This is a rather odd book that is less romance than Gothic, but despite the description hinting at it, this is not a horror novel. A Deep Dark Call is about the truth behind ancient beliefs and the cost of being spread across an unbelieving world. There is a lot of graphic sex at times, but the focus is more on the shifter history and limitations, and the sex is an integral part of that. What I first thought was awkward description from the perspective of a virgin turns out to be much more complicated.
The biggest weakness in the book is secrecy. Despite the characters knowing what is going on, the reader is given hints and teases without facts for far too long. Even worse, the secret, when it is revealed, is not significant because I had already figured it out, so it was a false suspense that felt more like being on the outside of an inside joke. There’s no question that I’d have been happier without the information withholding, but it acted as a minor distraction rather than enhancing the story tension as I assume was intended, and there are many more strengths to counter it.
One of those strengths is Lucy’s relationship with her charge, Alexandra. Lucy comes into the family as a governess. The relationship with Alexandra’s father, Ioan, is an unexpected occurrence that raises its own complications. The story is a clash of old world and new, of greed and tradition, with Lucy’s ignorance an added match to an old fire. The book offers a lovely story with some very dark moments, but not the horrific ones I’d initially feared.
There are mentions of spanking and bondage as sex play that seemed out of place in a historical novel, though the late reveal of the year, and other things like her focus on her curves as a negative, made it seem less like the 1880s than a modern novel. The remote nature of the village assisted in this lack of clarity, while other things supported a less modern era much more. However, as the story occurs mostly in isolation, the time period is less critical than the strong sense of place and culture within this village and its manor.
The story offers interesting differences in cultural expectations between Lucy’s English upbringing and the village culture. Ioan is a sophisticate who permits the old ways but is rather forward thinking in his own perspective and appreciative of his daughter’s clever mind. Alexandra is both smart and aware for her age, but she is still very childlike in certain aspects. The issues of language and how it can be used as a screen for dislike were also well done. I enjoyed the interactions between Ioan and the real (non-shifter) wolves as well, especially in dominance conflicts and how they were resolved.
The concept of these shifters is a fascinating blend of mythology and traditional shifter abilities. It’s both well concocted and complex, with layers that cause many of the rifts and complications in the relationship between Lucy and Ioan.
Ultimately, it is a good story with an interesting history behind it and characters I could connect with. The love story was more an instant attraction and tied into the shifter philosophy at first, but by the end, they’d learned a lot about each other and bonded over the connection with his daughter, so it felt more real.
Despite the issues I had, I enjoyed the read and how everything came together.
P.S. I received this ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.