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Welcome to Temptation

Wild Ride
by Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer
(St. Martin's, 25.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-31253-377-9
I never thought I would see the day that I had to give Jennifer Crusie a two heart rating.  Even her early category romances never deserved such a low rating.  A misnomer at best, Wild Ride's plotline meanders and its characters – with, perhaps, the exception of a wacky raven named Frankie – never blossom, let alone bloom into full people.

Mary Alice Brannigan had, until they hired her, been forbidden the joys of the amusement park Dreamland due to being a member of the "Batty Brannigan" clan – her mother did, after all, picket the park for years claiming it was possessed by demons.  Now, though Mab finds herself absorbed into the park and its just-as-crazy-as-her-mother owners when she returns to her hometown to restore the historic site and hopefully help refill the city's and Dreamland's coffers.

Ethan Wayne, the son of two of the owners of Dreamland, is also returning home after twenty years in the military. Ethan is waiting to die, as there is a bullet lodged so near to his heart that doctors refused to remove it.  Since he got the bullet while the rest of his team was dying, Ethan's got a plethora of issues that don't just come from growing up in an amusement park. His condition has also basically given him a death-wish, and he's determined not to attach to anything, going so far as to camp in the woods instead of staying in the trailer his mother, Glenda, has prepared for him.  He has a bad attitude and a drinking problem, and then he gets saddled with the Guardia.

That's right, the Guardia. Turns out Mab's mother wasn't so crazy and the guy whose trailer Ethan refuses to inhabit died and left him his place in this supposedly ancient, secret society.  When another elderly member is killed and Mab is drawn in as well, both main characters are resistant.  At least for a few pages.  Ethan's busy drinking, and Mab's involved in her restoration art as well as with a very charming guy who is a cousin to one of the park's beer tent's primary customers.

Then the men in black come out of the shadows and the demon minions show up, and all hell really breaks loose.  In a literal fashion.  The government wants its piece of the demon pie, and, though the agents at Dreamland are pretty sure that's a Bad Idea, they do firmly believe in keeping the five demons housed in the park.  Said demons, called the Untouchables because they cannot be killed, are housed in various statues all over the park.  The Guardia's job is to make sure those five stay in their respective chalices. Only they've started to get out.  Frequently.  And the Guardia can't manage to track down the trickster, who's gallivanting about seducing women, or the seductress mermaid whose goal is to take out cheaters and lechers.

Ethan tries his best, but with members of the Guardia refusing to acknowledge their positions (go figure) and the fact that the membership roster keeps changing, getting their – uh, stuff –together is proving pretty difficult. Unfortunately, Halloween, the most dangerous and profitable day of the season is approaching quickly, and Ethan and Mab have to figure out how to effectively keep Hell from Earth.

Wild Ride, even to people who enjoy paranormal suspense or romance, is almost too out there.  Perhaps this is because, for one thing, it’s not really what readers expect from Crusie and Mayer.  For another, it's not an alternate-reality setting; Glenda and Mab and Ethan are living in a regular today setting, peppered with the occasional demon that doesn't affect them a whole lot. Speaking of the characters, they will all develop at least one (if not a few) relationships, but the personalities and the romances are never fleshed-out.  Despite not becoming attached to anyone in particular, Wild Ride is readable, though certainly not worth a purchase.  Make a trip to your library and support a good cause

--Sarrah Knight

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