Wild Thing proves that talented writing and steamy sex scenes can’t overcome unlikeable characters and an unbelievable romance. Reading this book was a frustrating experience since so many things failed to work for me.
Hunter Kincaid’s day definitely takes a turn for the better when he discovers Toni Russo is on location instead of Bianca Ferrari. Bianca, the owner of Action Models, arranged for his company to escort her models into the Idaho wilderness for a photo campaign. During the negotiations, Hunter had a challenging time keeping their relationship professional and cordial given Bianca’s campaign to bed him. He was afraid that he would have the same problem on this trip, and one thing he doesn’t do is sleep with clients. While this is his first time meeting Toni, her deep, throaty, sexy voice on the telephone had him visualizing a young blonde Kathleen Turner. Instead he finds she looks like a naughty-schoolgirl fantasy. He immediately wonders if she wearing any underwear or if she is inked or into bondage. Ugh.
Hunter may be pleased that Toni is there, but she is not. Being in the wilderness is undoubtedly her worst nightmare. A childhood trauma of being deserted for three days in New Jersey Pine Barrens has made her extremely phobic of the great outdoors. Even though she thinks Hunter is too sexy for words, she immediately clashes with him when he insists that she take a short raft trip for hands-on experience before their actual trip. Toni wants to spend as little time as possible outdoors, but after Hunter informs her that he can’t clear her for all the shoots unless she goes rafting, Toni grudgingly acquiesces. Later Hunter witnesses Toni’s panic and he follows her back to her cabin. While she refuses to talk about her fears, she babbles constantly – especially after he happens to see the book her mother sent her on how to find the perfect mate. Hunter than calls his sister and asks her to pick up the book for him, so he can learn how to make himself into Toni’s perfect mate.
The day after the short raft trip, Toni and Hunter are alone in a private area when Toni sees the two rafts with everyone on them leave. Immediately her fears of abandonment overwhelm her. Then she gets separated from Hunter, and it is her childhood experience all over again. She is completely alone in the wilderness. She does make it back to his cabin, and Hunter rejoins her. After his remorseful apology, he fixes dinner for her and afterward Toni attempts to fulfill her part of the bargain by having sex with him. Hunter is astounded by her duty-bound attitude and tells her that he doesn’t want to have sex with her, he wants to make love to her. Toni’s experience tells her otherwise so Hunter has his work cut out for him to convince Toni that what they have is special.
I can enjoy books filled with mental lusting if it is balanced by a believable romance. And for it to be believable, I need something healthy. Hunter sees the same injured look in Toni’s eyes he sees in the disadvantaged and troubled kids that he counsels. He meets Toni and within two hours, he is telling her that he knows her better than he knows his best friends, and within twenty four hours they are making love, not having sex. Rather than taking time to get to know the real person, it seems like Hunter prefers to manipulate her by reading the same relationship book that she is reading. Toni is a wounded soul, Hunter recognizes that, and is compelled to fix it. The first aborted sex scene is heartbreaking for me. Here is a woman that needs a man to know her before taking the relationship to that level, but Hunter doesn’t rise to the challenge.
The characterization is one dimensional with Ms. Kaye relying on looks and lusting to fill in the blanks. Toni is supposedly a unique heroine because she dresses in Goth style clothing, but she didn’t seem very different from all the YA characters I’ve read who rebel by dressing this way.
The secondary characters are irritants. Toni’s best friend, fully aware of her issues with abandonment, leaves her with a man she has known for less than twenty-four hours. Hunter’s brothers, Fisher and Trapper, don’t ask if he wants time alone with her but just head out. Hunter’s sister Karma agrees to pick up the book for him but also picks up unsolicited condoms,too. Even among family there needs to be boundaries. Since all this happened within the first twenty-four hours of their meeting I almost felt like Hunter’s family was trying to procure him a woman.
And finally the heroine’s actions after the big misunderstanding seem extremely reminiscent of Ms. Kaye’s previous book. As I was reading, I thought, “Hello, didn’t this happen in the last book?”
Wild Thing is part of a series, although it can easily be read as a standalone. The next book appears to be about Trapper. I haven’t decided yet if I will be reading it or not, which is quite a change for me.