Wild Desire
by Phoebe Conn, historical (2003)
Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-5300-4

I am not too normally fond of Leisure's cheap-looking clinch cover art, but I find the cover art of Phoebe Conn's Wild Desire pretty intriguing. The beefcake shirtless guy isn't my type but there's something about the heroine's zombefied expression as he kisses her wrist that fascinates me. I find myself wondering just what the heck he is really doing to her hand.

Wild Desire is Phoebe Conn's comeback after languishing for a while in that limbo that claimed authors that don't sell enough books to keep their tyrant overlords happy and fed enough. I remember reading a few futuristic romances by this author published under the pen name Cinnamon Burke. This book is my first brush with her historical romance written under the name Phoebe Conn. All I can say is that there is very little about this book that actually make sense to me. Since I don't understand the reason behind many of the subplots in this story, I am more bewildered than entertained by Wild Desire at the end of the day.

I don't know if this book is part of a series. If it is, maybe that explains why this book seems to start abruptly as if I've landed in the middle of a story instead of the beginning. Our hero Jonathan Blair is a hero that has fought in the War between the States with two brothers, Lawrence and Lamar Bendalin. He has lost his wife and child to fever and now he will never let anyone love him. For some reason he thinks that Lawrence needs his aid so he travels all the way to Lawrence's Texan Ranch. I don't know why he thinks Lawrence is in trouble. Since he ends up staying at the ranch and help with some horse racing thing, maybe those horses send a telepathic SOS to him, I don't know. Meanwhile, he falls for the other brother Lamar's daughter, Eliza Kate, who loves him back.

Trouble brews from Lamar who, for some reason I never understand, is evil now and wants Lawrence to pay for... hmm, whatever. As I said, perhaps this book is a sequel of this author's previous book. Other subplots threaten our hero and heroine's well-being too, but nothing is as big an obstacle as the hero's inability to get over himself.

Some people need to build a bridge to get over himself but Johnny, he will need pretty the Great Wall of China to do so. He calls himself "death's lightning rod" because apparently he deems himself responsible for the war between the states, government policies that oppress his Cherokee people, the fever plague that killed his wife and kid, Lamar turning evil, Eliza Kate's sufferings, and... sheesh. Talk about someone with an insufferably overinflated sense of self-importance pretending to be tortured. I wish someone will smack some sense into him and stop his ridiculous "I can't be with Eliza because she will die if I marry her" nonsense because this so-called conflict drags on until a few pages before the last. What is Eliza Kate doing, panting after this idiot?

The author has a polished and well-defined voice that feels a little old-school at places but otherwise it remains very readable. But if Wild Desire is readable, the hero's bizarrely huge chip on his shoulder alone is enough to sink this book, never mind the plethora of subplots that are never defined enough to make me understand what is really going on in the story.

Rating: 49

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