Drive Me Wild
Drive Me Wild by Julie Ortolon is one of those books that’s frustrating because it so obviously could have been better. There are moments of pure enjoyment in this novel, but its serious flaws kept me from giving it a higher grade.
Brent Zartlich was the bad boy of Beason’s Ferry, Texas. Laura Beth Morgan was the goody-two-shoes who secretly loved him. In high school they were unlikely allies. Now, years later, Brent has changed his last name to Michaels and is a successful news anchorman in Houston, but he is scarred by his past and feels that he can never commit to a relationship with any woman. Laura is a twenty-eight year old virgin who lives with her father, still loving Brent from afar. A “Dating Game” fundraiser brings Brent back to Beason’s Ferry, and the attraction between the two is immediate.
The girl-next-door loves boy-from-wrong-side-of-tracks plot is not exactly new and fresh, and this book gets off to a slow start. However, Ortolon does some interesting things with it. Laura may be known as the sweetest, nicest girl in Texas, but she’s bored with her life, and Brent’s return to Beason’s Ferry prompts her to change. She decides to pack her things, go to Houston, get a job (the town is deeply shocked), and control her own life. The fact that she’ll be living across town from her beloved Brent is just a side benefit. There is a great scene in which Laura is driving away from Beason’s Ferry, by herself, in a hot yellow Porche. She pops in a ZZ Top CD, puts on her sunglasses, and hits the accelerator: “She was tired of being the slowest driver on the road.”
I liked Laura. I admit I’m really, really bored with twenty-eight year old virgin heroines, but Laura overcame that pretty quickly. Once she decides to make a change in her life, she does so aggressively, grabbing her opportunities with both hands and striving for what she wants. That she does this almost entirely without help from Brent is one of the things I liked about this book.
Unfortunately, Brent himself is what really slows down Drive Me Wild. Heroes who fear commitment are nothing new, but that’s really not my problem with Brent. My problem with Brent is that he’s such a dork. His behavior is incredibly juvenile (drag racing, anyone?). He’s controlling and tries to dissuade Laura from taking a job that she wants because he doesn’t like the part of town it’s in. He constantly sends her mixed messages, like asking her to live with him, while at the same time making it clear that they have no future together. When things don’t go his way, he sulks. He’s needy and passive-aggressive. An example: Brent is going to give Laura a ride somewhere, but she gets a ride with a friend, so she calls and tells him that he doesn’t need to come. Brent freaks. He’s snarly to her on the phone, and hangs up leaving her thinking that she’s done something wrong. And he feels “as if someone had opened up his chest and ripped his heart out.” Brent, get over yourself!
This is Ms. Ortolon’s first novel, and as first novels go it’s not bad. She’s quite a good writer, and she’s created a loveable heroine and some very memorable scenes. The secondary characters in this novel – especially Laura’s father and her roommate – are well-drawn and intelligent. I have every reason to believe that her next book will be even better, especially if she tries for a more original plot and gives us a grown-up hero. Although Drive Me Wild is not a keeper, I have every reason to believe that Julie Ortolon is a writer to watch.