I was in the mood for some werewolves this week. So I went into my archive of unread ebooks and typed in: wolf. And that is how I stumbled upon this little gem: The Cursed One, third and last book in the Wild Wulfs of London series by Ronda Thompson.
It starts in old-timey England with Amelia on her wedding night. She has married someone she doesn’t really love, but he needs her dowry and she wanted a husband. But upon arriving at his estate, they only find one servant in attendance and that same night things go horribly wrong.
Her husband was going to kill her. The thought struck Lady Amelia Sinclair Collingsworth about the time Lord Collingsworth’s hands closed around her throat. But his usually soft hands did not feel like hands in the darkness. They felt like… claws. It was her wedding night, and Amelia’s shy husband was acting neither shy nor like the gentleman she had married early that morning in London. What had gotten into him?
“Robert, you’re hurting me!” she gasped, pinned beneath him on the marriage bed where she had planned to lose her innocence, not her life.
Her bridegroom laughed. not a normal-sounding one. His voice was deep and garbled, as if he had a throat full of rocks. The feel of his clawlike fingers moved down her neck, ripped the nightgown she wore open from neckline to waist. Amelia screamed, struggling beneath his weight, which was surprisingly heavy for a man her father had once referred to as “frail looking.”
“Robert, please!” she begged. “You are frightening me!”
The laugh again. The one that rose hackles on the back of her neck. “Robert is not here,” he rasped.
What did he mean by that? Was Amelia having a nightmare? Maybe she would wake in a moment and find herself in her parents’ home in London. Maybe she had not married that morning in front of a great number of London’s upper crust. Maybe she had not journeyed to Robert’s country estate with him for a short honeymoon before they were to travel abroad for an extended celebration of their nuptials.
“I’m dreaming,” Amelia whispered, trying to reassure herself. “I will wake in a moment.”
Unfortunately, Amelia wasn’t dreaming. But she found herself again and struck the beast trying to hurt her. And then another man bursts into their room: Lord Gabriel Wulf. He stumbles upon the scene right when the beast regains consciousness and tries to attack again. He stabs Gabriel, but Gabriel manages to shoot him. Dead. And that’s how the two main characters meet.
Lady Amelia is a socialite, doing her damnedest to be the talk of the town, to shock people and be talked about. Marrying was the first sensible thing she did. But then her husband dies on their wedding night, and she and Lord Gabriel need to work together to make it out of there alive. Because the house is surrounded by beasts trying to kill them. It turns out there is a whole plot going on, for which they need Lady Amelia. Luckily, they eventually manage to escape to safety and find their happy ever after.
When I started this review, I wanted to classify this as a short story. But then I went back to the book and there are actually over 300 pages. It just seems like a short story because it takes place in such a short time span. Only a few days, in fact. The wedding night and one or two days after where they try to figure out how to escape. Then the few nights and days of the actual escape, the day they are recaptured and the night the escape again. On the final day, they are safe and well amongst Gabriel’s family. Now I get that this might seem like a boring book then, or one where everything happens too quickly which leaves you reeling afterwards, but neither of those is the case. Yes, a lot of things happen, but the story progresses quite naturally. I never felt like events were being drawn out too much or skipped over entirely. It’s a quite contained, thrilling story of two people, a man who’s suffering under a curse and afraid to open himself up to love, and a woman whose simple world is turned upside down by what she learns and experiences. It’s love that binds them together and is a red thread throughout.
I’d recommend it to everyone who likes paranormal stories about werewolves or shapeshifters and people who love a love story that packs a punch where the main characters undergo a lot of development and changes.