Wild is the sequel to Wonderful, which came out last year. Like Wonderful, Wild has some humorous moments and likeable characters. But while Wonderful has these moments interspersed throughout, in Wild all the humor and the interesting characters come in the last quarter of the book. The result is an uneven book that could have been a lot better.
Sir Roger FitzAlan has been sent by King Edward to build a new castle in Wales. Along the way, he is ambushed and hanged, then left for dead. He is found by Teleri (pronounced TeLEERee), a naive and innocent young woman who lives hidden deep in the woods. Teleri prefers to be isolated because the people of the nearby village fear her, so much so that they have stoned her in the past.
The majority of the book takes place as Teleri nurses Roger back to health. His neck wounds are infected, and at first he is feverish delirious. Her faith helps heal him. After he is better, they spend more time at the cottage, and gradually fall in love. One of the enjoyable things about this book is that once Roger and Teleri realize how they feel, they are both honest about it. We don’t have to listen to them debate their feelings forever.
Meanwhile, all of Roger’s friends and family are wondering where he is and what has happened to him. Shortly after Roger and Teleri have profess their love for each other, Roger is found by Merrick (the hero from Wonderful), and then Roger’s father shows up and he and Teleri return home to his father’s castle. This is the part of the book that just sparkles. All the humor and delightful character interactions that I have come to expect from Jill Barnett are present in full force. Roger’s parents are wonderful together; his father does a lot of blustering, but his mother clearly knows how to handle him. Roger’s mother and sisters adore Teleri, and they help his father come to accept her. The mystery of Roger’s attacker is also solved, and that whole sub-plot is handled well.
Unfortunately, in order to get to the fun goings-on at the castle, you have to read through the less-interesting cabin scenes. For far too much of the book, it is just Teleri and Roger alone in the cabin. Frankly, Teleri in the cabin is just plain weird. She is an odd heroine; almost too innocent and childlike. Sometimes her innocence and love of nature work – there are several enjoyable scenes in which her special relationship with animals is highlighted. But sometimes she just seems too young. Her animals have very simplistic names – her horse is “Horse”, her pig is “Pig”. Not only did this make her seem like a toddler, but it also made me wonder what happened after she and Roger were married, and she came in contact with many animals. Did she call all the horses in the stable “Horse”? Teleri also falls prey to another problem common to innocent heroines – she is just too perfect. She doesn’t appear to have a single fault, and it makes her rather unbelievable. And there is yet another problem with the cabin scenario. I kept wondering why Teleri was there in the first place. All the townspeople hate her, and her grandmother lives elsewhere and brings her supplies. So why doesn’t she just go live with her grandmother?
There is also quite a bit of purple prose, which seems unusual for Barnett. Both “roots” and “nether lips” are mentioned, once even in the same sentence. There is also a fairly graphic oral sex scene, which is why this book merited a “hot” rating.
If you are a big Barnett fan, you may really enjoy Wild. The scenes at the castle really are great, and I wished the whole book could have measured up to that standard. If Roger and Teleri had gotten to the castle a little bit sooner, I would have given this book a much higher rating. Here’s hoping the next installment (Wicked, due out next year) will be a little more like the first one.