Wild About You
by Robin Wells, contemporary (2003)
LoveSpell, $6.99, ISBN 0-505-52535-6

Judging from the titles of author's last few books (Baby, Oh Baby! and Ooh, La La!), I'm surprised that Wild About You isn't called Ai Yai Yai!. Anyway, Robin Wells' latest is a formulaic smalltown romance that sees its characters behaving and speaking and doing things just like every character in every smalltown romance written by every author that believes she too has a James Herriott-smalltown romantic drama waiting to make her rich and famous.

Like every smalltown romance novel that try so hard to flock into the bestseller lists like sheep in a pen, this one also has a heroine that mistakes stupidity for apple pie simplicity. City girl Celeste Landry inherits a ranch and a passel of circus animals from some dead people. So what she does is to invest most of her money into rebuilding the ranch. Then she realizes that wow, golly, she can't afford to pay for a highway billboard ad! Who would have expect that a highway billboard ad costs a thousand dollars? Celeste sighs. She is Doomed! Now she has only enough money for the next two months. What to do?

I'd suggest walking blindfolded on a short pier, for one. What is with these idiot women that plunge into business without having any decent plan? Does Celeste expect the money to come rolling in once she opens her business? What kind of moron invests almost every cent in a business without thinking of what she will do should the business fails to take off? Oh, and she's divorced. When asked whether she receives alimony, she barks violently, "Of course not!" She'd never imagine doing such a... a... disgraceful thing! It's better to be honorable, whine in genteel poverty, and pray that a hunky hero come save her from starvation in time for a happy ending.

Lucky for her, she has a grouchy neighbor, Rand Adams. It's always the grouchy neighbor in these stories, isn't it? He wants her ranch to expand his horse-training business. They meet when he mistakes her pet lynx for a bob cat and almost shoots it. Then he has to keep rescuing her, of course. Like when he warns her from the pervert in the bar and she just has to deliberately ignore him and almost get perved because she doesn't like following orders. Or when she walks into the bank and explains that she has no collateral, no money, no business plan, and no clue and then complains bitterly about evil bankers that refuse to help her. Rand agrees, saying that bankers only give out loans to those that don't need it. No, Rand, bankers give out loans to people with at least two brain cells to formulate a business plan. Giving the ninny Celeste a loan is like pouring money down the drain. If Robin Wells has an ax to grind with her favorite bank, I suggest she too follow my suggestion to Rand and Celeste, get her brain cells working, and formulate a readable non-stupid story for once to state her case in a more favorable light.

Rand and Celeste's romance seems to be straight out of a teenaged puppy love timewarp. It's basically the heroine wringing her hands - what to do, what to do, oh golly gee - as the hero steps in and cleans up her messes. Of course the hero can't commit, so the heroine spends more time wringing her hands and commiserating with her older friend Sara Overton. What to do, what to do, oh golly! A sexual encounter that leads to the usual consequences act as artificial catalyst to force the dead on arrival romance to the necessary happy ending, all the while Sara cheering Celeste on to "follow your heart!" Which, in this book, means shutting the brain and functioning completely on viscera.

As for Sara, sheesh. She left George Wright at the altar twenty eight years ago and now she's back in town to take care of her stroke-stricken father and beg George for forgiveness. George, of course, doesn't listen. This romance follows a one-note pattern: she begs, she pleads, he ignores her, and artifical plot contrivances again step in to push the stillborn romance to an ersatz happy ending. Frankly, twenty-eight years is way too long a time to worry about these things, and if Sara really has to make amends, I suggest she just write a deathbed note and be done with it. But Ms Follow Your Heart, remember, is a virtuous conservative caregiving pure and true woman that now regrets her wanting to find her own self and must now seek atonement from the control freak that claims to love her.

The values and the characters' personality and behaviors reflect the current trend of the more formulaic smalltown romances out there. There is nothing surprising here, from snivelling useless ninny women to stubborn males, the latter no doubt be called "realistic" by their apologists, and a romance that seems more like a necessary act of survival on the women's part than anything else. To top it off, the plot and the characters of Wild About You are mostly too idiotic for words. Add in monkeys and old people and clown outfits. All in all, this is a book that is wild only in the sense that there are a lot of eh things running amok in this ineptly written misfire of a book. Ai yai yai!

Rating: 46

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