Wild Wind insisted on playing peek-a-boo with me. Now you get it, now you don’t. There were things I liked intensely about this read, just as there were things that were bordering on off-putting. If you like emotionally stimulating reads and have no problem with your gag reflexes, you might get this.
Alex de Perigueux returns to Normandy after years in England. There he meets his drunkard cousin, Milo, and his wife, Nicki – the only woman Alex has ever loved and who left him for another man. Milo and Nicki will be dispossessed unless she bears a son within 14 months, which is unlikely since they have been childless for 9 years of marriage and Milo’s drinking has affected his abilities. Milo convinces Alex to seduce and impregnate Nicki, after which he will leave and never try to contact them again. So, Alex does his best to rekindle the shared heat of youth, working around the fact that the moral Nicki is unaware of his oath to her husband. Matters are complicated further by the poisonous Gaspar, Milo’s steward, who has designs of his own on the body of the fair Nicki.
Alex is a warrior who has grown tired of war. He has refused to accept a discharge and estates from the king because he is still hurt by Nicki’s rejection of him years ago. He is known to be a man of his word, and is enjoyed by women everywhere. Nicki has good reasons for her past actions, and has made the best of a loveless marriage. Yet neither has the strength to resist the temptation of past affection.
The motivation and background of the characters are revealed gradually, but thoroughly. Even a weak man like Milo or a creep like Gaspar has reasons for their actions, however warped. This makes the unfolding events more understandable and heightens the poignancy of the difficult choices Alex and Nicki make. The language is coarsely medieval, but exquisitely fragile in the scenes from Alex and Nicki’s past.
The love story told in Wild Wind is an adulterous one. Period. Whether you’ll take to this book or not depends largely on how well you tolerate this. I have few problems with unusual arrangements of love, but even this was a bit much. The fact that Nicki believed her husband to be unaware, makes all of it a bit sordid to me. It would have been sounder if she had agreed to the arrangement Milo and Alex had settled on. I might be hypocritical – adultery is adultery – but I prefer my hero and heroine to make those sinful choices with open eyes. Tricking the woman you love is bad enough, not groveling enough when making amends makes it worse.
There were moments of such tender delight and psychological insight I almost tore the book to make keepers out of those specific pages, but the rancid taste of adultery, intermixed with the sadistic desires of Gaspar, kept me from enjoying Wild Wind in its entirety. So, while I did partially enjoy the read, any recommendations come heavily burdened with qualifiers. Maybe you’ll get Wild Wind, maybe you won’t.