Make Me Wilder
The first book in Serena Bell’s new Wilder Adventures series is rife with romance tropes. Big city East Coast girl comes to a small town in the Pacific Northwest to work with a family with five brawny, gorgeous brothers (and one married sister) who run a failing outdoor adventure company. All five are single and will, one assumes, in five books, find true love. This book’s hero was burned by a city girl in the past and will never love again. The marketing savvy heroine hates small towns and trusts no one due to a tragic past. Throw in a severe case of insta-lust, a meet cute involving ducklings, and way too many jokes about the heroine’s inappropriate footwear–this is rural Oregon for heaven’s sake!–and you have Make Me Wilder.
Now Dabney, you say, you say this like it’s a bad thing!
OK, OK, it’s not a bad thing. I enjoyed this book. Bell is a terrific witty writer and her characters, despite being tropey types, are interesting and have just enough quirks that they’re kinda adorable. The sex is hot and the family dynamics–I especially like the Wilder women–are well-done and believable. And given that Jill Shalvis, Sarah Morgan, and Kristan Higgins have all moved to women’s fiction, Bell is a good replacement for those looking for sexy, fun, contemporary romance.
Our high heeled wearing heroine, Lucy, is temporarily escaping Manhattan after a highly mortifying business meeting at which it became clear to all her colleagues that Lucy had inadvertently slept with her boss’s fiance. Lucy hightails it to Rush Creek, Oregon where her mom is currently shacked up with a new love. Rush Creek has struggled economically and Barb Wilder, the widowed matriarch of the Wilder clan, has hired Lucy to convince the Wilder brothers that Wilder Adventurers needs a more female–think bridesmaids parties and connect with your kids outings–makeover.
This is not an easy task. The Wilder brothers are all, to a man, disdainful of selling out, compromising their old-school vision of outdoor experiences, and pretty sure Lucy, whom they all agree is smokin’ hot, has nothing professional to offer them. No one feels this more strongly than Gabe, the oldest Wilder brother who is its de facto CEO.
Unfortunately for Gabe, since he first spotted Lucy–she was trying to save some stranded ducklings and he, deeply competent in all things in nature, steps in to help–their chemistry is off the charts. Within an hour of their first encounter, they’ve met in the lobby of Lucy’s hotel and are about to head upstairs when Gabe figures out who Lucy is in town to work for. (His mother neglected to mention to her sons that she’d hired a marketing consultant.) Sex is–at least at first–off the table and Gabe and Lucy go from almost torrid trysters to ticked off co-workers.
Nothing that happens next will surprise anyone who’s ever read a romance novel. Gabe freaks out everytime any of his brothers flirt with Lucy. Lucy needs a place to stay and ends up in the Wilder guesthouse. Gabe and Lucy–he has to come because he doesn’t trust any of his bros to be alone with Lucy–go on a series of Wilder adventures, each led by a different brother, and Lucy has no idea how to do anything other than ogle Gabe’s gorgeous bod as he makes fires, builds shelters, hikes up mountains, and casts his rod.
The reader knows Lucy will come to appreciate the joys found in small town connections, Gabe will see the wisdom in Lucy’s work advice–she really is very good at her job–and the two will, in less than three weeks, realize that love is better than mistrustful solitude.
Again, that’s fine. It’s not startling, but who cares? I didn’t. And I’m now invested in the other Wilders and plan to read their stories too. If you like light hearted contemporary romance, grab this book, a glass of your favorite bad for you beverage, and blow off your to do list. You’ll be glad you did.