Gabriel has been alone for a long time. His father was killed by a rival coven and his mother, unable to cope with the loss of her husband, soon took her own life. Ever since then Gabriel has been keeping to himself, hiding his powers and staying away from other witches. He’s made friends in his new village, people who come to him for help and healing, and even made himself a home with a garden of loyal and loving plants. His quiet life brings him contentment and peace, at least until he’s kidnapped by the local werewolf pack.
Legend has it that, in ancient days, a powerful witch took issue with her philandering werewolf husband straying again and again and so cursed him, tearing away half of his soul and casting it out in the world. Now each werewolf must search for his soul mate to restore his soul if he ever wishes to find true love and, ever since, there has been an animosity between witches and werewolves. An animosity that Gabriel is certainly feeling as he frees himself and demands to know what it is that the wolves want so badly that they are willing to risk Gabriel’s wrath. It turns out that the pack wants him to heal their alpha who has been taken down by a strange illness. He sleeps without waking and nothing they’ve tried has worked. (Certainly it never occurred to them to try asking Gabriel for help, but he’s willing to let that pass.)
Upon seeing the alpha, Gabriel feels himself drawn to the unconscious man, not as a healer to an injured patient, but in a more powerful, more personal way. Gabriel frees Simon from the curse and quickly leaves, unable to face the feelings the werewolf stirs in him and retreats to his garden, a place of peace and home. Simon, upon waking, realizes that, at long last, his soul mate has come. While the man (and he’s pleased it’s a man) may not be a werewolf, Simon is willing to overlook that. His other half, his destined mate, has finally been shown to him and he has no intention of letting Gabriel go.
Simon does his best to woo the flighty young witch, knowing Gabriel is hiding something from him and willing to be patient. Love takes time to grow, after all, but the delicate courtship is interrupted by the same coven who murdered Gabriel’s father. They know where he is, somehow they found him, and they are making it clear to Gabriel: join us or die. Now, with a soul mate, Gabriel has even more to lose. He has to leave, he has to run, even if it means breaking Simon’s heart.
Gabriel and Simon are paper thin characters, barely even tropes. Simon is Good, with a capitol “G.” He’s a healer and… he has a house. And he likes plants. He also seems to have no real emotions in regard to, well, anything. Over the course of the book, whether dealing with Simon, evil witches, or even his long-lost grandfather, Gabriel has flat reactions, if any. There are intellectual acknowledgements of finding a member of his family, or of realizing he has a soul mate, but the emotional reactions are stiff and wooden. He’s more of a one-dimensional hero, self-sacrificing and noble without ever really being a person beyond that.
Simon fares little better. He’s noble and good and patient and kind and a werewolf. After two days, he goes from knowing he has to convince Gabriel they’re mates to being in Love. Again, with a capitol “L.” The only problem is that neither of them actually do anything to convince me that they feel anything more than a bit of irritation with the “bad guys” doing bad things let alone anything resembling passion, love, rage, sorrow or anything else.
The villains in this book are a brother and sister and their coven of some number of equally evil witches who want a book that Gabriel’s mother left to him. Or do they? Gabriel thinks they do, but that’s just a guess on his part. Upon finally meeting Gabriel — though they’ve sent numerous threats, the first by attacking Simon, the second by sending a nasty letter — they all but cackle and rub their hands together in glee as they threaten him. There’s not even a moment where they just ask him to join or try to bribe him or befriend him. It’s straight from “hello” to “I kill you!”
There are hints, lightly scattered through the book, about a nefarious plot the siblings have about killing off other covens and stealing members for… purposes. Power, maybe? I don’t know, the book never says. The idea of covens at war is interesting, and the author put some effort into their magic system, though it’s still very half-baked. I think that if this book had been a short story rather than a novella it would have been better. More attention could have been devoted to the plot to give it urgency without having to stick in pages about Simon feeling a little upset that Gabriel is gone and without Gabriel having to sigh about being forced to have a soul mate. Or, perhaps, if this had been fleshed out to a full novel, the author would given the characters a semblance of personality. They are barely more developed than Character A and Character B. The writing isn’t bad and the plot had some signs of promise, but the story itself was so uninspiring it took me a week to read. (It’s 100 pages or so; it shouldn’t have taken that long!) I found myself relucant to get back to it, knowing ahead of time how everything would play out.
The world is a mysterious blank, taking place anywhere from a fantasy world with trains, to a steampunk world with horses, to a post apocolyptic world with lost technology being rediscovered. I had no sense of time or feel for the world other than that there was a town, a forest where the wolves lived, and a lovely garden at Gideon’s house. This was a formulaic story with a flat and uninspired romance that could have been better. Maybe try another of the author’s stories, but I’d pass on this one.