Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-388-2
Contemporary Romance, 2004
I like what Simona Taylor tries to do in Wonderful and Wild: she creates a campy black-and-white horror movie set backdrop for the romance to take place. This romance novel is not scary at all and there are no monsters lurking under the bed (just skeletons in the closet and the obligatory monster in the hero’s pants), but there’s a wooded wonderland, a heroine who is working on a horror graphic novel, and the hero who will be doing the illustration. If anything, this book isn’t set to a familiar backdrop.
Mahalia “Hailie” Derwood is a single mother to the boy William. Wary of embarking on new relationships for the same old reasons, she mothers William intensely. In a way, she has only William to focus her life on outside her career as a popular horror novelist. She hires an inexperienced illustrator Darius Grant to work on her latest project, her debut graphic novel. Darius is a younger man (seven years younger) and he is nearly perfect were not for some insecurities that, if you ask me, make him even more adorable. But alas, Hailie’s ex will soon show up and cause trouble for those two.
Before the book dips into regrettable and familiar ex-files territory, Wonderful and Wild has a nice, comfortable chemistry going between Hailie and Darius. The characters are likeable and they have a nice repartee system. While the plot isn’t anything too different, Hailie and Darius’ blossoming relationship works very well because they talk and listen to each other very well. Therefore, I feel cheated when the author starts dipping into that familiar bag of tricks involving exes and lame attempts at “suspense”.
But it’s the same problem with the last few books by this author that I’ve read and this book is no different. This one has a great romance between interesting and well-drawn characters, but the external conflicts often threaten to jettison everything good about the story. One of these days Ms Taylor really need to work on an external conflict that will actually work for the main characters instead of against.