Wolf in Waiting (This DIK review was written by a reader)
2002 reissue of 1995 release, Series Romance
Sil Shadows #57, $4.50, 251 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373512120 Part of a series
Author Donna Ball has found great success with the popular werewolf books she's written as Donna Boyd. For me though, her greatest achievement remains Wolf in Waiting, part of the Heart of the Wolf trilogy she wrote as Rebecca Flanders for the Silhouette Shadows line in the mid-90's. Set in a world of beautiful and urbane werewolves, the trilogy, and this book in particular, laid the groundwork for the books she would later write. While the first and third books are good, she hit on something extraordinary in the second. Wolf in Waiting not only stands on its own, it stands far above the others and remains one of my all-time favorite romances. How much do I love it? I own three copies, two obtained after the book had gone out of print and the price tripled, and I know I'll be buying a couple more of the reissue.
Wolf in Waiting is an unusual story, written in a unique way. It's told in first-person, in alternating chapters from the hero and heroine's perspectives. It's not confusing since each chapter starts with a subtitle that tells the reader whose point of view we're in. This technique provides a level of character development that is rare for a category romance, allowing the reader to really get a sense of each character's personality and voice that otherwise wouldn't be possible.
The book is set in a world where all werewolves are part of a single pack. The wolves not only live among us; they're powerful and successful with business interests in many industries. Noel Duprey has been named the heir apparent to lead the pack after the chosen heir stepped down to live with a human woman in the previous book, Secret of the Wolf. Knowing that he was not the first choice, Noel feels he is still being forced to prove himself worthy of the role. His instinct is proven right when he is sent to the family's cosmetics company in Montreal. Someone there is leaking the formulas for the company's perfumes to rival firms before they can be released, and Noel's mission is to find the guilty party.
His prime suspect is Victoria St. Clare, who has close relationships with humans and is estranged from her own kind. Victoria is an anthromorph, which means that despite being born of werewolf parents, she cannot change from her human appearance to her wolf form. She has been discriminated against and repeatedly passed over for promotions at the company because of this. Based on what he's heard about her, Noel doesn't expect her to be much of an adversary. So it comes as a complete surprise when the playboy meets his match in this beautiful, intelligent woman who is far more clever than her reputation.
The corporate espionage plot might sound like a snooze, but it's really only the setup for the wonderful romance. The story's focus remains on the relationship between Noel and Victoria, two smart, cool, sophisticated people who also happen to be werewolves. Their chemistry is palpable, and it's a joy to read the give-and-take between them. This is the first of many things I love about this book. Flanders isn't an author who tells us her characters are intelligent with no backup; both by letting us directly in their heads and in their actions, she gives us numerous opportunities to see their intelligence for ourselves.
Victoria is one of my favorite heroines, a woman caught in an impossible situation who has found a way to live in it without bitterness, retaining her charm, intelligence and grace. I know some readers have found Victoria to be a doormat for not fighting back at all the people who treat her like garbage. To me it shows how strong she is in the face of so much adversity. It would be easy to scream and yell and rail against her fate, but it wouldn't serve any point. Rather than sink to their level, Victoria rises above the fray. A good example is when Noel takes her to a company dinner party, where they are greeted with horror. Victoria defuses the situation with a single line that shows how she is so far above all those who judge her. I couldn't help but love her and envy her cool.
It's also through Victoria that we get to see that there is so much more to Noel than the too-smooth playboy he initially seems to be. His intelligence, his strong sense of honor, his kindness and his character all come across in his interactions with and reactions toward Victoria. He immediately sees in her what everyone else, blinded by their narrow-mindedness, could not. His urge to defend Victoria and his outrage at behavior she has long learned to accept is sigh-worthy stuff. Even though Victoria is strong enough that she doesn't need a white knight, there is something so immensely satisfying about seeing her get one. knowing that they can never have a relationship doesn't stop Noel from realizing he is falling in love with Victoria and exploring ways to make this relationship work. The man is a hero for a heroine who deserves one.
Wolf in Waiting works on several levels: as an allegory for prejudice, as a paranormal that presents a fully realized alternate world that seems completely believable, and as a breathlessly romantic love story between two people who cannot be together, but whom we know must be. Flanders does a remarkable job keeping the sexual tension high, despite the fact that, since werewolves mate in their wolf form, it doesn't seem this relationship will ever be consummated. The only slight flaw is a somewhat abrupt ending. I'm not certain if the ending really is too short or it merely seemed that way because I wanted so much more of this story and its characters.
There are so many reasons why I love Wolf in Waiting that I can't hope to express every one. Most of all, it's a book that makes me feel good while reading it. I can open it up to a familiar scene and no matter how many times I've read it, I know I'll be left with a smile on my face or a tear in my eye. More often I find myself trying to read only a scene and wind up reading the whole book again. Flanders manages to combine the drama and the humor, the action and the emotion with so many disparate elements that shouldn't work in such a short book, and somehow do. The result is pure magic.
-- S.L. Hardwick
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