The Wild Child
Grade : A

Brothers whose relationship is clouded by resentment and misunderstandings. A young woman living in her own world. An arrangement that will change all their lives. These are the very bare bones of the story in The Wild Child, Mary Jo Putney's dramatic tale of switched identities and last chances, and a love that breaks through every barrier.

Dominic Renbourne, second son of the Earl of Wrexham, has been estranged from his older twin Kyle; when Kyle comes to him with a mad scheme and a bribe he can't resist, he reluctantly agrees to it. Dom will go to Warfield Manor and pay court in his brother's stead to Lady Meriel Grahame, a beautiful heiress with one little flaw: she's rumored to be mad. She hasn't spoken a word since she was returned from a year's captivity following the massacre that killed her parents years ago. There is some urgency to the visit. One of the two uncles who share guardianship of the girl is determined to see her put away in an asylum; the other would like to have her married, so she can spend the rest of her life at Warfield, safe if not sane.

Dom is instantly attracted to Meriel. He follows her as she traipses barefoot about the large enclosed estate, tending to her gardens and the animals she's adopted. He quickly comes to realize that for all her seeming indifference she is aware of his presence, even if she may not realize why he's there.

Over the years Meriel has found it easy to hide at Warfield, to act as people expect her to, never dreaming that her idyllic existence is threatened. The coming of Renbourne throws the pattern of her life into upheaval. With no concept of marriage, only the example of the animals that surround her, she decides that she wants him for a mate; she can't understand his resistance to her overtures. Of course, for Dom, falling more in love with her every day, this would be the ultimate betrayal of his brother: how can he take Kyle's bride without shattering the already tenuous bond between them? But how can he continue to fight against the pull of this wild child, whom he wants only to protect and cherish?

Life stopped while I devoured this book, and when I finished it, it was with mixed emotions: a sigh of satisfaction, and a gritting of teeth that there wasn't more. As we've come to expect from Mary Jo Putney, this is a gripping story told in elegant style. There are many levels of conflict, internal and external, yet the threads of each never get tangled or lost. Dom's story, Meriel's past, even Kyle's heartbreaking secret, all add to make this a rich reading experience.

Characterization is skillfully accomplished, so that we come to know these people bit by bit, layers revealed one by one. We learn that Meriel is a willful, spoiled young woman, resistant to change: she has yet to learn the art of compromise, since she's always managed to get what she wants. Dominic has to struggle mightily to find the balance between his desires and his honor; the bitterness and resentment he feels toward his family deepen before he can arrive at some sort of peace with his past.

I have to say something about the dialogue between hero and heroine. How, you might ask, is it possible to have conversation, when one of the communicants doesn't speak? All I can say, is this: read it for yourself. They do communicate, in very definite and believable fashion.

As for the rest of the characters, they're marvelous: the two aunts who live with Meriel, her Indian servant Kamal, Dominic's sister Lucia, their father Wrexham, Meriel's uncles, even the woman Dominic rescues from a fate worse than death. The settings, from the sun and warmth of Spain to the chilling interior of a madhouse, give the events in the story a fully realized and concrete backdrop. Everything kept me going at breakneck speed, until before I knew it there was nothing more to read.

Happily for us, there will be a sequel. Until then, I'm putting this book in a safe place. I'm not even going to let anybody borrow it. This is my copy. Get your own - you won't regret the purchase.

Get it at Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes and Noble/Kobo

Reviewed by Nora Armstrong
Grade : A

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : June 4, 1999

Publication Date: 2000

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Recent Comments …

  1. This sounds great. I’ve been reading a lot of historical mysteries lately and loving them, though less Victorian and more…

Nora Armstrong

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