Film director Kat Parker wrote and directed an epic romance, scoring an Oscar nomination, before directing an action movie which derailed in a production mess. She wants another chance to film, but she doesn’t have a project, or people willing to take a chance on her. Meanwhile, gifted polo player Sebastian Del Campo frustrates his family with his refusal to practice and live up to his potential. When Kat’s mother, the housekeeper for Sebastian’s family, has to take care of Kat’s ill father, Kat comes home and meets Sebastian, whose grandmother’s life story sounds perfect for her next film. I couldn’t possibly pass up a cross-branded polo book “presented by” Argentine polo star Nacho Figueras. I had high hopes that his involvement would lead to a dishy novel packed with insider details. Unfortunately, the setting details are limited to positive press, like it had been approved by Polo HQ, and the characters weren’t strong enough to win me over on their own merits.
Kat the filmmaker needs a stronger, richer characterization. The author spends paragraphs describing Kat’s affection for the beautiful antiques and handmade items that fill her home and that of the del Campos, but only includes a passing comment that “I’m a director. I’m visual. I like photographs.” This is the characterization of an interior decorator, not a filmmaker. I was annoyed that in a meeting with a producer (admittedly a jerk), Kat took his phone and smashed it by stomping on it. There’s sassy behavior, and there’s just plain ridiculous. She also snobbishly dismisses Sebastian at their first meeting, when she mistakes him for a flower delivery man, with “What was she thinking? She was going to date a delivery guy?” Um, sure, why not? Why would that be an “inappropriate romance?”
Sebastian is also uneven. A hero crammed with with superlatives (God’s gift to polo, a supportive producer for Kat, ridiculously beautiful, filthy rich) always reads to me like an author hoping I won’t notice the character’s personality. Which is a shame, because there are sparks there, and they could have been fanned into something hot. I liked the conflict of someone who has brilliance but is lazy with it, and while “I don’t want to show up my brother” is an explanation, it’s too simplified. I wanted the author to spend less time telling me how gorgeous Sebastian was and more time on developing his personality.
(In fact, all the polo players are “model-handsome.” Statistically, how can that be true? If the author was working with some insider knowledge – say, that the necessity of moneyed backers in polo gives good-looking men an edge – well, for heaven’s sake, say so. Otherwise you just start to sound shallow.)
I wanted more details in the setting, too. I liked the town of Wellington, Florida, with its rich polo community and its “townies” who staff or support the teams and players. I liked the trivia, like that large hats are for racing and not polo, and that players used to wear jodhpurs (which Sebastian’s mother still pines for) instead of the tight white pants of today. However, beyond a nod to the townies feeling excluded from the money, there is no “heft” to the details, nothing dark or gritty. Polo must have its guilty secrets, from players having affairs with patrons to players who feud to issues with horses. And it isn’t that the book is trying to be all sweet – Kat’s Hollywood has lecherous producers, attention-whoring actresses, misogyny, and greed. I don’t know what Figueras’s involvement was, but I felt like the book wanted to push an advertiser’s version of elegant, expensive polo, where the men are all beautiful and everyone believes in the wonder of the game. The result felt like a perfume commercial version of the sport.
The sex scenes are clichéd. Naked Sebastian is “in his masculine glory,” Kat “tastes so sweet,” they are “insatiable… spen[ding hours] poring over each other’s bodies, licking and kissing.” There’s just no personality here, and nothing I haven’t read a hundred times before. In the second half of the book when Kat makes her movie, there is a long-running Big Mis which just made me shake my head. I did like the spoiled, vaguely bonkers leading lady of the film, Liberty Smith, whose loose-cannon behavior and desperate need for validation is quite fascinating. Because the author wasn’t trying to make me like her, she let her be more interesting, and consequently I wanted to read Liberty’s book more than Kat’s or Sebastian’s.
Wild One is far from the worst book set among rich-people I’ve read, but it just doesn’t stand out.