Today, Sammy and Jay are excited to share their Buddy Review of Gentleman Wolf by Joanna Chambers. You can check out both their reviews below…
After being turned against his will, werewolf Lindsay Somerville was held captive for decades by his maker, Duncan MacCormaic. Duncan had a power over Lindsay, compelling him to obey, and Lindsay suffered torture and abuse at his hands for years. Lindsay was rescued and has been staying a step ahead of Duncan for the last century, but the man definitely wants him back. When his friends, Francis and Marguerite, get word that Duncan may be headed to Paris where Lindsay is living, he agrees to travel to Edinburgh to help Marguerite track down some papers and get himself out of town.
The papers Lindsay needs are owned by an elderly collector named Hector Cruikshank. Lindsay’s job is to acquire the papers, but the creepy Cruikshank is refusing to sell, claiming he has another buyer. But Lindsay can tell he is interested and begins his negotiations. While dealing with Cruikshank, Lindsay also meets architect Drew Nichol. Lindsay is drawn to Drew immediately, by both his human and wolf sides. He can’t stop himself from reaching out to Drew repeatedly as something in him just wants Drew in the worst way. Drew is definitely interested in return, but he has never been with a man and he is very wary. But the attraction between the men is too strong for either one to deny.
As negotiations for the papers continue, the connection between Lindsay and Drew continues to grow. But for every step forward, Drew takes a step back, as he is still very anxious about being with Lindsay. And with Duncan still hunting for Lindsay, Edinburgh may not be safe for long. But now that he has fallen for Drew, Lindsay is not sure he will be able to give him up as trouble nears.
Rating: 4 stars
I am a huge fan of Joanna Chambers’ historicals, so I was really excited to see the author’s foray into historical/paranormal. Like many of her books, this story is set primarily in Scotland and the sense of place and historical details are really well done. The book takes place in the late 1700s, around the time when New Town is just starting to be built in Edinburgh. Chambers fills the book with great details about the changes to the city and what life is like there for both rich and poor. I also loved the bits about fashion, as Lindsay is somewhat of a clothes horse and he often dresses to make a specific impression. So the story has a great sense of time and place that I really enjoyed.
I haven’t read many historical paranormals that focus on shifters, so this was a new take for me. Chambers takes the shifter trope in some interesting directions, and this is definitely not your typical pack, happy puppy kind of shifter story. The shifter elements are much darker and we start off learning about the compulsive hold Duncan has on Lindsay, leaving him chained and tortured for years. I think Chambers has managed to add some creative elements to the shifter lore and give us a spin I haven’t seen before. All that said, this book feels far more “historical” than “paranormal” in flavor. We learn about Lindsay’s circumstances with Duncan, but don’t see it on page. We also hear about him shifting several times, but we aren’t in his head in wolf form and it is mostly off page as well. We know Lindsay’s wolf is drawn in by Drew, and there is sort of a nod to a fated mates/mate bond connection, and there are some times where Lindsay’s wolf side is called more to the surface. But really, the shifter part of things could have been removed entirely and not much about this story would have changed. So none of that particularly bothered me, but if you are looking for something with a significant paranormal feel, this may not satisfy in that regard.
I enjoyed the developing connection between Lindsay and Drew, and Chambers made me feel the chemistry between them. Although Lindsay definitely pursues Drew, he also takes time to ensure Drew is on board before they move forward physically. I liked seeing Drew begin to explore his interest in men for the first time, and there is a sexy, intense vibe between them. That said, I did find it frustrating (although perhaps quite reasonable) that for every step forward, Drew falls into a spiral of regret, immediately pushing Lindsay away over and over. I also want to be clear that this is the first book in the series (it looks to be a two-part set) and the relationship situation doesn’t resolve here. So Chambers gives us a nice build up here between the MCs and I enjoyed them as a couple, but their romantic arc is not completed in this book.
Which brings me to the larger issue, in that this is the first of a set and the overall story does not resolve here. I think it would have helped me a lot to have known that going in, as I was approaching the end of the book and waiting for things to tie together and they never really do. There is a climax to the story and some resolution given to that, but a lot still felt open ended. There is also a really long gap between the conflict being introduced early on with Duncan threatening to recapture Lindsay and the time when this circles back around to impact the story, with the rest focused almost exclusively on the relationship between Lindsay and Drew. Even then, things with Duncan aren’t really addressed directly, and as the big bad guy, I wanted to see more after the set up. I also never really understood the urgency of getting these papers, the mission that takes Lindsay to Edinburgh in the first place. We know Marguerite hopes that they have some information about her maker, but there is no evidence to suggest that and, at times, this job feels like just a convenient excuse to get Lindsay to Edinburgh. I would have also have liked to better understand the relationship between Lindsay, Marguerite, and Francis. Lindsay appears to work for her in some capacity (or do her favors?), but this was not well explained. There are some other threads that didn’t feel fully resolved either, like the situation with Drew and some mason-like society Cruikshank is in and the money Cruikshank owes Drew. Perhaps these things will come into play again in the second book. Like I said, I think if I had known to expect an unfinished story these things may have bothered me less, but instead I sort of felt frustrated as I neared the end and so much was unresolved or unexplained.
Overall, however, I did enjoy this one a lot. I think the strength of the historical elements really provides a great foundation and I liked the darker spin on the werewolf trope. I also enjoyed Drew and Lindsay together and am eager to see where Chambers takes the next story.
Rating: 4 stars
Gentleman Wolf is my first Joanna Chamber’s novel and what really struck me was this author’s use of language that not only provoked the clearest of visual pictures, but also expressed the emotional gauge of her characters so beautifully. For instance, when Lindsay, who is a wolf shifter, is remembering an aging servant and also the fondness he has for his own man Wynne, who was currently faithfully attending to his every need, Lindsay has a tender moment where he thinks to himself:
“The truth was every time he made a friend of a mortal he planted a seed of future grief.”
Now that single sentence may not send a tingle down your spine, but when read in context within the scene Chambers so carefully has set up, this one tiny statement goes a long way in revealing the level of despair that haunts Lindsay. With his realizing that a mortal may indeed be his bondmate, he is reminded that the pull he feels, the peace and contentment in Drew’s presence, is fleeting due to the very humanity that draws Lindsay’s wolf. It’s these types of emotional gems that crop up nonstop in this author’s writing and make the story rich and thought provoking. Couple this with exacting research the author has obviously done on the era this story is set in and the panoramic mind’s eye view of each setting this author is able to produce of a bygone time in history and you have a novel that is lovely to read.
While I would not label Lindsay’s reaction to Drew as insta-love, it is definitely swift and undeniably intense. Drew’s incredible guilt and self-loathing about being gay that fights against his feelings for Lindsay lends tension to this story and is the fuel for a potential happy ever after in the next novel. If you are looking for one in this first book, then know you will not find it, but these two men are not through with each other and I am eager to see what will happen to them next.
Instead, the overarching story is about Lindsay being on the run from the wolf who created him and turned him into a mindless slave. It was here that I had my first problem with this story. I must admit I had to read about the idea of how the “urge” was the only way in which to create a wolf via a bite several times to understand just how it worked and what it was. Then the idea that Francis, a dear and loyal friend to Lindsay, could not bring himself to destroy the horribly vile creature, Duncan, he had created during such an “urge” really made me confused. It was particularly odd since all the horrid things Duncan did to Lindsay were what he actually wanted to do to Frances, but couldn’t because a wolf cannot turn on their master. I understood that Francis was “good” and “pure,” but honestly, if your best friend was in danger and you cold stop it, wouldn’t you?
Thankfully this all took place in the first chapter of the novel and from then on it was non-stop action that held me captive till the end of the story. There is no denying Gentleman Wolf is a powerful book, but between the confusion over how exactly humans are turned and the mystery surrounding Duncan, who is such a powerful background figure for almost all the central characters, I wish just a bit more time had been spent establishing this paranormal aspect of the world Joanna Chambers creates for us.