Wild Thing by Anne Stuart
(Harl. American #845, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-16845-4
*****
Dr. Elizabeth Holden has been summoned to an almost deserted island for a mysterious research project funded by one of the wealthiest men in the world. She is stunned when she finds out what the project is to be - the billionaire has claimed a wild man. Someone who has never known civilization, who canít speak or communicate.

She isnít the only stunned one. The mystery man has been bound and drugged for a long period of time. All she can discover with him unconscious is that heís gorgeous and heís been injured, both when he first was captured and later by the two goons who are in charge of him.

The plot is pretty fantastic but you believe it almost immediately because you see whatís happening just as the heroine does. Libbyís disbelief turns to scientific (and feminine) curiosity and then compassion. She sets the man she calls John free rather than have him hurt and imprisoned. She doesnít count on him taking her with him into the wilds. But, of course, thatís what he does.

Johnís past turns out to be both more and less amazing than originally believed. For one thing, Libby discovers he knows English and French - after sheís been chattering to him for hours about her childhood, her sex life and her fantasies about his sex life. She also discovers he knows about kissing and sex. (Yes, he definitely has those things figured out!) The reader and Libby find out that John has a name and money. His past included a long interlude surviving alone in the wilderness when he was younger. Now he is more comfortable away from civilization than a part of it. He is especially wary of ďcivilizedĒ behavior after this latest brush with it and he is aware that his previous captor isnít going to let either he or Libby alone.

In addition, John is unwillingly fascinated by his very civilized rescuer and her topics of conversation. When she discovers heís understood everything she said, she is the one who then refuses to speak. Libby prays they can just avoid each other until she leaves him forever. But John isnít easily shaken. So he tells her things about his past and his present that he wouldnít ordinarily say to make her talk to him again. When that doesnít work, he tries a few moves on her that really get her talking.

The two of them realize that the smart thing to do is understand they are only compatible in bed and that Libby should go back to her world while John stays in his. But when Libby is sent away, John discovers that the two goons have captured her and he makes his way back to the island to rescue her.

As usual, Anne Stuartís characters are amazing but believable despite the abnormal situation. The chemistry between the hero and heroine contains sexual tension and humor and you canít figure out where the next plot twist might take you. What more could you ask for?

What I really like about Anne Stuart's stories is that while I ordinarily donít much go for the paranormal or the just too beyond belief, she makes you believe in the worlds she creates because you believe in her characters. They seem so real that what happens to them in their world must be real, too. The author creates details and emotions that you trust.

Libbyís sense of humor and embarrassment are just the way anyone would feel in that situation. Johnís anger and bemusement are right, too. After accepting them you can accept everything else. A wild man being trapped in a scientific experiment? Sure. Someone who is able to live in the wild like an animal but also able to wear an Armani suit? Why not? A female child prodigy who has grown up unable to have a real relationship with other people? Yes, of course. Libby, the cool on the outside female with the warm heart inside and John, the wary wild man who is willing to let her into his territory, are both unforgettable and people you feel you know. How can I believe it? I donít know. But I can believe it as long as itís Anne Stuart who is creating these folks.

--Irene Williams


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