This story is a hugely enjoyable historical romance with a paranormal touch set in the Black Forest in Germany in the early 1800s. Woven through with references to fairy tales and with evocative writing about the surroundings of Castle of Wolfenbach, this sets itself apart from the usual historical romance of gowns, balls and peerages.
Celia Fussell's father, Baron Hailstone, has died, and her life is going badly downhill. Her father was a noted academic and shared his interests with his daughter, but now that he is dead, Celia looks likely to become a spinster sister to her brother and his awful wife. Then her father's will is read, and Celia discovers that she is now the owner of the Castle of Wolfenbach in the Black Forest - but only if she weds the former master of the castle within four months.
Celia, although initially seeming rather quiet and mousy, has an intrepid side and decides to go and claim her inheritance. After all, her father was good friends with the Graf von Wolfenbach, father of the man she is supposed to marry, and he's a very good man; surely his son will also be a worthy male. Celia embarks on the long journey to her Castle, accompanied by the kindly widow Mrs. Chisholm, but when she arrives she discovers that the castle has a bad reputation. It's falling into disrepair, and her welcome is hardly warm. She meets her intended, Fenris von Wolfenbach, a rude, dark and mysterious man who does his best to drive her and Mrs. Chisholm away. Why is he so bad-tempered, and what caused the injury that gave him a wooden leg?
When Fenris's brother Leo arrives, things seem considerably brighter. He's a charming, friendly, open man, the complete opposite of his brother. But Celia is learning that things aren't always what they seem, that there is more going on in this family relationship than she originally thought, and that her life and the life of Fenris might be in danger. Can she help Fenris thaw enough to work out how they can live together?
Castle of the Wolf is an excellent read from start to finish. It is a real change to read a historical romance set in Germany rather than England, and with such a shadowy hero; Fenris spends large parts of the book avoiding Celia. Celia is an exceptional heroine as she finds her niche in life, becomes courageous, and tries her best to help those around her. She has spent her youth reading fairy stories, and some of these are woven into the story in a charming way. As in most good novels, the characters learn more about themselves and each other and help one another to grow and put behind them bad experiences from the past; this mainly happens to Fenris with Celia's help. Celia herself seems to have made the decision to grow up and take charge of her life at the beginning of the story, and she then works at it with great success. She's a charming heroine who will appeal to most readers.
The story is strong on description, setting and the feel of a different country in a different time. The plot is simple, leaving no real doubt as to who the 'baddie' is - the fun is finding out how everything plays out and how our heroine and hero end up happy ever after.