Carina Press, $5.99, ISBN 978-1-4268-9008-6
Historical Romance, 2010
Bonnie Dee’s Jungle Heat is set in 1888. Our anthropologist hero, James Litchfield, is in the forests of Congo, doing what every Brave White Guy is doing in the heart of darkness at that time, when he and his colleague are attacked by a jaguar. Lo, who comes to save them but a naked fellow. A white dude, at that! James, intrigued by this wild man, soon begins making contact with this fellow, whom he calls Michael. Who is Michael? What has happened to turn him into something that is more primate than human?
To the fellow called Michael, “Sky Eyes” is a fascinating fellow, especially with those lovely blue eyes. The monkeys won’t want anything to do with him, so poor Odd One is the gay Ayla of his generation. Is James his mate? Will he stop being lonely in this life?
Yes, this one sounds like a gay version of the Tarzan story, and I actually won’t disagree with you on that one. The story doesn’t hold many surprises for me since the author is quite faithful in adapting the many elements from Edgar Rice Burroughs’s stories for her own tale. I’m not saying that she ripped off those stories, mind you, I’m just saying that I feel that this story could use a little bit more improvisation.
Still, there is some good chemistry between Michael and James here. Michael, being what he is, is an unexpectedly likable character. I initially expected to cringe at a character who will resemble a special indigo child more than a human being, but it turns out that Michael is a well-drawn character who is lonely and seeking a place to belong as well as someone to love. James isn’t a patronizing Von Trapp father figure character like I feared him to be at first, he’s actually a pretty good foil for Michael.
The resolution to the story is tad too neat and feels rushed – a common problem with stories by this author, unfortunately – and I wish the author has deviated a bit more from the canon set down by Mr Borroughs, but all things considered, Jungle Heat is a pleasant read from this author. I don’t think it’s her best effort, but it’s also far from being her worst.