Born to Be Wild
It wasn’t until I was about half way through Born to Be Wild that I realized I’d read an earlier book by this author. In fact I’d read the prequel, Wife for a Day, which focused on a relationship between a wealthy man and a woman who’s lost her job and is living out of her car. Like that book, this one has enough strong points to tantalize, but not enough to really hold the reader.
The first 99 pages were especially worrisome. The hero/heroine act like they’re about three, and the plot mirrors half of the other light contemporary romances that have been published recently. The heroine is wealthy, twice-married Palm Beach socialite Lauren Remington, a contemporary romance fixture: the über poor little rich girl. Lauren wants to work, even though she has plenty of money, so she has set herself up as a marriage planner. Her only qualification for this job seems to be her two previous marriages (oh and there’s the engagement that ended during a rehearsal dinner), but she has wealthy friends who are willing to let her have a go at planning their weddings. Determined not to fail in this facet of her life, Lauren is forced to seek a caterer in the yellow-pages when the chef she’s hired drops dead.
Enter required character number two of this familiar plot, Max Wilde – former bad boy with a heart of gold. Max has the prerequisite Bad Boy Background. He came from a broken home, was taken in by an unconventional foster father, has wandered around the country, and has now returned on his motorcycle to take over his foster father’s catering business. He’s taken in two foster children of his own, in case you were wondering about his “heart of gold” credentials.
The fact that these are two very familiar characters was not the major stumbling block in the first third of the book. The major wince factor involved the reason they are battling. Max had been a waiter years before at a party for Lauren and her then fiancé. When Lauren expressed her nervousness in a rhetorical wish that she could ride off with Max, he took this as an invitation to show up the next day to take her away from all her problems. He still resents the spoiled rich girl who didn’t take him up on his offer and was instead astonished and amused. Lauren acts snobbish, Max is from the wrong side of the tracks – where have I seen that before?
But Born to Be Wild somewhat redeems itself in odd and infrequent moments. After trading insults with Lauren for 98 pages Max has a realization on page 99:
“Hell, now he sounded like a snob, looking down at someone he barely knew, someone he judged over an incident that he’d blown all out of proportion.”
I almost shouted “Finally!” Once he understood that his burning resentment over a very minor – though embarrassing for him – incident is out of all proportion, the book started to pick up some momentum.
The relationship between the two became far more realistic once we got past the misunderstanding that wasn’t. Although Lauren was still a bit over the top in her naiveté and snobbery, I began to like them both much more once Max started acting like a grown-up. However, other characters in the book continued to reflect the inconsistencies that were inherent in the hero and heroine at the beginning of the book. Lauren’s mother in particular is a stereotype without rhyme or reason. She’s cold and domineering, snobby and sneering, then has a complete turnaround in the last few pages.
Many of the plot elements are resolved just as quickly, both for good and ill. Max’s about-face in his own behavior regarding his past with Lauren came about pretty quickly, but he’d gotten to know Lauren so it was believable. When he has another abrupt change in thinking near the end of the book, it’s not as believable. He takes a couple of comments to unfathomable extremes, and the reader is left with mouth hanging open.
So where does this leave us? Though the annoying-at-first protagonists become likable, the book is still very uneven. Now I know why I didn’t remember the last book I read by this author. If you pick this one up, expect an occasionally pleasant but very forgettable reading experience.