Wolf's Temptation
by Donna Birdsell, historical (2006)
Berkley, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-21261-0


Donna Birdsell still writes like in a lumbering and plodding manner in her third historical romance, Wolf's Temptation. I wonder what happened to the wordsmith that I thought she was in her first romance novel, The Painted Rose. Still, Wolf's Temptation is much better than the mightily godawful Falcon's Mistress because this story is nowhere as cartoonish and the hero is nowhere as indescribably moronic.

Ethan Gray, our so-called spymaster, is known by the codename Wolf. Our heroine, Mavis Winter, is Raven. Don't ask me where Porcupine and Hedgehog are. They have to work together in this story to investigate the activities of the Frenchies that may be siding with those heathen Americans to start a war with England. Mavis has her own agenda, however, that may or may not affect their joint mission. Likewise, Ethan balks at working with a woman. According to him, female spies "are too easily swayed" by "flattery, seduction, avarice", and "love". How does he know this? He had a female partner once, Madeline AKA Sparrow, who turned out to be, in Ethan's dramatic proclamation, "a treacherous whore". Well, it seems to me a certain male spy is being too easily swayed by emotions, don't you think? Besides, poor Madeline probably liked the Frenchies better because they would let her have a better codename. I can only imagine the embarrassment of having a codename like Sparrow when everyone else is a Wolf, Tiger, Panther, Falcon, Leopard, or such.

I love the fact that the author allows Mavis to be a real spy. That means, no fake-spies like those written by authors like Julia Ross: Mavis gets her hands dirty and even slept with men in the past to get information, just like a female spy would. However, Mavis isn't going to give Jane Feather's spy heroines any competition because Ms Birdsell doesn't fully explore Mavis' character. Then again, she shortchanges Ethan as well in the same way. The characterization is superficial and the mystery isn't good. The spies are put through an investigative trail that is surprisingly amateurish in how it is put together. As a result, the story isn't very interesting. Because the characters aren't developed well and their relationship is equally half-baked, the romance isn't very interesting as well. The flatness of the story is due to the author's writing. This story is already short, but the author makes the story feel even shorter by having crucial developments often taking place off-stage. Scenes feel short and there is no sense of urgency in this story.

Perhaps the author is struggling with the muse when she's writing this story, I don't know, because Wolf's Temptation sure feels like a book that is written under duress. It's not a bad book, but it's not a good one either. It's just content to remain neither here nor there, easily forgettable once the book is put down.

Rating: 57


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