My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Elizabeth Moss’s Wolf Bride, book 1 of Lust in the Tudor Court, was both fun and frustrating. I was drawn to this book for simply for the gorgeous cover as I’ve never read anything by the author prior to this book. Glad to say that I don’t regret it at all! In fact, I simply loved how the author entwined history with Tudor porn, which was quite smart. It sure did manage to hold up my attentions throughout, even when I was getting frustrated at Wolf’s behavior towards Eloise.
Wolf Bride, as you can guess, is based entirely on the Tudor-era England. More precisely, in the time of Heavy (and stinky) Henry the VIII while he was married to his second wife, Anne Boleyn. At the beginning it seemed that the marriage was already breaking down. History buffs may get offended by my nick name for Heavy Henry but that guy was abominable so I don’t regret calling him names. Thank God, its the 21c and we have a come a long way since that time; one of the many reasons why I never felt interested in Tudor history myself. Too much of every vice is going on for my taste. However, lately I’ve read some good romance novels where the authors made history fun, rather than something daunting and let’s be honest, boring. I’d say that Wolf Bride succeeded in this endeavor, so I’d like to applaud the author’s knowledge and her writing to carry me through the book without much problem where history was concerned.
Eloise, our h, is one of the queen’s companions, her lady’s maids. One day, she comes across the queen being intimate with 2 courtiers of Henry’s, Sir Thomas Wyatt and Sir Henry Norris. Eloise already knew that the marriage was on the rocks, with Henry dissatisfied that Anne hasn’t given him the heir he has been wanting, it seemed, like forever. The birth of a daughter and a miscarriage hadn’t helped the cause and Henry’s roving, nasty eyes are already roaming, looking for his next victim... er, wife. Anne knows it well and I don’t blame her. She wasn’t having fun with the fat bloke, so she has quite a few admirers in the court, some of whom, rumor has it, are also her lovers. Eloise hasn’t exactly seen her having sex but kissing and fondling? Yes. She’s absolutely scared that this will blow up anytime, leaving them all vulnerable to the king’s wrath.
While she’s sorting through this, her father arrives with the news of her betrothal to their neighbor, Lord Wolf. Eloise is aghast. Not only she had no idea about it, Lord Wolf is as old, if not more, as her own father! Moreover, she’s sweet on a courtier named Simon Thetford, who is much closer to age to her own age. Then she hears that it’s not the old Lord Wolf but his son, the heir. The old Lord has died while Eloise was still at court (she’s been here around 4 or so yrs.). This Wolf has been a worthy soldier to the King, has made a name for himself and is quite close to him too. But Eloise won’t have him as she doesn’t remember him all that much, let alone knowing the man. All she remembers is a lanky, sullen teenager who’d visit their estate from time to time but has never befriended her or talked to her. And that’s not good enough to marry just because her father wants this match.
Unfortunately, when she finds Simon to depart this bit of news, then suggest an urgent elopement, Simon just laughs it off. From all his shady propositions, it was made clear that he had no honorable intentions towards Eloise from the get go. He wanted a bit of fun, a young rake of the court that he was. Besides, he isn’t man enough to face the wrath of a hardened soldier and King’s intimate like Wolf by stealing his betrothed. However, that doesn’t stop him from propositioning affair after she’s married. I simply wanted to bash this idiot’s head with something when he rather forces himself on Eloise to “show” her what he can “offer”. While struggling, Eloise finds herself being rescued by none other than her grouchy fiancé, who, it was quite obvious wasn’t happy with this little scene. Apparently, his window was just above the hideaway where Eloise and Simon had met.
Eloise is embarrassed yet doesn’t understand why Wolf is so rude and sarcastic about the whole matter, as if the marriage is something sordid that he’s going to have to endure. Then she remembered that she had heard of Wolf’s previous betrothal, long ago, to a woman of the court. She’d jilted him and eloped with another man, leaving him humiliated. Eloise now feels apprehensive about the marriage but knows that no matter what, she can’t avoid it… then there was Wolf’s rough kisses and fondling right after Simon’s departure which had awaken her hidden desires in such a way that she can’t deny that she feels attracted to her betrothed. It was as if he wanted to erase Simon’s memory and gave her something to think of!
When Henry also gives his blessings to the match, they leave for their country estates for the upcoming nuptial. Eloise sees her younger sister, Susannah, for the first time in 4 yrs when she arrives home. She had grown into a beautiful woman who is also quite headstrong. Eloise’s father has already made a match for her with an elderly man, his own friend. It was apparent that she despised the match and had no interest in this match. But Eloise knew Susannah had no other choice but to marry that man since their father is very stubborn and will do anything to get her obedience. When they were at court, Eloise met one of King’s clerks, Hugh Beaufort, who is also Wolf’s good friend. He has accompanied them to Wolf’s home for the wedding. Hugh is much younger than Wolf and is opposite to him in every possible way. He’s fair to Wolf’s darker coloring, most definitely more charming. He knows how to put a smile on a lady’s face. Unfortunately, it seemed to Eloise that even talking to Hugh, who is a friend, incites some type of jealous rage inside her would-be husband. It not only baffled her, it made her angry too. How dare he try to curtail her communication with other people already!
When Eloise and Wolf finally get married, it wasn’t how she hoped it to be. She wanted love and adoration from her husband, but now resigned to a life of duty to a husband who, apparently, doesn’t want her beyond her broodmare capabilities, as he keeps reminding her every day.
Then we start getting glimpses of Wolf’s own life and his numerous vulnerabilities. He had a lonely childhood, growing up without a mother and much affection. Now a hardened soldier, emotions and feelings don’t rule his life. All you can see the grumpy, surly façade whose smiles are so rare, yet so beautiful that you simply want to hold onto them, as Eloise would soon discover. Underneath though, Wolf had a soft heart that was once broken by a girl named Margerie. She was the beauty of the court and Wolf never really felt worthy of her. He now understands that the whole rash, stormy affair was between two young, equally inexperienced people. Even then her jilt and elopement took a toll on his heart. It has taken Wolf years to get over that pain and humiliation. He’s not about to open himself up for another round of that. But he’s not going to let his wife be swept away by an affair or another by the charmers of the court as is the rule of the courtiers. Eloise would be his and <i>his</i> only.
But no matter how much Wolf tries to contain his jealously, it rears its head more often than he’d like, which for a while Eloise would interpret as Wolf seeing her as a chattel, his possession. Him trying to dominate and smother her. These misunderstandings, alongside Wolf’s often curt and callous remarks would hurt her, creating even more misunderstandings. I have to say that Wolf was, on occasion, quite a jerk. If it was today, Eloise would probably show him her middle finger and get a divorce. However, she couldn’t not only because of the era but also because Wolf had an elaborate plan to keep her “occupied” and most definitely, faithful to him. But there are doubts... Wolf’s obviously a man of many talents and experience when it comes to bedding a woman. He’d certainly had his fair share after his heartbreak with Margerie. Eloise is yet another noble lady and that feeling of not being worthy of her start bugging Wolf soon enough. He feels rather uncouth, wanting it rough and hard. He also has interest in light bondage (submissive play). But would Eloise be amenable to his ways? Or would she find him disgusting and want nothing to do with his touch and lovemaking? This was one thing Wolf wanted to be certain of but was scared that he’d be spurned again.
And so, Wolf and Eloise don’t consummate the marriage for a while, though there are those kisses and fondling that would make her weak and wanton. Meanwhile, Susannah and Hugh, it was quite apparent, were smitten with each-other. Eloise wasn’t happy because she knew her sister would only have her heart broken as her father would never agree to this match. Wolf was quite confident though and one day, they go on an outing, which I felt was to encourage the match on Wolf’s part. While Susannah and Hugh return home, Wolf makes Eloise stay with him. She understood suddenly why he’d brought her in an empty cottage. Yes, Wolf’s ploy works. Eloise, for all her inexperience, had a healthy interest in sex. Her response to Wolf’s touches was quite uninhibited. She even responds to his need to hear her beg for <i>it</i>, admit it to him loud. It felt so bad and so good at the same time that Eloise didn’t know how to handle it. She had come to crave Wolf so much despite her reservations that it doesn’t take much to turn her on. Eloise is more than swept away by Wolf and his intense lovemaking. Wolf, on the other hand, is satisfied with everything, yet the thorn on either of their sides kept niggling at them. Wolf, for a while, kept thinking Eloise would cheat on him... then it was his own war with his feelings which made him snappish at times. For Eloise, she was sure Wolf would someday take mistress(es) and leave her alone. She has heard that Margerie is around and apparently single. The thought of Wolf going to another woman for what they shared would simply ruin her mood, making her sad, bitter and apprehensive.
Amidst this push and pull, Wolf and Eloise are urgently summoned at court by Henry. Before leaving, they’d known that Henry is actively looking for Anne’s ‘replacement’. He has even once made eyes at Eloise, though Wolf snatched her away before anything happened. Eloise knew Jane Seymour and heard of the rumors of Henry choosing her as said replacement. However, this was bad. The news that set them towards the court was that Anne has been condemned of adultery, among other things, and has been arrested. Currently she and her numerous “lovers” are being held at the Tower (of London), awaiting trial. Eloise and Wolf both knew what kinda “trial” that would be, yet there was nothing they could’ve done to save the Queen.
In the court there are more drama; regarding Wolf and Eloise’s relationship, where Wolf’s behavior was still grating on my nerves. Had it not been for the fact that he was really good in bed (he had me there, as he did Eloise) and that I knew from his POV that he actually loved his wife but had no idea how to handle his deep-seated feelings for her without making himself vulnerable, I would’ve found him absolutely insufferable. It was also hinted that he had a feeling that she’d be in his destiny someday when he laid eyes on her all those years ago. But because she was quite young, Wolf had tried to move on. After all these years, he hadn’t forgotten Eloise. He’d seen her, wanted her and asked her father for her hand. Knowing and appreciating everything about her has just makes him even more out of sorts. He was adamant of keeping this as a MOC but easier said than done! The Wolf was caught even before he had any idea of what was happening...
While they wait for the axe to fall, literally, on Anne, Wolf finds out that Henry still has his stinky eyes on Eloise. To deflate the King’s ‘interest’, he begins to toy with ideas. Of course, he keeps her in the dark about all these. Wolf knows he can’t do anything if Henry wants to make Eloise his mistress before he marries Jane after Anne’s execution; something that was becoming a possibility each passing day. Help comes from the most unexpected of places; Margerie. Whatever bits and pieces of their relationship were revealed, it was clear that they were lovers. It happened once, then something happened to drive Margerie away and Wolf had never known if it was him. Now Margerie, with the help of another woman, proposes a plan for Wolf to... Let’s just say it was something quite unflattering and humiliating for Eloise so that Henry is not interested in her sexually at all. It wasn’t a nice scene. I felt for Eloise as she had no idea WTF was happening. She was hurt, distressed, miserable and heartbroken over what she deemed was Wolf’s betrayal. She’d come to acknowledge her feelings for him and this was exactly the stuff of her nightmare!
I liked the next scenes for it was rather complex. Some would find Eloise too much of a doormat but I thought she was just too deeply involved, both body and soul, with Wolf at this point to deny him anything. She craved his touch and God, when he was with her, he always showed her in every way that he wanted her. Yet that scene at Henry’s private rooms flabbergasted Eloise. She’d expected Wolf to stray as the norm of the courtiers, but she’d secretly hoped he wouldn’t... at least not so soon! Horrid that absolute fidelity was expected from women, at least until they’d borne heirs and spares, yet men’s adultery was excusable at every level. No matter, Eloise had decided that she’d take anything he gives her as her husband, even if it means sharing him with other women. It was eating at her but she still wanted him... It was such an ambivalent situation but for some reason, I couldn’t find fault with Eloise’s reasoning.
Now hold onto your horses! Don’t go crying “cheater” on Wolf’s face. As I said everything was done as planned to thwart Henry, which works quite well. However, Wolf knew well-enough that he’s gone too far this time and he may have done everything to turn Eloise off. That she may never respond to him the way she always had. Wolf was tired of it all, but either way was also glad that she won’t be another of Henry’s victims. But he finds himself dumbstruck and a little more than excited when this time, Eloise initiates their lovemaking, desperate as if she’s going to lose him. Wolf was still the under impression that Eloise would stray, maybe even take up on Simon Thetford’s offer. But apparently that wasn’t what was on her mind at all. After that night together, it’s proven once again that they both burned for each-other the same way they always have.
Then the news arrives that Susannah has gone missing. She ran away from home, obviously to escape that unwanted match. Wolf finds himself in a dilemma. He couldn’t leave Eloise alone at court; there is no shortage of predators as he knew well. At this, Hugh comes to the rescue. He instantly leaves in search of Susannah and returns a couple of days later with her. It was apparent that something has happened between them while they were together but both were completely mum where that “matter” was concerned. Wolf was positive that Hugh and Susannah would marry, though Eloise knew that even if Hugh had just saved Susannah, their father wouldn’t give a damn. John Tyrell was a total autocrat, an example of which we see at the end of the book.
In the meantime, the already tumultuous environment of the court takes a more drastic turn. For one, Eloise is questioned by an a$$hole, the main prosecutor in that so-called “trial”. The same a$$hole, Cromwell, who later, singlehandedly puts Anne under the executioner’s sword. Somehow, Eloise comes out of it without much harm but the same can’t be said about Anne herself. Her beheading scene had to be the most intense scene of the story where you can’t help but feeling your stomach dropping, knowing what’s exactly happening. Wolf had to be present, no thanks to stinky Henry’s summons, though the coward himself had fled somewhere else to not be present while the beheading takes place. It was also the first time we probably find Wolf showing any emotion that didn’t involve sex. Without even realizing he was crying, and it just wasn’t because of the sad end of Anne’s story. The realization that strikes him quite down to his knees was that that could’ve been Eloise up there with her Queen, sharing the same fate. It was a possibility all the while because Cromwell tried his best to pin something on her just for being one of Queen’s favorite companions. Thankfully, they were saved, even if by a hairbreadth. Wolf realizes that it maybe time that they resolve their differences once and for all.
Unfortunately, just about that time, Stinky Henry once again summons Wolf to do something on his behalf... as usual. There were more to come to test Eloise and Wolf’s marital harmony, which was always quite shaky unless they were in bed. And this time the damage caused by this event even threatened that part of their marriage! I won’t go any further, but will just tell you that I loved the ending. It seemed that Wolf would always be a little curt and grumpy but after finally acknowledging his feelings that he was much more at peace with himself. Eloise was just as taken by surprise yet overcome with joy and emotion that her affection was reciprocated. With some talking and a lot of lovemaking, things were looking better for them already!
The epilogue kinda gives you an idea of exactly how deep is Hugh and Susannah into each-other and what to expect in the next installment, nicely setting up the pace of Rebel Bride. It definitely whetted my appetite! For me, Wolf Bride was not only rich in its historical aspects, but also quite steamy. Since it was billed as an erotic historical, I’d have to say I was thoroughly happy with the outcome. A solid 4 stars and recommended. Looking forward to Susannah and Hugh’s story.