Title: Once Upon a Wolf
Series: Wayward Wolves: Book One
Author: Rhys Ford
Narrator: Derrick McClain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Run Time: 3 hours and 49 minutes
At a Glance: Derrick McClain handles Rhys Ford’s characters with great care, affording them the humanity the author intended simply through the way he manipulates his voice.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Gibson Keller’s days are fairly routine: wake up early, get some work done, drink lots of coffee, and take care of Ellis, his older brother, stuck in wolf form after coming home from the war. It’s a simple life made up of long runs on two legs – or four – and quiet evenings…until Ellis chases a handsome man off a cliff and into the frozen waters beside their cabin, changing Gibson’s life forever.
For Zach Thomas, buying an old B&B is a new start. Leaving behind his city life, he longs to find peace and quiet, and hiking the trails behind his property seems safe enough – right up to the moment an enormous black wolf chases him into a lake, nearly drowning him. Discovering werewolves are real astounds him, but not as much as the man who rescues him from the icy water, then walks into Zach’s heart as if he owns it.
Loving a werewolf – loving Gibson with all his secrets – has its challenges, but Zach believes their love is worth fighting for, especially since his heart knows the big, bad wolf is really a prince in disguise.
Review: I so enjoyed Rhys Ford’s jaunt into the paranormal world of wolf shifters in her novella, Once Upon a Wolf. With the same rich storytelling we are used to from this author, we plunge into the lives of two brothers, the younger a caretaker, of sorts, for his older brother, a war hero who suffers from PTSD and has gone rogue, staying in his wolf form for quite some time when the story begins. Gibson is a writer who has brought his brother, Ellis, to their remote cabin to attempt to coax him back into human form. We are not told exactly what Ellis has experienced during his time serving that has left him mentally shattered, but we know from the start that he has escaped into his wolf form to avoid the memories and flashbacks from the living hell he survived.
Another survivor has come to the mountain, Zach Thomas. After surviving a horrific car accident that left him nearly unable to walk, Zach bought a small B&B in the mountains with the intention of getting lost in a world that would not demand too much from him as he continued to recover and deal with his own residual fears and phobias. When Zach sees a huge wolf during a hike, his fear takes over and he runs, Ellis chases, and Zach ends up literally falling down the side of a mountain into the frigid thawing lake below. That’s where Gibson finds and rescues him, bringing him back to the cabin and into his and Ellis’s secret life.
These men quickly worm their way into your heart. Both Ellis and Gibson are as trapped, in their own way, as Zach is, and the fact that the three of them begin a journey of healing and renewal together is just so lovely. The romance which then sparks between Zach and Gibson is slow burning and intimate, even though very little sex is actually described, and that, too, is an earmark of a superb storyteller. Rhys Ford creates real people and places them in extraordinary circumstances, and then allows their humanity to shine.
I am not sure I could have more respect for an audio narrator than I do Derrick McClain. He rises to the top among a select few who always seem spot-on in their pacing, intonation and voices. I liked Once Upon a Wolf, but I fell in love with its characters when I heard them come alive under the Mr. McClain’s superb care. The deep, gravelly voice he achieves for Gibson not only dripped with a sensual overtone but managed to sound self-deprecating and tender at the same time. I felt as though Gibson just came alive whenever he was voiced by Mr. McClain. Beyond that, though, was the way in which this narrator used his inflection and pacing to achieve the right amount of tension and fear that earmarked the first few chapters from Zach’s point of view. You could feel the cold as Zach ran, his horror at seeing Ellis shift for the first time, and his fear at what Gibson might do when he realized Zach knew their secret. A lesser narrator would have been much more heavy handed with this story, I fear. It is fantasy, yes, and yet Rhys Ford always blends a lovely dose of realism into her novels, regardless if they fall in the paranormal genre or not. Derrick McClain handles her characters with great care, affording them the humanity the author intended simply through the way he manipulates his voice. I feel he did an outstanding job with this short novel.
You can buy Once Upon a Wolf here:
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