An Epic Avenger

alanna

Alanna by Kathleen Bittner Roth (When Hearts Dare Series)

Overview by Amazon:

Wolf caught the faint scent of cinnabar and roses.

The girl turned her head and stared boldly at him, her cool demeanor at odds with the fire in her look. And then her lips parted, as if she needed more air. A punch of lust hit Wolf’s groin.
There was pure sin in his startling blue eyes.

The moment hung suspended between them, and then expanded as his feral gaze held hers. Stranger? Not to Alanna. He went by the name of Wolf, and he was a legend in these parts, known from San Francisco to Boston as a relentless tracker of lost persons. His quest to find his mother’s killer would lead him to Alanna…and his destiny.

In his arms, she would never be lost again. . .

So this book is part of the When Hearts Dare Series by Kathleen Bittner Roth. I recently read and reviewed Celine, so I was very familiar with the characters and the back story. I think this is one book that is best read in order of the series. To truly understand Wolf and his anguish it helps to know about the life he was leading before this book began, because it is an entirely different existence.

There is a lot of plot in this book and a lot of settings. From San Francisco to Boston to Scotland and back, the characters journey to uncover the past. It’s a tangled web the author has woven full of intrigue, interesting cultural elements and the road to self-discovery.

Wolf is an orphan who vividly remembers the murder of his mother when he was a child. The rest of his formative years were a blur. He longs to find the man who killed his mother and destroyed his family. He wears her garnet earring as a remembrance to his mission in life and his goal. He has spent the past being a tracker in the mid-west of America. But now it is time for him to learn who he really is and use his skills as a hunter to find and deliver retribution to the man who took his life away.

He boards a ship bound for Boston as that is where he was when his mother was murdered. Once aboard the ship he runs into the beautiful Alanna Malone whom he had a brief encounter with at the hotel in San Fran. She is the kind of woman to make a man lose his mind. Lush, sensual, mysterious are all perfect adjectives for the raven haired beauty. They dance and flirt around one another over the voyage, but they are heavily monitored by her overbearing and rude parents. They have been fighting and clawing their way into the upper echelon of Boston society and have made a match for her with a prominent son. The ship’s captain, Thomson is very familiar with Wolf and the family and shares tidbits of who Alanna really is and the fire beneath the cool exterior. He almost encourages Wolf to seek her out as he despairs almost as deeply as Alanna about the upcoming nuptials.

Alanna despises the way she is treated as a commodity by her parents. She holds them in contempt and makes no bones about how she feels about her future. She sees Wolf as the future. It’s one of those character traits where she seemed to know she is destined to be with him.

Once they land in Boston, Wolf loses three weeks on a fruitless journey to find his past. He is dismayed to discover the truth has been covered up and his digging is making some enemies. He has some contact with Alanna and her bodyguard ‘The Old Chinese’. Alanna has arranged the meeting so the Old Chinese can help him recover his memories and get to the truth.

This is where the book became really interesting. The Old Chinese is not just a bodyguard. He has essentially raised Alanna. They take Wolf to ‘the farm’ which is in reality his dojo. The Old Chinese is a martial arts master, as well as schooled in the art of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. He begins to train Wolf, as he has done with Alanna and countless others. Wolf is incredulous that the closely guarded and highly prized Alanna possesses a black belt and lives in this ultimate universe. I could hardly believe it as well! But the point of this plot was to use it as a tool to help Wolf learn to open his heart and to trust he could love, since all he has known is abandonment.

Wolf’s enemies find him after a soiree he attends and waltzes with Alanna. Her fiancé is a horrible, snivelling little man and sends goons after Wolf. He barely survives the attack and is hidden away by the Captain and Alanna. He takes a long time to heal, sending others to do the investigative work of his past while he recovers. He learns that he must go to Scotland to find another piece of the puzzle.

Before he goes, the electric passion that exists between them is ignited. They finally consummate their carnal relationship from just touches and kisses. Alanna knows in her gut that he is the one for her. Wolf doesn’t just see her as another woman to share passion with. He may not admit love, but he feels her being to his core. The sex scenes are hot and intense. The Old Chinese has left them a lover’s guide and Alanna has been an apt pupil. Although she is a virgin, she is eager to be in her lover’s arms and embrace his touch and taste. They part after this with the promise that they will be reunited once Wolf has faced his past once and for all.

Wolf travels to Scotland where he learns the truth about his ancestory and the evil that lurks in Boston, so treacherously close to his beloved Alanna. He has to make peace with the past and claim his heritage before he can go and get her; although not a day passes he doesn’t ache for her and the promise of a future.

Alanna, the Old Chinese and their entourage are not willing to wait and make the journey to Scotland. Alanna is pregnant with Wolf’s child. He is overjoyed to see her and they quickly make up for lost time in the bedroom – yay more steamy scenes! However she knows a piece of his past that she knows will break his heart and possibly their relationship. When she reveals what she knows, he casts her off. This seems unbearably harsh, but Wolf’s character has been revealed, his whole being has been about avenging the demise of his family. Danger follows Alanna and the Old Chinese to Scotland and they are set upon in Wolf’s castle. Old Chinese is grievously injured and Alanna is kidnapped.

This is where the book got a little wonky for me. This should be the moment that Wolf becomes the hero and races after her and his unborn child. But he doesn’t. He stays in Scotland and drinks. He communicates through letters to Alanna, but makes no attempts to get her back. It is only when his friend Turner (from the previous book) kicks his butt into action that he goes to claim his woman, who is being treated horribly by her fiancé and parents.

They reunite in Boston and the whole mystery of Wolf’s past is open. There are no more secrets and no more dark shadows. They are able to move on with their lives and start again in the place that Wolf should have always been.

There are a ton of secondary characters to the story. Most add a deeper element to the plot points and make the story richer. I despised the Malone’s and Alanna’s fiancé, so the author did a great job at making them evil and unworthy of redemption. The twists and turns of the past resurfaced piece by piece and it was easy to follow as the story unfolded.

This was a great book. I really enjoyed reading it, but I am still smarting at Wolf’s rejection of Alanna in Scotland. It shows how strong of a character she was to endure all she did, not only for their love, but for their child. I forgave Wolf when he went and made things right, but I wanted to take away his Scottish whiskey and make him walk the fires of hell for being a straight up jerk. His sojourn in Scotland made the story lose some steam as months passed and very important parts in the characters’ lives. But I can live with this lapse as overall the book was a well told tale that had me rooting for Alanna and Wolf, cheering and crying in all the right parts.

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