by Beverly Jenkins, historical (2007)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 978-0-06-116130-8
Wild Sweet Love pairs Teresa July, the sister of the hero of Something Like Love, with Madison Nance, last seen in A Chance At Love as the poor bloke who couldn't get the girl.
Teresa used to be a bank robber just like her brother but when the story opens, it has been three years after her arrest so she's not going to be robbing banks anytime soon. Sentenced to a prison where she spends most of the day washing linen, Teresa is most grateful when her recent aid of a prison matron during a fight allows her to leave the prison and instead serve the next year as a "ward" for a "charity representative" named Molly Nance who helps women like her readjust to life outside the prison.
Molly's son Madison is not too keen on his mother's philanthropy, not since the last prisoner she took in robbed her before fleeing to who knows where. He is especially not keen on having Teresa live in with her mother since he has read all those newspaper articles about Teresa's old exploits. Of course, the heart does not necessarily obey what the head tells it to feel.
Wild Sweet Love is, in a way, a Cinderella story as Teresa discovers the more glamorous aspects of the life and falls in love with the handsome prince of the story. The Teresa in this story is a much more subdued character, but of course prison can do that to a person. But she manages to remain pretty sharp and level-headed, much to my delight, and I especially like how she remains pragmatic about her relationship with Madison. She doesn't expect him to marry her, but she also knows that she won't wilt and die once the affair is over. She'll move on but cherish the memories. I like this.
Of course, he will marry her, don't you people worry. If I have any issue with this story, it will be how easy that Teresa fits into Madison's world. Too easy, really, and as a result, this story comes off more like a tale catering to the reader's wish fulfillment. Not that there is anything wrong with that, of course, since both Teresa and Madison are likable characters who behave intelligently and click well together. Wild Sweet Love is a pretty enjoyable story, but it doesn't hit me as hard as it could have thanks to a very heavy dose of fantasy make-believe that often feel too much like a fantasy.
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