Start Me Up

Talk Me Down

 
A Little Bit Wild
by Victoria Dahl
(Zebra, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-1420104837
***
Marissa York, bored, curious, and a little drunk, allows a few too many liberties to be taken by one of her suitors one evening and ends up deflowered in one of the rooms of her familyís home. Marissa is unimpressed by the whole thing and certainly not eager to repeat the experience, which was little more than fumbling and grunting on his part. Her life is turned upside down when they are discovered by her brothers, her mother, and some of the family servants. Her suitor, wanting to get his hands on Marissaís dowry, is more than willing to marry her, but she turns him down flat, much to her familyís outrage.

In steps Jude Bertrand, friend of the family and the bastard son of a duke. Jude has known and secretly admired Marissa for years, but she took little notice of him. After all, Jude isnít one of the good-looking, elegant men she is attracted to. Heís not pretty, heís not very socially adept, and heís just a little too big and raw and masculine for her tastes. But when Jude offers to marry Marissa and save her from certain ruin, she reluctantly accepts.

Jude hopes to gradually seduce Marissa into a real engagement. Nothing would make him happier than to give her wild side an outlet, and heís quite willing to let it be within the confines of marriage. Marissa, however, has a lot of growing up to do before she finds the treasure thatís right under her nose. And her whiny self-absorption is going to set some readersí teeth on edge.

When the story opens, Marissa canít see a minute past her own desires, and the impact of her actions on her family and her future doesnít register until sheís virtually hit over the head with it. Even then, she demands to have everything the way she wants it, and when her obvious social ruin is pointed out to her, she grudgingly agrees to an engagement to quiet the scandal. Yet she keeps throwing Judeís unsuitability in his face, making taunting remarks that are just plain snotty. And this thoughtless spoiled brat is going to take a few chapters to start maturing. Iím afraid some readers wonít stick around to see how things turn out.

Jude is a real treasure of a hero. He knows himself and for the most part, shrugs off remarks about his birth or his rugged demeanor. Marissa is one of the few people with the power to wound him, and itís almost painful to see him hurting. Marissaís brothers arenít much better. Theyíre willing to let Jude marry their sister to get her (and the family) out of a jam, yet they insinuate he canít be a man of honor because of his illegitimacy. This family really needed to be told where to stuff it. Jude, in sticking around, proves himself more worthy than any of the York clan.

By the time Marissa comes to realize that she truly loves Jude, itís almost too late. Fortunately for readers who have hung in there, the author makes her work for her happy ending. Itís the least Jude deserves for all heís put up with in this story. And for all that Marissa starts out wildly curious about sex and passion, thereís not much of it in here. Jude deserved more of that as well.

I have to mention the cover. Itís obnoxious, and looks like a Barbie doll doing a striptease. If thatís intended to be Marissa doing her best come-hither look, itís pointless because she spends most of the story pushing Jude away.

So there you have it: one wonderful hero, one bratty-but-maturing heroine, and an assortment of relatives that donít exactly cover themselves in glory. A Little Bit Wild didnít tickle my fancy, but have a look for yourself.

--Cathy Sova


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