapered toward the middle of the story and descriptions settled down. Now, lest you think me a total cad, I did think there were some quite good turns of phrasing, like “…his thoughts scattered like sparrows before a cat.” That made me smile.
Last, the dramatic, climatic resolution with the antagonist left me feeling like something wasn’t quite finished. That there was more to be said, and maybe there will be in future books? Which is a downside of a short story. The reader doesn’t get everything they want. But the cover of the book does seem to indicate there may be more, so…?
Ultimately, as I noted above, I did enjoy this story: the characters were interesting and engaging, the romance sweet, and the plot moved right along. I would love to read the next installment.