Caitlin Crews’ island romance, Untamed (Hotel Temptation, #3), reads less like a passionate From Here to Eternity waves-crashing kiss, and more like a leisurely beachcombing stroll in search of pocket change.
I believe that islands are magical places where love awaits, and dreams come true (thanks to TV show Fantasy Island). So, I admit to having entered into reading Untamed with hopes of discovering a tale of transcendent love and mind-blowing sex in a secluded paradise. This isn’t that book.
Jason Kaoki, Hawaiian heartthrob and former professional football player, has inherited a private island in the Pacific Ocean from his womanizing, absentee father. Jason is bombarded by a bevy of ambitious developers eager to turn his island sanctuary with pristine beach into a vacation mecca. But he staunchly rejects all offers. Jason has no interest in allowing corporate greed and tourists to taint his private isle. He also has a very personal reason to remain in seclusion, which is put to the test the day that Lucinda Graves enters his life.
Hotel consortium exec Lucinda arrives on the celeb millionaire’s remote island after making the forty hour trip from London. She is determined to achieve the impossible – to sign a contract with Jason Kaoki to develop his land into a luxury resort.
Eager to get the stodgy businesswoman off of his island, Jason challenges Lucinda to surf. He claims to not trust anyone who can’t ride a wave. And, of course, he would need to establish trust in order for them to work together. Lucinda calls Jason’s bluff and agrees to surf for the very first time ever while wearing a micro-bikini. (Of course, she has the perfect body to fit into skimpy swimwear.)
In the scene that follows, sexual tension builds as Jason applies sunscreen to Lucinda’s entire body while she holds back an explosive orgasm. (Hmmm…okay.) Within the next few hours, Lucinda grows to enjoy surfing and pretty much masters the sport. There is no way that Lucinda, exhausted after 1.66667 days of travel, would be coherent enough to surf with ease and enjoyment after receiving a five minute crash course in Surfing 101 from Jason. #truthbomb
Nothing particularly interesting happens beyond Jason’s persistent erections (mentioned ad nauseam) and Lucinda’s erotic sunscreen rubdown and ‘surfin’ safari’. However, Crews does explore their deeply-rooted daddy issues, which is somewhat intriguing. And, as is the recipe for shorter works of romance, the author serves up a piping hot batch of ‘insta-love’ between the couple.
Although Crews invents a seductive setting for the lovers and writes well-expressed prose, she falls short on plot, pacing, and great sex.
Untamed is heavily character-driven with minimal external conflict. The locale is terribly underutilized. Spending time on a deserted island should lend itself to interesting activities and obstacles, but most of Lucinda and Jason’s time together is wasted a) fighting their desire for one another, and b) arguing over the future of the island. Had the plot been more complex with captivating action (i.e. a tour of the island would have been nice) and raised stakes (typhoon, wild animal attack, etc.), there would have been more opportunity to become thoroughly engaged in Lucinda and Jason’s burgeoning love. Crews develops her characters well enough for a novella, but I didn’t feel connected to or emotionally invested in them as individuals or as a lovers.
Additionally, the story’s pacing is slowed considerably by circuitous internal monologues and lengthy, repetitive conversations between Lucinda and Jason. And, the sex, while steamy, isn’t particularly titillating or imaginative.
Despite her novella’s shortcomings, Caitlin Crews did obviously put effort into her work. I disliked Untamed, so it seems appropriate to give it a D rating. (Had I wanted to banish Untamed to the ‘F’ires of hell, then I would have rated lower.) Fingers crossed that an A+ island romance is in my future.
~ Liz Donatelli