Girl Gone Wild
Girl Gone Wild has such an irresistible title I had to buy it. It’s not a book I can really recommend, but it isn’t without its charms.
Globe-trotting reporter Hugh Duncan specializes in international stories, but after offending a foreign diplomat his editor banishes him to Miami to cover local news. Always sniffing out a scandal, he finds his way to Club Paradise, a trendy resort in South Beach that was recently caught in a scandal of its own when its developer bilked investors for millions before disappearing to the Cayman Islands. Hugh intends to put the story back in the headlines in hopes of drawing the egocentric Robert Flynn back to Florida.
Late one night, he wanders into the kitchen at Club Paradise, where he finds a woman dancing barefoot while creating some X-rated desserts. Giselle Cesare is in the best of moods. With her overprotective brothers all out of town for the week, she’s free to do whatever she wants to do. The handsome man who appears in her kitchen seems like the perfect partner for a week of sexual hijinks.
The attraction sparks between them, until Giselle learns about Hugh’s story. She and her partners have done their best to bring Club Paradise out from the shadow the scandal cast on their business and none of them want it brought up again. Even worse, she had an affair with Flynn, not knowing that he was married to another woman who is now one of her business partners. She doesn’t want Hugh to do the story but Hugh isn’t going to back down on the injustice of a criminal getting away with his crime. Despite the conflict between them, though, they can’t stop their relationship from moving into the bedroom (not that they try very hard to stop, of course).
The story has all the right parts to make a good story. The opening is eye-catching. The characters are sympathetic. The sex lives up to its billing without overshadowing the plot. There’s quite a bit to like about it and it’s readable enough, but somehow the execution falls short. The main problem, at least in the beginning, is that I had a hard time believing certain elements of this story. Even for a romantic fantasy, it feels kind of phony. The opening scene and the way they meet are good, but their first night together comes across as too forced and too slick to be believed. It’s the kind of book where I felt like the characters were falling all over each other because the author was telling them to, not because it’s what came naturally to these two people in this situation.
Likewise, Hugh’s entire journalistic career lacked authenticity and was too glossy and exotic to resemble real world journalism. Then there’s his involvement with a woman seriously invested in the story he’s reporting. He develops the attitude that he’ll just try to get the story over with sooner so they can hook up faster with that out of the way. Most of the characters’ reactions about this didn’t ring true. Giselle wants him to stop his story, but he’s not going to, so she doesn’t really argue anymore and they just start having sex. Hugh’s backstory is pretty serious, which might have been compelling had it been presented in a more serious book. But because it’s not, it too comes across as fantastical and lacking in realism.
After the first hundred pages or so I set the book aside, dismissing it as a decent, but average read. Residual guilt about the number of unfinished books I have lying around made me pick it up again, and darned if it didn’t grow on me. Maybe it’s the way the author busts through the usual overprotective brother cliché by offering Giselle’s family a backstory that makes the gesture more reasonable than annoying. Maybe it’s the nicely humorous moments that are well played, like this one that made me laugh:
“Don’t forget who told you about the facts of life. You think that was a walk in the park for college guys? Even mature, responsible Vito didn’t have a clue how to touch that one, but he stepped in and gave you the straight scoop?”
“You summed it up well in those three typed lines you slid under my door, Nico. Thank you.”
The second half of the book outshines th first (except for the part where Hugh explains his family history). The characters are likable, which helps carry the story past some of the less believable moments. There are plenty of choice scenes, like the one where Giselle finally has it out with the woman whose husband she slept with. As it goes along, the story picks up a good amount of steam. Hugh and Giselle have a nice amount of chemistry. Mostly though, the book arrived at the point where I liked the characters enough that I was willing to follow them wherever the story went, which was nice. While the first part of the book didn’t really hold my attention, I had no such trouble with the rest.
I can’t totally recommend Girl Gone Wild. It’s a little too slick, a little too shallow, a little too unbelievable in parts, even as romantic fantasies go. Readers who are willing to sacrifice believability if the characters are likable enough may find it worth a look, though. Even though this particular story didn’t entirely work for me, I’m interested in trying the author again. Best of all, this book sets up a romance between Giselle’s hockey-player brother Nico and the woman whose husband Giselle slept with in next month’s Date With a Diva. I’ll be there.