"A luminous fairy tale, beautifully written and brimming with poignant emotion."
~ New York Times bestselling author Gaelen Foley
Writing Castle of the Wolf
I got the idea for the grandfather clock in the castle from The Last Unicorn, but the look of my clock is based on the splendid grandfather clock in the Studio Ghibli film Whisper of the Heart (I'm a big Ghibli fan!).
Castle of the Wolf includes three references to different novels by Terry Pratchett, one of my favourite authors:
1) The Author's Note: It starts with "As you will undoubtedly notice, this is a book about stories." The latter part of that sentence is almost a literal quotation from WITCHES ABROAD: "This is a story about stories" (10).
2) The treatise on the diseases of sheep in the castle library: Such a book can be found in THE WEE FREE MEN (which includes lots of men in kilts) (wee men in kilts) (blue wee men in kilts who say "Crivens!" a lot).
3) Helle Barden (another book in the castle library): This is the title of the German edition of Pratchett's MEN AT ARMS and could mean "clever bards" or, orthographically not quite correct, "halberds".
Have you wondered whether I invented the deck of very special cards Mrs. Chisholm sends to Cissy? Indeed, I did not! It is based on a real deck of cards that was printed some time between 1830 and 1850, probably in Frankfurt on the Main. As you can see I took some poetic license in regard to the date of printing: CASTLE OF THE WOLF is, after all, set in 1827. Still, that seemed close enough for my purposes.
Online Book Tour
The Inspiration for Castle of the Wolf
on The Idea Boutique
About the Stories in Castle and Similarities between Cissy & Myself
on The Good, the Bad, the Unread
Interviews & Spotlights
Interview on Farrah Rochon's Blog
Spotlight on Once Upon a Romance
Into the Darkness
Celia Fussell's father was dead, and she was reduced to the status of a poor relation in the house of her brother - the new baron - and his shrewish wife. A life of misery loomed ahead.
But, no. There was hope. Deep in the Black Forest, in the Great Duchy of Baden, was Celia's inheritance. Among fir trees so dark they looked almost black, the Castle of Wolfenbach rose, a skeletal ruin adorned by gargoyles where even locals feared to tread. It was a fortress of solitude, of secrets, of old wounds and older mysteries. But it was hers. And only one thing stood in her way: its former master, the hermit, the enigma ... the man she was obliged to marry.
Praise for Castle of the Wolf
"In CASTLE OF THE WOLF, Sandra Schwab's nuanced characters, detailed setting and writing seasoned with a soupcon of tart wit blend together to create a magical, fairy-tale, Regency historical romance."
~ John Charles, Chicago Tribune 9 June 2007
"Another thoroughly enjoyable tale from Ms. Schwab. [...] Excellent characterization and dialogue dominate this well-done historical romance."
~ Morgan Chilson, Fresh Fiction
"Ms. Schwab has written a second novel that I find to be better than the first novel. She writes with such delightful descriptions that you are immediately transported into the scene. While this story is billed as a dark romance, I found the darkness came from within the characters and their own struggles. I thought it was an accurate look at what we would consider deep depression today. I was fascinated by the depth of understanding Ms. Schwab has regarding the bleakness of many people."
~ Robyn Roberts, Once Upon a Romance
"Sandra Schwab's Castle of the Wolf is a beautiful love story with a gothic feel that comes to life with twisting plots and an extraordinary assortment of characters. Fenris is a true tortured hero who makes even the reader want nothing whatsoever to do with him. Cissy's determination and subsequent love are the turning points for all involved and seeing Fen through her eyes is what breaks through his nasty façade for us. Interspersed throughout the book is poetry from John Keats and Robert Burns, among others, that gives you a closer look into Cissy's heart and gives some playfulness at times to Fen and Cissy's relationship. Ms. Schwab's writing has a flow that pulls you into her stories so subtly that you forget you're just reading a book instead of actually interacting with her characters. I finally have visited the Black Forest of Germany."
~ Sandra Marlow, Historical Romance Club (5-star review)
"Ms. Schwab is a talented writer who knows very well how to create an atmosphere and evoke a mood."
~ Sandy Coleman, All About Romance
"I love Ms. Schwab's way of telling a story. She's not shy about being creative and thereby developing storylines, characters, and conflict that will hold the reader captive. Her second effort has well been worth the wait. Fenris and Celia are such wonderfully dynamic characters and when added to the totally fresh setting the reader is in for a treat. You never know what to expect when you read Ms. Schwab... except for the fact that you will be well entertained. This is one author I highly recommend."
~ Kristi Ahlers (5-star review)
"CASTLE OF THE WOLF is a wonderful new-skool Gothic romance. [...] Schwab's storytelling also has tight turns that drop the reader like a rollercoaster from merry heights of whimsical happiness for Cissy into plunges of holy shit terror and uncertain fear - which makes it bloody hard to put the damn book down. The mix of nefarious characters, mystery, intrigue, and deep, churning sexual attraction don't help either when you might be trying to get something else done. [...] Schwab's use of multiple legends and fairy tales to parallel the protagonists' story is particularily brilliant, and this is a book that I will certainly revisit again, as the innocence of the heroine and the dark brooding woundedness of the hero are enticing and inviting. Well played, Ms. Schwab, well played."
~ Sarah Wendell, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
The man was walking the ramparts while unseeing eyes followed his progress. Time moved sluggishly for them, and emotions dripped into them slowly. But through the years his despair had filled them, had saturated their very being. Now his desolation churned through them, grinding their hearts just as his.
... and ever ...
... and ever ...
Water poured from the skies and shrouded the world in grey. Raindrops drummed on the fold-back roof of the old gig, wormed their way through the ancient material and dripped onto the hats of the three passengers. Wetness glinted on the back of the shaggy mare, and dye ran down her sides, leaving black oily puddles on the muddy country lane.
Huddled in one corner of the gig, her brother's elbow digging into her side as he handled the reins, Miss Celia Fussell wiped another errant raindrop off her cheek. Her sister-in-law's high-pitched complaints grated on her nerves.
"... could have decked the village in some more noir, if you ask me." Dorinda had to sniff quite loudly in order to be heard over the rain. "My dear Hailstone, will you look at that?"
Cissy grimaced. So quickly her sister-in-law had internalized the transition from Mr. Fussell to Hailstone. So quickly, so effortlessly ...
"My dear Hailstone, I believe your poor sister is crying," the nagging voice continued. "Are you crying, me chére? Did I not tell you you had better stay at home? Such énervement is surely too much for your constitution. Now, of course, it is too late. But me dieu, what shall the people think?" Dorinda wrung her hands in artificial agitation.
What indeed? Cissy ground her teeth. Puffed-up pea-goose! Upon Dorinda's insistence, the funeral had been postponed so they could send for crêpe, hat bands, and ostrich feathers from London. A hearse had to be built, the little gig painted black and the horses dyed. Dyed. Just so the funeral would be pompous enough for the Baron Hailstone.
Cissy's hands clenched into fists.
As if her father had ever been pompous. A shy, bookish man, he had forever preferred the library to the world outside. A pompous funeral with ostrich feathers and mutes and shield bearers was the last thing he would have wanted.
"Hailstone, did I not tell you that your sister should stay at home? A funeral is no place for a woman. I, of course, have to be there. As the noveau baroness I have to inspire new confidence and hope in toutes les braves gens."
Another raindrop trickled down Cissy's neck. "Be so kind and drive on, George," she forced out between gritted teeth. "I assure you, I am perfectly fine."
For a moment her brother turned his round, red-cheeked face with the soulful brown eyes to her. "If you say so, Cis."
Forever the lost-puppy look. Inwardly, Cissy sighed. "Do not worry." She patted his arm and wondered, not for the first time, what in all the world George saw in his wife. A thin, pale creature with a thin, sharp nose and affected airs, Dorinda Miller, the Widow Miller's only daughter - but else of dubious parentage -, had snatched the baron's son three years ago, soon after she had returned home from a convent in France. Allegedly from a convent in France. Her French was a disaster, her blond bouncing corkscrew curls the result of her skill with the curling tongs and probably with bleach, too. But, of course, George, sweet, apple-cheeked George never saw beyond the carefully constructed façade.
Irritated, Cissy wiped her finger over the tip of her nose, while her sister-in-law's whiney voice droned on and on, all the long, long way from the manor house to the village church. With squelching sounds the wheels of the gig ploughed on through the mud, and the splash of the horse's hooves sprayed dirt on shoes and clothes. Slowly, steadily, the rain flattened the bundle of ostrich feathers between the mare's ears into a second unruly mane.
The wind picked up and made Cissy shiver, a harsh reminder that the golden days of summer were long gone. In more ways than one. She had to close her eyes for a moment as the pain threatened to overwhelm her. Never again would she find refuge from the world in her father's arms. Never again would she press her face against his soft housecoat and inhale the reassuring scent of mild tobacco and dusty old books that clung to its folds, while his heart beat strongly and steadily under her ear. Never again would her father pat her cheek in his absent-minded manner and leave traces of black ink on her skin.
Cissy inhaled slowly and let her breath go in a heavy sigh.
Never, never again.
And what would become of her now? The new baron's spinster sister, a maiden aunt for his future children. She imagined a lifetime under one roof with Dorinda Miller, and a shudder tore through her.
"Cis?" her brother's worried voice cut through her bleak reveries. "Are you really all right?"
"Did I not tell you, Hailstone, that your sœur had better stay at home?" Dorinda's black veil flattered in the wind as she leaned forward to cast a disparaging look at her sister-in-law.
Unabiding like the rain, Dorinda's whining continued, and even in church it carried on in in whispers and muttered complaints. Trying to shut her out, Cissy stared straight ahead at her father's coffin, which disappeared under black velvet.
Sent for from London, too.
It did not help that she could feel the disapproval radiating from the villagers. Disapproval not because the old baron's funeral had been turned into a farce. No, they had even admired the stupid ostrich feathers, which the rain had transformed into broken, spiky things; had admired the rough-hewn hearse, the blotchy oily-black horses, the tiny old gig which stood in as mourning carriage. As if the attempt at a fashionable funeral somehow raised the importance of the village itself. But what the people, the men, disapproved of was the presence of the two women at the funeral. Cissy could not help noticing the frowns, the deploring looks.
All at once, tears welled up in her eyes. She had so hoped they would understand her need to honor her father this last time. Instead, even the vicar shot her dark looks, his face stern and forbidding.
Later, when the coffin was lowered into the earth, they all stared at her as if they expected her to break down, to rave and rant against fate, which had stopped her father's heart. Instead, she stood alone under her old umbrella, her eyes burning, and did not utter a sound. Dorinda, meanwhile, sniffed from time to time and prettily wiped her eyes behind her elegant black veil. She had snuggled up to George under his umbrella, the image of the sad, sincerely desolate heirs.
To Cissy this sight seemed a foreboding of the future ahead of her -- standing alone and always apart from the new baron and baroness, forever condemned to a life as Miss Celia Fussell. She had no illusions in that respect. If her father had only been able to afford one London season for his only daughter, then the new Baroness Hailstone would hardly agree to waste money on another stay in town. Besides, how could she ever hope to pass muster next to the young, fresh debutantes, whose foreheads had never been touched by sorrow and whose mothers spent a fortune on their daughters' dresses and shawls and gloves and reticules? No, Cissy had no illusions: at twenty-seven, stranded in the north of England and thus far from any fashionable town or city, with no prospects of marriage, she was firmly on the shelf. When her father had still been alive, it had not seemed to matter. She had acted as his secretary and librarian; he had taught her Latin and Greek, French and German, and the beautiful languages of the Middle Ages so she could read to him all his favorite books. While he had not been able to afford real travels, he had taken her on the most wonderful journeys of the mind, had shown her the wild beauty of the old North, the mysteries of the Forest of Broceliande, the marvels of King Arthur's court. Most of all, she remembered her father sitting in his worn armchair, puffing his pipe like a merry, oversized dwarf.
Cissy squeezed her eyes shut. "Cwædon Þæt he wære wyruld-cyninga, manna mildust ond mon-ðwærust, leodum liðost ..." she whispered. They said that he was of all the world's kings the gentlest of man and the most gracious, the kindest to his people ... Tears seeped from under her closed lids and rolled in a searing path down her cheek.
After the funeral, they drove back to the manor, retracing the deep grooves in the mud where the heavy hearse had weighed the wet earth down. And still rain fell, a fine gossamer of water and coldness, rendering the world grey and dreary. It seemed appropriate that even the land would wear mourning for the old baron.
Cissy shivered and huddled deeper into her old pelisse. Once it had been maroon colored, and with a pang of remorse Cissy remembered the loveliness of it, how special she had felt when she had worn it during her first season in London. Almost like a princess. And now it was black, black, deepest black and had lost all hint of its former beauty.
How ridiculous to mourn such small thing, the color of a pelisse, Cissy thought. But she knew that so much more than the color of a bit of clothing, she mourned the feeling of being cherished she had always connected with it. Never, never again. She sighed.
"What was that? Was that a cough?" Immediately, Dorinda's high voice took on a quailing quality. "Miss Celia Fussell, did you tousser? I have told you that you should better stay at home, and now look what has happened! Une toux! And you know how frail my constitution is! Oh, me dieu, me dieu ..." Agitated, Dorinda fanned herself with her gloved hands. "I already feel dreadfully faint ... I ..."
Cissy could have happily strangled her. "I assure you, I did not cough."
"Well ..." Her sister-in-law sniffed -- a sound of injured dignity. "There is no reason to be so clipped, Miss Celia. One cannot be too careful of one's health, especially if one has such a fragile constitution like me."
At that, Cissy barely managed to suppress a snort. Indeed. You've got a constitution like an ox. From the corner of her eyes she watched Dorinda primly folding her hands in her lap.
"En outre," the despised voice continued, "it would do you good to start showing some more consideration for those who kindly let you stay under their roof."
Cissy's hands clenched and gripped the folds of her pelisse tightly. She had to bit down hard on her lip to prevent any scathing reply from slipping out.
"Dorrie," her brother protested weakly.
"No, no, Hailstone." Dorinda patted his arm, before she slipped her hand into the crook of his elbow. "It is well past time that your sœur acts up to her new situation in life." Her voice had a satisfied ring to it, like a cat's after it had licked up all the cream.
Oh, yes, the Right Honorable Lady Hailstone. How she relished the situation! Cissy turned her head and stared unseeingly at the rain-veiled landscape.
The first day of her future life in hell had just begun.