Drive Me Wild
Some books are dark chocolate, some books are Limburger cheese. Drive Me Wild is a nice vanilla pudding of a book, featuring an appealing heroine and a hero who almost deserves her. Best of all, this series book is 100% cowboy, amnesia, and secret-baby-free. It’s a grounded story about adults with real-world problems – how wild is that?
Grace Bowes is in a bind. Ever since she married her high-school sweetheart and left her home town, she’s been leading a comfortably upper-class life. Now her crooked husband has left her broke, with no marketable skills, and in sole care of their preteen son. She moves back home with her mother and starts looking for a job. Since she can’t type or use a computer, there’s only one possible position for her – driving the bus for a private primary school that will earn her a living wage plus her son’s tuition. Unfortunately, standing in her way is headmaster Luke Stewart. He’s Grace’s ex-husband’s ex-best friend, and perhaps, the only man she ever truly loved.
For his part, Luke doesn’t like Grace, doesn’t believe she can handle the job, and doesn’t believe she’ll stick around if she gets the job. Plus, he has a chip on his shoulder the size of a loaf of Wonder Bread. He finally agrees to give Grace a chance, even though they’ll have to spend lots of time together while he trains her (of course, the headmaster of a financially troubled school has nothing better to do.) Sparks fly.
Grace is quite a winning heroine. She’s good-humored and devoted to her son without martyring herself. Most appealing is her utter lack of self-pity in face of the circumstances forced upon her. Grace might be forgiven a bit of moping; I kept flashing on Private Benjamin cleaning the latrine with her little electric toothbrush. But instead, she stays focused on the present rather than wallowing in the past. I liked her very much.
Too bad Luke starts off as such a pill, although after that rotten first impression he does improve. I kept waiting for a compelling justification of Luke’s scornful, bratty behavior, but although the explanations helped, they were never quite enough. For the most part, though, Luke’s past traumas are believable and sympathetic without being over-the-top. He’s a bitter guy, but he has his reasons. However, no rationale came close to justifying his obnoxious behavior towards Grace. His sweet interactions with Grace’s likeably imperfect son are redemptive, but I found it hard to believe that he had truly let go of his insecurities to maintain an adult relationship with Grace.
For a series book, Drive Me Wild is pleasantly eventful and well-paced – not overstuffed with plot, yet not draggy. As a whole, however, the book would profit from a thorough reality check, since minor illogic kept tossing me out of the story. Two examples: If private-school tuition is really a bus driver’s perk, I find it hard to believe there weren’t a half-dozen better-qualified applicants in line ahead of Grace. Grace’s complete lack of marketable office skills were hard to swallow, too. How could someone who graduated from college in the early 90s and edited three Junior League cookbooks not have at least rudimentary typing and computer skills? Authors take note: this could be believable in an older heroine, but I wouldn’t try it with any educated character under thirty.
But these issues were distractions, not major detractions. Grace and Luke are genuine grown-ups, which is rare enough to be notable. Drive Me Wild may not quite live up to its title’s promise, but it didn’t Drive Me Crazy, either. If your taste tends towards women’s fiction and realistic characters, this is worth a look.