Over a century ago, the males in Jackson Wulf's family were cursed by a spurned witch to turn into werewolves if they ever fall in love. With only a cryptic poem written by the ancestor who was originally cursed to go on, no one has ever been able to figure out how to break it. Thinking that killing a witch might end the curse, Jackson goes in search of one and finds her helpless in the throes of childbirth. Instead of killing her, Jackson takes mercy on her plight, helping her to bring the babe into the world. With the full moon rising, Jackson is about to transition. Having no memory of what happens when he is a wolf, he bids the witch to flee with her child lest he unintentionally harm both of them.
After giving birth to her baby, Lucinda escapes just as Jackson is turning, but not before she witnesses the angry villagers burning down her hovel with Jackson inside. Thinking him dead and having nowhere else to go, she heads for the Wulf townhouse in London, trying to pass herself off as his wife. When Jackson unexpectedly turns up three months later, she strikes a bargain with him to help him find a way to break the curse. In exchange, he will marry her and give her baby his name and a home. Little does Jackson know that the child was conceived in violence and the biological father is seeking to have both mother and baby killed for the threat they pose to him. Jackson and Lucinda must find a way to work together to defeat both their enemy and the curse before they can finally share the love that has grown between them.
After thoroughly enjoying the first two stories in the Wild Wulfs of London series, especially The Dark One, I found The Untamed One to be something of a let-down. It just didn't capture my imagination and emotions in the same way that the other two did. I felt that the characters were somewhat underdeveloped and their motivations were sometimes questionable. The plot itself was rather weak, and some of the situations in which the characters find themselves seemed a little forced, like they were there just for the sake of propelling the plot along. At right around 300 pages, The Untamed One is on the short side for a single-title romance, and I thought a few more pages could have really helped to tell a meatier story.
Jackson was a reasonably likable hero, but there were times, especially early in the story, when I had trouble understanding him. He has a history of drinking too much and being a notorious womanizer. Normally, when a romance hero is like that, he has some emotional turmoil in his past which drives him to this place. Of course, there was the curse, but it wasn't really discussed in any detail. The reader isn't exactly made privy to his thought processes, so that we can understand what it was like for him to live with that imprecation or what precisely might be bothering him otherwise. Jackson also begins the story by haring off to kill a witch in hopes of breaking the family curse which didn't end up making a great deal of sense to me. If Lucinda were a descendant of the witch who cursed the Wulf males, that at least might seem like a decent reason for him wanting to kill her, but just killing some random witch to break the curse is kind of grasping as straws, in my opinion. Granted he didn't go through with it. He ultimately had mercy on Lucinda and helped her to deliver her baby instead, but one has to wonder if the villagers hadn't been upon him and he wasn't about to transition into the wolf if he would have let her go so easily. When Lucinda turns up in London at the family's townhouse, I thought Jackson acquiesced a little too quickly. Him offering to buy her new clothes and more importantly, agreeing to marry her almost instantaneously, even if it was in name only, just lacked credibility for me. However, Jackson did treat Lucinda and her baby with kindness and was thoroughly protective of them both, which is why I can say that I mostly liked him in spite of him having questionable motives at times.
Lucinda did a few debatable things of her own. When she thought Jackson was dead, she tried to pass herself off as his wife. I honestly can't blame her for not wanting to attempt raising a baby on the streets, and admittedly, if she hadn't done what she did, the baby might have died. Still, it seemed a little underhanded to me. Once again, if the reader had been made privy to her thoughts, I probably would have sympathized more with her actions. The other main issue I had with Lucinda was that to me, she didn't really behave like a woman who had been raped. Granted she was knocked out with a sleeping potion when it happened and doesn't consciously remember the incident, but oftentimes the body will remember things that the mind does not. I felt that her sexual attraction for Jackson developed a little too quickly and her actions lacked the caution of someone who has been through a traumatic experience. Lucinda does reject Jackson's advances at first, but because there is little internal rumination on her part, I could only speculate that it was due to the rape. Without fully knowing her thoughts on the matter, it just as easily could have been for some other reason. Much like with Jackson though, she was a caring person who tried to help him with the curse, and was a good mother to her son which made her a likable character even if she was somewhat underdeveloped.
Much of the sexual tension between Jackson and Lucinda came off as more lusty than romantic to me which was quite surprising, considering that I found the first two stories of the series to be very romantic. It did improve somewhat as the story went along, but I think two of the main reasons for this were the need for more introspection and character development. I also caught the author doing the dreaded telling rather than showing several times. Additionally, I think more gestures and body language would have helped a lot in conveying the characters' feelings for one another.
There weren't a lot of secondary characters in The Untamed One, and I really missed the presence of the other Wulf brothers. I realize now that it would have been impossible for Sterling or Armond to be a part of the story, because having already broken their own curses, they would have told Jackson how to go about it, leaving him with no purpose. Still, having few supporting players made the narrative and dialog a little bland. It was nice to see the traveling circus troupe from A Wulf's Curse (from Midnight Pleasures) again, but they played a very small role. While the villain in the The Dark One was a constant, menacing presence, here he was pretty one-dimensional. For the most part he is a vague, distant threat who only shows up in a couple of scenes. Obviously, he wouldn't hesitate to do Lucinda and her baby harm, but his reasons seemed a little extreme to me. He was fairly far down the line of succession to the throne and had two legitimate heirs already, so I couldn't quite imagine why he would feel the need to murder an illegitimate offspring. Even royalty in those days often had bastard children, and as far as I know, due to their illegitimacy, they generally had no rights in the line of succession anyway.
Overall, The Untamed One may have had a lot of weak points, but it was still a reasonably entertaining read with a likable, if not always relatable, hero and heroine. It is one that fans of the Wild Wulfs of London probably would not want to miss. Even with a slight misstep here, I am still looking forward to continuing the series. This book does give the reader another glimpse of Amelia Sinclair, the heroine of the last book of the series, The Cursed One. I've liked her all along, as well as her hero, Gabriel Wulf, so hopefully, their story will be a little stronger than this one and finish the series off with a bang.
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