It took me forever to review this book, and I have no idea why. It was the sort of novel that grabbed me in the beginning and was impossible to put down - the richness of mystery, the fascination with potential werewolf legend, and the budding romance cost me precious hours of sleep. Sleep-deprivation be damned, this book was unique and stood above the rest in this sub-genre, demanding all the attention I happily gave it.
Things generally work better when done differently, and here it's with the heroine Elizabeth. She's the ideal woman I like reading about in these types of books. Certainly no doe-eyed, virginal beauty who sits by idly while crocheting by the fire, instead she's a woman with a flawed past, holding firmly to strong morals despite her tainted decisions. Too curious for her own good, she never heeds her own advice not to wander into situations she doesn't belong, and never finds it too low to easedrop. (A striking contrast to her role as a teacher of being a proper lady with manners.) Her sexual curiosity isn't nauseatingly naive, propelling the realism of the story forward.
As for the hero? Well, he's hysterical with his overbearing attitude and impatient anger. It's hard to find much humor in this sort of novel, so when a sudden burst erupts from the serious tone, you sit up and pay attention. He's the typical haunted, dark, grave sort that dominates the small village with financial wealth and family esteem. Nothing unique here, but his earnest for Elizabeth still makes great reading.
Of course if a book is enjoyed, it can't have been written terribly. In this case the words are weaved almost hypnotically, using a curiously different style. The phrasing is a bit formal compared to other books, and this may be a turn off for some who don't hold the high reading enthusiasm I do. Simpson's writing blends well with the serious, stark atmosphere haunting the castle, showcasing the old-world stiff English thoughts of the heroine.
Sexually speaking, there's plenty here without the garish porn-like trails some romance suffers from. Erotic scenes are done delicately without trash and melodrama, yet not with just scant details that leaves the reader frustrated rather than satisfied. While not overly steamy in sensuality, the build-up is fierce and the release fun.
As to the paranormal aspect, it's barely present despite the back cover blurb. Werewolves are mentioned briefly and not often. Instead the history of the legend is wrapped around a decently tight mystery, one I wasn't able to figure out. Emphasis was not on the furry, but on Elizabeth and Nikolas. Hard-core paranormal addicts may be slightly disappointed as a result, but I still urge them to give this one a try. Mystery buffs should be enthused, romance fans enthralled, and Gothic fans absolutely addicted. A nearly ingenious blend of all the above, incorporating the right touch of mysterious family, old crumbling castles, bizarre howls and even stranger legend.
I, for one, can't wait to read more of this author's work!