Wilder With You
Who knew pretending could be so hot?
Clark: It started as a joke. After all, I’d never pretend to date a woman just to get my mom and sister off my back.
I would, however, pretend to date her to get her ex-husband off hers.
Now the two of us, the wilderness warrior and the wedding planner, are stuck sharing a very small tent. I had no idea how fast things would heat up in here, or how hard it would be to keep my hands—among other things—to myself.
I also didn’t guess how quickly the news of our “relationship” would spread to my big, nosy family.
We can’t “break up” yet, because she’s planning my brother’s wedding and I’m his best man. Through venue visits, DIY disasters, and Vegas trips, we’re thrown together, and the chemistry’s off-the-charts. But the kicker is, I feel like she gets me.
Maybe that’s what scares me the most. I’m still reeling from the loss of my wife, and she’s still hurting from her ex’s betrayal. There’s no way this can ever be real.
But what if I’m starting to hope it is?
Maria Rose and Dabney are here to discuss the third book in Serena Bell’s popular Wilder series, Wilder with You.
Dabney: I’ve read all the books in the Wilder series and have enjoyed them. How about you?
Maria Rose: I’ve read them all too. I have to say I enjoyed this one the best of the three so far, but I think that’s because I’m in a better reading frame of mind this year than I was in 2021. I found it difficult to enjoy reading in general at certain points of the year (for pandemic and other reasons) so authors that I normally look forward to reading (such as Serena Bell) didn’t hold the same luster that they usually do. But I’m happy to say that my reading mojo is back and as a result, this ‘fake relationship turns real’ romance kept me quite entertained. I think I’m also a sucker for heroes like Clark who show their protective side (without doing it in a alpha-hole way).
Dabney: Interesting. This is actually my least favorite of the three! I enjoyed it–Bell is one of the best contemporary romance writers around and she’s always genuinely funny–but Jessa and Clark’s fake dating/real f*cking thing made no sense to me. I also think–and this is a somewhat unfair criticism–that Clark’s dedication to his dead wife is uncomfortably close to to Sawyer’s, the hero of my favorite Bell book Sleepover. I think she did that trope better in Sleepover so this book’s barrier to love felt wan to me.
Maria Rose: I’m terrible at remembering characters from other books so I had to check Goodreads to see if I’d read Sleepover (I haven’t) so I don’t have a comparison with it. I think the concept of pretending to be in a relationship but having real sex gives the characters the chance to act on their attraction to each other without having to think of what that really means in the long term – it’s sex without emotional consequences. And since neither Jessa nor Clark is ready to consider having another committed relationship (Jessa because her marriage has recently broken up and Clark having lost his wife), it’s an easy way out for them. Of course, the sex scenes are always fun to read in a Bell book too
Dabney: Agree–Bell does love scenes really well. And don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book. It just didn’t wow me. If you think of it as a romantic comedy, I felt the comedy was stellar and the romance was just fine. And while I always like checking in with the other Wilders, there was a bit much of them in this book–I found them almost overwhelming.
I also had two other small issues with the book. One was the reveal about Barb seemed to me to be a bit odd–it sort of felt like checking a box than something that was intrinsic to what we know about the character. I also really didn’t, as someone who works in medicine, understand the thing that killed Clark’s wife. It wasn’t well explained and didn’t hold up to scrutiny. I just don’t get why authors don’t do a better job of vetting medical things!
Maria Rose: I agree with you about Barb, I didn’t think the clues were really there to come up with that reveal (no spoilers!). As for Clark’s wife Emma’s death, it made his overreaction to events later with Jessa make more sense but it was a somewhat vague way to remove the character. In the end though, the reasons for her death don’t matter as much as how Clark has dealt with it (or not dealt with it in this case). It was good to see him reach a catharsis and those scenes with him and Emma’s mom made me tearful. I definitely noticed that this series in general is more lighthearted and funny than her Returning Home series which deals with a lot of trauma (though they are some of my favourites by her).
I was fine with all the family interaction (and as you said there is a lot of it). The Wilders are a big family of siblings and with some of the earlier series characters getting married in this one, I’d expect a lot of interaction with them. It’s given us an interesting heads up into Kane’s book too!
Dabney: I’m hopeful for Kane given that Easton’s love story has been staring us in the face since day one. I hope there’s more to it than just enemies who secretly love each other! Kane’s book looks like a secret baby book– it will be fun to see what Bell does with that trope!
I really do love reading about the Wilders – they’re such a loving, funny family. This book isn’t my favorite of the series but it was still a fun, sexy read. What grade would you give it?
Maria Rose: I’m going with a B+ for this one. I liked all aspects of the book and was really happy to see Clark overcome his grief and realize it was okay to be happy again. I too am looking forward to seeing what happens with Kane and Easton’s stories! What did you decide on for a grade?
Dabney: This is a B for me. It’s a fun, strong story, just not quite into DIK territory for me. Thanks for chatting with me!
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