Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Dark One by Ronda Thompson

Book Description:
Rosalind Rutherford knows full well the scandal she courts when she attempts to seduce the notorious Armond Wulf—in fact, she’s counting on it as a means to escape her sadistic stepbrother’s control. Unfortunately, Lord Wulf’s better instincts prevail...although not before he gives Rosalind a tantalizing taste of what she’s missing. And when the opportunity arises to rescue Armond from a grim fate while changing her own, Rosalind knows she must seize it...

Armond can no more ignore the Rutherford woman than his ancestor could resist the temptress who cursed the Wulf men with a terrifying transformation that occurs at the appearance of the full moon—and is set in motion by love. Now, to save her reputation and his freedom, Armond must marry Rosalind. But he vows that while they may share the pleasures of the marriage bed, she will never have his heart...

Yet as strange and mysterious events bring them closer in body and soul, Armond finds it increasingly difficult to keep his feelings for his new wife locked away. Especially when the reality of unquenchable desire—and certain danger—burn stronger than ever by the light of a full moon.

I really enjoyed this first in the Wild Wulfs of London paranormal Regency series of four brothers that are cursed to be werewolves unless they can break the spell that takes over when they each fall in love.  Having witnessed what befell their father before he commit suicide and later drove their mother insane, they have sworn to never fall in love with a woman nor marry.  When Armond Wulf, the eldest of the four meets Rosalind Rutherford, he cannot resist her and he becomes sorely tempted to break his vow regarding love and marriage.

Armond Wulf is a bad boy.  Lion-like with a mane of blond hair, he exudes danger and sexuality.  Women are afraid of him, yet vastly attracted to him as well. He's just what Rosalind Rutherford needs.  Rosalind is a desperate woman.  Trapped and at the mercy of her psychopathic stepbrother, Franklin, who plans on marrying his virgin stepsister off to the highest bidder to pay off his gambling debts, she intends on ruining her own reputation so that her brother will not be able to marry her off.  (Never mind that he'll probably beat her to a pulp when he finds out what she did!) How convenient that the notorious Armond Wulf is her next-door neighbor in London.  She's heard enough about him so that if she is seen leaving with him, she will be ruined by the next morning.   The plan makes no sense, but as a plot device, it works for it forces Rosalind to proposition Armond at a ball. 

Instantly attracted to her upon first sight, he doesn't hesitate in leaving with her, thinking she's had some experience in this sort of thing before.  Armond likes to act the part of ne'er do well rake, but he has a conscience.  Once he realizes Rosalind is an innocent he decides to teach her a lesson, thinking she's merely propositioning him on a dare in front of her friends.  Once inside his enclosed carriage, Rosalind loses her nerve, but not after sampling some of the kisses from the experienced Armond who leaves an indelible impression upon Rosalind's memory. 

Little does Armond know of the danger that Rosalind faces daily while living in her brother's house.  Her reputation remained intact after that night, but Armond becomes curious about his lovely neighbor and cannot forget her.  They see each other again at a party and, although she has a veil, he notices the bruises on her face and arms and puts two and two together about her brother, who is beating her.   It doesn't take Armond long to figure out what's going on.  His sense of nobility will not allow her to remain at the mercy of her brother.

A series of events take place so that Armond must marry Rosalind.  His brothers are aghast and against the idea, but there is nothing he can do.  He must marry her in order to save her reputation (ironic, isn't it?)   But, there's still the niggling problem with the family curse.  Armond is starting to notice more and more that he's developing supernatural powers and the closer he gets to Rosalind and the stronger his feelings for her, the more his werewolf senses come to the surface.  He's worried of what Rosalind will think when she realizes she's married to a werewolf!  He shuts himself off from her to protect her, much to her chagrin.  She likes being his wife - and in his bed.

This is where the book turned angsty and I had to keep reading until I got to the very end.  Rosalind's hands are really full!  Even though she is left in the dark about the Wulf curse, she finds a poem that was written about it and starts to figure things out for herself.  She suspects what's happening to Armond and wants to help him break the curse.  Can she?  Can her acceptance of him as he is, break the curse?  Will he give her the chance to even try? Meanwhile, her stepbrother is furious she eloped with Armond, foiling his plans for paying off his gambling debts.  The debts go to a particularly loathsome man, who it turns out is a pervert and has his sights on Rosalind.   His plans for her - with her stepbrother - are beyond repulsive.

The book becomes especially exciting, though nerve wracking.  Though Rosalind is now married and under the protection of the Wulf's, she is still constantly putting herself in danger by visiting her ailing stepmother next door at her brother's house, while he is not home.  It drove me crazy, especially since she always seemed to do it when Armond wasn't around to rescue her (against his implicit instructions, btw!)  Of course, you know what happens!   It's a long story and all hell breaks loose!  Between Armond having to defend himself from being accused of murder and Rosalind having an extremely close call with her stepbrother and his evil friend, it was a real nail biter by the end!

There are two more books in this series and a novella, so that all four brothers are covered in the series. I was so sorry to learn that the author, Ronda Thompson, tragically died in 2007 of cancer.  I really loved this book,  and I'm eager to read the next.  A worthwhile historical paranormal!


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