Lily Rutledge has been the caretaker of her orphaned nephew, for since the deaths of his parents when he was six, and he is now 12. Within the past few weeks, Oliver, the young Earl of Maberly, has become moody, grown larger, and developed an enormous appetite. She doesn’t know what to do with him, and any requests made to his guardian and cousin, Simon, Duke of Blackmoor (I kind of expected something with Wolf in the title), are met with money and silence.
Lily has been reading about his gambling and romancing in the gossip rags, and after deciding that nothing else will do, Lily takes it upon herself to visit the Duke to demand that he take an interest in Oliver. When Simon learns of Oliver’s changes, he realizes what is happening and decides to assume the care and feeding of his ward. He also makes the mistake of telling Lily what he plans, as well as offering her a dowry for her trouble.
If you haven’t figured it out by the title, Simon and the men in his family are werewolves who change at the full moon, and Oliver is in wolf puberty. Daniel, Oliver’s father, and Simon’s cousin, wasn’t raised in a manner that prepared him for life as a wolf, and as a result of ignorance and fear, he hurt his wife, causing her to avoid him until their deaths. Simon is determined to do better by Daniel’s son. He also wants to keep Lily unaware of their lycanthropy.
While Simon attempts to push Lily out of Oliver’s life, she is determined to remain close to her sister’s child. Her devotion to Oliver impresses Simon, who decides to stop fighting his attraction to her. Instead of marriage, however, Simon offers a cottage on the grounds, access to Oliver and sex on tap. He tells her that his “lifestyle” precludes him offering her marriage. A humiliated Lily accepts the offer of a dowry and declares that she is going to find herself a husband at the neighbor’s ball they are currently attending. Her new friend Prisca is the daughter of the family, and she has several marriageable brothers. Prisca also has a bit of a grudge against Simon for his offer to Lily, and a history with Simon’s brother William. Finding the busybody vicar’s wife, Prisca puts a bug in her ear about Lily’s lack of chaperone at the Duke’s residence, and waits for the fallout.
Simon is obligated to see Lily ruined socially or marry her. Lily is as attracted to Simon as he is to her, and after some persuasion, accepts Simon’s proposal. Once married, Simon is still determined to keep the secret from Lily, even as she comes in contact with more members of his family who know and share his secret. He is also worried that what happened to Daniel and Emma could happen to him. This is made harder by a surly Oliver, who is battling jealousy, learning about his new ability and trying to reconcile it with what he knows of his parents’ unhappy life together.
I liked Lily’s character in that she was straightforward in her actions. Simon ignored her so he went to him. He proposed she be his mistress and she told him to shove it. She accepts his proposal because she will get what she wants, Simon and Oliver. While she wants to know about the secret Simon is hiding, she doesn’t do stupid things to discover what it is. Oliver was definitely a boy going through puberty, and the upheavals in his life caused him to react like a normal kid. He didn’t see the marriage of Lily and Simon as some Great Event. His mother figure was going to be sharing her attention and the dominant male was not someone he felt he could trust with Lily, especially after learning more about mated wolves. Simon’s determination to keep Lily in the dark at all costs was a little off, considering his family history, but it wasn’t taken to a frustrating extreme, just an annoying one.
I have to say that I’m a fan of animal shifters, and I love wolves and werewolves the most, so any book featuring one will catch my interest. This book is also published by Sourcebooks, which has published a few new authors that I have enjoyed lately, so double score, and the next book in the series is released in just under a week.